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What Are The Best Frontend Frameworks To Use In 2021?

Apr 26, 202112 min read

Dawid Karczewski

Senior full stack developer and CTO at Ideamotive.

Building a front-end application requires the combined use of HTML that is responsible for webpage basic layout, CSS to manage the visual formatting, and JavaScript to maintain interactivity. If you’re wondering what front-end frameworks are and why we need them, here is the answer.

 

Frontend frameworks are needed to facilitate the job of web developers: these software packages usually provide pre-written/reusable code modules, standardized front-end technologies, and ready-made interface blocks making it faster and easier for developers to craft sustainable web applications and UIs without coding every function or object from scratch.

 

Front-end frameworks include certain development instruments, such as a grid making it simple to place and position the UI design components, pre-defined font settings, and website standard building blocks (i.e. side panels, buttons, navigation bars, etc.)

 

There are a bunch of front-end frameworks on the web, and most of them run on JavaScript as their source language. Developers are still fiercely arguing over which one is the best, so if you want to select a framework that is good for your needs, you have to consider some factors and tons of nuances. If you’re looking for a detailed comparison of the most efficient, popular, or promising frontend frameworks in 2021, we have made this comparison just for you. Enjoy your reading and hopefully, it supports your choice!

1. React: Mark Zuckerberg Likes It


 

React is one of the most popular front-end frameworks out there: in a nutshell, it’s a JavaScript component-based library featuring JSX syntax, which was developed by Facebook and initially introduced in 2011. Later, in 2013, it became an open-source library, which makes it a bit different from the classic definition of a framework.

 

React is steadily popular with more than 3 million active users and supported by a large community: 80% of skillful developers have had a positive experience of using React in their projects at least once, and more than 1.5M websites have been made with its help.

What are the important features of React?

The key feature of React is a virtual Document Object Model (DOM) with one-way data binding. Owing to the virtual DOM functionality, React is praised for its superior performance and considered to be one of the easiest frameworks to learn: its user-friendliness and comfortable learning curve make it a good choice for beginners or less experienced developers. Since React is a library, unlike other frameworks, it does not maintain some important features. That’s why React is meant to work together with other libraries, such as for state management, routing, and interaction with API. This front-end framework is the right choice if you want to save some time on developing an interactive interface since React’s components are reusable.  

Advantages of React

  • Backed by Facebook
  • Frequently updated
  • Virtual DOM allows high-speed operation in the document
  • Can be combined with many other JS libraries
  • Allows writing components without classes
  • Ease of migration between different versions
  • Reusable code components
  • Good for beginners

Drawbacks of React

  • Lack of a well-elaborated documentation
  • Complexities of learning JSX syntax

When to use React?

Because of its virtual DOM capability, React is the best option for complex projects including a considerable number of blocks (navigation panels, accordion sections, buttons, etc.) that go through variable/binary states, such as active/inactive, expanded/collapsed, active/disabled, etc. React becomes more efficient when used with other libraries, for example, Redux.

When not to use React?

React is not the best choice for developers who are not ready to code on pure JavaScript. JSX syntax can be an entry barrier for some developers that don’t want to invest time in learning it.

What real-life projects are designed with React?

Some popular websites that use React.js in production are Facebook, Netflix, Vivaldi Browser, Khan Academy, Asana, Pinterest, Airbnb, Reddit, BBC, UberEats.

2. Vue.js: The Easiest Frontend Framework?


 

40% of JS developers reported that they were lucky enough to try Vue.js at least once in their career and more than 700k websites have been built with its help.

Vue is not supported by large market players like some other frameworks. First launched in 2014, it was created by Evan You, the person behind the development of another popular JS framework - Angular.

What are the important features of Vue.js?

Vue features virtual DOM, component-based architecture, and two-way binding, which underlies its high-speed performance: all that makes it easier to update related components and track data changes, which is desired for any application in which real-time updates are a must. Developers that opt for Vue.js can benefit from its small size in comparison to React or other frameworks (ZIP file with the framework weighs only 18 KB.)

 

The main idea behind the Vue development is to deliver a much simpler concept than one of the Angular, that’s why Vue is considered to be one of the beginner-friendliest frameworks, coming with well-elaborated documentation and a supportive community. Vue has an extensive choice of tools, such as end-to-end testing tools, plugin installation systems, browser debugging tools, server renderer, state manager, and others.

Advantages of Vue.js

  • Tiny and fast
  • Friendly to beginners
  • Detailed documentation
  • Simple syntax
  • Two-way data binding
  • Has a positive effect on SEO

Drawbacks of Vue.js

  • Lack of plugins and language barriers (a lot of Chinese content)
  • Pretty new and developed by private individuals
  • A limited community of developers (yet growing)
  • Limited applicability to bigger projects
  • Have no powerful business behind it

When to use Vue.js?

