Laravel: What Is It and How to Get Started

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The growing complexity of development processes calls for a wider range of used solutions. What back end development services and tools will be suitable for your website? What are the criteria for the best fitting framework or programming language?

With Laravel, building out a functional website is a breeze — it’s one of the most accessible and powerful tools out there, which provides developers with loads of functionalities. But what exactly are they? And how does Laravel differ from tons of other frameworks available on the market?

In this new article, we will shed light on Laravel, its peculiarities, and in what cases it is extremely useful and why. Eager to know more? Let’s start with its definition.

What is Laravel

Laravel is an open-source PHP framework that helps to create various web applications of different complexity levels. It owes its popularity specifically to its scalability features and functions that take care of most development issues that are challenging to tackle manually, for example, routing or authentication, as it reduces the time spent on coding.

Laravel allows you to build custom web apps on the basis of PHP, so if you’re familiar with its peculiarities, Laravel won’t pose a challenge. Since it runs on PHP, Laravel is server-side rendered and sticks to an MVC (Model-View-Controller) design pattern. That contributes to a faster development process (thanks to the possibility of parallel development) and allows for changes without affecting the whole model.

Also, Laravel is super easy to customize and scale, allowing developers to create robust and easy to support and alter web applications. It has such features as a modular packaging system, easy to support codebases, excellent integration and error handling systems, as well as built-in automated testing. 

Before plunging into Laravel’s functionality, let’s find out more about its history and how it evolved over time.

Laravel history

Laravel was created and released in 2011 by Taylor Otwell who wanted to create an app that takes care of the issues Codeigniter couldn’t cover — mainly, authentication and authorization. The first version resolved just that, as well as added features for models, views, and many more, but it didn’t have any controller support, which meant it wasn’t fully an MVC framework.

That was resolved in the second version. It was launched in the same year as the first iteration and included the controller support, finally establishing the MVC model in Laravel. However, it lacked some of the third-party packages that developers deemed to be necessary.

Laravel 3.0 introduced Artisan— a command-line interface, improved the database layout version control, and integrated Bundles, which is a feature that allows to group code into packages.

Laravel 4.0 or Illuminate, released in May 2013, is a complete rework of the previous Laravel versions. Among its new functions, the version included diverse kinds of support, such as support for message queuing, deferred deletion of database records, and sending various types of emails.

Laravel 5.0 was launched in February 2015 and introduced the support for scheduling recurring tasks (with a package called Scheduler), an abstraction layer called Flysystem (that allowed utilizing remote storage similarly to local file systems), improved handling of package assets (via Elixir) and simplified external authentication (thanks to Socialite).

Laravel 5.1, released in June 2015, was the first version that received long-term support (LTS).

Laravel 5.3 was introduced in August 2016 with new functions aimed at improving the development speed by adding supplementary ready-made enhancements to common tasks.

Laravel 5.4, released in January 2017, comprised many new features such as Laravel Dusk (user-friendly API for automation and testing browsers), Laravel Mix (flexible API for defining Webpack building steps), Markdown Emails, Blade Components and Slots (powerful template engine), Automatic Facades, route enhancements, and many more.

Laravel 6.0, launched in September 2019, shifted project code generation, introduced semantic versioning, upgraded authorization responses, job middleware, and lazy collections.

Laravel 7.0, released in March 2020, obtained such features as Laravel Sanctum (authentication alternative), Custom Eloquent Casts, Blade Component Tags, Fluent String Operations, and route model binding improvements.

Laravel 8.0, launched in September 2020, is the latest version of this framework so far, and it offers Laravel Jetstream, migration compression, and other features intended to improve usability and user experience.

As you can see, every time, new releases were solving different problems and challenges, making the interaction with this framework more convenient and flawless. And that tells us that the framework is not going to stop improving in its quest to provide users with the best service possible.

