9 Best Automated Testing Frameworks For PHP

Are you tired of spending hours debugging your PHP code? For many programmers, it’s not exactly a thrilling task. However, there’s a smart solution that can make this less of a chore: automated testing. This approach can greatly enhance the efficiency of PHP development by utilizing pre-written tests to guide the development process.

In this article, we’ll explore why automated testing is beneficial, how it functions, and introduce you to some of the top testing frameworks that you can use to get started.

Why Testing is Crucial for PHP Development

Many beginner PHP developers overlook the importance of writing tests for their code. Often, we start our careers by manually checking each new feature or function in the browser, only to be perplexed when something doesn’t work as expected.

Writing tests for our code can save us hours of debugging and headaches. When untested code is deployed, the feedback isn’t always positive. So, what’s the solution?

The answer lies in establishing a productive testing routine. This involves writing our own tests that check whether our application code functions correctly.

But here’s the catch: testing code should be written before the actual application code. This proactive approach ensures that our code functions correctly from the start. The testing scripts are usually stored in separate files. Should any errors arise in our PHP application, all we need to do is run our tests, which will help identify and resolve issues effectively.

Apart from saving time and ensuring our app is ready for production, testing offers several other benefits, such as:

  • More maintainable code
  • Easier code refactoring
  • Fewer security risks
  • A leaner codebase (since adapting the application code to match the test code helps avoid unnecessary components)
  • Enhanced performance

Understanding Automated Testing

While we can conduct tests manually, it often becomes a repetitive and time-consuming process. Automated testing replaces this manual effort with specific software tools that handle the tedious aspects, allowing us more time to focus on the logic behind the testing code.

Fortunately, PHP’s popularity means there are plenty of automated testing frameworks available to choose from.

Test-Driven Development (TDD) vs. Behaviour-Driven Development (BDD)

Automated testing frameworks typically follow one of two main methodologies: Test-Driven Development (TDD) and Behaviour-Driven Development (BDD). Both approaches prioritize writing tests before the application code, driving the development process. The key difference lies in the syntax of the testing code: TDD utilizes standard PHP code in its tests, while BDD employs human-readable sentences to describe feature behaviors, making it accessible to non-technical stakeholders as well.

A typical TDD test appears like this in a code editor, using regular object-oriented PHP code:

Example of a TDD test in PHP

Conversely, a BDD test might look like this, understandable even to those not versed in programming:

Example of a BDD test in PHP

PHP Automated Testing Frameworks

Now that we have a basic understanding of automated testing, let’s dive into 10 of the most effective automated testing frameworks available for PHP.


PHPUnit is a widely recognized testing framework for crafting Unit Tests in PHP applications. Unit tests evaluate individual units of code separately. Using PHPUnit facilitates test-driven development, allowing for thorough examination of each code segment.

PHPUnit operates via the command line and offers a versatile TestCase class for developers to extend as needed. It also enables the use of pre-written assertion methods to confirm specific behaviors in the application.

Illustration of PHPUnit in action

Codeception is a comprehensive framework that supports Unit Tests, as well as Functional and Acceptance Tests. Unlike Unit Tests, Functional and Acceptance Tests examine the PHP application as an integrated system. Codeception allows for the customization of various modules to suit different development requirements.

Codeception is compatible with numerous PHP development frameworks, including Symfony2, Laravel4, Yii, Phalcon, and Zend Framework. This integration enables a highly efficient development process by combining a PHP testing and development framework.

Codeception Framework Overview

Behat stands out in the realm of behaviour-driven PHP testing frameworks. Behat’s tests resemble narratives rather than conventional code. This framework employs the StoryBDD method of behaviour-driven development (as opposed to SpecBDD).

Inspired by the Cucumber project for Ruby, Behat offers a unique approach to testing in PHP.

Behat Testing Framework

PHPSpec is another framework that adopts the behaviour-driven testing methodology, specifically the SpecBDD subtype. In PHPSpec, the process starts by writing specifications that define the expected behavior of application code. This framework is influenced by the RSpec Ruby testing framework.

PHPSpec Framework in Use

Storyplayer is a comprehensive testing framework designed for full-stack, end-to-end testing of entire platforms. It offers capabilities for creating and destroying testing environments as needed, aligning with the TDD approach. Storyplayer enables writing functional tests that evaluate the application in its entirety.

Overview of Storyplayer Framework

Peridot is a flexible, lightweight testing framework for PHP, known for its event-driven architecture. This design allows for extensive customization through plugins and reporters.

Peridot employs an easy-to-understand describe-it syntax, facilitating clear communication of how application code should operate.

Peridot Testing Framework

Atoum is a modern and user-friendly PHP testing framework, ideal for running unit tests. It’s designed to streamline the testing process, utilizing features introduced in PHP 5.3, making it incompatible with older PHP versions. Atoum emphasizes a secure testing environment by isolating each test method in its own PHP process.

Atoum Framework for PHP Testing
8. Kahlan

Kahlan is a feature-rich BDD testing framework, supporting Unit Tests through the describe-it syntax. Adhering to the KISS principle, Kahlan is streamlined and efficient, requiring PHP 5.5 or newer. Despite its small code base, which is significantly smaller than PHPUnit, Kahlan offers a wealth of features for a flexible and customizable testing experience.

Kahlan: A BDD Testing Framework

Selenium is an advanced testing framework that specializes in automating web browsers, ideal for writing User Acceptance Tests. It simulates real user interactions by leveraging its WebDriver API to operate browsers natively, either locally or remotely. Selenium is particularly effective for testing more complex and established web applications.

Selenium in Web Application Testing

Final Thoughts

Automated testing frameworks significantly enhance the quality of PHP code development. Given PHP’s widespread use, there’s a wide array of testing tools available, allowing developers to select the one that best fits their specific needs.

However, it’s crucial to remember one key aspect. While automated testing is a potent tool, it cannot replace beta testing – the invaluable process of real human users testing the application, offering insights that automated tests might miss.