How to Move Your Legacy PHP Application to Laravel?

Arlind Musliu Portrait

Arlind Musliu

November 28, 2023 · 8 min read · 1,617 views

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Setting the Stage for a Laravel Transformation

You've got a legacy PHP application. Much like an old trusty car, it's been your digital transport from point A to point B over countless coding miles. However, in an era where technology speeds by faster than a racing coupe on its victory lap, your old reliable ride isn't quite cutting it on the information superhighway anymore. It's high time you shifted gears to a Laravel-powered supercar, one that promises to turbocharge your application's performance and sleekly conforms to today's web standards.

Upgrading to Laravel isn't just about keeping up appearances, though—it's about stability, security, and speed. In this guide, we’ll give you a roadmap for transferring your antique code to a shiny Laravel framework without missing a turn. Buckle up; it's going to be quite the ride!

Mapping Out Your Laravel Journey

Before you hit the road, you've got to map out your trip. Here's how to draw the map for a smooth transition from legacy PHP to Laravel:

  • Feature Audit: Pop the hood and examine every inch of your app. Determine which features are compatible with Laravel and which may need some tweaking.

  • External Dependencies: Are there third-party components or APIs tied to your app? Check their compatibility with Laravel and whether alternative solutions exist.

  • Database Considerations: Will your data need a touch-up to fit Laravel’s elegance?

  • Human Resources: Who's on board? Do you need to hire Laravel experts, or is your team ready to upskill?

Embarking on the Laravel Route

Just like ensuring your vehicle is tuned up before a long journey, setting up your development environment for Laravel is crucial.

  • Composer Installation: Composer and Laravel are like GPS and cars—they’re made for each other. Make sure they're in sync.

  • Laravel Setup: Create a fresh Laravel install in a new directory. It's the starting line for your modernization marathon.

  • Development Environment: Raise the comfort level with either Laravel Valet, Herd, or Sail. These are Laravel's development environments designed for easy management.

Shifting to Laravel's Infrastructure

Okay, your environment is jazzed up and ready. Now what? It's time to get your hands dirty.

  • Directory Architecture: Laravel has its way of doing things. Populating the directory structure correctly will save heaps of trouble later on.

  • Routing: Just as you plan your travel route, web routes in Laravel are essential. Lay them out clearly, so your web traffic doesn't hit any potholes.

Refine Your Handling with Controllers and Middleware

You wouldn't dream of a swanky sports car without elite control—this is where Laravel's controllers and middleware engineering come into play.

  • Controllers: Rather than stuffing all the navigational smarts in your route files, move them into sleek "controller" classes, like optimizing your car's driving dynamics.

  • Middlewares: Imagine middleware as customizable performance filters for your apps—like adjusting your car's suspension for the track day ahead. Middleware offers a convenient method for examining and refining incoming HTTP requests within your application.

  • Requests: Managing HTTP requests within Laravel's Illuminate\Http\Request class is akin to having a sophisticated onboard computer that responds to your every command with finesse.

Polishing the View

Just as you'd dress your dashboard to impress, Laravel views separate your HTML into finely upholstered, separate files, ensuring elegance and logic don't come at the cost of aesthetics.

Asset Optimization with Vite

Your assets need to be compiled just right, and Vite is the mechanic shop for all your front-end needs.

Make sure your frontend packages are compatible with Vite before migrating.

Steering Your Database into Laravel's Lane

  • Migrations: These are Laravel's blueprints for database structure—so whip up some migrations to match your existing database.

  • Eloquent: This is Laravel's ORM and it's a beauty, but you'll need to transition your legacy database code into Eloquent models and relationships.

Handling Your Business Logic

The engine of your application needs to be fine-tuned if it's going to run on Laravel fuel. As you refactor:

  • Controllers vs. Models: You may need to shift gears; Laravel encourages a separation of concerns and adhering to good software architecture principles. This could mean redistributing some of the legacy logic under the hood.

  • Services, Repositories, or DDD: For complex applications, break the engine down into services and repositories to make Laravel purr like a kitten.

Giving Your App the Laravel Look

The look of your application can't be left in the dust. Embrace Laravel's intuitive templating engine:

  • Blade Templates: Convert your PHP views into Blade templates. They're like a breath of fresh air for your UI.

  • Vue.js Integration: If you're feeling adventurous, sprinkle in the Vue.js magic for an even more responsive user experience.

Inertia.js and React for the Aerodynamics Edge

To truly aerodynamically optimize your app, pairing Inertia.js with React is like fitting an active spoiler - both cutting-edge and strikingly efficient, a must for those serious about capturing pole position.

The Victory Lap: Testing Your Tuning

  • Unit Tests with PHPUnit: Laravel's built-in PHPUnit testing acts like a trusty co-pilot, ensuring every feature performs correctly before you take the app onto the information superhighway.

  • Pest: Pest is the refinement tool that accentuates the joy of testing PHP. Think of it as the detailing that brings out the gleam before the big race day.

  • Debugging Tools: Tools like Laravel Telescope and Tinkerwell can help you find the needle in the haystack, should something go awry.

Troubleshooting with the Right Tools

  • Telescope: Tools like Laravel Telescope can help you find the needle in the haystack, should something go wrong.

  • Tinkerwell: It's the equivalent of a trusty roadside assistance tool that lets you run code snippets in the context of your application right then and there.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why migrate to Laravel?

Migrating to Laravel offers improved performance, enhanced security, and access to modern features and tools. Laravel's efficient routing system, caching mechanisms, and optimized database queries can significantly improve the performance of your application. Laravel also provides built-in security features such as CSRF protection, secure authentication, and encryption. Additionally, Laravel offers a wide range of features and tools that can streamline development, such as an ORM system, a powerful template engine, and a robust testing suite.

How long does it take to move a legacy PHP application to Laravel?

Times vary based on the complexity of your project. There's no quick pit stop for a job like this—it’s a race that requires endurance.

Can Laravel run alongside legacy PHP during the transition?

Absolutely! You can put your new Laravel app on a staging server and test the functionality there before jumping in.

Should you refactor all your legacy code before moving to Laravel?

Not at all. It's more like replacing parts gradually. Prioritize areas with the greatest potential for performance boosts or security benefits.

How difficult is it to learn Laravel if you're familiar with PHP?

It's like upgrading to a sports car with all the latest tech. There's a learning curve, but it's made for PHP developers, so you’ll pick it up in no time.

How do I identify dependencies and third-party libraries?

To identify dependencies and third-party libraries, you should make a list of all external libraries and APIs used by the legacy application, check their compatibility with Laravel, and find alternatives for deprecated libraries.

How do I prepare the database for migration?

To prepare the database for migration, you should analyze the database schema, migrate the data to a new database, and test data integrity and compatibility.


Congratulations, you've crossed the finish line! Modernizing your legacy PHP application to Laravel isn't about mere survival on the digital speedway; it's about thriving, with a robust, secure, and sophisticated application that's built for the future.

Your once archaic PHP application has become a modern, maintainable marvel. Stand back and admire your work—after all, it's not every day you witness a digital metamorphosis. Safe travels on the Laravel highway, and don't forget to enjoy the ride!

Bring Your Ideas to Life 🚀

If you need help with a Laravel project let's get in touch.

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Arlind Musliu Portrait
Arlind Musliu

Cofounder and CFO of Lucky Media


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