Java or PHP? What to choose for web application?

PHP or Java development Java or PHP? What to choose for web application?
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Choosing a technology for application development is a very important step. There are too many things that depend on this choice. Should you hire Java developers or PHP developers? How big the budget should be? What are the support conditions? Today we will talk about two popular programming languages that are often used for backend of web applications – Java and PHP.

The choice isn’t that simple! That’s why today we are going to compare these two languages while pointing out their pros and cons. Let’s begin!




  • It’s heavy. In many ways. Almost every Java web project has longer code than its PHP analog. By the way, this is one of the reasons why Java has relatively high system requirements. But we also have to mention that Java is better for projects with high server load.
  • Frontend. Unfortunately, Java isn’t that good with frontend development. Especially when you need to make lots of little changes in your project. Unlike PHP (where you can edit your code without any additional complications), you have to compile Java project to deliver everything you’ve changed.
  • Development cost. It depends on the project itself, but there is a certain trend – Java application web development is significantly more expensive than PHP-based development. Of course, it’s not that simple.
    Junior Java programmers earn more money than junior PHP programmers. But if you compare two senior specialists, you probably won’t notice any difference at all. But if your goal is to find the lowest price possible, you should definitely stick to PHP. Otherwise – hire java developers.
  • Great for big web projects. Unlike PHP, Java works really well with high server loads even though Java has higher minimum system requirements. So, if you want your project to be really scalable, you should definitely choose Oracle’s Java.
  • Versatility. You can run Java application on any device that supports JVM – Java Virtual Machine. I.e. not only smartphones and tablets but also cars, media-players, home appliances, etc.
    By the way, thanks to that now we have such thing as IoT – the internet of things. You can learn more about IoT in our blog. Still, we have to mention that PHP is also great for cross-platform development.
  • Java is a well-structured language. Sure, just like in PHP you can complete any task in Java in a big variety of ways. But when the task is completed, almost anyone can understand the meaning of all code elements.
    This is vital for big web applications with long support history and lots of new features. In this way Java resembles Agile methodology – both language and methodology are great for further project expansion.
  • There are many different IDEs (integrated development environment) for different Java application development needs that can greatly simplify the development process – Netbeans, Android Studio (specifically designed for Android apps development), Eclipse, etc. By the way, Java is greatly supported by its community and its owner (Oracle).
  • Nowadays Java is the ultimate standard for big enterprise web development – banking, insurance, tickets , etc.




  • When it comes to flexibility, PHP is a true beast! With PHP you can accomplish any task in a dozen different ways. At first it seems to be really awesome, but eventually, PHP’s greatest blessing is also its greatest curse.
    If you ask ten different PHP programmers to complete the same task, you are to get ten different results. And quite often they’ll be significantly different. What’s so bad about it? Well, imagine a situation when a programmer is working on a really big web application, and then suddenly leaves the project because of some hypothetical reasons.
    Certainly, you have to find someone to replace him. And this is where the problems begin. It’s a common situation for PHP when a programmer can’t understand what he wrote himself, but we want someone else to understand it! It is really hard to write “correct” PHP code. It does not have strict guidelines.
    Instead, you have to simply write the way it will work. So basically, what situation do we have? The more a programmer works on a project, the more dependent on him this project becomes (especially when we are talking about freelancers). It takes a decent amount of time for any programmer to get familiar with PHP project.
  • Low system requirements. PHP projects are running better than Java when there’s low server load.  But when high load kicks in, Java outraces PHP by a long shot. In other words – PHP has low entrance requirements which rise dramatically when there is significant server load.
  • Easy to change. Unlike Java, you can change PHP code whenever you like. If you want to make lots of small changes in your project – PHP is your choice.
  • Simplicity. PHP has one of the lowest entry levels.  It may be good for the programmer himself, but it’s often really bad for the client, especially when working with a freelancer.
    Unfortunately, because of this low entry level, nowadays there is an enormous amount of coders in the market. Yep, coders, not programmers. Those people who can accomplish typical tasks only, don’t even try to understand what they are doing and have no intention of professional growth.
    This is not just words – we know what we are talking about. Here at Smartum, we had several clients with totally broken applications which we had to fix (though it was cheaper to fix them than to create from scratch).
  • Huge amount of ready-to-use code. PHP has one of the biggest communities out there. That’s why you can find millions of ready-to-use code templates for various needs.
    This can be really helpful if you want to create a quick working prototype while you are short on time. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons why there are so many PHP-coders. It’s much easier to “copy-paste” without even thinking.
  • Low security level. Patching up all PHP’s security holes is much more difficult if you compare it to Java. PHP has plenty of vulnerabilities. One of the – SQL injection.
    With one simple script, your competitor can delete or download your whole database. Sure, there is no programming language that is 100% secure, but if you don’t want to take any chances, you definitely shouldn’t pick PHP.


So what should I pick for web development?


The conclusion itself is rather simple. PHP is great for small projects that have to be developed ASAP. But you should definitely choose Java if your project is rather big and has growth potential.

Surely, you can develop big PHP projects, but there are two major points that should be considered – a great software architect and a professional development team. But in this case, you won’t notice any significant cost difference between PHP and Java application development.

If you still have any questions regarding what programming language to choose, contact us! Here at Smartum, we are always happy to help you with your ideas. We provide both PHP and Java application development for your business!

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