6 Ways to Boost Website Performance in PHP

6 Ways to Boost Website Performance in PHP

Improving code performance has overall benefits to your PHP applications. It increases user experience, conversions & scalability.

Optimizing PHP code lets you offer faster page loading times to users and reduces the server load at the same time. The PHP application can handle more HTTP requests per second.

There are many ways to enhance PHP performance on your server.

In this article, we will learn how to boost website performance in PHP.

Overview of PHP

PHP is a server-side scripting language used for web development. Rasmus Lerdorf developed the first version in 1995.

Initially, the PHP acronym stood for Personal Home Page. After the version 3 release, PHP got its recursive acronym “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor.”

PHP 4 was referred to as the Zend engine when the Zend engine was introduced. It was named after its creators Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski.

The in-memory compiler & executor model improved its performance drastically. It also allowed users to build dynamic web applications.

PHP version 5 came with object-oriented programming. The PHP 7.0 versions offered further enhancements to the Zend engine.

The latest PHP 8 version offers some notable features. It comes with a JIT compiler for performance improvements.

Some interesting facts about PHP

  • It is an interpreted language, and it does not require a compiler.
  • It supports databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, & Oracle.
  • PHP code is executed directly on the server.
  • It is an open-source language and accessible to everyone.
  • It is popular as around 79% of website servers are written in PHP.
  • Some popular web apps using PHP are WordPress, Wikipedia & Yahoo.

1. Use Native PHP Functions

Native PHP Functions - Boost Website Performance in PHP

Instead of writing the functions manually, use the built-in PHP functions. It helps to write code faster & avoid performance issues.

PHP has a library of over 1000 built-in functions. These are pre-defined and called directly to perform a specific task.

You can use special-purpose PHP functions & syntaxes rather than generic functions for efficient processing.

You get a wide range of PHP functions & methods listing. You can use them to complete any objective.

2. Enable OPCache on PHP Server

Enable OPCache on PHP Server - Boost Website Performance in PHP

Compiling converts human-readable source code into a machine language (opcode).

The opcode is readable by the server so it can process requests. Without opcode, every request has to be compiled, which is not fast.

PHP script processing involves four stages:

  • Lexical analysis (lexing)
  • Syntax analysis (parsing)
  • Compilation
  • Execution

OPcache improves PHP performance by storing precompiled scripts in shared memory. That way, PHP does not have to load & parse scripts at each request.

With OPcache, the steps are removed so you can directly launch or execute the application.

All the subsequent requests skip the compilation phase. Only the new code updates are compiled & stored.

As there is no compilation step, you can see the changes in your PHP code immediately.

Opcode caching via the OPcache is integrated into PHP 5.5+ by default. Integrate OPcache and conduct performance testing to speed up your site.

3. Minify Static Assets & Caching

Minify Static Assets & Caching - How to Improve Website Performance in PHP

Minification is the process of removing unnecessary characters from the source code. It is done without changing the functionality of the code.

The characters can be white spaces, line breaks, and comments. It is readable for humans but inessential for machines.

Minifying reduces the size of your source code & makes it more efficient. It decreases load times & bandwidth usage.

Developers are also working with HTML, CSS, or JavaScript code. Minifying the static scripts & file sizes help reduce the processing time.

Along with this, you can apply caching systems like Varnish & Redis. Cache allows you to store specific content for future requests.

You can reduce the server load with browser caching. The server does not have to respond to thousands of requests. All subsequent requests pass through the caching system instead of the server.

It lets you manage a massive number of concurrent requests. Cache also keeps the PHP application performance stable during traffic spikes.

4. Upgrade to the Latest PHP Version

Upgrade to the Latest PHP Version - Improve Website Performance in PHP

With every significant PHP release, you get speed improvements. The launch of PHP 8 was in November 2020. It came with a new set of features for optimized performance.

