A template engine is not necessary with PHP because the language itself can take care of that. But it can make things like escaping values easier. They also make it easier to draw a clear line between your application logic and the template files which should only put your variables into the HTML code.

A good quick read on this is ircmaxell on templating. Please also read this for a different opinion on the topic. Personally I don’t have a strong opinion on the topic, so decide yourself which approach works better for you.

For this tutorial we will use a PHP implementation of Mustache. So install that package before you continue (composer require mustache/mustache).

Another well known alternative would be Twig.

Now please go and have a look at the source code of the engine class. As you can see, the class does not implement an interface.

You could just type hint against the concrete class. But the problem with this approach is that you create tight coupling.

In other words, all your code that uses the engine will be coupled to this mustache package. If you want to change the implementation you have a problem. Maybe you want to switch to Twig, maybe you want to write your own class or you want to add functionality to the engine. You can’t do that without going back and changing all your code that is tightly coupled.

What we want is loose coupling. We will type hint against an interface and not a class/implementation. So if you need another implementation, you just implement that interface in your new class and inject the new class instead.

Instead of editing the code of the package we will use the adapter pattern. This sounds a lot more complicated than it is, so just follow along.

First let’s define the interface that we want. Remember the interface segregation principle. This means that instead of large interfaces with a lot of methods we want to make each interface as small as possible. A class can extend multiple interfaces if necessary.

So what does our template engine actually need to do? For now we really just need a simple render method. Create a new folder in your src/ folder with the name Template where you can put all the template related things.

In there create a new interface Renderer.php that looks like this:

<?php declare(strict_types = 1);

namespace Example\Template;

interface Renderer
    public function render($template, $data = []) : string;

Now that this is sorted out, let’s create the implementation for mustache. In the same folder, create the file MustacheRenderer.php with the following content:

<?php declare(strict_types = 1);

namespace Example\Template;

use Mustache_Engine;

class MustacheRenderer implements Renderer
    private $engine;

    public function __construct(Mustache_Engine $engine)
        $this->engine = $engine;

    public function render($template, $data = []) : string
        return $this->engine->render($template, $data);

As you can see the adapter is really simple. While the original class had a lot of methods, our adapter is really simple and only fulfills the interface.

Of course we also have to add a definition in our Dependencies.php file because otherwise the injector won’t know which implementation he has to inject when you hint for the interface. Add this line:

$injector->alias('Example\Template\Renderer', 'Example\Template\MustacheRenderer');

Now in your Homepage controller, add the new dependency like this:

<?php declare(strict_types = 1);

namespace Example\Controllers;

use Http\Request;
use Http\Response;
use Example\Template\Renderer;

class Homepage
    private $request;
    private $response;
    private $renderer;

    public function __construct(
        Request $request, 
        Response $response,
        Renderer $renderer
    ) {
        $this->request = $request;
        $this->response = $response;
        $this->renderer = $renderer;


We also have to rewrite the show method. Please note that while we are just passing in a simple array, Mustache also gives you the option to pass in a view context object. We will go over this later, for now let’s keep it as simple as possible.

    public function show()
        $data = [
            'name' => $this->request->getParameter('name', 'stranger'),
        $html = $this->renderer->render('Hello {{name}}', $data);

Now go check quickly in your browser if everything works. By default Mustache uses a simple string handler. But what we want is template files, so let’s go back and change that.

To make this change we need to pass an options array to the Mustache_Engine constructor. So let’s go back to the Dependencies.php file and add the following code:

$injector->define('Mustache_Engine', [
    ':options' => [
        'loader' => new Mustache_Loader_FilesystemLoader(dirname(__DIR__) . '/templates', [
            'extension' => '.html',

We are passing an options array because we want to use the .html extension instead of the default .mustache extension. Why? Other template languages use a similar syntax and if we ever decide to change to something else then we won’t have to rename all the template files.

In your project root folder, create a templates folder. In there, create a file Homepage.html. The content of the file should look like this:

<h1>Hello World</h1>
Hello {{ name }}

Now you can go back to your Homepage controller and change the render line to $html = $this->renderer->render('Homepage', $data);

Navigate to the hello page in your browser to make sure everything works. And as always, don’t forget to commit your changes.