Zend Framework 2 – blech

It’s been a while since I paid any attention to what they were doing in ZF2; I’d been aware of the discussion and some of the plans way back, but last time I checked in there was nothing much to see yet unless you were involved directly with the effort.

So I stopped by today and was impressed to see that ZF2 is in production and there to download as 2.0.6.

I read through the new getting started tutorial and experienced a sinking feeling. I’ve always had this love/hate relationship with Zend Framework. Not so much with the software, actually, as the project as a whole. Since starting to use it back in 2007, I’ve found it badly documented, constantly shifting and often seeming to lack a coherent direction. Because it changed so much and relatively quickly in the early days (and had massive new features parachuted in without much explanation in later versions, like the Application object) it’s always been hard to know the best way to do things, particularly when you need to grab it quickly to use on a new project after working on an existing one for an extended period.

There is lots of good stuff in ZF2 – I’m really pleased to see unit testing front and centre in the getting started, for example, and I like the new more convenient form rendering methods.

But I’m shocked at how lengthy and verbose the getting started tutorial is, just to get to the point where you’re printing out some records on a page. I’m not saying ZF should have scaffolding or that scaffolding is actually particularly useful to have; on the other hand, I ask myself, do I really have to type all that in, especially when other frameworks are so much more expressive? Or more realistically, copy/paste it all every time you need it. The routing code is amazingly ugly with an extraordinarily low signal to noise ratio – just imagine how much boilerplate you’ll be scrolling through in a real app just to read the dozen or so bits of actual information in that.

This is not a technical criticism, incidentally, it’s an aesthetic and usability thing. I’m not disputing the architectural decisions; the guys who write and maintain ZF are way above me as programmers. But as an average, reasonably experienced web developer, I want to write code that I like to look at, code that is “user-friendly” for the developers in the same way that the UI should be user-friendly for the end users.

Zend Framework.