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Most Popular Frontend Frameworks

March 15, 2023

Discover the best frontend frameworks for your projects by exploring the most popular options available in 2023 (our personal vote goes to React, spoiler alert).

Best frontend frameworks for web development

Looking to build a dynamic and engaging website or web app? Well, you're in luck! There's a whole variety of frontend frameworks out there that can help you do that super fast! No-code is a simpler answer, for all the traditionalists out there looking to mix and match both, this information might be of use.

Frontend frameworks are pretty much essential tools for modern web development.  Developers get a set of pre-written code, components, and tools that make it easier and faster to build websites and web applications that look gorgeous. 

With such a wide variety of options, it's difficult to be sure which framework is the best fit for your particular project.

In this article (it's a long read, buckle up), we're going to take a deep dive into the best frontend frameworks for web development. Let's go over the features, strengths, and weaknesses, so you can be sure you're choosing the right one. 

On top of that, this information will be useful to both beginners and experienced developers. 

3, 2, 1, let's roll.

What is a Frontend Framework?

Frontend frameworks are like sets of building blocks that you build the UI of your website with. Of course, you want your creation to look good and perform on the infinite number of devices out there: laptops, smartphones, tablets, and even the likes of Steam Deck (what if?). These building blocks provided by the frameworks will help you do that faster and better than you could otherwise.

There are soooo many frontend frameworks to choose from. Hence the reason why we made this article in the first place! We'll narrow it down, however.

Four of the most popular ones are React, Angular, Phoenix, and Vue.js

NB: Subjective. Ya'll have your own favorite frameworks, and so do we. 

Here's a short rundown: 🚀

React is very akin to a good Lego set and it's great for building websites that constantly change and update. Marketplaces, CRMs, user portals, forums, and others. If there's a list of things to add and remove things from, React is the right tool for the job.

Angular is also like Lego, but bigger. It has more things to play with, but the age limit is also higher, so to speak - it's more complex. If you're aiming to build a really large website with lots of stuff going on, Angular will perform even better.

Vue.js is a Lego set that is in the middle between React and Angular. Easier to use than Angular for sure, and it has more blocks and features than React. For any middle-sized project or anything nice but not too crazy, Vue.js fits the bill.

Phoenix is a brand new Lego set that fits all the old pieces, but looks kinda simpler somehow. It's fast, you can see your edits live as they happen, and its syntax is so simple just about anyone can learn it. It's best for small and middle-sized projects. Probably big projects too - it's still new, so it's hard to say for sure.

So when you're tasked with choosing a frontend framework, you have to consider what your website is going to be like functionality-wise. If you expect a lot of interactivity and changes, go for React. If you're making a big boy, then Angular. Somewhere in between? Vue.js if you're into something mature, and Phoenix if you like it hip. 

Consider also your current knowledge: if you know your way around frameworks similar to these, might be a good idea to start there too. Last but not least, you might want to be in the biggest sandbox the kids are playing in. 

If people went crazy over Phoenix in 2022, maybe it's for a good reason. Maybe there is also a good reason for Angular.js (not to be confused with just Angular) to get all the hate it can find. Popular frameworks mean more people are able to help you out if you have questions - not to be sniffed at.

Wow, that's a long intro and the article summary all on its own. Incredible, and we haven't even started yet. Oh well! Now let's get a nice look at each particular Lego box, and figure out if we can eat the pieces yet or not.

Top frontend frameworks in 2023

The end goal of a frontend framework is to streamline the development process and make awesome eye candy that doesn't lag. But is it really all that necessary? Maybe just coding it yourself is a good idea as well?

Well, every single framework is like a blueprint for building something, with a plan, steps, and modules to use. Which makes them...

Fast

The biggest benefit of using a frontend framework is time saved. Tons of frameworks come with pre-built UI components. Buttons, forms, menus, jumpscare timers, and so on.  

That way you don't have to start from scratch every time you create something - especially when building complex apps with many components - once from the ground up is tough enough.

Furious

Frontend frameworks are optimized for performance by brilliant people who know far more than you and me. Said frameworks are built with best practices and performance optimization tech available. As a result, websites made with these frameworks are more often than not both faster and more responsive as opposed to those built from scratch.

That’s how you know this article was written by a millennial

So yeah, it is a good idea to use one of these as if we didn't sell you on the idea yet. There are so many to choose from, too. Each framework is fairly unique, and you need to know what you intend to achieve before choosing one, realistically. 

Example: React is great for creating single-page applications. Angular, on the other hand, is all about enterprise stuff.

After all, when you are building a web application with a frontend framework, you kinda follow a component-oriented approach. You make a header once, and a footer once, as separate components. You update them from time to time. You don't redo them every time. 

