Vladimir Sidorenko

7 Best Frameworks For Web Development in 2018

, , django , node , typescript , react , javascript , angular

Most of the modern web developers compile their own lists of the best web frameworks and libraries which they use for a faster, more efficient and convenient work. A successful and productive developer is fast, reliable and knows how to save time on things that can be automated. Being aware of and implementing the latest web development technologies, new web application frameworks and libraries is what makes a big-time expert.

In this article, we will help you decide on the best framework for web development, go over the list of the most popular web frameworks of the year and explore some of their features, as well as their pros and cons. Hopefully, this will help you choose a perfect solution for your business goals.

Backend Frameworks

1. Django

django

Django tops our list of the best web application frameworks. It is a full-stack open-source framework powered by Python which supports Python versions up to 3.7. Full-stack means it’s an “out of the box” solution that provides many extras needed to start right away: templates, user authentication, content administration, sitemaps, RSS feeds and others. It even generates an admin panel to configure your website without editing the code, which reminds of a CMS. Most likely, you won’t need any other third-party framework to build a powerful website (CSS frameworks don’t count).

Pros

All the key features are included initially within the framework. Django follows a Model-Template-View (very similar to MVC) architecture to divide logic and views. One of its advantages is using an Object Relational Mapper (ORM) to map the project’s objects within database tables. Django natively supports common database engines (MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, Oracle, SQL Server, DB2 and others with additional drivers), which simplifies migration between them: you won’t need to rewrite or adapt the code, as the framework will map everything itself. Cool, isn’t it?

An auto-generated admin panel is a key feature of this framework, as no others can offer it.

For newbies, if you want to experiment with Django you don’t need to have a separate web server installed, because Django comes with its own lightweight development server.

Cons

  • Too much focus on backward compatibility somewhat reduces its development speed. Often, it's difficult to integrate new shiny buzzwords into the system.
  • Django is a monolithic framework which keeps you within the given patterns.
  • You always get a relatively large structure even if you create a simple landing page.

What companies choose it

This framework is one of the most popular web frameworks used for many high-loaded websites like Pinterest, Instagram, and NASA. Django has also been utilized by thousands of medium websites and startups for its convenience, sufficient turn-key functionality, good documentation, and big community ready to help.

2. Ruby on Rails (RoR)

rails

Ruby on Rails is the next member of the best MVC framework list. It’s an open-source framework created by Ruby, which probably is the main full-stack competitor of Django.

Before starting with RoR, it’s advised to learn more about Ruby. RoR was created to make the coding of web-based applications simpler and faster. It allows writing significantly less code than using any other framework.

Pros

RoR declares a fundamental rule: Convention Over Configuration. Ruby on Rails is always aware of what you are going to do and keeps you aside from editing of multiple configuration files. If the first part of that process is more or less clear, the second one is more complicated. Rails expects that coders use unified configuration rules and default patterns. Simply put, if a developer uses “standard” best practices (in names, code structure and so on) everything will work automatically, like magic.

For example, a model class Company will usually be defined in the file “company.rb” in the app/models directory and linked to table “companies” in the database.

Convention Over Configuration gives us the benefits to write much less code. As well as Django, Rails follows the MVC concept and provides default structure for the database, the web service, and web pages. You can use general relational and non-relational database engines with drivers included originally.

Cons

  • There’s a barrier for beginners: a lot of things to learn before the use.
  • Ruby requires more server capacity and resources than Python or PHP.

What companies choose it

Rails is a good tool for professionals to build any kind of web applications, from basic websites to high-traffic web portals or internal corporate application such as DMS. Like Django, RoR has a lot of standard tools in original package, which should be sufficient enough to develop heavy apps. Various-sized startups and large enterprises like Airbnb, Twitter and Shopify are built with RoR.

3. Express

7 Best Frameworks For Web Development in 2017

Express.js is an open-source framework for Node.js to build classical web applications with server-side and API. Roughly speaking, it’s a standard server framework for projects that use JavaScript on the backend.

