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React vs. Angular: Which One Should You Choose?

Tim Davidson
9 min read

In the world of front-end web development, there are three major players: React, Angular, and Vue. But for now, let's focus on the first two technologies. The main difference between the two is that React is a library while Angular is a framework. As a library, React comes with predefined code snippets for fast and standardized development. While Angular being a framework, provides a template or foundation upon which developers build UI components. 

Due to this difference, both technologies have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. React is known for its simplicity and speed, while Angular is favored for its robustness and flexibility. So, which one should you choose? In this post, we'll take a look at the pros and cons of React and Angular so you can make an informed decision.

React overview?

React is a JavaScript library for building user interfaces. It was created by Facebook and released as open-source software in 2013, making it one of the most mature front-end technologies in the market, with a robust ecosystem of users and supporting tools. 

The library is commonly used for building single-page applications and mobile apps. It employs a component-based architecture that makes it easy for developers to debug and build customized UIs. Even better, these components are reusable, which helps speed up the development process. React is used by major companies such as Netflix, Airbnb, and Walmart.

React features 

Some of the notable features of React include the following: 

JSX

React uses JavaScript syntax extension (JSX), a combination of HTML and JavaScript. The syntax is then processed by transpilers such as Babel, which convert it to JavaScript code for browsers. JSX is faster than the typical JavaScript code, which helps create a high-performance React app.

Virtual DOM

DOM is an object-based representation of the current view as seen by a user in the browser. Developers can manipulate it to change UI components and perform users' actions on web elements to accept users' requests. Developers can manipulate it is an important aspect of UI web development. It allows developers to modify UI components and perform users' actions on web elements. However, the entire page must be re-rendered once updated to reflect the changes. This process is usually slow, making your application appear sluggish and slow. s forced to re-render, this process is usually slower in most JavaScript frameworks as it involves updating the whole DOM at once, which impairs the performance of a web application. For example, if an app contains twenty items and a user only checks off three items, DOM will re-render the entire list to update the three items.

React uses virtual DOM to help improve application performance. When a UI is rendered, React creates a virtual DOM of that render and keeps it in memory. When there's a change, the virtual DOM is updated first and then synced with the Actual DOM. This eliminates unnecessary re-rendering of elements making your app appear to load faster. 

One-way data binding 

React supports a one-way data binding or unidirectional data flow method. This feature allows developers to nest child components inside parent components. This way, the data can only flow from parent to child, meaning child components cannot modify the data alone. Developers, therefore, have more control over the application. It also makes it easier to locate bugs and debug errors.

Components 

React is made up of components that are used to build interactive UIs. These components are reusable and have their own logic and control. As a result, they make it easier to build and manage UI code for large applications.

Extension support

React supports numerous extensions that help in building a full-fledged UI application. They also enable React to support mobile app development and server-side rendering. Some of the extensions include; Flux, Redux, and React Native.

Pros and cons of React 

The advantages of using React include the following:

  • Easy work with -- Due to its component reusability, React requires less coding, which makes debugging easier in addition to speeding up the development process
  • High performance -- React uses virtual DOM for rendering web components faster. Pages appear to load faster, thereby improving your search engine ranking.
  • Supports both web and mobile app development -- React library is used for building web UIs while its framework, React Native, is used to build hybrid mobile apps 
  • It comes with handy tools for debugging. These tools are available as browser extensions for Chrome and Mozilla. 
  • Backed by a strong community -- React has a wide community of users who regularly contribute to its development. As such, you can easily find solutions when you get stuck while working with the library. 

Limitations of React 

  • Some developers may find JSX too complex to grasp 
  • Lacks enough documentation due to regular updates and releases  

Angular overview 

Angular is a JavaScript framework for building interactive UIs for web applications. It was developed and released by Google in 2010 as AngularJS. Since then, the framework has undergone several improvements, culminating in the release of Angular 2.0 in 2016. This new version uses Typescript syntax, which results in less coding and is thus easy to debug. Also, similar to React, Angular uses a component-based architecture, allowing you to divide UIs into functional and logical components that can be nested to build complex applications. 

Angular features 

One-way and two-way data binding 

Angular supports both uni- and bi-directional data flow. Unlike one-way, two-way data binding means the data can flow from the parent to the child component and vice versa. As such, when you modify the data in the model, the view is updated to reflect the changes, and when the view changes, the model is also updated. You can opt to use one-way or two-way data binding based on the app you're building. 

A flow diagram showing data binding process in Angular.

Dependency injection

Dependency injection (DI) is a design pattern for creating and delivering some parts of an application to other parts of the application that require them. This helps improve the flexibility and modularity of an app. Angular supports DI to separate different parts of an application, making it easy to test and debug components in isolation. 