The same goes for forms, buttons, and other commonly used components.  Thus, management of the application's "areas" and recycling of components across different parts of the app is an obvious thing to do.

Another obvious thing is that a frontend framework is not everything: it is but a part of the web application. The role it has is all about UI and how things look like. The backbone is created with the help of backend (which we excel at, just saying) functionality, such as storing and retrieving data from a database. A proper web app uses both a frontend framework and a backend framework, such as Ruby on Rails, Django, React.js, or Node.js.

Time for a closer look.

React

React is a JavaScript library for building UIs. It's one of the most popular frontend frameworks to this day because the guys who made it did it right from the get-go. Developed in 2011, and since then it's been a staple for frontend development all over the globe. The website you're reading this article from is also using it. 

React is particularly interesting because of its versatility and adaptability to various development environments and platforms. It's used for web development, mobile applications (React Native), and desktop apps (React Electron).

A ton of titans of the industry use it as well, including Facebook, Netflix, Dropbox, and Airbnb to name a few. Facebook is using React for both its website and mobile apps. 

Here's why React is a popular choice for frontend development:

Component-based

Reac developers build the components they need (like a button, form, or a menu) and then assemble them to create the UI. That way its easier to manage and reuse components across different parts of the app.

Virtual DOM

The virtual DOM (Document Object Model) is great for updating the user interface. It's a lightweight in-memory representation of the actual DOM used to render the user interface in a web browser. So, when the state of a component changes, React updates the virtual DOM, and after that it can update the actual DOM, reducing the number of updates.

Declarative templates

A declarative framework has a simple and intuitive syntax for defining the UI. This makes it easier for developers to understand and maintain the code, even as the application grows and becomes more complex.

Reusable components

Built components can be used in different parts of the application. Basically, it's Tetris: makes things stackable and more manageable. Updating the interface over time as the project grows is less of a pain.

Server-side rendering

React can also perform server-side rendering, where the initial render of the user interface can is done on the server, instead of the browser. It's used to boost performance, especially for users with slower internet connections. Or slower browsers. Looking at you, Edge! (RIP)

Performance

Like most frameworks, React is optimized for performance to the limit. That's why all the big-boy companies are using it for high-load web applications. The virtual DOM and proper updating system help the application remain fast and responsive, even with highly complex UI.

Community

Because at some point you will have questions, and thank goodness there are people who have already done what you are doing now. There is an active community of developers who contribute to its development and provide support to fellow Reactioneers.

React was created by Jordan Walke, a software engineer at Facebook, in 2011. The idea was to the user interface of Facebook's newsfeed. He wanted to find a more efficient way to handle updates to the page and discovered something far bigger than that.

Angular

Angular is yet another frontend framework for building scalable, and complex web applications. Angular sports a whole range of features and tools to make frontend development fast.

Many well-known companies use Angular, including Microsoft, IBM, and Google. Google uses Angular for many of its own products, in fact, including Google AdWords and Google Fiber.

Angular is a popular choice for frontend development because of:

Component-based architecture

Same as React, Angular takes advantage of a component-based approach. That makes managing and reusing components throughout your application far easier. UI elements, such as buttons, forms, menus, and fields can all be piled together into certain blocks and then used to shape the website's UI.

Two-way data binding

Angular's two-way data binding system means that changes to your UI reflect in your data model, and changes to your data model appear in your UI right away. Everything is synchronized, which makes it easier to build interactive applications where data changes are common.

Declarative templates

HTML-based templates make it easy for you to define your app's UI in a readable syntax. Declarative templates, help to see how changes in your code affect your app's appearance.

Dependency injection

That's a really good one: with a powerful dependency injection system, you can manage and reuse dependencies, like services and components, throughout your app. This reduces code duplication and helps to maintain your application over time as it grows.

Reactive programming

Since Angular is built with reactive programming principles in mind, which make it easier to build dynamic, interactive applications and react to data changes instantly. 

Testing 

Angular has a whole lot of tools and features for testing that help achieve high-quality and reliable code. This includes support for unit tests, end-to-end tests, and integration tests, as well as tools for debugging and profiling.

Community

Angular has been out there for a while now, and thus there is a large community of developers, willing to help out with questions. Said community contributes to Angular's development as well, so the entire framework continues to evolve.

Angular was first released in 2010 by Google. Miško Hevery developed it as a side project to help speed up web application development for a few internal projects he was responsible for. The name Angular stems from < > in HTML.

Vue.js

Vue.js is a progressive framework designed to have a shallow learning curve and high flexibility. It makes this framework a great choice for building dynamic user interfaces for web apps.

Without further ado, here’s why it rocks:

Reactive and composable

With a reactive and composable data-driven approach, building and managing dynamic UIs is very simple. As soon as you define or manage your application's state, the framework will automatically update the UI in response to changes.