If you are new to web development and know only some JavaScript and basic tools like HTML, CSS, Express would be the easiest framework to start with.

On the other hand, JavaScript might be a little bit quirky sometimes, so, for complete newbies, it might be better starting with Python or Ruby on the backend.

Pros

Express provides a simple interface to create regular websites and web apps. Primarily it helps to organize the routing of your application and use templates by putting in least efforts. You don’t need to be concerned with low-level protocols, processes, and other factors. Unlike Rails and Django, which have a strong position in applications building, Express has no “best way” to do something. Instead, it’s very flexible and pluggable.

Express+Node is quick and is made for applications which require a lot of online connections like chats or online games, or in situations when it’s needed to quickly get data from a database.

Cons

  • You have to install tens of additional libraries and packages to get all necessary features for development, which are included in Django or RoR initially.
  • Be aware of compatibility issues as there’s a number of additional packages for Node and Express. An update of one module can lead to an update of another one with which it interacts, and this update can require another one and so on.
  • Node processes are non-blocking and asynchronous, which works great when an application makes requests to external data sources and only slightly modifies the data. It won't work for heavy computation as single computation will block other requests until completed.
  • Sometimes JavaScript doesn't make any sense.

What companies choose it

Express is better for developing simple web services and APIs rather than web portals or high-loaded calculating backends. But with the increase in demand for Node.js, Express is expected to reach new heights in the future. PayPal and MySpace have chosen it for particular services within their websites.

For those who want to practice web development and create simple web services, Express is a good framework to begin with: you don’t need much preparation, no knowledge of Python or Ruby is required, only Node and JavaScript. However, note that you may need a lot of additional packages for your project later.

Frontend frameworks

1. Angular

7 Best Frameworks For Web Development in 2017

Angular is one of the best MVC frameworks today. It is a JavaScript open-source framework designed specifically for single-page web apps and mobile application development with an MVC architectural pattern. It’s not a full-stack, but a frontend framework which is basically dealing with web pages.

Angular is an evolution of AngularJS. It’s not a new version but is a completely new framework. Google has released Angular 6 in May 2018.

Pros

Standard HTML deals with static data, but Angular extends it and allows using dynamic data to create a web application rather than a static HTML website.

The Angular application is based on components stored in modules: a combination of HTML and TypeScript code which define what your web page will look like. Simply saying, thanks to these components you are able to answer three basic questions which determine how things should be displayed:

  • What? (HTML tags/objects and their values)
  • How? (the logic behind)
  • Where? (custom tag in your index.html where component's content should be placed)

You can link as many components as you want to a web page replacing different custom tags. This method provides online view updating as a response to an event, the logic stored in a component and changes of data.

Cons

  • There’s an entry barrier: you should get familiar with the architecture first.
  • It may seem not SEO-friendly, just like the other frontend frameworks below, because, in HTML directly, there are no features necessary for indexing texts. It’s worth to say that new Angular has solved this issue with server rendering features in the original package; there’s just some knowledge required about using ng-toolkit for that purpose.
  • Compared to React or View, in Angular, you always have to create a single page app

What companies choose it

Angular is, probably, the most powerful framework to build single-page web and cross-platform mobile applications. It offers a lot of features in the package, and you don’t need to worry about choosing and updating plugins, installing and working with them. You can also use it for common websites or landing pages, but not for the ones you want to see in the top of Google or Yahoo search.

Angular is supported by Google and its large community: it’s one of the most popular web frameworks on Github. Some of the well-known companies which had chosen Angular are The Guardian, HBO, Sony and PayPal (the checkout process). With a rapid development pace, easy code integration and readiness for unit testing, Angular can certainly be your best web application framework choice for the next project.