It can be one of the best options when you need to build a single-page application from the very beginning or launch a relatively small project. Vue easily integrates with the existing server pages and supports developers with web-pack integration and a wide range of powerful features, such as tree-shaking, bundling, code-splitting, etc.

When not to use Vue.js?

Because of the fact that Vue is a comparatively new framework, it doesn’t work well for large projects as it cannot ensure a due level of steadiness, support, and quick problem-solving (hopefully, all that is on the way).    

What real-life projects are designed with Vue.js?

Popular brands utilising Vue are Alibaba, 9gag, Reuters, Xiaomi, Ride Receipts.

3. Angular: Google’s Brainchild


 

Also called Angular 2+, it’s a modern TypeScript-based, open-source framework, and one of the most popular software development tools nowadays. More than 600K websites were developed with its help.

 

Being a part of the JavaScript ecosystem, it was first presented by Google in 2009 and has been gaining popularity in the development community since then. About 60% of web developers have had a certain experience of building their websites or apps with Angular framework, while more than half of them believe it was efficient in satisfying their needs.

What are the important features of Angular?

Angular (released in 2016) is an improved edition of AngularJS, with a boosted performance and a bunch of powerful features added. Angular ensures two-way data binding for immediate synchronization between the model and the view, so any change in the view will instantly reflect in the model and in reverse. Angular features Directives that allow developers to program special behaviors of the DOM, making it possible to create rich and dynamic HTML content. Angular has a Hierarchical dependency injection function, which makes code components highly testable, reusable, and easier to control: it helps to define code dependencies as external elements decoupling components from their dependencies.

Advantages of Angular

  • Component-based architecture
  • Two-way data binding
  • Directives and dependency injection features
  • Highly testable / reusable / manageable applications
  • Improved server performance
  • Strong community, good training materials, etc.
  • Backed by Google

Drawbacks of Angular

  • Difficult for beginners and overwhelming for smaller teams
  • Limited SEO capabilities
  • Bloated code and large in size

When to use Angular?

Angular is all set to be the optimal framework for creating large, enterprise-scale applications.

When not to use Angular?

When building a simple application with a small team, Angular can appear a bit overwhelming and complex, so it probably makes sense to opt for an easier framework. If SEO is your highest priority, you should look for an SEO-friendlier alternative to Angular.

Real-life projects designed with Angular

Many of Google’s services are developed with Angular. Other popular brands using Angular or AngularJS for their web projects are Forbes, LEGO, Autodesk, UPS, BMW, and many others.

4. Svelte: Framework Without The Framework


 

Svelte is neither a framework nor a library, but a compiler. Initially introduced in 2016, it has been dynamically gaining popularity since then and already became one of the best frontend frameworks in 2021: at least 10-15% of front-end developers are positive about using it, and more than 3K websites have been built with it to the moment.

 

Being an open-source component-based Typescript-written JavaScript framework, Svelte is known as a lightweight front-end development option, and for enabling developers to accomplish their projects with much less coding than under other frameworks. Also, it’s considered one of the fastest frontend frameworks out there.

What are the important features of Svelte?

Svelte has no virtual DOM, and promotes modularity in the front-end coding process: it applies modularity principles to grouping different components and isolating the template, logic, and view, so you can access variables straightly from markup, making the whole development navigation easier. Svelte provides boilerplate-free coding, meaning that you can create components in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript — then, at the build step, the compiler processes the code to lightweight standalone modules in vanilla JavaScript (i.e. framework-less), and accurately integrates them into the DOM when the state changes. Owing to that, Svelte does not require high browser processing, unlike React or Vue, and there is no need to spend resources on building a virtual DOM.

Advantages of Svelte

  • One of the fastest frontend frameworks with a rapid reactivity
  • Component-based architecture with minimal code
  • Lightweight, simplistic, runs the existing JS libraries
  • No virtual DOM
  • SEO-optimized

Drawbacks of Svelte

  • Immature community and limited ecosystem
  • Lack of supportive materials, limited tooling
  • Certain doubts about scalability and coding nuances

When to use Svelte?

This framework might be an ideal option for small app projects. It is beneficial for beginner front-end developers as it uses simple syntax, doesn’t require DOM manipulation, and makes sure that the browser takes as little workload as possible, which speeds your web product up.

When not to use Svelte?

Svelte may be not fully suitable for bigger projects. At least, because of its deficit in tooling (it doesn't have a mature pool of plugins) and a stable community. If you’re already employing a framework like Vue or React, switching to Svelte most likely won’t improve the situation.

