10 min read

A Comprehensive Guide to JavaScript Frontend Frameworks

There's a million Javascript frontend frameworks. We look at the reason you need one, and which one to pick.

Tim Davidson
Tim Davidson

JavaScript is synonymous with the internet. It drives pretty much everything interactive you deal with when using a web browser. HTML and CSS are involved too, but JavaScript is the language that turns static content into something interactive and dynamic.

JavaScript is great and has matured a million times since being created in 1995. However, like everything else in the software world, JavaScript has its quirks and inefficiencies. Being inefficient is the natural enemy of a software developer, and as a result, the development community has created frameworks to speed up and enhance the use of JavaScript.

Think of these frameworks as a collection of technologies and best practices bundled together to streamline the creation of web applications. They abstract away the complexities of handling Document Object Model (DOM) manipulation, managing application state, routing, and handling user interactions. These terms may be unfamiliar if you’re not a developer, but in a nutshell, they’re the parts of frontend development that are complex, repetitive and time-consuming to handle in plain JavaScript.

The thing about JavaScript frameworks is that there are tons of them, and not everyone agrees which one is the best. There’s React (made by Facebook), Angular (made by Google), Vue, Gatsby, Next.js, Nuxt.js, jQuery, Svelete, Remix, and the list goes on and on…

If you’re jumping into a new web application project, chances are you’ll end up needing a frontend JavaScript framework to build a user interface for visitors to interact with. Picking the right framework can mean a better outcome for your application, but more importantly, it impacts how easy your app is to maintain in the future. A poorly supported framework is going to cost more time down the line.

In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to JavaScript frontend frameworks by exploring the key features and advantages of popular JavaScript frameworks such as React, Angular, and Vue.js, while looking at use cases and considerations for choosing the right framework for your project.

Advantages of using JavaScript frontend frameworks

Before we take a look at specific frameworks, it’s worth explaining the benefits to using a JavaScript framework. It’s not always necessary, especially for smaller projects, utilities and scripts. But sometimes, working without a framework simply doesn’t make sense.

Without any further ado, these are the high-level advantages of using a frontend framework:

Enhanced productivity

Frontend frameworks provide a structured and organized approach to web development, which helps streamline the development process and improve productivity. They offer pre-built components, templates, and libraries, allowing developers to focus more on application logic rather than writing repetitive code from scratch (i.e. recreating the wheel).

Reusability and modularity

Frontend frameworks promote component-based architectures, where UI elements are encapsulated into reusable components. This modular approach makes reusing code straightforward, reducing the amount of duplicate code that needs to be written. Components can be easily maintained, tested, and shared across different parts of the application.

Efficient Rendering and Performance Optimization

Many frameworks leverage techniques such as virtual DOM diffing and intelligent updates to optimize rendering performance. By minimizing unnecessary re-renders and efficiently updating the DOM, these frameworks enhance web applications' overall speed and responsiveness, providing a smoother user experience.

Robust State Management

Frontend frameworks often include state management solutions that help manage and synchronize application data. These state management libraries simplify handling complex data flows and make it easier to manage application state changes.

Large and active community

Massive and dedicated communities support the most popular frontend frameworks like React, Vue and Angular. These networks go out of their way to build libraries, plugins, and tools that enhance the capabilities of their framework.

These communities are also vigilant at providing ongoing support, frequent updates, and a wealth of learning resources.

Rapid prototyping and iteration

Frontend frameworks offer a way to rapidly prototype and iterate software. With a vast collection of ready-to-use components and tools and streamlined development workflows, a good framework can significantly reduce time-to-market for applications.

It seems like a dozen new frontend frameworks appear every day. We won’t try to cover all of them, but we’ll touch on a handful of the most popular ones.


Released in 2013, React has gained immense popularity in the frontend development landscape due to its simplicity, flexibility, and exceptional performance. It follows a component-based architecture and utilizes a virtual DOM for efficient rendering and updating of UI components. Its declarative syntax, JSX, allows developers to write JavaScript code closely resembling HTML, making it easier to understand and maintain.

Key features of React include:


React's JSX syntax allows developers to write JavaScript code that closely resembles HTML, making it easier to understand and maintain.

Virtual DOM

The Virtual DOM is a concept used by React to optimize the updating and rendering process of UI components. It is a lightweight, in-memory representation of the actual browser DOM (Document Object Model) that React uses to perform efficient updates.

