What's new?
Product
Who uses Directual?
What can be built on Directual
Learn Directual
Why Directual?
Resources
Legal
Company

Most Popular Backend Frameworks of 2023: In-Depth Comparison & Analysis

May 5, 2023

Backend frameworks come in many flavors, many of them spicy. This exhaustive guide will help you decide which one to try first, and how to determine if it’s right for your project.

Most popular backend frameworks in 2023

It’s all about the right backbone for your project.

By selecting the right framework, building software is much less of pain, especially in the long run. That includes scalability, speed of development, how bug-prone it’ll be, how secure, what kind of integrations you can do, and so on. Frameworks that provide these advantages tend to be the most popular, widely used, and highly appreciated among developers. Duh! 

If you are to use a no-code platform like Directual, however, you don’t need to think about all this at all, but that’s not the story right now. 

This article will help you take a deep dive into why some of the most popular backend frameworks perform well. Let’s take a look-sie.

Factors to consider when choosing a backend framework

A backend framework is a crucial component of any web app, as it helps handle the heavy lifting of processing data and communicating with other systems. With so many options out there, it can be tough to decide which one to use. So, let's break down some key factors and see where we land.

Scalability

This is a big one, especially if you're working on a project you hope will grow over time. You need a backend framework that can handle an increasing amount of traffic and data without slowing down or crashing. 

There are a few things to look for here. 

  1. The ability to horizontally scale, which means adding more servers to handle traffic spikes. 
  2. The ability to handle asynchronous tasks, so that your server isn't bogged down waiting for long-running processes to complete. Some popular backend frameworks that are known for their scalability include Node.js, Django, and Ruby on Rails.
  3. See #1. That’s the most important bit, really.
N.B. Learn more about scalability of the no-code.

Ease of use

This might not seem like the most important factor, but it can actually have a big impact on your development time and the overall quality of your code. A framework that's intuitive and well-documented can save you a lot of headaches down the line. 

You don't want to spend hours poring over confusing documentation or wrestling with a difficult API. Some frameworks, like Flask and Express.js, are as simple as they get, while others, like Laravel and Django, offer more features but may have a steeper learning curve.

Community support

Things will come to a screeching halt, and all the documentation in the world won’t be enough. Who do you turn to? Definitely not Batman. After all, a backend framework is only as good as the people who use it, and a strong community can provide invaluable resources and support. 

Look for a framework with an active community that's constantly developing new features, fixing bugs, and offering guidance to newcomers. This can make all the difference when you're stuck on a problem or need help optimizing your code. Some popular frameworks with large and active communities include React, Ruby on Rails, and Laravel.

Language compatibility

This is an important factor if you're already familiar with a particular programming language. You don't want to have to learn a new language just to use a particular framework, especially if you're working on a tight deadline. 

Make sure the framework you choose is compatible with the language you're most comfortable with. Some frameworks, like Flask and Express.js, are language-agnostic and can be used with a variety of languages. Others, like Django and Ruby on Rails, are designed specifically for certain languages, so take that into account too. 

Top Backend Frameworks in 2023

Enough faff, let’s analyze each and every single one of them.

Node.js

NodeJS is an open-source, cross-platform, back-end JavaScript runtime environment that enables developers to write server-side code using JavaScript. In fact, some of the world's largest and most popular websites, such as Netflix, LinkedIn, and PayPal, are built using NodeJS.

It’s popular mainly due to its unique architecture. NodeJS uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that allows it to handle a large number of simultaneous connections with ease. This means that NodeJS applications are incredibly scalable and can handle high-traffic loads without slowing down.

But that's not all. NodeJS also has a vast ecosystem of packages and modules, thanks to its package manager, npm. There are over one million packages available, making it incredibly beneficial for NodeJS Application Development. It really helps to find and use third-party code when you need it.

There’s a cool story to it! Ryan Dahl, the creator of NodeJS, was frustrated with the limitations of traditional web servers and wanted to create a new way of building high-performance web applications. He managed—by drawing inspiration from his experience with event-driven I/O systems like Ruby's EventMachine and built NodeJS from scratch. Now that I re-read this, it’s kinda underwhelming. Oh well!

Django

Django uses a model-view-template (MVT) paradigm that keeps your code logically organized into layers. In other words, Django handles many of the controller aspects of the model, leaving the specification of data view and presentation templates to you.

The “D” is silent. Laugh at my joke!

Django is a "batteries-included" framework. That means it includes most of the libraries and tools needed to build common web applications out of the box. And, Django's philosophy is to manage the data model in one location, namely your models.py file. Once the database is created and a connection established, everything should be already done in Django, including schema updates and data migration, to avoid conflicts later. Neat!