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Laravel: is it frontend or backend

Wondering what kind of functionality Laravel brings to the table? Strictly speaking, it’s the backend since it’s used for building out the apps and filling them with the visuals. Even though Laravel helps to create full-stack apps, it is mainly responsible for implementing features that are usually associated with the technical side: creating user accounts, working with databases, and developing CMS. That’s why we’d prefer to consider this framework to be backend rather than frontend.

Advantages of using Laravel

With Laravel’s definition being clear, it’s time to discuss its main advantages. Why do you need to use it? What makes it special for the developers?

01 Easy to use

One of the main advantages of Laravel is the availability of exhaustive and truly understandable documentation that enables everyone (from the beginner to the advanced user) to utilize the full scope of functionality provided as long as a separate detailed article is devoted to each design and process. The main point here is that the users should think over the logic of the application only, without the need to worry about technical issues such as databases, tools for caching or storing the files, and others.  

02 Scalability

The process of scaling a Laravel application is incredibly simple. The framework obtains various native tools, for instance, Laravel Cache for caching, Laravel Horizon for queuing, and other services like Eloquent that enable users to leverage the power of cloud services. Moreover, to avoid wasting time on adding some functions manually, this framework has introduced an opportunity to extend the functionality of the base application by installing packages that are analogous to CMS modules. 

03 Performance

Another advantage of Laravel is the high performance of its web application. It is achieved thanks to optimized code and caching tools that increase the speed of web page generation. It is also worth mentioning that in Laravel it’s possible to cache individual system components (views, routes, configurations, etc.). It may be done as long as the application just once calculates everything needed for the proper operation of these components and then saves them into separate files with the following employment (omitting all complex and resource-heavy calculations).

04 Security

Since for every business owner, the safety of their website and web applications is one of the most crucial points, Laravel took care of this aspect too. Therefore, it can boast of incredible security features and functions, such as ORM (Object Relational Mapping), for example, which means that it not only prevents malicious activities and attempts to hack web applications, but it also protects the code from intruders. That’s why if companies pick Laravel, they can be sure that their resource will be protected from hidden SQL injections and cross-website scripting.

05 Big community

The fact that the framework has an open-source code means that any qualified programmer may contribute to the development and modernization of Laravel. That led to the creation of a huge community of users, who not only improve the product code itself but also create a great number of add-ons and modules that enable solving a wide range of tasks in a relatively short time. Consequently, the community helps the code to stay relevant and viable. Moreover, thanks to the commitment of Laravel enthusiasts, the framework is easy to maintain since companies can always find specialists for their projects.

The list of benefits that Laravel brings to the companies may be long continued, but we believe that the above points will suffice.

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What are the key Laravel features

Once the main advantages are covered, it’s time to turn to the features that help this framework stand out from the rest.

  • Authentication

Laravel, by default, provides a modern system for user registration and authentication, which can be done through users’ own web forms as well as via social media networks. There is also a module that allows users to reset a forgotten password or personal information for logging in, which is really convenient.

  • Template engine or Blade

This is a powerful tool that enables web developers to use preliminary created structural templates. Templating speeds up the creation of web applications without restricting developers from writing their own codes. Employment of Blade templates is simple, clear, and effective, while the engine itself is pretty lightweight and doesn’t affect the application performance.

  • Migration system

Another advantage of the Laravel framework is database migration. This tool greatly simplifies the process of creating and managing databases, and with its help, programmers can easily share databases with other stakeholders, thus making collaboration more consistent, organized, and smooth. The mapping feature also enables simple maintenance of databases without the need for re-creating them. 

  • Eloquent ORM

Laravel offers pre-installed object-relational mappings or ORM. All the mappings are user-friendly, and among them, for instance, there is an authentication library that includes many useful functions. The framework also provides additional modules that enable developers to make applications more responsive and structured. In terms of functionality, some modules are equivalent to ready-made apps.

  • Debugging and testing

Framework testing options are of vital importance as long as tests help developers to ensure that the application offers the best user experience possible. Being an advanced framework, Laravel also provides its users with unit testing that makes it easy to test and debug each module and component individually. Moreover, such testing assists in troubleshooting the project and verifies that it lacks any bugs or inconsistencies.

