June 4, 2022
Looking for the best backend framework for your shiny new web application? Look no further! We’ll discuss the 5 most popular backend frameworks developers are using, and why you should (or shouldn’t) use each one.
First on our list is Flask, a household staple for hackers, students, and businesses alike. Flask is a microframework for running a web server in Python, and given its simplicity it’s a great starting point for new developers to learn web development.
Flask is so simple to use you can literally spin up a dev server with just 5 lines of code. For this reason developers like to build small or temporary projects with Flask.
Easy to Learn
Since Flask is so simple to use, it becomes a top choice for students when it comes to learning. Flask has the distinct advantage of being a production-grade backend framework used by real companies while having a very low learning curve.
Flask has a debugger as well as plenty of support for unit testing applications, so there’s no excuse to not test your code!
Complex Projects Become Even More Complex
The big disadvantage of Flask is that because it’s such a small framework, it lacks tooling and support for larger-scale projects. Developers can often find themselves confused when staring at the source code of complex Flask projects. For this reason alone, many developers in larger teams or organizations tend to choose one of the other frameworks on this list for production projects.
Flask doesn’t provide a lot of functionalities out of the box, so developers often have to implement their own features. This creates a lot of burden on the developer to make sure their implementation is well tested and properly maintained, which can add to tech debt and slow engineering productivity.
Django has historically been and still is a powerhouse Python web framework for startups and large companies. It contains a larger set of features enjoyed by many enterprise teams, and it is one of the most mature and trusted backend frameworks.
Django comes with a bunch of functionalities out of the box such as ORM (object-relational mapping), authentication, and admin packages. These functionalities are stable and well-tested, saving developers time and maintenance overhead.
Django is designed to scale to large numbers of users. Many internet giants like Netflix and Pinterest use it to meet their users’ needs.
Django is a mature framework with millions of developers and a very active community, so there are many discussions/answered questions on forums such as StackOverflow.
Higher Learning Curve
Compared to other backend frameworks, Django has a steeper learning curve. It comes with a lot of functionalities, but not all of them are easy to understand, especially for newer developers. It can take a while to get the hang of Django, and even creating a simple project can take a bit of effort.
Ruby on Rails (or just Rails) is another popular web framework commonly used in industry. It’s written in the Ruby programming language, and it was first released in the early 2000s, so it is quite a mature framework and many seasoned web developers prefer it.
Easy to Use
Ruby on Rails has an intuitive and user-friendly syntax that most programmers can understand. Developers using Rails write less code, speeding up the development process.
The Rails framework maintains many open-source libraries called gems. Gems extend the existing functionalities of web applications to solve common problems. Regardless of what feature a developer seeks, there’s probably a gem for it already.
Like Django, Ruby on Rails also has a large community of users and is actively used by many projects in industry. Support can be found all over the web, and Rails developers actively contribute to the code base by implementing new functionalities.
Traditionally, one of the biggest complaints with Rails is runtime performance issues. These issues are often attributed to database and server environments, and they can be addressed by experienced developers. However, runtime performance should still be a top priority when choosing a stack.
Lack of Flexibility
Ruby on Rails has many cool functionalities, but customization can be challenging. Database migrations, custom routing configurations, and other custom tasks may significantly lengthen development time.
One Language for Frontend and Backend
Express also has a sizable community of users. There should be more than enough support resources to create new projects.
Node.js is a single threaded framework with an event loop that listens to various events and executes registered callbacks. It’s rather easy for developers to entangle these callbacks (commonly known as callback hell), and developers who don’t frequently work with callbacks may have trouble understanding how these callbacks work.
Laravel is the top web application framework for PHP. It’s a lightweight framework that handles many common key components of web application projects such as caching, routing, authentication, and sessions.
PHP has historically been one of the most popular web development languages, so there are a lot of veteran PHP developers looking for the latest and greatest PHP web framework.
The documentation Laravel provides is thorough yet simple to understand, and each version comes with its own complete documentation of the classes, methods and code styles. New developers should have no problems with onboarding.
Lack of Long-term Support
PHP frameworks in general face some challenges with long-term support, and Laravel has received some criticism as well. While it’s true that updates might create minor issues, developers can take extra care to make the process go more smoothly.
Of course, choosing the right backend framework is not just about looking at this list and picking one that sounds the best. You need to think about your project specifically, what constraints/requirements it has, and then make a decision after weighing both the short and long-term needs.
You can plan to design an extremely scalable Django web app to support tens of millions of users, but if it requires six extra months of development time and your funding will run out during those six months then you probably need to choose a better alternative.