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Top 10 Frameworks for Frontend SPA Development

Updated on July 19, 2015
RajeshKumarPadhy profile image

Programmer, designer And strategist with expertise in application development for web and desktop environments using web technologies.

The Need For Frameworks

The phenomenal rise of JavaScript has extended its reach to nearly every type of application environment ranging from server-side scripts to client side interactivity, desktop applications to mobile devices and much more. Every now and then a new framework or library comes along that explores the language’s capability in a unique and new environment. Robust frameworks and libraries further ease development by abstracting numerous challenges and wheel reinvention related to a particular or a range of platforms. However, developing SPA’s require powerful frameworks that can handle the grand application architectures required for rich web apps. So what are the top 10 frameworks for frontend single page application development? Let’s find out.

AngularJs

Since its introduction by Google, it has turned out to be the most used and most deployed framework for major SPA’s on the web. With a steep learning curve and MVC architecture, this is clearly one of the few most powerful frameworks on the web. The enormous amount of built-in functionality allow users to control and design their application for nearly every kind of environment or task they could think of. It not only reduces code but also allows applications to be easily maintained and scaled over time and varying architectures.

Backbone

The legacy SPA framework with less than 800 lines of code is still the programmer’s favourite for most applications as it provides the necessary flexibility through its MVC model while also supporting collections that allow for variations to program architecture. By significantly reducing data tie-ups to the DOM, Backbone allows developers to create structural code that can be easily modified to reflect changes in the DOM. Along with the Underscore library, Backbone manages to handle even the most complex application quite gracefully.

React

Introduced by Facebook and heavily used in Instagram, React is a powerful library that can handle most type of applications. Along with Flux (ReactJs’s application pattern for building user interfaces) React establishes a firm code base through web components to build web applications that could function wonderfully even in large-scale, constrained or high resource consuming environments. Developers often use additional frameworks like swagger for API’s and others to further extend its functionality. However, as described in numerous instances React is only the V in MVC.

Knockout

Unlike most frameworks, Knockout employs an MVVM approach to application architecture that allows developers to better organize code. It also allows the app to remain in sync with the server while putting in necessary mechanisms to build large single page web applications like the ones created with Angular and Backbone. The scalable front-end architecture allows developers to design apps that can easily scale up or down depending on their user base. However, Knockout often requires a bunch of other libraries like RequireJs, Durandal, PagerJs to create a full-fledged SPA that most developers don’t like.

EmberJs

EmberJs is an improved and upgraded version of SproutCore. Built mainly for large-scale applications it is not often used for single page applications. By embracing web components and a model view control based architecture, the framework is one of the few that is ES6 complaint. With concepts such as routes, templates, models, views, controls, and components the framework provides the necessary groundwork for any app. The templates are built with HanglebarJs which itself is one of the most appreciates template frameworks.

MeteorJs

Meteor is now one of the fastest rising single page application platform based on NodeJs. The framework provides all necessary means to build any kind of SPA without compromising on application structure and architecture. As Meteor runs both on the server and the client, developers won’t have to use any other framework or platform to build necessary functionalities. The unified codebase also allows seamless server client applications.

PolymerJs

PolymerJs introduced by Google to support the development of its Material design. With robust documentation and fast-growing community, the framework is now one of the best platforms to create any type of SPA. With seamless transitions and component based elements, the framework focuses primarily on performance and extensibility.

Dojo Toolkit

The Dojo Toolkit is one of the most powerful but still underutilized JavaScript frameworks that was built primarily for SPA development. With inbuilt support for modularity and AMD loader, the toolkit laid the foundation for most new age SPA development frameworks. It also extends the JavaScript language by providing class based inheritance and extensibility. The primary reason for being underutilized is its huge size and lack of support or developer community.

Batman, CanJs, Spine

The above three frameworks are among the few advanced frameworks comparable to the likes of Angular. Batman truly shines when used with the Rails framework while SpineJs and CanJs are highly flexible to be a part of any web development project. Like Angular, these frameworks extend basic application functionality by automating data binding that automatically update changes to the view based on changes in the model.

Aurelia

Aurelia is the successor to the widely appreciated Durandal framework. It was recently launched to meet rising application development patterns and to improve upon the existing Durandal framework. Like Angular, it also contains numerous features that make it a potential framework based on developer usage.

Conclusion

Every now and then a new framework comes along with architecture unique to existing ones. But only a few stick around for the long run. Some frameworks are suited for specific types of applications while others are extensible enough to handle anything you throw at them. You can explore each of the frameworks or stick with one or two of the most used ones. However, you may still find that creating an app with a specific framework could have been easier than building it in another. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you do your research while selecting the framework of your choice.

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© 2015 Rajesh Kumar Padhy

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