  • Localization

We all know that in many cases, the support of a multilingual interface in the application is a highly necessary aspect since the localization of the application allows companies to bring their businesses to the international level. Laravel is also aware of that, and in order to help its users broaden their horizons, it offers them a simplified localization system.

  • Modularity

While working in this framework, with the help of the Laravel modular packaging system, developers are able to divide everything into several logical areas. This will not only help in maintaining the existing code clean and structured but will also allow the same code to be used or rewritten in the future. Thus, utilizing such a feature will assist in saving time.

  • Caching

Laravel employs caching to optimize application performance, which means that the re-requested content is stored and utilized for subsequent requests and queries. This adds efficiency to the application as long as it frees users from the need to constantly enter their data, consequently, reducing the processing time.

  • Automatic pagination

Pagination is the division of a large amount of data into separate pages for the convenience of the framework users since it provides them with an opportunity to deliberately distribute goods across the website. Therefore, automatic pagination built into Laravel substantially simplifies page generation by replacing different ways of doing it with a single mechanism.

  • Bundles

Bundles are the main way of adding new functionality to Laravel. There are diverse types of bundles. Some of them are self-contained, which allows them to work as a part of any framework (not just Laravel), while others are designed for this framework only. They contain routes, controllers, and settings specifically aimed at enhancing the Laravel application.

  • IoC containers

An IoC container is a piece of code that obtains information about all application instances, their dependencies, and ways of their usage. Consequently, Laravel Inversion of Control containers is a powerful tool for managing class dependencies. Dependency injection is a way of eliminating hardcoded class relationships, which grants users more flexibility since classes may be modified easily.

  • File system

The Laravel file system offers various drivers for interacting with the local file system. These drivers provide a convenient and simple way of uploading files either locally or in the cloud. In addition, storing files in the cloud will save the traffic of the website, and, accordingly, space on the hosting of the users.

  • Artisan

Artisan is a command-line interface or CLI application that enables users to execute a variety of different tasks when developing a web application in Laravel. Thus, it is an excellent assistant for a specialist, which can greatly reduce some of the routine and monotonous development operations.

  • Composer

Composer is a dependency manager for PHP. It is a simple and reliable tool that developers utilize to manage external packages or libraries and, subsequently, integrate them into their PHP-based projects. This way, there’s no need for writing web pages or applications from scratch.

As you can see, Laravel offers a great number of various features that are focused on ensuring a highly efficient and convenient process of working with this framework. The list of them is not complete — therefore, there are far more useful tools that any website will find beneficial as well as valuable. That is what makes Laravel so popular among users.

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Laravel first-party packages

Having explored key features and tools, let’s take a look at Laravel packages that serve as a way of delivering wide functionality to the websites.

  • Passport

Laravel Passport is the simplest tool for API authentication, thanks to its command line. It provides a complete OAuth2 server implementation for the application. Moreover, it comes with all the required database migration systems, controllers, and routes.

  • Scout

Laravel Scout is open-source software that allows users to add full-text search to their Eloquent models. Furthermore, it is a handy system that is employed for synchronizing search indexes with Eloquent records. It typically goes with the Algolia driver, but users may write their own driver, thus supplementing Scout with an individual search tool.

  • Dusk

Laravel Dusk is a package that enables users to test their applications and to see how it works through the eyes of the customers. The testing is carried out in the browser with the help of a specified API. Moreover, it is accompanied by Chromedriver and doesn’t require the installation of JDK or Selenium drivers.

  • Socialite

Laravel Socialite is a package that ensures a flexible interface for authentication with OAuth providers, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, and others. Among its characteristics, we’d like to mention its user-friendliness and comprehensiveness since it contains almost everything needed for the implementation of authentication through social networks.

  • Cashier

Laravel Cashier is utilized for simplification of billing subscriptions and allows users to avoid possible problems when managing them. It also provides a clear and understandable codebase, simple usage of Stripe (payment service), compatibility with SCA regulations for Europe, etc. Moreover, with its help, companies can smoothly work with coupons, temporary subscriptions, single payments, invoices, and other important elements of e-commerce.

