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The move towards PHP 7, Sonata Project and Symfony


It has been a long and interesting path using PHP as the main development language for Strategy, especially as the language has well-known foibles, such as the early lack of Object Orientation and its sometimes nonsensical naming schema (strcmp vs str_replace – why the underscore?). For those with a procedural C background, utilising PHP is a logical step – it is also the most widespread dynamic web language currently in production, so it's a safe language to use when it comes to open source development. PHP 7 takes all of this to new heights.

Content Management

The original content management system developed by the (now legacy) company Pixel Lab (named Lab CMS), was rebranded Strategy CMS and was then further developed, whilst undergoing a set of major improvements, such as an e-commerce module, a templating system and responsive design. All good things come to an end, however, and the last mature version number of Strategy CMS is the 1.9 branch, and it is likely that this is where it will stay for the forseeable future.

With the development of more and more CMSs, many seemed to start 'copying' each other when it came to their component parts. We began to see that the component partsthat made Strategy CMS such a fantastic tool for business-to-business marketing could be redeveloped rapidly with another platform, and so it made sense to migrate to a widely adopted and supported framework. However, finding the right framework was no easy undertaking and it took many months of research and soul searching before we were able to find a suitable option. 


With PHP frameworks taking content management to a new level, leveraging the huge performance gains of PHP 7 and utilising 'content managment frameworks' (CMF), migrating to a new framework seemed like an opportunity not be missed. The modular packaging system and mature version control applications now make managing complex application builds so much more reliable. Tie in the many fantastic requirements gathering and project management tools available (many free or for a small monthly fee), rock-solid standard compliant web browsers (think Internet Explorer being shelved), and today it feels like the Hydra that was web development has come of age. Our small team have never felt more confident with the tools and applications at our disposal.

The Government Digital Service is testament to this approach, as the GOV.UK protoype website was developed in just 12 weeks with a team of just 16 people. Hats off, they showed the world how it should be done and they took open standards and gifted individuals to bring a complete user-centred design methodolgy to reality. 

The future                                    

Strategy now use the Sonata Project as our core content management system. The building block framework for this CMS is the Symfony project, a high performance, enterprise scale PHP framework with a huge and loyal base of developers and maintainers. When coupled with PHP 7, this framework – with its features, flexibility and its maintainability – is way ahead of the curve. Evidence for this is shown in the fact that other frameworks now utilise the Symfony code base, as does the CMS called Drupal.

If you need help creating your website, Strategy can help. Get in touch and let us do the work for you. 


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