Best JS Frameworks to Build Your Next Application
An in-depth look into Angular, React, and Vue, the development tools are backed into each framework, and the projects suited for each framework.
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The first thing people notice about your application is its visual appeal. Most users tend to associate interface design with the credibility and professional competence of your company. That’s why choosing the right front-end technology plays a crucial role in your business growth.
Investing in user experience brings huge competitive advantages and great financial results. However, before counting up future income, you should decide which platform will be the foundation of your success.
How Long Do Technologies Last?
Selecting the right technology is not that simple, given the number of available options and rapid changes in the front-end landscape. A decade ago, when I started my journey in software engineering, jQuery was on everybody’s mind. This JS library turned out to be a real blessing for millions of programmers as it allowed for the building of interactive cross-platform websites with less effort. Then YUI 3, an open-source framework backed by Yahoo!, came on to the scene. It offered more structure along with design patterns, making UI development even faster and easier.
But who remembers YUI 3 now? It was abandoned back in 2014 because of low demand from developers, who had switched to more advanced JS frameworks. The interest in jQuery also has been constantly dropping since 2013, due to the evolution of numerous competing technologies. In September 2018, GitHub announced its decision to remove the legendary library from the github.com front-end, though many programmers are still using jQuery in their projects.
Five years ago, when I set up a custom software development company, AngularJS had just started growing. Since then dozens of technologies have passed through the same standard lifecycle, from quick ascent to popularity to steady decline. According to StackOverflow, most JS frameworks achieve the top of their fame within two years—and then developers shift to newer alternatives.
Currently, there are three clear leaders to choose from. They have successfully survived severe competition and occupied the largest share of the front-end market. It seems that the so-called Big Three—Angular, React, and Vue—are here to stay.
A Sneak Peek at the Big Three
Angular, React, and Vue have won the trust of developers and companies among numerous open-source JS frameworks. Why? Because they offer reliable, maintainable, and scalable solutions that cover almost all business needs. Each framework:
- is equally suitable for building dynamic SPAs (single-page applications); on that point, all three frameworks have libraries for rendering your client-side app on the server to solve problems with SEO.
- sticks with the component-based approach that lets programmers concentrate on high-level tasks and your business requirements rather than on routine coding.
- boasts a large community that actively contributes to the open source environment.
- is released under the MIT license.
Though the Big Three have many things in common, but their popularity varies significantly depending on the industry. Angular is widely used across all businesses, especially in the financial sector. React typically attracts entertainment companies, while Vue appeals to advertising and marketing companies.
That said, I want to emphasize that all three technologies are effective and worth considering. Think of them as different sets of tools. Can you say that a screwdriver is always better than a hammer? No, it entirely depends on your particular needs. To make your choice easier, I’ll dive deeper into the specific benefits of each framework.
Reasons to Choose Angular
Angular, supported by Google, is a real colossus in terms of development possibilities. It abounds with ready-to-use patterns, libraries, services, and tools, enabling you to carry out complex tasks in the shortest time possible. Besides, it forces developers to follow the strict “Angular way,” which decreases the number of unknowns and helps large teams to work together on a single project.
Focus on Consistency and Productivity
One of the most remarkable things about Angular is its focus on productivity. The framework relieves engineers of mundane work and simplifies the implementation of difficult aspects of modern apps. Among the tools that significantly reduce development time, I want to highlight:
- Unrivaled CLI for quick and easy app scaffolding. With simple commands, you can start a project, generate components, libraries and services, add features, test, and update your current project.
- Angular Material, a library that uses Google’s Material Design components, provides developers with fully tested, pre-built components for creating modern-looking UIs. All elements, including buttons, pop-ups, data tables, layouts, and many others, are easy to integrate into Angular projects.
- The use of TypeScript. I must admit that this programming language is a great challenge for devs who want to master Angular. But if your engineers already know TS, they will need less time to understand the framework and start benefiting from it. TypeScript increases productivity across the team as it helps to identify bugs while coding before the app is compiled. It also provides tools for quick and easy refactoring.
Being the most mature of the Big Three, Angular’s environment contains the largest number of ready-made tested solutions. Compared to React and Vue, it has more functionality out of the box and offers more reliable, proven approaches to app building.
Ease of Migration
As you probably know, the first version of the framework, AngularJS, is not compatible with newer releases. Moreover, an AngularJS developer needs a couple of months to learn the new versions Angular, which have been rewritten with TypeScript. Taking into account this painful experience, the Google team has decided to avoid breaking changes in the future.
Now Angular guarantees backward compatibility and takes care of smooth transitions. The Google team releases a new version every six months and follows the Semantic Versioning (SemVer) concept, which helps you keep track of new functionalities. Starting with Angular 4, the technology came under the Long Term Support (LTS) policy which provides an 18-month maintenance period for each main version. For the cherry on the top, Angular 6 features a new CLI command,
ng_update, which makes upgrading the environment even easier and faster.
What do all these mean for you? Your current Angular app will be receiving all the important security patches and bug fixes for more than a year. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to switch to the newer version with minimum effort.