With Django, you can easily…

  • Manage databases, including updating schemas
  • Handle user authentication
  • Render HTML templates
  • Admin the project via an automated admin interface
  • Write and execute tests

And, if you prefer an all-in-one framework with a trusted built-in ORM for working with relational data, then Django is the way to go. Plus, Python is the most in-demand programming language, which means Django has a strong community of passionate developers that can be a resource while building your project. It's no wonder it’s popular, despite heavy competition.

Ruby on Rails

Ruby on Rails, a web framework that's been around since 2004. It's been used by many successful startups, including Basecamp, GitHub, and Airbnb. 

One of the standout features of Ruby on Rails is the Model-View-Controller (MVC) paradigm it uses. This helps keep the code organized without too much hassle. And with default structures for a database, web service, and web pages, Rails takes care of the heavy lifting, so you can focus on what matters most: building awesome web apps.

There are…

  • Rich objects to encapsulate data and business logic
  • Action controllers that handle all requests, process incoming parameters, set caching headers, and render templates
  • Unit testing setup called RSpec
  • Libraries for automated deployment

Ruby is an easy language to learn, so Rails can be a great framework for beginners. Plus, Rails includes tools that make common development tasks easier, which makes it ideal for prototyping.

However, Ruby can perform slower than other languages like Java or Python and their respective frameworks Spring, Django, and Flask. As companies scale, they may migrate to systems that run on higher-performing languages. Just keep that in mind.

Laravel

Laravel is a PHP framework also with the model–view–controller (MVC) pattern. PHP may not be the most in-demand programming language these days, but it still powers nearly 80% of all websites. 

This framework provides many features including user authentication, API routing, HTML templating, database access, and security. Laravel is also a progressive framework, meaning you can start with simple routes to individual RESTful URLs and scale up to a fully data-driven app using the same tools. It’s a great boon all on its own.

Laravel also handles cross-site request forgery protection through session tokens and user authentication—and—authorization using a gate and policy approach. Data encryption is provided as part of the framework, very nice!

Since PHP has been around almost as long as the web, you can leverage that knowledge and community support base, too. Modern web app features are built right into Laravel—configurations are less of a pain. Plus, installing Laravel is easy with Sail, a Docker-based installation that you can customize.

ASP.NET Core

Did you know that ASP.NET Core is actually the next generation and replacement for the Windows-only versions of its predecessor, ASP.NET? It's true!

One of the great things about ASP.NET Core is that it's an open-source, cross-platform framework that can run on macOS, Linux, and Windows. That means it's flexible and can work with a wide range of operating systems.

Let's take a closer look at some of the features:

  • Continuous compiling, which allows developers to see the changes they've made to their code in real time. Pretty cool, right? 
  • Cloud-ready environment-based configuration system, which makes it easier to configure an application for different environments like development, testing, and production
  • Modular HTTP request pipeline. Plug in various middleware components to handle different aspects of an HTTP request and enjoy!

In general, this framework is hyper-focused on performance and is faster than other web frameworks like Node.js. It also supports side-by-side versioning, which means that various apps running different versions of ASP.NET Core can coexist on a single server. Perfect for managing multiple apps on the same machine.

Spring

Java developers know that building complex, dynamic web apps can be a real challenge. But with Spring, they can develop web applications like a breeze. Spring is known as a "framework of frameworks," which means it has many different modules that developers can pick and choose from. These modules include Spring Web, Spring Security, Spring Data, Spring Cache, and much more!

And that's not all. Spring Boot, which is part of the Spring Framework, takes things to the next level. It makes building stand-alone web apps and microservices way easier. Spring Boot takes care of all the boilerplate code and configurations, and it supports many different Java Virtual Machine (JVM) technologies, such as Kotlin, Groovy, and Scala.

Spring Boot is an "opinionated" framework, which means it has a strong preference for certain design patterns. In other words, Spring Boot decides the configuration defaults and the packages to install based on the dependencies you include in your project requirements. Less time configuring, and more time building as a result.

Now, let's talk about features.

  • Components to interact with your databases in a simple manner.
  • Fast authentication and authorization functionality
  • Messaging services
  • Templating engines
  • Testing environments
  • Connects to various cloud services seamlessly.
  • Inversion of Control (IoC) container that manages Dependency Injection (DI). This allows developers to delegate the responsibility of creating and managing many aspects of their app to Spring
  • It also has the power to heal any ailment and turn mercury into gold. True story!

Spring is the most popular backend framework by a long-shot. In fact, it has twice as many GitHub repository results as the #2 most popular backend framework – Django. And since Java is consistently one of the most in-demand programming languages worldwide, using Spring means you'll have a strong community of developers around you and plenty of job opportunities.

