The two main goals in today’s web development are exceptional user experience and quick time to market. Using frontend development frameworks significantly helps in achieving these goals. But the number of frontend frameworks available in the market can be confusing. Which one is best?
We’ve compiled this guide on the most popular frontend frameworks so that you can quickly compare their pros and cons and find the best tool for your case.
What Are Frontend Frameworks?
Let’s start by defining key terms.
A framework is a software product that simplifies the development and maintenance of complex projects. Frameworks contain basic software modules with ready-to-use pieces of code that developers use to solve common programming tasks, such as managing AJAX requests or defining a file structure. They also dictate the rules for building the app architecture: you get a skeleton that should be extended and changed according to specified requirements.
Frameworks may include utility programs, code libraries, scripting languages, and other software that facilitates the development and integration of various components of a large software product.
Because of frameworks, developers don’t start projects from the ground up but have the foundation for the implementation of other project-specific features. This helps you speed up the development, and improve the productivity and reliability of solutions.
Frontend in web development is the graphical user interface of a website or an application. In other words, it’s the part that users can see and interact with. This part is required to be user-friendly to efficiently present information from the backend.
A frontend framework is, consequently, a software product/tool/platform serving as the basis for the development of frontend parts of web solutions.
Types of Solutions You Can Create with Frontend Frameworks
Given the large number of existing frontend frameworks, it’s clear that they can be used to create completely different solutions, both in terms of scale and purpose.
In a nutshell, frontend development frameworks are used for creating solutions that open in a browser: websites, web applications, web services, or mobile apps.
Best 10 Frontend Frameworks
Surveys by Statista and other agencies rank React as the unchallenged leader among the best frontend frameworks in the past several years. Other positions vary depending on criteria such as most used, most loved, etc.
We’ve listed ten popular development frameworks based on the surveys and the practical usage of our frontend specialists. Their positions are random.
React is also about reusable components organized in a tree-like structure and one-way data binding, which means that the information is transferred only in one direction — from component to view.
- Usability — the framework is cross-platform, the code is easy-to-read, and the threshold is low, which means you can quickly jump to real projects.
- Fast development — reusable components speed up the development process and make it more convenient.
- Version control — old code runs smoothly in each new version, and React will prompt users to update obsolete elements if any.
- Facebook support — let’s be honest, it’s important for a framework to be supported by a company as powerful as Facebook. This adds confidence that the solution will be stable in the foreseeable future.
- Large community — developers from all over the world use React, so the community has accumulated an extensive knowledge base: tons of articles, tutorials, open-source ready-made solutions and active development experts will help you solve any issue.
- Poor documentation — due to the rapid development and frequent updates in React technologies, it’s hard to prepare thorough documentation.
- JSX complexity — it often takes time to gain insight into the JSX feature.
Use React for building interactive visual layers of single-page web apps and progressive web apps (PWAs) within a short time.
Large companies such as BMW and Forbes base their applications on Angular, attesting to the high quality of this framework.
- Flexibility — Angular is a cross-platform framework, so you are not limited by your browser; you can also compile and execute applications at the server side or across different environments with the help of third-party libraries, e.g. NativeScript.
- Third-party integrations — Angular can be integrated with a range of tools, extending development opportunities for software engineers.
- Real-time synchronization — the default two-way data binding feature ensures real-time synchronization of changes between the view and the model, which reduces the room for error.
- Customization — you can customize components and reuse them in other Angular projects or even projects created with another framework.
- Google support — the development framework is fully maintained by Google, which cannot but be an advantage.
- Large community — you can always rely on the vast Angular community if you need help.
- Hard to learn — developers agree that the Angular framework is more complicated compared to React or Vue, and the documentation may be confusing.
- Heavy — due to its complexity, Angular is heavier than React, which can negatively impact dynamic apps, and code optimization will be required.
Use Angular for developing large enterprise-level solutions with a complex infrastructure and performing different functions. It’s also a good fit for progressive web apps and multi-page apps with dynamic content. Choose this framework only if your developers are highly experienced in creating complex web solutions.
