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JSON and XML: Which one is better for no-coders?

April 5, 2023

See why JSON is better for no-code platforms (whoops, spoiler alert!) and take a look at the complete comparison between JSON and XML formats.

What the heck are we comparing JSON vs XML, and why should I care about them for my no-code projects? We’re glad you asked!

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) and XML (Extensible Markup Language) are both data interchange formats used for storing and exchanging information between different systems. Used in web development, APIs, and all other sorts of computer science things.

Now, you might be thinking, "Okay, great, they're both data interchange formats. So what's the big deal?" Well, the devil is in the details. There are pros and cons to each format, and which one you choose can have a big impact on your project.

In this article, we're going to do a side-by-side comparison of the pros and cons of JSON and XML in the context of no-code. We'll look at factors like ease of use, compatibility with different systems, and performance. By the end of this article, you'll better understand JSON vs XML debate and which format is right for you.

Let's start slow, however, and take a good look at each format.

What is JSON?

Let's start with a bit of history. 

JSON was first introduced in 2001 by Douglas Crockford, a software engineer at Yahoo! at the time. Crockford designed JSON as a lightweight data interchange format that could be easily read and written by both humans and machines.

Turns out it’s that simple.

Unlike other formats like XML, JSON uses a minimal syntax that's easy to read and understand. It's also highly compatible with a wide range of programming languages, making it an obvious choice for developers of all leagues. JSON is that it's often used in conjunction with AJAX, or Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. AJAX is a technique used to create dynamic, interactive web pages by sending and receiving data between the client and server. 

One popular application is in building RESTful APIs, which allow different apps to communicate with each other. JSON's compatibility with multiple programming languages makes it popular for encoding and decoding data in RESTful APIs. JSON is also often used as a format for storing data in NoSQL databases like MongoDB, which allows for flexible and scalable data storage.

What is XML?

XML, or Extensible Markup Language, is a markup language used for data storage, exchange, and presentation on the web. It burst onto the scene in 1998 (yes, it can order a drink at a bar now) and has since become a go-to choice for encoding data in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable.

Let's take a trip back in time to the late 1990s when the internet was still in its early days. 

Back then, data was often stored in proprietary formats that were specific to certain applications or platforms. This made it challenging to share information between different systems and caused headaches for web developers and programmers alike. Enter XML, a solution to this problem that provided a standard way to encode data in a format that could be effortlessly understood and processed by both humans and machines.

XML can be used to store all sorts of data, from simple text documents to complex multimedia files. In web development, XML is often used to create custom data formats that can be easily exchanged between different apps. 

For example, an online retailer might use XML to store product information in a format that can be quickly imported into their inventory management system. This allows them to update their inventory in real-time and ensures that their website always displays the most up-to-date information to customers. Handy for sure.

In the world of scientific research, XML is used to store and share data in a standardized format. This makes it easier for researchers to collaborate and share information, regardless of their location or the tools they are using. For example, scientists studying the human genome might use XML to encode genetic data in a way that can be easily analyzed and shared between different research institutions.

But, with all the versatility comes complexity, which isn’t all that great when you need data to be exchanged fast. That’s why this article exists in the first place—there are trade-offs to each format.

Key differences between JSON and XML

In short, syntax. JSON uses a collection of key-value pairs to define data, while XML uses a tree-like structure. JSON is often considered simpler, while XML is more flexible.

JSON stands out for its coherent structure and ease of use. It's a popular choice for modern web apps because it uses key-value pairs, making it easy to parse and generate.

We’ve made this joke before, in fact!

XML has been around for much longer and offers more versatility. It can handle a wider range of data types and supports custom tags. This makes it a good choice for complex data structures. 

XML also supports namespaces, which helps to avoid naming conflicts, but cannot use tag names with any of the characters !"#$%&'()*+,/;<=>?@[\]^`{|}~, nor a space character, and it also cannot begin with -, .

However, this greater flexibility comes with greater complexity, making XML more difficult to parse and less efficient than JSON. 


JSON is often considered more readable than XML due to its concise syntax. JSON uses a minimal set of punctuation characters, such as braces and commas, to represent data, making it easy to read and understand. JSON also has a simpler structure compared to XML, which can make it easier to work with.

In contrast, XML can sometimes be difficult to read due to its verbose syntax. XML uses a lot of tags and attributes to represent data, which can make it more difficult to parse and understand. 

However, XML has some advantages over JSON when it comes to structure and data validation. XML allows for complex data structures, including nested elements and custom data types, which can be helpful in certain use cases—like when you want your scripts to take forever to load (we’re totally not biased).

Here’s an example (just some contact data):

JSON code

  "companyName": "Directual", 
  "companyAddress": "Sunshine Ave 2, Los Angeles", 
  "companyPhone": "1-800-GOT-CODE", 
  "companyContact": "John Doe",

XML code

        <companyAddress>Sunshine Ave 2, Los Angeles</companyAddress>
        <companyContact>John Doe</companyContact>

Why use many tags, when few do trick?

That’s Kevin from the Office, and he knows how to simplify things.


Now, when it comes to simplicity, JSON takes the cake. JSON is built on two structures: a collection of key-value pairs, like a dictionary, and an ordered list of values, like an array. This makes it very straightforward to work with.

XML is a bit more complicated. It's a markup language, which means it uses tags to define elements and their attributes. This can make it a bit more verbose and harder to read, especially when dealing with larger datasets.

But if we're talking pure simplicity, JSON is the clear winner. It has become the de facto standard for web APIs and data exchange formats for a reason, and that is one of them.


XML has the upper hand here. It can be used to represent almost any type of data. It uses tags to define elements and attributes, allowing you to create your own structure and organize your data in a way that makes sense for your specific needs. This flexibility also extends to data validation. XML allows you to define your own rules for what constitutes valid data, which can be incredibly useful when working with complex data structures.