When changes occur in a React component, instead of directly updating the real DOM, React first updates the Virtual DOM, which is a JavaScript representation of the UI. React then compares the previous Virtual DOM with the updated Virtual DOM to determine the minimal set of changes needed to be applied to the actual DOM.

Reusable components

React promotes the creation of reusable components, enhancing code reusability and modularity.

Unidirectional data flow

React follows a unidirectional data flow, which means that data in a React application flows in a single direction, typically from parent components to child components. In this approach, the parent component passes data to its child components as properties, also known as props. These props are immutable, meaning they cannot be modified by the child components. The child components receive the props and use them to render their respective portions of the UI.This promotes a more controlled and manageable data flow, leading to better application stability and maintainability.

State management

React provides a flexible approach to state management. While React itself doesn't enforce a specific state management solution, it can be combined with libraries like Redux or MobX to handle complex application state.

React ecosystem

The React ecosystem offers diverse libraries and tools that cater to frontend development, including state management, routing, form handling, styling, testing, and more. The open-source community typically creates and maintains these resources, making them accessible to developers worldwide.

The ecosystem also encompasses many learning resources, tutorials, blog articles, and community support. This enables developers to stay up-to-date with best practices, explore new techniques, and seek assistance from experienced developers when encountering challenges.

Pros of React

  • High-performance and efficient rendering
  • Large and active community support
  • Extensive ecosystem of libraries and tools
  • Reusable component-based architecture
  • Flexible state management options

Cons of React

  • React is unopinionated, and there are tons of different ways it can be implemented. This can cause problems if you bring on various contractors, or work with multiple development teams.


Angular, developed and maintained by Google, is a comprehensive frontend framework for building complex web applications. It follows a complete MVC (Model-View-Controller) architecture and provides a range of features. Key features of Angular include:

Angular CLI

Angular CLI (Command Line Interface) is a powerful tool that helps developers scaffold, build, and maintain Angular projects. It provides a command-line interface to create project scaffolding, generate components, services, and modules, and run development servers and build processes. Angular CLI simplifies the project setup and provides an efficient development workflow.

Forms handling

The framework provides built-in support for handling forms, including form validation and data binding.

Code splitting

Code splitting in Angular involves breaking down the application codebase into smaller modules that can be loaded on-demand. This technique helps reduce the initial load time of the application by loading only the necessary code for the current page or feature. As a result, users experience faster load times and improved performance.


Angular includes a robust router for managing application navigation and creating SPAs with multiple views.

Testing Infrastructure

Angular offers comprehensive testing support with tools like Jasmine and Karma, enabling developers to write unit tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests for their applications.

State Management

Angular provides various options for state management, including local component state and integration with external libraries like NgRx for managing complex application state.

Dependency Injection

Angular's dependency injection system simplifies managing dependencies and promotes testability and maintainability of code.

Pros of Angular

  • Complete framework with all-in-one solutions
  • Strong emphasis on architecture and best practices
  • Excellent tooling and development experience
  • Well-documented and extensive testing capabilities
  • Angular CLI provides a streamlined project setup and development workflow

Cons of Angular

  • Larger bundle sizes compared to other frameworks
  • More complex setup and configuration process
  • Has fallen out of vogue over the past couple of years


Vue.js, created by Evan You, has gained popularity for its simplicity and ease of integration. It provides a progressive framework that can be adopted gradually. Its notable features include:

Easy integration

Vue.js can be integrated into existing projects, making it an excellent choice for incremental adoption.

Reactive data binding

Vue.js provides a reactive data binding system that automatically updates the UI when data changes.

Component-based architecture

Vue.js follows a component-based architecture, allowing for the creation of reusable and modular components.

Lightweight and performant

Vue.js is lightweight and offers excellent performance, making it suitable for small to medium-sized applications.

Vue router and Vuex

Vue.js has its own router (Vue Router) and state management library (Vuex), providing a seamless development experience.

Pros of Vue.js

  • Easy learning curve and gentle adoption process
  • Versatile and flexible for small to medium-sized projects
  • Great integration capabilities with existing projects
  • Excellent performance and efficient rendering

Cons of Vue.js

  • Limited ecosystem compared to React and Angular
  • Smaller community compared to React and Angular

Svelte Overview

Svelte is a modern JavaScript framework with a unique approach to building user interfaces. Unlike traditional frontend frameworks that rely on a virtual DOM and runtime libraries, Svelte shifts the heavy lifting to compile-time, resulting in highly efficient and performant code.  Svelte's main features are:

Reactive component framework

Svelte allows you to build reactive components using a simple syntax. It leverages a reactive declaration approach, where variables can be declared reactive and automatically update the DOM when their values change.

