May 11, 2023 | 5 Min
How to Choose a Front End Framework
When starting a new development project, one of the most important steps to take is choosing the best and most suitable front end framework. This choice can have far-reaching implications affecting not only the overall success and performance of your application but also the efficiency and productivity of you and your fellow developers. In this article, we will discuss the key factors that you should consider when choosing a front end framework for your team, and we’ll share some of our own key findings.
At Amplience, we believe in using the right tool for the job. This means we prioritize having smart, agile developers that can adapt to new technologies - rather than hiring narrowly focused SMEs. In our previous blog post about frameworks - What is a Front End framework? - we detailed some of the similar patterns and features that modern front end frameworks share. However, there will still be an impact on efficiency while the team gets up to speed with the new technology. If you’re looking to reduce development time, it can be valuable to have an SME with deep knowledge of your chosen framework involved in your project, so that they can guide and support other members of the team.
Framework Maturity and Ecosystem
Opt for a mature and widely adopted framework, as this ensures a stable, reliable, and well-supported foundation for your projects. A robust ecosystem with a large user base, active community, and comprehensive documentation can make it easier for your team to find solutions to problems, access support, and stay up to date with the latest best practices.
Frontend Architecture Patterns and Use Cases
Make sure to evaluate the various frontend architecture patterns, such as Single Page Applications (SPA), Static Site Generation (SSG), and Server-Side Rendering (SSR), as each has unique advantages and is suited to different use cases. Consider how these patterns align with your project’s goals and requirements when selecting the appropriate framework.
Single Page Applications (SPA): SPAs load a single HTML page and dynamically update the content as the user interacts with the application. This approach offers a smooth and responsive user experience, similar to a desktop application. SPAs are well-suited for complex and interactive applications, such as web-based productivity tools or dashboards. Examples of frameworks supporting SPA architecture include Angular, React, and Vue.js.
Static Site Generation (SSG): SSG involves generating static HTML pages at build time, which can then be served quickly and efficiently to users. This approach is ideal for content-heavy websites with infrequent updates, such as blogs, portfolios, or documentation sites. SSG can result in faster load times and improved performance, as well as lower server resource requirements. Examples of frameworks supporting SSG include Next.js, Gatsby, and Jekyll.
Server-Side Rendering (SSR): SSR generates dynamic HTML pages on the server for each request, providing a faster initial page load and improved search engine optimization (SEO). This approach is suitable for websites where content is frequently updated or relies on real-time data, such as e-commerce sites or news platforms. Examples of frameworks supporting SSR include Next.js and Nuxt.js.
By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each frontend architecture pattern and aligning them with your project’s requirements, you can choose a framework that best supports your desired user experience, performance, and scalability goals.
Determine how well the framework will perform according to your needs. Perhaps you need low-latency personalization and edge rendering, or maybe your biggest concern is keeping client CPU demands the lowest, or having low build times. The best way to find out if a framework suits your performance needs is to profile the frameworks in their intended targets.
Integration with Existing Technologies
Consider how well the framework integrates with your existing technology stack. A seamless integration can save your team time and effort, while a framework that doesn’t integrate well with your existing applications or other tools can create unnecessary headaches. Evaluate the compatibility of the framework with your current and future technology choices, as this can impact the long-term viability of your project.
Longevity and Stability
Select a framework that is likely to be maintained and supported for the foreseeable future. A framework that is abandoned by its creators or (sometimes worse) has irrevocable breaking changes, can leave a team scrambling. Look for frameworks with a strong track record of updates and improvements, a clear roadmap for future development and a track record of backwards compatibility.
A real life (Amplience) example
For our next big project, we wanted the most performant framework to use in a SPA for our particular use case. In order to test which was fastest, we created a shortlist of frameworks based on the criteria above and chose Angular, React, Svelte, Vue, Preact and Lit. We then created a proof of concept (POC) application in each framework, pushed it to the limit and tested the results.
We tested both the time it took to render increasingly complicated views, and the time it took to return an event from the deeply nested components.
The results surprised us. In other performance tests, we’d seen Svelte outperform the other front end frameworks. However, for our particular use case, React was the fastest.
We were also interested in the file sizes that the different frameworks produced.
Based on this data, Svelte looked to be the most ‘svelte’ - closely followed by Preact. Still, for our use case, a ~150kb pre-gzip wasn’t a deal-breaker for our SPA app.
Finally, we wanted to compare the number of lines of code required to write the application.
Again, Svelte looks to be the obvious choice - with React not far behind.
In the end, these results coupled with other factors such as team experience, maturity and stability led us to decide that React was the most suitable front end framework for our project. Remember, the results of any performance tests will vary depending on your specific use case, so it’s essential to perform your own evaluations to determine the best fit for your project. In our example, React emerged as the winner for our specific problem profile, but your project may have different requirements or constraints.
Choosing the right front end framework is a critical decision for your project’s success, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. By carefully considering factors such as team expertise, framework maturity and ecosystem, front end architecture patterns, performance, integration needs and stability, you can make an informed choice that best aligns with your project’s needs and goals.