On the other hand, JSON is a bit more limited. While this makes it simple and intuitive to work with, it can also be somewhat restrictive in terms of data modeling. However, it's easy to add new fields or modify existing ones, making it a great choice for rapidly changing data structures.

So, when it comes to flexibility, XML definitely has the edge. But that's not to say that JSON is a slouch in this department. 

JSON vs. XML Performance

In terms of performance, JSON wins hands down. It's faster to parse and generate than XML, and fewer data needs to be transmitted, making it faster to load. JSON also requires less memory than XML, which can be important in resource-constrained environments.

XML requires more processing power to parse and transmit than JSON because it requires the use of a DOM parser, which can be slow and resource intensive as well. 

Big thanks to Infragistics and their research into the performance of JSON and XML on mobile devices.

When it comes to security, XML provides more options for the encryption and signing of data. JSON does not support encryption and signing natively, and yet, JSON is less prone to attacks. Many security features can be added through libraries and frameworks.

Choosing the right format for your needs

We have to say that it “depends on the project”, but it really does in this case. We’ll try to provide some examples so you can at least have an idea if JSON or XML is a good enough fit in your case.

Considerations for project type and industry

When it comes to considering which format to use in a project, it all depends on the requirements and preferences of the project. For instance, if you're working on a web app, JSON is often the preferred format as it’s faster than XML. JSON is also more compatible with modern web technologies such as JavaScript.

However, if you're dealing with large datasets or complex data structures, XML may be the better option. Additionally, XML can be used to create more complex document structures, which is why it is often the preferred format for storing and exchanging complex data in scientific research and government industries.

When it comes to industry types, each industry is unique. For example, in the healthcare industry, XML is often used for storing and exchanging electronic medical records (EMR) due to its advanced features and support for complex document structures.

Similarly, the financial industry prefers using XML for transmitting financial data as it supports advanced features such as encryption, digital signatures, and certificate validation. These features are important in maintaining the security and privacy of financial data.

The gaming industry prefers JSON as it’s often used to store game settings and configurations, and it is also used for transmitting data between game servers and clients.

Pros and cons of JSON and XML

When it comes to working with data in no-code platforms, JSON is used far more often, again thanks to its simplicity. In addition, JSON's simple syntax makes it easy to work with the format, so deploying an app is fast.

After all, people use no-code platforms to make the process of creating and deploying apps as simple and streamlined as possible. JSON's simple syntax and ease of use fit nicely with this goal. Another pro of using JSON in a no-code platform is that it is simply more popular. This makes it easier to find resources and support, as it's better documented.

Even though XML can handle more complex data structures and supports a wider range of data types, it would only get in the way most of the time. 

Let’s do a quick comparison of some extra pros and cons:

💪 Pros 😩 Cons
JSON Clean and readable results No namespaces
Full browser support No formal grammar definition
Fast & furious because of minuscule memory space consumption Dev tools are hardly supported
XML Data is stored inside tags, thus better for web search Requires processing software
XSLT processor does tons of things for the user No intrinsic data type support
Simple platform changing Syntax is really redundant


The choice between JSON and XML depends on the specific requirements of your project. JSON is simpler and faster, but XML is more versatile and secure. Consider your data structure, performance, and security requirements when making your decision, and start exchanging data like a pro.

If you’d like to know more about what you can do with JSON in Directual, just send us a message at hello@directual.com or hop into our communities (links below in the footer).


Which is better XML or JSON?
Which is better XML or JSON?

When it comes to choosing between XML and JSON, it really depends on your needs. XML is a bit more verbose and structured, making it great for documents with complex data and hierarchical structures. JSON is easier to read and write, making it a popular choice for web APIs and data exchange. So, which is better? The answer is entirely up to you and your specific use case. The important thing is to choose the one that fits your needs and get your data flowing smoothly.

Why is JSON preferred over XML?
Why is JSON preferred over XML?

JSON has become increasingly popular in recent years because of how easy it is to use. Unlike XML, which requires a lot of markup and tags, JSON data is represented using key-value pairs that are easy to read and write. It's important to keep in mind that XML still has its place in certain applications, particularly those that require more monumental data structures. But overall, JSON is a preferred choice for many developers and businesses.

Is JSON more size efficient than XML?
Is JSON more size efficient than XML?

When it comes to size efficiency, JSON does have an advantage over XML. JSON data is typically more compact than XML, because it doesn't use as many tags and other markup elements. This makes it a great choice for transmitting data over the web, where smaller file sizes can help improve performance and reduce bandwidth usage.

Do people still use XML?
Do people still use XML?

XML has been around for quite a while and has been used for just about everything. So, to answer the question, yes, people do still use XML! In fact, it remains a popular choice for many applications that require more complex data structures or that need to store data in a way that can be easily searched and analyzed. Many older systems and applications still rely on XML, so it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Is JSON the best way to store data?
Is JSON the best way to store data?

When it comes to storing data, there's no one-size-fits-all solution that works for everyone. It really depends on your specific needs and preferences. The important thing is to choose a solution that works for you and helps you store and access your data efficiently and effectively. JSON is faster, and XML is more complex - make the choice the impacts your project in the best way.

Is JSON good for big data?
Is JSON good for big data?

When it comes to big data, there's no doubt that JSON is a popular choice for many devs. JSON data is more compact than other formats, which can help improve performance and reduce bandwidth usage when dealing with large amounts of data. JSON is also great at handling unstructured or semi-structured data, which is common in big data apps. However, it's important to note that JSON may not always be the best choice for every big data app – for example, some apps may require a more formalized format, such as XML or a relational database.

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