Compiler-based approach

Svelte's distinctive feature is its compiler, which analyzes the component code during the build process and generates optimized JavaScript code. This approach eliminates the need for a runtime library, resulting in smaller bundle sizes and faster initial rendering.

Lightweight and efficient

Svelte generates highly optimized code that directly manipulates the DOM, resulting in fast and efficient rendering. The absence of a virtual DOM and runtime overhead contributes to its lightweight nature, making it suitable for projects that prioritize performance.

Component reusability

Svelte supports component-based architecture, allowing you to create reusable UI elements. Components can encapsulate their logic and styling, enabling modular development and code reusability.

Scoped CSS

Svelte provides built-in support for scoped CSS, allowing you to encapsulate component styles and prevent CSS conflicts. This feature simplifies styling and improves the maintainability of your application.

Pros of Svelte

  • High performance:
  • Small Bundle Sizes: The compiler analyzes and optimizes the code, resulting in smaller bundle sizes. This reduces the amount of data that needs to be transferred, leading to faster load times.
  • Reactive and easy-to-understand syntax
  • Growing Community:

Cons of Svelte

  • Relatively new and immature compared with React
  • Limited libraries and extensions, meaning more time is spent getting to work that would take virtually no time with React, Vue or Angular.

Which is the best frontend framework?

There isn’t a straightforward answer as to which is the best frontend framework. Every developer has their favorite, a strongly defends their allegiance.

However, most developers and businesses tend to use React since it has a robust community of users and a large ecosystem of tools. It is also easy to learn and offers high performance.

React also gave life to our favorite framework, Next.js. Even though we’re a technology-agnostic team, we choose Next ahead of any other framework when building applications. We’ve written extensively on the pros and cons of Next, so we won’t rehash the same content.

That said, when choosing a frontend framework consider the following factors:

Do you need a full framework or just a library?

Frameworks like Angular and Next.js are great, but they’re opinionated and more involved. They expect your application to grow over time and provide tools to stay organized. If you’re creating a simple utility or static frontend that doesn’t need to do much, then a full framework can be overkill.

In this situation, React is a great choice, since you can just use it to create some nice components to drive your frontend, without all the framework overhead.

Do you need static content generation or different rendering techniques?

Next.js can do things that straight React, Vue and Angular can’t. It allows content to be pre-generated and provides various rendering techniques.

These options are super handy if you’re creating an application with a lot of content, like a headless eCommerce store.

What is your team’s speciality?

This point is often overlooked, but if your team’s developers are all Vue guys, there’s no point pushing them to pick up React or any React-based framework like Next or Gatsby.

Even though the popular frontend frameworks are all pretty similar and experienced devs can figure things out, it takes time to learn the ins and outs. And you won’t hear this opinion often, but the popular frontend frameworks all do a good job, and your product won’t be significantly better if you choose Vue over React or vice versa.

Frequently asked questions

Q: What is the difference between a frontend framework and a library?

A frontend framework provides a comprehensive set of tools, conventions, and abstractions to build web applications. It offers a structured approach and handles various aspects of application development, such as routing, state management, and UI components. In contrast, a library focuses on providing specific functionality or features that developers can use in their projects without imposing a rigid structure or architecture.

Q: How do frontend frameworks impact SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

A: Frontend frameworks can impact SEO depending on how they handle server-side rendering and the accessibility of the generated HTML. Some frameworks, like Next.js for React or Angular Universal for Angular, provide server-side rendering capabilities, which can improve SEO by ensuring that search engines can crawl and index the content.

Q: Can I migrate an existing project to a different frontend framework?

Yes. While it's possible to migrate, it's important to carefully evaluate the benefits and challenges of such a migration, including the impact on development time, resources, and potential disruption to the project.

Key takeaways

If you can’t decide which framework to use, you can never go wrong with React. It offers high performance and enjoys robust community support, meaning you’ll likely find solutions to problems encountered when using the framework. That said, consider other factors such as project requirements, learning curve, and integration with backend technologies when choosing a framework. Also, it helps to stay updated on the evolving frontend ecosystem to make informed decisions and leverage the best tools for your projects.

Written by
Tim Davidson

Tim Davidson

Tim is the face of the company. When you want to kick off a new project, or an update on your existing project, Tim is your man!

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