Using Angular Components Across Environments
My company runs numerous projects including non-Angular ones. This makes me greatly appreciate Angular Elements, one of the major updates within the sixth version. The package lets developers create Angular components and then integrate them into other environments—for example, apps built with React or Vue.
Reasons to Choose React
React is a constantly evolving UI library backed by Facebook. As opposed to Angular, it's impossible to create an app only with React. Instead, you have the freedom to decide what third-party tools and libraries to use. Such an approach gives you more flexibility (but sometimes at the expense of consistency and productivity).
Lower Entry Threshold
Focus on Performance and Responsiveness
React broke into the market of front-end technologies with the revolutionary idea of the Virtual DOM—a smart algorithm that reduces the number of updates in the real DOM, boosting performance and, on the whole, user experience.
The latest version of React offers further improvements in the domain of responsiveness and user experience. Its re-written core algorithm, called Fiber, splits all the rendering work into chunks, assigns priorities to different types of updates, and “tells” the browser which changes must be rendered first. Animations and responses on user actions get the highest priority, which makes an app feel faster or, in other words, enhances perceived performance.
Speaking of React.js, I should mention its younger cousin, React Native. This highly efficient framework allows you to build mobile apps for iOS and Android at once. Unlike other cross-platform technologies, it renders components on mobile through native APIs, ensuring better performance and native look.
Reasons to Choose Vue
Vue.js, defined as a progressive framework, can’t boast of support from IT giants. Nonetheless, it has become much-in-demand due to a successful combination of simplicity, size, speed, and extensive functionality.
Best of Angular and React in One
Vue’s creator, ex-Google employee and AngularJS developer Evan You, has extracted the best features from competing frameworks to build a new platform. Among other Angular-like functionalities, Vue features templates, directives, CSS transitions, and animations. From React, it inherits a focus on UI responsiveness along with the Virtual DOM concept.
In terms of approach, Vue has taken the middle ground between opinionated Angular, which provides developers with default toolkit, and open-minded React, which leaves core decisions to programmers.
Small With a Short Learning Curve
Though Vue hasn’t yet reached Angular’s or React’s level of popularity, it has the most comprehensive and detailed documentation. While Angular provides you with too much content and React, on the contrary, too often lacks official manuals, Vue gives you just the right amount of information on how to use it.
A Few Words About Bottlenecks
Having explained why these three JS frameworks are loved so much, I should also pin down the main drawbacks of each platform. As a rule, the cons are just a continuation of the pros.
- Steep and long learning curve.
- Rigid “Angular style” of app building. The framework dictates to programmers how everything must be structured (though many developers consider this to be a benefit).
- Lack of official documentation.
- Long pre-development period due to the need to find external libraries and tools.
- Compatibility and update issues. Third-party libraries have their own lifecycle—they can lose support or become obsolete and incompatible with the new React version.
- No support from tech giants. Companies feel more confident when the platforms they use get financial and technological backing from large IT enterprises, as it means that their apps won’t be abandoned or deprived of support any time soon. Vue is a “one-man project,” which makes it more vulnerable (don’t forget about YUI 3, though—the fact that it was founded by Yahoo! didn’t save this technology from falling into oblivion).
- Lack of maturity. Vue is still quite young and has a comparatively small ecosystem.
- Lots of comments and libraries are written in Chinese.
How to Make the Right Choice
Now we’ve come close to the most important part of our journey—selecting one technology out of the three. There are several key points you should take into account:
- The skillset of your team or the expertise of available developers.
- Size and complexity of your app.
- Specific requirements for performance, responsiveness, scalability, customization, and so on.
For more guidance, I’ll give some insight into the most common cases, based on my team’s and my partners’ experience.
You Rely on an Existing Team
In most situations, the best choice will be the framework your devs are the most confident with.
You Want to Start With an MVP
In my opinion, Angular is the best fit for testing your idea. Its huge collection of out-of-the-box functionality enables you to design a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or an app with a minimal feature set within short time frames. As a general guide, a standard MVP dashboard can be built in 5 man-days.
You’re Building a Startup
All three frameworks have proved to be effective platforms for startups. However, React is the preferred choice if you want to create an app with a lot of custom features. It gives your developers the freedom to choose libraries and tools for their exact needs.
Vue also allows you to structure your project as you wish. Opt for this framework if you like flexibility and your final goal is to build a simple, fast, and lightweight application.
Your Goal Is an Enterprise-Scaled Project
There are a number of reasons why you should choose Angular for enterprise apps. Here are the most important ones:
Big enterprises seek long-term and consistent technologies. Angular precisely meets these requirements by offering Google’s support, scheduled upgrading, no-more-breaking-changes policy, and clear migrating process.
The cost of bugs increases dramatically with project growth. Angular uses TypeScript which helps to spot and correct common errors while coding. As a result, you verify the quality of your app more often and eliminate bugs at early stages. All in all, TypeScript gives numerous benefits to large projects—improved productivity, efficient tooling for refactoring, better control over the code, just to name a few.
Angular is an opinionated technology that gives you clear rules on how to create an app along with all the tools you need for development.
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