Virtual DOM

Same as React, Vue.js utilizes virtual DOM to efficiently render components, which helps improve the performance significantly. Even the most complex user interfaces can be updated quickly and smoothly as a result, and your users won’t die of boredom while waiting for heavy elements to load.

Templates and components 

Templates and components help to define the structure and appearance of the app. Same deal, basically, as it is with other frameworks: you build reusable components and organize your code in a logical and manageable way.

Reactivity system

Because synchronization is awesome. The reactivity system makes it easy to keep your data and UI in sync. It’s built on a set of reactive properties defined by your fine self, and changes to these properties are automatically reflected in the UI.

Directives

There is a set of directives available that you can use to manipulate the DOM and build dynamic UIs. These directives include v-if, v-for, v-bind, and others—which allow you to conditionally render elements, loop through collections of data, and bind values to your UI. 

Transitions and animations

Vue.js provides a set of transition and animation components you can use to add animations and transitions to your apps. These components make it easy to create smooth, eye-catching animations that add life and personality to your application.

Server-side rendering

Vue.js provides server-side rendering that helps create SEO-friendly web applications. Your application can be pre-rendered on the server and then delivered to the web client, providing a fast and responsive UI.

Community

Vue.js has also been there a while, with a supportive community of developers. The community also provides a range of plugins and libraries that you can use to extend the functionality of Vue.js and build even more advanced projects.

Phoenix

Phoenix is quite a young frontend framework that's been gaining popularity in the web development community. Since it’s gaining popularity at ridiculous rates (at least it did by the end of 2022), we’ll gloss over it as well.

Some key features:

Super fast performance

Phoenix is built with high performance in mind. It uses a lightweight architecture that allows for quick rendering, even with ridiculously large and complex applications.

Scalable

Thanks to its modular architecture, it's very easy to scale up or down as needed with, Phoenix as it’s designed to handle it. 

Reactive Programming

Again, like any other framework, reactive programming is a must to have, and Phoenix has it as well. That allows for real-time updates and makes it easier to build dynamic and interactive projects.

Simple Syntax

Phoenix has a clean and simple syntax that makes the learning curve really simple to climb, even for developers who are just starting their frontend development journey.

Components

With a range of pre-written components, you build your application in the same comfortable flow as you would with other frameworks. That’s including buttons, forms, and more. Components save time as opposed to writing everything from scratch.

Testing environment

To ensure your application is reliable and bug-free, Phoenix offers a number of automated testing and debugging tools.

Community

Since Phoenix is relatively new, the community right now is actively growing, but not nearly there in terms of size as opposed to other more mature frameworks. Needless to say, Phoenix devs are passionate about what they do with it, so feel free to join, ask questions, and use someone else’s add-ons or ideas.

Fun fact: Phoenix overtook Svelte’s spot as the most loved web framework in Stackoverflow’s 2022 developer survey.

Choosing the right frontend framework for your project

So now that we went over a few of them, let’s see how to choose the right one.

The framework you choose will impact the speed of development, performance, and overall user experience. Below you will find some key factors to consider when choosing the right frontend framework, as well as project types that may benefit the most.

Considerations for project type and industry

No project is alike (well, kinda), so it’s best to pick something that will work well in your vertical. 

Project type

React is a great choice for building user interfaces, especially for single-page applications (SPAs) and mobile apps. Since it handles real-time updates and complex UI interactions well, React is popular for projects that require high performance.

Vue.js works well for smaller-scale projects or for developers who are just starting out with JavaScript frameworks. Easy to learn and easy to use, it’s a good option for projects that don't require a lot of complex functionality.

Angular handles large-scale, complex applications like a breeze. That’s why often used by enterprise-level companies for its ability to handle a lot of data. 

Phoenix is built using the Elixir programming language, and it's often used for projects that require real-time communication and data processing, such as gaming and real-time chat applications. That would be your bet if you’re planning to create something of the sort.

Industries

React is best suited for industries such as e-commerce, social media, and finance.

Vue.js is popular in industries such as marketing, travel, and education.

Angular performs well in industries such as healthcare, automotive, and telecommunications.

Phoenix is best suited for industries such as gaming, real-time communications, and blockchain.

Pros and cons of React, Angular, Vue.js, and Phoenix

Because why not, eh?