2. React

7 Best Frameworks For Web Development in 2017

As you may notice, JavaScript is everywhere now, so it’s not surprising that JavaScript frameworks and libraries are in trend. React takes its stand in the best web frameworks on JavaScript list, created and supported by Facebook. Although React is actually not a full-stack framework, as it provides only View-level (templating language) and some callback functions to render HTML code, it’s a powerful frontend tool.

Pros

React is all about fast view renders. Updating DOM is slow, especially when you try to display or update the big amount of data. React allows to re-render not the whole set of DOM elements but just the changed ones.

Imagine, you need to display a list of thousand users and their last login time on a web page, and it should be updated online. Typically, you need to read JSON or AJAX from the server every second and update your page by re-rendering a thousand DOM elements (users). React finds and re-draws only those users whose login time has changed. This makes the app really fast.

When you develop an app using React, it creates a Virtual DOM next to the real one with the same structure. When HTML should be updated, it updates the first Virtual DOM, then, finds differences between the virtual and the real DOM, and only then it re-draws real HTML elements. Any component created with React works with Virtual DOM.

Everything you create with React is a component — a JavaScript file containing JSX and all necessary logic inside. You can build a whole HTML page where each element can be a component (buttons, headers, checkboxes, lists, tables and so on) and define their view and behavior in corresponding js files. You can use the same components in different pages.

Cons

  • Moving to other frameworks can require rewriting of all HTML.
  • You will need to add a lot of packages, as React offers only render, while for any non-standard solutions, developers have to search through different libraries
  • It’s quite complicated to move more complex designs from Photoshop or Sketch to JSX files. JSX can drive some coders-designers crazy.

What companies choose it

Facebook, as a creator of React, uses it for Instagram, which is a strong proof of React’s utility. However, to develop a multifunctional full-featured web portal or an application, you will need something more than pure React: probably Express or even Django for the server side. Just leave frontend to React, it’s the fastest tool and the best web framework for frontend purposes.

3. Vue.js

7 Best Frameworks For Web Development in 2017

Like React, Vue is more of a JavaScript library that provides a ViewModel layer of MVVM pattern. It links a model and a view and provides a two-way data binding. Vue is open source and is being developed and supported by the community. It has been learning from the mistakes and successes of React & Angular.


Pros

Vue, same as React, is built around components. One of the Vue’s most valuable features is its reactivity. Models are just plain JavaScript objects, and when you modify them, the view updates immediately. It looks very similar to React but a different technology is used here: direct DOM element manipulation uses so-called “watchers” to identify the exact element to be re-rendered.

Unlike React, Vue doesn’t use JSX in components files. Instead, it uses HTML, styles and JavaScript in different sections: <template>, <script> and <style>. This syntax is more friendly to designers and is easier to read.

Vue is designed for fast UI development. You can use it separately for frontend prototyping or together with other libraries, frameworks or even add it easily to your existing project for UI customization.

Cons

  • There are not enough features “in the box”. For example, to build a single-page application which handles data from a server you will need additional tools and libraries for routing, state-management and server communication and you will have to build a tool like Webpack.
  • This framework is new, so there are much less documentation and plugins compared to competitors.

What companies choose it

Vue perfectly fits for single page applications and is being used in startups, outsourcers, small and medium-sized websites to get advantages in UI speed. One of the famous Vue users is Gitlab. Vue is lightweight, flexible and easy to learn. That’s why it’s a good choice for beginners, especially those who focus on frontend and UI.

4. Meteor

7 Best Frameworks For Web Development in 2017

Meteor is a full-stack framework that uses JavaScript both for frontend (as others) and for backend designed for developing real-time applications for web and mobile. You just have to build a web application with Meteor, and it will automatically be real time. It works on Node.

Pros

JavaScript is everywhere, so a frontend developer can also work on the back-end comfortably with Meteor without switching between Ruby/Python/PHP or other languages.