But that's not all. Spring also makes building professional-grade Java applications smooth and easy. It takes care of tedious tasks like authentication, database management, aspect-oriented programming, interacting with cloud services, and much more. 

Flask

Flask offers a different approach than its counterpart, Django, which follows a "batteries included" philosophy, but Flask keeps the core of a web app simple and extensible.

Installing Flask is quite easy. Flask brings all the required dependencies upon install. These include: 

  • Jinja, a templating module
  • MarkupSafe, which prevents injection attacks
  • Werkzeug, a communication layer between the server and the client
  • ItsDangerous, which provides secure data signing capabilities
  • Click, which offers a command-line interface to manage Flask

You can also find many other extensions to provide additional functionality, such as Flask-SQLAlchemy for SQL database connections, Flask-WTF for HTML form rendering and validation with WTForms, and Bootstrap-Flask for helpful Jinja macros.

In general, Flask keeps things simple and helps reduce the size of your project. If you prefer to use a non-relational database such as mongoDB, or a third-party ORM, Flask is easier to configure and customize. Flask is a smaller and lighter framework than Django, but you can extend it as needed to provide all the capabilities you need. 

Flask works well with existing Python frameworks for data access and security, meaning you can use familiar tools to get the job done. Finally, by allowing you to choose the exact tools you want to use, Flask makes it easy to develop completely new features.

Express.js

Now, millions of developers worldwide use JavaScript for web development, and with Node.js, JavaScript can now run outside of the browser. This has led to a booming ecosystem of powerful frameworks like ExpressJS, NestJS, and MeteorJS, all of which make the list.  Express.js has also been used by many high-profile companies, including IBM, Trello, and Mozilla.

Express.js, in particular, is built on top of Node.js and provides a minimalist approach to web development. It's an ​​unopinionated framework, which means developers have the freedom to structure their code according to their preference, rather than adhering to a predefined structure.

One of the main features of Express.js is its templating engines, which allow developers to build dynamic content on the server using HTML templates. RESTful API URLs, or routes, are defined and connected directly to JavaScript functions too.

Express.js also has a built-in debugging mechanism that can quickly find bugs within the application, thus helping you hunt down pesky bugs faster.

What's great about Express.js is that it is highly customizable and has a strong community supporting it, making it the most popular JavaScript/Node.js framework out there. Plus, the Express.js documentation contains numerous examples for more advanced features, and new dependencies can be added at any time.

Next.js

Next.js is a cool framework for creating static websites using React.js. React, by the way, was first introduced by Facebook in 2011 and has since become one of the most widely used JavaScript libraries. Facts!

One of the great things about Next.js is that it provides additional structure, including routing and data fetching. With two forms of pre-rendering available, static generation and server-side rendering, Next.js can generate HTML for a page in advance, which improves site performance and can boost your SEO ranking.

But wait, there's more! Thanks to its minimalistic nature and out-of-the-box components, Next.js is perfect for creating a minimal viable product (MVP) fast. It’s just good, not much else to tell.

NestJS

NestJS is built for developers who want to create web apps in the Node.js environment, and it's built on top of the popular ExpressJS framework. Hence the “Nest”, probably.

One of the standout features of NestJS is its ability to bring together key concepts like controllers, providers, and modules. With NestJS, you can easily create a project structure using the Nest CLI, then add controllers to handle incoming requests and providers to handle tasks like data access and input validation.

While NestJS does have a rather particular way to structure your code, it's well worth the effort, as it offers a range of out-of-the-box functionalities and APIs that can save you tons of time on your project. And with support for both TypeScript and JavaScript, you can choose the language that works best for you.

When it comes to benefits, NestJS offers a lot. 

  • It's not just a framework, but a complete development kit for building server-side applications with Node.js and TypeScript. 
  • The modular architecture of NestJS also makes it adaptable, so you can choose the libraries that work best for you.
  • NestJS is built to handle a variety of backend applications, so you can tackle whatever project you have in mind!

Choosing the Right Backend Framework for Your Project

Choosing the right backend framework can make a world of difference when creating an app or website that's robust, secure, and scalable. You'll need to be sure to learn a backend programming language, as well as a backend framework.

Let's talk about some of the best backend frameworks around, based on GitHub repository results. 