React

💪 Pros

  • Virtual DOM: fast performance
  • Reusable components: faster to builder and maintain
  • One-way data flow: debugging is a breeze
  • SEO-friendly: server-side rendering helps search engines crawl and index the app's content

😩 Cons

  • Learning curve: tough to learn for anyone who’s not familiar with JS
  • Complex code: can be difficult to manage when scaling
  • No standardized approach: switching between projects is a challenge
  • Needs a build tool: Webpack or Babel is needed to run the framework

Angular

💪 Pros

  • Comprehensive framework: a lot of features and tools to create complex projects
  • Two-way data binding: easy to keep the model and view in sync, less code as a result
  • TypeScript support: easier to debug and catch errors during compiling
  • MVC (model-view-controller) architecture: easier to organize code

😩 Cons

  • Learning curve: same reason as React
  • Even complex code: built for large stuff, so complexity is a requirement
  • Performance drawbacks: two-way binding can slow down large apps
  • Angular CLI: separate item that is tough to learn for new devs, but necessary to know

Vue.js

💪 Pros

  • Lightweight: fast and easy to work with
  • Simple syntax: understandble code
  • Reactive data binding: model and view synching
  • Virtual DOM: faster VDOM than other frameworks

😩 Cons

  • Small community: it’s not as popular, complex questions may be tough to resolve
  • Learning curve when it comes to advanced features: easy to start, hard to master, which is understandable
  • Documentation: we wish it made a little bit more sense, definitely needs some work
  • Lack of integrations: the list could be bigger, maybe it’ll get there 

Phoenix

💪 Pros

  • Fast: the framework is optimized for speed, even at complex levels
  • Scalable: easier transition and layering of features
  • Reactive programming: real-time updates, baby!
  • Simple syntax: readable and clear to understand
  • Pre-written components: a wide library of pre-made stuff you can start using right away

😩 Cons

  • Lack of maturity: true potential is yet to be revealed, as it’s relatively young
  • Small community: same reason as above
  • Limited documentation: same reason as above
  • Less popular libraries and integrations: limiting in terms of flexibility, but will be solved in the long run
  • Learning curve: easy to learn and hard to master, just like Vue.js

What about Directual?

Funny you should ask! 

Directual has always been friendly to traditional programming, and if you’d instead create the frontend part of your website, it’s okay! Here’s how Directual would fit in:

  • Powerful backend. If you’ve got the skills to make a beautiful UI for your website or app, there must be something running underneath that can handle all the functionality you dream of. Directual can be that one powerhouse of the cell of your entire project, ensuring that nothing lags and everything works smoothly.
  • Support for custom CSS/JS code. You can customize pre-existing frontend elements in Directual to your heart’s content, or just make your own from scratch, just with code. 
  • Custom plugins. If you’re using a third-party website builder that you also put traditional code in to avoid its limitations, you can use a whole lot of pre-made integrations or create your own.

Try it yourself, and see how much you can achieve in a short time span.

Afterword

At the end of the day, we will say the same thing we recommend to our fellow no-coders: just start. It pays to know where to start, and we hope this article has shed some light on it for you, but you have to just do it. 

Each framework has its own challenges and performs better in its own niche. Personally, we are big fans of React, and if it meets the industry/project type requirement for you, we recommend starting there as well. It’ll help you understand how Directual works too!

In case of questions or suggestions, do send us a message at hello@directual.com or head to our communities (available in the footer below) for a hearty chat.

FAQ

Which frontend framework is best in 2023?
Which frontend framework is best in 2023?

React, Angular, Phoenix, and Vue.js are all popular choices, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The best framework for your project will depend on your specific needs and requirements, so weigh the pros and cons of each option before making a decision.

Which frontend framework should I learn?
Which frontend framework should I learn?

Depends on what you want to build. Each framework has a large community of developers and a wealth of resources available to learn from - save for Phoenix, maybe. Vue.js and Phoenix are easier to learn while mastering React and Angular will be highly worthwhile if you commit to it.

Which frontend framework is the fastest?
Which frontend framework is the fastest?

React is often considered to be one of the fastest frontend frameworks due to its lightweight and efficient nature, with Phoenix not falling too far behind. That being said, the actual speed of your application will depend on several factors, such as your code structure, the complexity of your application, and the type of hardware it's running on. So, your mileage may vary.

Which framework is easiest to learn?
Which framework is easiest to learn?

If you're just starting out with frontend development, you might want to consider Vue.js and Phoenix. Vue.js is often seen as the easiest frontend framework to get started with. React and Angular are more complex, but each has a large community of developers and a ton of learning materials.

Is Angular better than React?
Is Angular better than React?

The age-old question of if Angular is better than React truly is a matter of personal preference and project requirements. There is no clear answer. Is Android or iOS better? That depends. In our expert opinion, both frameworks are mature and advanced, so there is no need to find a “better” option. A need might be to find a “suitable” option - and that is up to you.

Why is Angular losing popularity?
Why is Angular losing popularity?

Angular is on the decline, true, and there are several reasons for this. Its slow initial loading times and lack of performance are bringing it down in the charts every year, although it is not as bad as most people make it out to be, especially given its capabilities. Angular falling behind is more a matter of shifting development trends, rather than objective proof that the framework is becoming obsolete.

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