  • Envoy

Laravel Envoy is a truly useful free tool for launching tasks with minimalist syntax (in the Blade form, mostly). It may be employed outside the Laravel framework (and even outside PHP) and is easy to configure. It also enables users to run tasks on multiple servers, thus allowing parallel processing. Furthermore, after the task completion, users may receive notifications in Slack or Discord.

  • Telescope

Laravel Telescope is a perfect free tool for debugging applications. Furthermore, it helps users to understand the reasons and solutions for arising issues and to track the time required to complete the tasks and commands. Consequently, it significantly simplifies and enlarges the scope of the development process since it offers free access to a huge amount of information.

Every year the range of Laravel packages and tools is growing, thus speeding up the projects’ development process while the system itself is keeping an eye on their quality.

Top websites built with Laravel

Once major useful features and tools of Laravel are discovered, it’s time to take a look at the brightest examples of websites that are based on Laravel.

#01 Laracasts

Laracasts is an educational platform specifically designed for web developers. Among its courses, there are those focused on mastering Laravel, PHP, OOP (Object-oriented programming), Mysql Database Design, Vue, unit testing, and others. Consequently, with the help of screencasts provided, students will be able to develop and strengthen their hard skills.

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#02 Cachet

Cachet is an open-source service for creating status pages (a good alternative to StatusPage.io, for instance). The service reports the uptime and downtime of the applications and allows users to receive information about any failures or issues. Therefore, companies can track the website elements or functions in terms of their flawless performance and operation in order to promptly fix them.

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#03 Alison

Alison is a huge online educational platform that is focused on providing professional skills in various spheres and industries. According to its mission, everybody everywhere and at any time should be able to get the education desired. The most important is that the service is absolutely free of charge, thus making the platform truly accessible for everyone.

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#04 My Rank

My Rank is another E-learning platform that is designed for providing assistance to students (from India mainly) in passing a number of exams such as EAMCET, BITSAT, JIPMER, GATE, and others. Except for granting help from a highly qualified and experienced team of professionals, the platform offers round-the-clock support, effective training materials, and other helpful resources.

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#05 LaravelIO

LaravelIO is the Laravel forum created for users that are eager to discuss the framework or some complications that they face during its employment. This resource is just amazing since all the questions or queries may get competent answers and solutions, thus making the process of interaction with Laravel impeccable as well as convenient.

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#06 Barchart

Barchart is an excellent platform created to analyze diverse market data. Not just individuals but also investors, funds, media companies, traders, producers of raw materials, and others will find these services highly valuable and useful. Here, the system tracks world stocks, futures, options, Forex, and cryptocurrencies, thus helping interested parties to calculate their profit in advance while getting ready for possible risks.

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#07 Alphacoders

Alpha Coders is a resource that offers its users millions of images, wallpapers, gifs, and other visual elements of art to be applied to the desktop of various gadgets. Moreover, all images are placed in certain corresponding categories, thus making the process of searching fast and convenient. Accordingly, the website helps people to share and discover new photos and illustrations in different resolutions.

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As you can see, the websites built on Laravel are totally different, even when it comes to those that operate in the same field (e-learning, for example). Furthermore, all of them obtain the required functionality and features. And this is another reason for choosing this framework.

On a final note

In most cases, while interacting with frameworks, there’s a need for a dedicated specialist who obtains relevant knowledge in website building and development.

Nevertheless, it’s not true for all of them, since when working with Laravel, users can master it easily, and the development process becomes a moment of a masterpiece creation, thus allowing them to stand out and become memorable in the eyes of the customers.

A great number of tools, packages, and features offered by this framework may seem too complex for beginners or non-professionals. However, various guidelines and manuals available serve to make their work smooth and beneficial. Moreover, in case of any questions or doubts, our team of professionals is always at your disposal. Therefore, do not hesitate to contact us.

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