Ajax support 

Angular comes with Ajax and HTTP support, enabling it to connect and communicate with backend services. This helps boost an app's performance and reduce response times. 

Angular CLI

The Angular command line interface (CLI) allows developers to initialize, scaffold, and maintain angular applications from a command shell. It also allows you to preview your application with LiveReload support. 

Pros and cons of Angular 

Advantages of using Angular include:

  • Angular offers clean code development since it uses Typescript syntax. Unlike vanilla JavaScript, Typescript results in less code which is easy to maintain and ideal for building enterprise-grade applications. 
  • It supports lazy loading, which ensures that only the required modules are loaded. This offers less loading time which improves your app performance.
  • Employs MVC architecture enabling developers to separate the data, UI, and business layers. These units can be developed and tested in isolation. As a result, it becomes easier to understand and maintain the code. 
  • Backed by Google -- a trusted company, especially in the developers' community 

Disadvantages of Angular 

  • Has a steep learning curve. For businesses, this means that there are few Angular developers, thus making the hiring process a bit time-consuming. 
  • It has Limited SEO capabilities. Angular is great for building single-page applications. However, these applications are usually rendered on the client side, meaning search engine crawlers cannot see a page's complete structure and content. Consequently, it's difficult for search engines to rank your page on the results page. 
  • Too many versions forcing businesses to constantly work on their app to resolve conflicts and incompatibility issues.

React vs. Angular comparison

Performance 

Generally, React apps boast better performance than Angular apps. This is because React uses Virtual DOM, while Angular only relies on the Real DOM. With the Virtual DOM, only the changed objects are updated without necessarily rewriting the entire tree structure, as it's the case with Angular's Real DOM. Also, by default, Angular supports two-way data binding. While this ensures model view and model are in sync, it impairs performance since the number of watched elements grows exponentially as the app increases in size and complexity. If you're aiming for high performance, React is a more suitable choice with added benefits of improved customer experience and SEO ranking. 

State management 

State management involves managing data as a user interacts with the app. When a user triggers a request, the app's state changes, consequently changing the view. It's a crucial concept, especially when working with large and complex applications with multiple views/components. 

In React, each component has its own state, making it easier to manage the state across your application. It also relies on external libraries, particularly Redux, for state management. Redux holds the entire state of an application in a single mutable object. On the other hand, Angular comes with built-in functionality for state management, so you don't have to use an external library unless you're building a large application. NGXS is a popular external library for state management that helps you enforce unidirectional data flow in Angular. 

Development speed and productivity 

React relies heavily on external libraries to build robust applications. The type of tools used varies depending on the project, so you have to invest time in choosing the right library. This might slow down the speed of development, leading to a delayed time-to-market schedule. Angular, on the other hand, comes with all the necessary tools to support full-fledged development. You don't have to rely on external libraries allowing you to focus primarily on building and deploying the app. Its CLI also offers developers helpful tools to automate certain processes instead of doing them manually. 

Backward compatibility 

Backward compatibility is the ability of a technology tool to work with both new and old architecture. React is backward compatible, meaning you update its old libraries and add different releases. However, Angular isn't backward compatible. You cannot jump from Angular 7.0 to Angular 13.0 without installing all other versions. As such, it's easier to update a React app than an Angular app. 

Scalability 

In front-end development, scalability refers to the ability of an app to expand in functionality consistently. As your user base grows, your app needs to grow in size and complexity to handle the increased traffic.

Angular is more scalable than React, thanks to its modular development structure. It can support the sudden increase in app users, making it an ideal tool for building real-time applications. React, being less scalable, is easier to test. 

Community support 

React was launched almost five years after AngularJS was released. Despite being relatively young, React has a larger community of users than Angular. This makes it easier to work with React since you can easily find reusable components contributed by other developers.  

When to use React 

  • When building an app with multiple events 
  • Building highly customized app
  • If you're aiming for a high-performance app 

When to use Angular 

  • For building large-scale applications such as e-commerce apps 
  • Building simple single-page applications 
  • Apps with dynamic content
  • When building a minimum viable product (MVP) 

Frequently asked questions 

Is React better than Angular? 

React is better than Angular in terms of performance thanks to its Virtual DOM feature. However, Angular is more suitable for building large applications. 

Is React easier than Angular?

Yes, React is easier to learn and use than Angular. The library runs on JSX syntax, meaning you can get started immediately if you already understand basic HTML and JavaScript. With Angular, you need to invest time in learning Typescript -- a JavaScript superset. This explains why there's a larger pool of React developers than Angular. 

Wrapping it up 

React, and Angular are suited for different use cases. React offers better performance than Angular. However, the latter is more suitable for building large applications due to its scalability and capacity to handle unprecedented spikes in app traffic. That said, the right tool depends entirely on your project requirements.

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. With a background in project management, Tim specialises in managing the chaos around the company.

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