This is a key feature: one code is supported both on a client and a server. A developer can write a code on the client’s side as if it was running on the server and had a direct access to the database. There’s no need to use REST to get the data. You can define which functions should be performed on the client’s side and which ones on the server’s side, and split the code.

The core is DDP protocol used for real-time transfer of JSON objects across application’s frontend, server part and DB (MongoDB default). This is the feature that provides real-time updating. Meteor has a totally autonomous app compiler. All you need is Node.js, as the whole application can be compiled to archive and deployed everywhere where Node.js is running. You don’t depend on any hosting provider because your platform always deploys with your app.

Cons

  • You’ll need additional Node modules while developing, so it’s important to pay attention to their updates and compatibility.
  • It doesn’t always fit for developing apps for Windows Phone.
  • It works well only with MongoDB DDP which is not used anywhere else. The advantage is that it can be used for the whole app, not just for frontend or backend.

What companies choose it

With Meteor, you can create a frontend, backend, and a database, all in JavaScript which gives you cross-platform advantages (web, Apple iOS, Android). Meteor is perfect for building real-time web apps, and it’s been chosen by hundreds of startups and medium companies for fast MVP releases. Meteor requires knowledge of JavaScript only, which means it can be used by beginners who want to practice in web and mobile development all at once.

Conclusion

Both backend and frontend directions are popular and are not going to leave us soon. You can choose your own best framework for web development and work with what appeals more to you.

Here’s a comparison table for you to quickly understand the advantages and disadvantages of each framework.

Backend

Framework Django Ruby on Rails Express
Programming language Python Combination of the Ruby language with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript JavaScript
Frequency of releases Every 8 months Every year Every half a year
Jobs on StackOverflow 23 73 33
Questions on StackOverflow 183,751 299,372 500
Stars on GitHub 37.5K 41.4K 41K
Pros - Auto-generated admin panel
- Object Relational Mapper (ORM)
- Easy migration between common database engines
- Own development server
- No need to edit multiple configuration files, if a developer uses “standard” practices
- You need to write less code
- Simple interface
- Flexible and pluggable
- Made for applications which require a lot of online connections
Cons - Partly reduces development speed
- Monolithic framework
- Large structures as a result
- A barrier for beginners
- More server capacity and resources required than in Python or PHP
- A need to install additional libraries and packages
- Compatibility issues are possible
- It won't work for heavy computation
- Sometimes JavaScript doesn't make sense

Frontend

Framework Angular React Vue.js Meteor
Programming language Typescript JavaScript JavaScript JavaScript
Frequency of releases - A major release every 6 months
- 1-3 minor releases for each major release
- A patch release almost every week
A few times a year Every couple months Every couple months
Jobs on StackOverflow 57 201 37 3
Questions on StackOverflow 140,240 111,344 500 500
Stars on GitHub 42.6K 115K 17,7K 40.5K
Pros - Dynamic data for creating a web application rather than a static HTML website
- Based on components
- Based on components
- Fast view renders
- Based on components
- Reactivity in view updates
- Friendly syntax
- Designed for fast UI development
JavaScript is used both on a client and a server, so it can
Cons - A barrier for beginners: you should get familiar with the architecture first
- Compared to React or View, in Angular, you always have to create a single page app
- A lot of packages needed, as React offers only render, while for any non-standard solutions, developers have to search through libraries
- Difficulties in moving complex designs to JSX files
- Additional tools and libraries often needed
- Not much documentation and plugins
Additional Node modules needed

On the backend side, we suggest using Django or RoR as they have proved to be the best web application frameworks both for startups and complex large scale applications. Starting with Express may seem risky, as the lack of solid project structure and well-defined approaches won't help to learn the best practices.

On the frontend, React and Angular are among the best web framework choices. Vue is a lot simpler to start with, but it's less popular, which may create complexities in finding a contract. As for Meteor, it seems very promising, but a lot more risky to invest time in rather than the most popular web frameworks listed here.

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