Some of the features of PHP v8 include:

  • Union types 2.0
  • Match expression
  • Null safe operator
  • Attributes v2
  • Named arguments
  • Consistent type errors for internal functions
  • New classes, interfaces, and functions
  • Just-in-time (JIT) compilation

Just-in-time compilation or JIT is the new performance-based feature of PHP v8. JIT involves compiling during the program execution instead of before execution.

In PHP v7, OPcache did skip steps like lexing, parsing, and compiling. However, the Zend VM still had to compile opcode to native machine code.

The JIT tool translates PHP to machine code which is executed on the CPU. That means it does not run the code by Zend VM, thereby eliminating the step.

This process improves PHP performance and memory usage. You can enable & disable JIT easily, just like OPcache.

According to PHP developer Nikita Popov, the JIT compiler benefits include:

  • Better performance for numerical code.
  • Slightly better performance for PHP web application code.
  • The potential to move more code from C to PHP, as PHP will be faster.

You might see a less substantial performance benefit in PHP 8 than the upgrade from PHP 5 to PHP 7.

Pedro Escudero has tested the PHP 8 performance. He used PHP versions 5.3, 7.4, and 8, with & without the JIT compiler.

He ran the script 100 times for each version & calculated the average time. Test results showed a 45% boost in performance with the JIT Compiler for PHP 8.

5. Understand Performance Bottlenecks

PHP Performance Bottlenecks - PHP Performance Optimization

Bottlenecks occur when one component’s limitations slow down the entire system. It is essential to identify & address performance bottlenecks in PHP. These can be third-party APIs, database queries, caching, and so on.

These bottlenecks can occur in different stages of development. You can fine-tune your code at specific stages.

It is advised to set performance parameters & conduct tests during development. It helps identify the processing time for each component.

Even if your PHP code is optimized, there may be bottlenecks in subsystems. Check the following areas of the web server for performance issues:

  • Network capacity
  • Memory utilization
  • CPU performance
  • Unwanted background processes
  • Fragmented file system

To identify bottlenecks, track performance for the application’s entire life cycle. Performance benchmarking allows you to evaluate PHP performance using key metrics. It gives you data on average response time, throughput, cache, & databases.

You can check the data for release cycles and compare it with the baseline performance metric. You can also minimize redundant calls and distribute workloads across many servers.

Performance monitoring, logging & error tracking will help reduce the number of bottlenecks efficiently.

6. Code Optimization

Code Optimization - How to improve PHP website performance

A quality code increases performance and is easy to optimize. There are many PHP code optimization techniques available for developers.

In PHP, you should use single quotes ( ‘ ‘ ) rather than double quotes. You can use JSON instead of XML for web services. The native PHP functions like json_encode( ) and json_decode( ) perform faster.

These small changes lead to overall better performance.

You can use profiling for PHP performance tuning. It helps identify slow code and other performance bottlenecks.

The code can become complicated with more layers & new functionalities. Profiling analyzes individual lines of code and finds buggy code quickly.

Without a profiler, it would take time & guesswork to diagnose the problem. Use PHP profilers tools like Zend, Blackfire, or Tideways to get the code analysis.


PHP is a versatile scripting language for web development. It lets you create dynamic web pages & applications. However, you have to optimize PHP for speed continuously.

In this article, we have covered the main ways you can boost PHP performance.

Ensure that you use the latest PHP version and the best coding practices. It is essential to remove the bottlenecks and use tools like OPcache.

Optimizing PHP during the development & application cycle is very helpful. Keep track of performance metrics and use monitoring tools to help maintain PHP performance. Also, opt for suitable web hosts and add a content delivery network (CDN).

That way, you can ensure high availability and faster page load speed for your web applications.

To get more insights on PHP & cloud hosting, check the CloudPanel blog.

Nikita S.
Nikita S.
Technical Writer

As a lead technical writer, Nikita S. is experienced in crafting well-researched articles that simplify complex information and promote technical communication. She is enthusiastic about cloud computing and holds a specialization in SEO and digital marketing.

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