Don’t use Angular for small projects with simple syntax and static content.
JQuery is an oldster among frontend development frameworks. Strictly speaking, jQuery is a library (just like React). But to some extent, it fits the definition of a framework, and many frontend software engineers treat it as such. JQuery was released in 2006 but is still one of the most frequently used tools, keeping up with more modern competitors.
Programmers use the jQuery framework to optimize the interactivity of user interfaces by manipulating CSS and DOM elements, handling events, animations, AJAX, and other functions. LinkedIn, Twitter and Slack are reported to use jQuery in their products.
- Simplicity — the tool is easy to learn and use.
- Browser agnostic — jQuery is compatible with all browsers you may want to use.
- Vast community — since the development framework has been in use for many years, a vast and reliable community has formed around it.
- Mobile enablement — due to recent improvements, you can design responsive web solutions that will look good on all mobile devices.
- Slow performance
- Outdated APIs
Use jQuery for developing simple lightweight dynamic applications.
Don’t use jQuery for developing large-scale web solutions, as you would have to write tons of extra code lines.
The release of Vue 3.0 in 2020 was a long-awaited event by developers all over the world, and the version has fulfilled expectations. It was fully rewritten in TypeScript, which provides more benefits in agile development; packages have become smaller; new APIs for solving large-scale tasks have appeared. In addition, Vue supports Server-Side Rendering (SSR), providing more development opportunities.
- High performance — due to its simplicity and small size, Vue is an incredibly fast and scalable tool.
- Third-party integrations — Vue can easily integrate with other libraries and existing projects.
- Virtual DOM — an abstraction of the traditional DOM is a default feature, and it can help you significantly optimize the app performance.
- Detailed documentation — considerable work was done on documentation in Vue 3.0 version.
- Small community — since the development framework is relatively young, its community still needs to grow to the size of competitors like Angular and React. Moreover, digital market giants still don’t widely use this framework.
- Linguistic challenges — many Vue components are written in Chinese, which can be an obstacle for developers from other regions.
Use Vue.js for building both small- and large-scale web and mobile apps, PWAs, and complex single-page apps.
Don’t use Vue.js for large projects if you don’t have developers with a strong background in this framework, since the community may not always help with issues; the stability of some components may be questionable.
Backbone is an easy and lightweight framework for frontend development, initially released in 2010. It’s based on the Model-View-Presenter (MVP) design pattern and aims at developing single-page apps.
- Free and open-source
- Easy to learn
- Fast and lightweight
- Allows users to create well-structured applications
- Dependency on other libraries — Backbone needs Underscore.js for operation and jQuery to support REST API and work with DOM elements.
- Minimalism — the framework’s functionality is limited, so you may need to add self-written code or use third-party plugins that are not always of the same quality as Backbone itself.
Use Backbone.js for developing dynamic client applications that need constant synchronization with the server.
Don’t use Backbone.js if you need all the functions out-of-the-box or your development team is not prepared to use additional extensions and plugins.
The Ember.js frontend framework has been on the market since 2011. Although it’s not as widely used as some other frameworks, ambitious web developers use Ember to build scalable cross-platform apps.
- Command Line Interface — the utility with convenient code generators that allow you to easily create new entities and integrate them into the development process.
- Ember Inspector — a useful tool to easily debug apps.
- Two-way data binding — ensures automatic updating of values in related components and templates.
- Built-in router — a solution used for URL management, which is essential for web applications.
- Reusability — apps created with the Ember.js framework are reusable.
- Well-written documentation
- Hard to learn — the Ember syntax is not easy to understand.
- Small community — the framework is not so popular.
Use Ember.js for large-scale web and mobile projects as it provides complete functionality for these. Keep in mind that developers should be experienced with the development framework or have the time to learn it.
Don’t use Ember.js for small simple projects because it’s a heavy framework.