Real-life projects designed with Svelte

Some popular websites developed with the help of Svelte: The New York Times, 1Password, Absolute Web, Philips BlueHive, Cashfree, Chess, Godaddy, HealthTree, Rakuten, Razorpay.

 

Want to learn more about Svelte development? Read out 2-part series on this very topic:

5. jQuery: Veteran of The Front-End Development


 

Released in 2006, jQuery is one of the oldest open-source JavaScript frontend frameworks. In spite of being a true veteran in this market, it can still be considered among the best frontend frameworks of 2021 as it’s almost relevant to modern development conditions, except for a few things. Especially, jQuery is powered to minimize the laborious JavaScript coding and offers simplicity along with strong support from its big and experienced community, thanks to many years of staying in the game.

What are the important features of jQuery?

One of the obvious reasons why jQuery is so popular over many years is its minimalistic approach to coding in JavaScript. jQuery is versatile in event handling, meaning that certain user activities like a mouse click or a keyboard keystroke are shortened down to small snippets of code that is easy to handle and integrate into any random place of the JS logic of your application. Even though it wasn’t originally designed to build mobile apps, the newest version of the framework covers this omission — jQuery Mobile, the original framework’s HTML5-based UI system, allows building native mobile applications. jQuery is superior in handling browser interchangeability, so frontend engineers don't have to worry about all potential cross-browser issues.

Advantages of jQuery

  • Beginner-friendly
  • Comfortable working with
  • Compatible with all popular web-browsers
  • A great choice of plugins
  • Comes with a powerful and well-developed community
  • Offers multiple tools for DOM manipulations
  • SEO-optimized

Drawbacks of jQuery

  • Huge in size: it’s a single JS file with all its DOM, events, effects, and AJAX components
  • Apps made with it can be a bit slower than native
  • DOM APIs are considered outdated
  • Considered to be losing its grounds because of more functional web browsers
  • Misses a data layer

When to use jQuery?

jQuery development can be a pretty efficient tool for creating desktop-based JavaScript applications. jQuery’s optimized code logic, cross-browser support, and facilitated approach to dynamic content are capable of delivering perfect website interactivity and searchability even in 2021.

When not to use jQuery?

Unlike many modern frameworks, jQuery lacks a data layer, so you have to always access the DOM directly and manipulate it, which makes the process more complicated. That’s why if you are building complex user interfaces, you should better opt for some modern frameworks, instead of jQuery with its direct DOM manipulation, as it can result in bloated code and slow performance.

Real-life projects designed with jQuery

Among the brands using jQuery for their projects are companies like Twitter, Microsoft, Uber, Kickstarter, Pandora, SurveyMonkey.

6. Ember: A Happy Medium?


 

Ember, MVVM open-source JavaScript web framework, was released in 2011 and has gained a considerable level of popularity since then: about 14% of JavaScript professionals are using or have used it in their practice, with 30k website developed. This framework is considered to be pretty stable and seamlessly working for different needs.

What are the important features of Ember?

Ember provides two-way data binding synchronizing the view and model in real-time. It’s known for speedy server-side rendering: Fastboot.js module improves the performance of complex UIs via server-side rendering of DOM. Ember comes with a large ecosystem, while advanced use of templates allows developers to reduce coding. It has a lot of powerful features and components available right from the start, including its own routing and testing tools, but if you need more, there are a lot of plugins and additional useful stuff maintained by the community. By the way, Ember’s community seems to be one of the most motivated, active, and well-organized out there. According to some observations, Ember might be lacking flexibility because of its strict and specific workflows that developers have to follow when using it.

Advantages of Ember

  • Server-side rendering
  • Consistent documentation
  • Native testing and debugging tools
  • Widget based approach to components
  • Two-way data binding
  • URL-focused approach
  • Well-organized community
  • Supports JavaScript & TypeScript

Drawbacks of Ember

  • A little rough for beginners
  • Not ideal for small projects
  • Heavyweight
  • Lacks component reuse capabilities
  • Little or no customization

When to use Ember?

Owing to its component architecture, Ember can be an ideal choice for creating complex and feature-rich single-page web applications for the client-side or mobile apps.

When not to use Ember?

Can appear too big for small projects/teams, and overwhelming for minor activities such as building simple UIs or writing simple AJAX functions. Developers can only operate within a strict context of the features predefined by the framework’s architecture, so it won’t be productive when you need more professional space.

Real-life projects designed with Ember

Let’s name a few: Tinder, Netflix, Apple Music, Chipotle, Blue Apron, Nordstrom, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, PlayStation Now, and Vine.

7. Backbone.js: Anatomy Of Web Development


 

Backbone.JS is a free open-source JavaScript library developed by Jeremy Ashkenas, the author of CoffeeScript, in 2010. It is available for use under the MIT software license. About 7% of front-end developers have reported a positive experience with Backbone.JS and it was used in the course of developing 600k websites (some sources tell us about 180k live websites with about 11% from the top million sites.)

