If you're jumping into building a new web application, you'll need to commit to a frontend framework. There's tons of different options, but the big three are React, Vue and Angular. We're going to pretend like Angular doesn't exist because it's just... not a fun time to work with. So that leaves Vue and React.
We're going to do a quick review of both and make some observations that might help you decide which one to adopt in your upcoming project.
React's main advantage is a robust ecosystem of users, tools, and resources. It's been battle-tested in thousands of enterprise-grade web applications. With its 10th birthday coming up, React is considered "mature" technology now. The development community has had time to work through the problems that have affected the library.
React pros and cons
The main advantages of building with React include:
React applications boast improved performance due to the library's virtual DOM feature. With this feature, the DOM is stored in virtual memory, this way whenever the components of the application are changed, React will only update the specific items that have been amended instead of updating the entire DOM. This leads to efficient development and faster response times for an enhanced customer experience.
Thanks to its component-based architecture, React's code is well-organized and easy to debug and maintain. This also helps manage an application more efficiently, while allowing you to replace a developer at any time in production without worrying about how the new dev would fit into the project.
On the downside;
React is constantly being updated to improve its functionality and performance. On the bright side, the updates enable you to build apps with the latest web standards. At the same time, the regular updates mean that React documentation usually becomes outdated quickly, forcing developers to re-learn some aspects to stay up to date.
Needs additional tools
React focuses mainly on the frontend, and as such, you'll need to use additional tools and platforms to have a complete set of development tools. This may also be interpreted as an advantage since it gives you the flexibility of integrating other tools.
Vue pros and cons
Vue is preferred by developers due to its:
Readability and single-file components
Similar to React, Vue is based on a component-based architecture that improves code readability. Additionally, the components can be reused to create custom UIs, consequently improving the development timeline. The component architecture also streamlines unit-testing since all parts of an app can be tested individually.
Robust tooling ecosystem
Since its release in 2014, Vue has been gaining a strong set of tools that complement its functionality. For example, the Vue Command Line Interface (CLI), provides you with a rich collection of front-end plugins in addition to enabling you to create and manage Vue projects using a graphical user interface. The framework also supports Typescript, Babel, unit testing, server-side rendering, and browser debugging tools.
In addition to its lightweight, the Vue framework utilizes a virtual DOM in rendering web interfaces. This enables it to build high-performance single-page applications with highly responsive interfaces. In fact, Vue apps launch slightly faster than React and Angular apps.
Vue is a lightweight framework that weighs about 18kb in zip format with every subsequent release getting even lighter and faster. This makes the download and installation process easy while improving app performance.
The cons of using Vue include:
Vue is known for its flexibility as it leaves room for developers to be creative when building interfaces. Think of it as a blueprint or a template upon which developers build applications while allowing them to use their code custom functionality. Although this flexibility gives developers the freedom to build custom UIs and implement new features, it comes at the cost of complexity, especially when building larger projects. Complexity creates more room for errors and irregularities which impairs production.
Unlike React, Vue doesn't offer a wide range of plugins and tools that are compatible with third-party resources. It also has a smaller community of users and contributors compared to React.
Similarities and differences between React and Vue
The most notable similarity between React and Vue is that they both use virtual DOM rendering and component-based architecture. Other similarities include:
- Typescript support
- Progressive web app support
- Backward compatibility
- Uses reusable parent and child components
- Seamless version migration
As for their differences, the most significant one is that React is a library while Vue is a framework. This means that Vue uses code provided by the developer for custom functionality, while React uses predefined code snippets to achieve the same.
That said, let's compare the two frameworks based on the following criteria:
There isn't much difference between React and Vue apps since they both use virtual DOM to render components. Additionally, these apps utilize the lazy loading feature that essentially loads only the components the user needs to see.
However, for React apps, when a component state is changed, it triggers the re-rendering of the entire component starting from the parent. To avoid this re-rendering, you need to re-optimize the component when making changes. As such, you need to identify every component with specific commands - PureComponent and ShouldComponentUpdate. For small applications, managing these components is easy but when scaling the application can be challenging and potentially impair performance.
Vue, on the other hand, automatically tracks components, and as such, you don't need to identify them. The system knows exactly which component needs re-rendering when its state changes. This consequently increases the app's performance and speed.
State management is the management of an application's data at any given time. This data can be in the form of an object, string, or array. For example, when a user logs in or inputs data, the state of an app changes. UI libraries and frameworks are responsible for state management, thereby giving you control over your app and especially if you intend to scale it.
Managing the state of a small app is pretty easy as there are few components, however for larger apps, it can be challenging. As such, it's important to consider state management when choosing a library or framework if you plan on scaling your app.
React lacks state management tools and meaning you have to use third-party tools, particularly Redux and the create-react-app CLI tool. Basically, the library outsources this state management to its vast community, effectively creating a fragmented ecosystem. Vue, on the other hand, contains a state management library, Vuex, at its core. The library has official support meaning all updates are in sync.
Adapting to mobile devices
Vue also supports mobile app development using its cross-platform UI framework - Weex. The framework was created by Alibaba Group but it's still in the active development stage, therefore it isn't as mature and reliable as React Native. However, you can still achieve native app experience since Vue supports PWA development.
Ideally, when building a large web application, you want the freedom to manage the numerous components in the most suitable way rather than being restricted to a rigid way of organizing your code. React applications, therefore, offer better code management than Vue apps.
Data binding facilitates interaction by allowing a user to change UI elements, which consequently changes the underlying model state to reflect the changes made. For example, if a user changes/inputs a value in a textbox element, the underlying data value also changes.
React uses one-way data binding, meaning that the model's state is updated first, and then the changes in the interface element are rendered afterward. This model gives you a better data overview, making it easier to debug your React app.
Image credit: Stackoverflow
In contrast, Vue uses a two-way data binding model. This way, whenever a user changes an interface element, your model's state changes automatically at the same time. It can be daunting to debug large scale apps that use Vue's two-way binding.
When should you use React?
React library is suited for the following use cases:
- When you need to hire fast or considering outsourcing the development process
- Building large scalable web applications
- When you want to build a cross-platform app
- Want to build a complex app using a variety of third-party libraries, plugins, and tools
- Build Saas product
When should you use Vue?
- Launching a startup with a focus on MVP
- Building lightweight application
- Building prototype websites
- Building animation and interactive elements
- If you wish for seamless integration with other single-page and multi-page apps
Frequently asked questions
Is React faster than Vue?
Vue is faster than React due to its lightweight. But in most cases, the difference is almost negligible.
Is React more scalable than Vue?
No. Both React and Vue are scalable. However, React is often preferred for building scalable apps. However, this doesn't mean Vue isn't scalable at all, you can use web packs and Mixin elements. It's just that React has more social proof of scalability than Vue.
React and Vue are powerful tools for building interactive UIs. When choosing between the two be sure to consider the type of web app you're building, the development timeline, and talent availability.
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