  1. First up is Spring, the go-to backend framework for Java developers. With its opinionated approach, you can start coding quickly without a lot of configuration, while also tackling the tedious aspects of authentication and security. Thanks to Java's popularity and strong community, Spring is a popular choice for backend development.
  1. If you prefer Python, you'll love Django. This batteries-included framework has everything you need, from updating database schemas to doing admin work. It's a great choice for beginners as it reinforces coding best practices. 
  1. Flask is another Python option that's more lightweight and perfect for starting small and building up to larger apps. Experienced developers can choose which libraries to use, thanks to Flask's freedom to pick and choose.
  1. For those of you who prefer PHP, Laravel automates many of the key tasks involved in web app development, such as user authentication and security. 
  1. Next.js provides the building blocks for creating both static and dynamic web applications for React apps.

Remember, when it comes to backend frameworks, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Choose the one that best suits your needs and preferences, and happy coding!

Conclusion

As lame as it sounds, but do choose the one you’ll be sure is enough for your project appetite. Synergize your existing knowledge, and then just try. Getting into trying one doesn’t take a lot of effort, and since you can find a guide on just about anything these days, it won’t be a problem.

If you’d rather not bother and just build stuff, the answer is in the top right corner if your screen - just try Directual. No need for backend frameworks, it’s all there already. 

Otherwise, good luck on the path! In case you’d like to learn more about Directual instead, send us a message at hello@directual.com, or head into our communities, available in the footer below.

FAQ

What is the difference between frontend and backend frameworks?
What is the difference between frontend and backend frameworks?

Frontend frameworks are used to build the part of a web app that users interact with. These frameworks handle tasks like displaying content, handling user input, and communicating with the backend. Backend frameworks, on the other hand, are used to build the "behind-the-scenes" part of a web app. They handle tasks like managing data, processing requests from the frontend, and communicating with other systems. Don’t forget that you can also apply no-code for building scalable backend for your app.

Can I use multiple backend frameworks for one project?
Can I use multiple backend frameworks for one project?

In theory, yes, you could use multiple backend frameworks for a single project. However, doing so can be complicated and may not be the best approach for most projects. It's typically better to choose one framework that fits the majority of your needs and stick with it.

How do I decide whether to choose a monolithic or microservices architecture for my backend?
How do I decide whether to choose a monolithic or microservices architecture for my backend?

This is a great question, and the answer largely depends on what you really want to build. A monolithic architecture is a good choice for smaller projects with straightforward needs. It's simpler to set up and manage than a microservices architecture, but can become unwieldy as the project grows. A microservices architecture, on the other hand, is better suited for larger, more complex projects with many different services that need to communicate with each other.

Are there any free resources available to learn these popular backend frameworks?
Are there any free resources available to learn these popular backend frameworks?

Yes, there are plenty of free resources available to learn these popular backend frameworks! Many of the frameworks themselves offer extensive documentation and tutorials. In addition, there are countless online resources, such as blogs, videos, and online courses, that can help you learn these frameworks.

How important is it to choose an open-source backend framework?
How important is it to choose an open-source backend framework?

Choosing an open-source backend framework can have several benefits. For one, open-source frameworks tend to have large and active communities, which means that there are many resources available to help you learn and troubleshoot issues. Open-source frameworks are often more customizable and flexible than closed-source alternatives. However, it's important to note that not all open-source frameworks are created equal, and you should still thoroughly evaluate any framework before using it in a project.

Featured blog posts

Top 10 no-code form builder platforms for 2024

Got a form for someone to fill out but no desire to code-monkey the whole thing? Look no further—10 options to choose from, right here.

May 13, 2024
by
Pavel Ershov

Are no-code platforms like Directual compliant and secure?

Thinking no-code platforms will run away with your data? Think again, or better yet—read this and it’ll help you sleep at night.

April 30, 2024
by
Pavel Ershov

No-coding and affiliate marketing: top 10 directions for 2024

Discover how affiliate marketing can turn your online presence into profit by focusing on niche markets. Monetize blogs and social media effortlessly.

April 5, 2024
by
Eugene Doronin

Introducing a new way to earn D-coins!

Earn D-coins by shouting about Directual everywhere! See the full list of rewards for your social network activities.

March 27, 2024
by
Pavel Ershov

How to make the most out of Directual’s pricing and resource limits

For everyone on the fence about trying and worrying about the small print: see in depth how Directual pricing and operational limits work! The platform is as pay-as-you-go as it gets.

March 19, 2024
by
Pavel Ershov

Creating an employee portal with no-code

Imagine HR as a wild jungle. A bit more civilized though, thanks to the order of no-code development. See how you too can tame it.

March 14, 2024
by
Pavel Ershov

Ready to build your dream app?

Join 15,000+ no-coders using Directual and create something you can be proud of—both faster and cheaper than ever before. It’s easy to start thanks to the visual development UI, and just as easy to scale with powerful, enterprise-grade databases and backend.