What are the important features of Backbone.js?

Backbone.js follows an MVC/MVP development concept: it encourages you to translate your data into models, DOM manipulation into views, and bind them together via events. In other words, it represents your data as Models that can be created, validated, eliminated, and saved to the server. These models enable key-value binding and custom events: each time a UI action brings certain changes to an attribute of a model, the model produces a change event. The change can be transferred to all the Views that reflect the model's state, so they can react accordingly and re-render themselves with the new data.

 

You don't have to write special code (glue code) that searches the DOM for elements with specific IDs, and manually update the HTML — when the model is somehow changed, the same changes are automatically applied to views. Backbone.js provides collections with a rich API of enumerable functions for assembling the client-side web applications, declarative event handling for views, and lets you connect it all with your existing API via a RESTful JSON interface.

Advantages of Backbone.js

  • Extensible: more than 100 available extensions
  • Fewer requests to HTTP
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Tiny size: about 7.6kb when minified and zipped
  • Well-organized in-depth tutorials
  • Stores data in models instead of storing it in DOM

Disadvantages of Backbone.js

  • Lacks the support of two-way data binding
  • Architecture is unclear at times
  • You’ll have more code to write (for example, more boilerplate code)
  • Is believed by many developers to be slowly becoming obsolete

When to use Backbone.js?

Backbone.js is a good choice for building single-page, small, and simple web apps. However, it can come in handy when working with bigger projects as it helps to keep an app logic separated from UI, avoid spaghetti code model, and thus lets you maintain a better design with less code.

When not to use Backbone.js?

It’s hard to think of a situation when Backbone.js is strongly unrecommended: it’s decreasing in popularity, however, it is still a pretty relevant, flexible, and powerful tool that experienced front-end developers can make use of.

Real-life projects designed with Backbone.js

Trello, Tumbler, Uber, Pinterest, Reddit.

8.Semantic UI: Ambitious Newcomer


 

Semantic UI is a comparatively young player (2014) on the frontend frameworks market. Powered by LESS and jQuery, it’s a framework for CSS, created by Jack Lukicthis, a full-stack developer, with an idea to make it based on organic language syntax. In a short time, in 2015 and later on, it became one of the top JavaScript projects on GitHub.

What are the important features of Semantic UI?

Semantic UI’s community is pretty small but very loyal and enthusiastic: shortly after release, they had already created thousands of themes for the framework, dozens of components for the user interface, and submitted thousands of commits to GitHub.

 

According to their website, the goal of the framework is to empower using human-friendly HTML (semantic method), and thus it treats words and classes as exchangeable concepts: classes adopt syntax from human-like languages with organic noun/modifier relationships, word order, and plurality that allows developers to link concepts intuitively. It has a smooth, subtle, and flat design look that provides a streamlined user experience. Semantic UI delivers a toolset for configuring themes and CSS, JavaScript, font files, and an intuitive inheritance system, so once created a code, you can share it with other applications.

Advantages of Semantic UI

  • Self-explanatory organic code
  • Rich and responsive UI components
  • Has integrations with React, Angular, Meteor, Ember
  • A great choice of themes available

Disadvantages of Semantic UI

  • Relatively small community
  • Not good for beginners with limited knowledge of JavaScript
  • Few recent updates
  • Requires proficiency to develop custom configurations

When to use Semantic UI?

Semantic-UI is a framework allowing UI designers and developers to deliver an elegant and seamless design of the user interfaces.

When not to use Semantic UI?

It may not work well for developers/designers inexperienced with JS. Semantic UI isn’t the desired option in such a case, because you should be qualified enough to develop customizations in the application without depending on the ready-made functions.

Real-life projects designed with Semantic UI

Brands that are using Semantic UI are Snapchat, Accenture, Kmong, Digital Services, Ovrsea.

 

Final Word

It’s hardly possible to decide which of the provided frameworks is the best in 2021, as each of them has strengths and limitations, not to mention numerous nuances and regularly released updates bringing new features to the table. Of course, we cannot review all possible solutions, there are more great frameworks left aside from the article.

 

If you are not sure which frontend development technology will be the best for your project, you may get in touch with us for qualified assistance! Our professional software advisors will help you formulate your business needs and choose the right technology, while our skilled front-end developers will be glad to help you in developing your product with exceptional quality and using the technologies fitting your situation in the best possible way. Contact us, and we’ll shortly get back to you!

Dawid Karczewski

Dawid is a full stack developer experienced in creating Ruby on Rails and React Native apps from naught to implementation. Technological superhero, delivering amazing solutions for our clients and helping them grow.

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