Semantic-UI is a development framework focusing on the creation of beautiful and responsive websites. It’s still actively developing, improving its functionality and expanding features. This makes it a good alternative to Bootstrap.
- Clear and concise syntax based on natural language patterns
- Intuitive user interface
- Rich out-of-the-box functionality, including 50+ components and 3000+ theming variables
- Easy debugging due to performance logging
- A powerful and flexible customization system so you can totally change the look and feel of your website or slightly customize it
- Convenient for designers
- Integrations with many third-party libraries
- Complicated structure — beginners will need time to learn how to use the framework.
- Low popularity — the framework is still not widely used, so it can be challenging to find expert help.
Use Semantic-UI if you need a customizable lightweight design of your web solution’s client side in a snap.
Don’t use Semantic-UI if your team members are not experienced in developing customizations without ready-made functions.
This framework is a newbie in the world of frontend development: the initial release was in 2016, but the stable release only saw the light of day in autumn 2021. Despite its age, Svelte is deserving of attention because it offers a fundamentally new approach to UI development.
The essence is that Svelte performs its main work not in the browser, like other frameworks, but in the compiler at the build stage. As a result, you don’t need a virtual DOM and can upload to the page only the components needed to display your app.
- Faster applications — Svelte compiles the code to vanilla JS, making apps work faster.
- Clear syntax — compilation into vanilla JS ensures readability and reusability of the code.
- Stability and high performance
- Suitable for beginners
- Not mature enough — the Svelte framework needs time to grow the community around it, and increase the number of open-source contributions and development tools.
Use Svelte if you need a small and fast application to be developed by a small team of frontend developers, including beginners.
Don’t use Svelte for large project development because the framework is not popular enough and you may not find needed help and tooling in its small community.
- Reusable interface elements
- A responsive toolkit makes it possible to adjust the layout to devices with different resolutions.
- Immense customization options
- Steep learning curve — the framework is too complicated for beginners to quickly start development.
Use the Foundation framework if your aim is the development of a visually stunning and mobile-friendly website with a customized user experience.
Don’t use the Foundation framework if your developers have little experience in coping with customization complexity.
Though React is the most popular framework for frontend development, it also has some shortcomings. Because of these, the idea came about to design a small-size framework that will offer the same features as React. This is how a tiny version of React — Preact — appeared.
Preact and React share the same API and use the same methodologies for app development. The difference is that Preact is much smaller in size and uses the thinnest and fastest virtual DOM possible.
- Fast and efficient performance
- Small size — it weighs only 3KB, which means that it will not take much space in the overall weight of the application.
- Efficient memory usage
- Comprehensibility — it takes only a few hours to gain an understanding of this development framework.
- Compatibility — you can seamlessly use components available in the React ecosystem.
- Lacks some features — you may need to add or configure some React features manually; for example, Unit Testing.
Use Preact if you want to create a small application without complex integrations that should perform one function well.
Don’t use Preact if you need an extended set of features for your project.
It follows from the above that all frontend development frameworks have their advantages and disadvantages. If one framework is the right fit for a specific project, another one, though a great tool, can be totally inappropriate. That’s why, before you start the development, you should carefully consider your project requirements and select the framework best suited for your needs.
Which frontend framework can be used for large-scale applications?
The development of large-scale apps requires the use of full-featured frameworks backed up by substantial communities. Such frameworks are Angular, React, Vue, Ember.js.
Which frontend framework can be used for small web applications?
The development of small web solutions requires lightweight frameworks such as jQuery, Preact, Backbone.js.
When should I use the frontend framework?
It’s a wise choice to use a frontend framework when you need fast development and your solution needs a complex and dynamic user interface.
How do I choose a framework?
You should choose a frontend development framework based on the scale of your project and the functionality of your future solution.
What is the best frontend framework?
There is no one-fits-all frontend development framework. Many frameworks are great tools that can be the best fit for this or that project. The most popular frameworks are React, Vue, Angular and jQuery, judging by the number of developers who use them to code.