Comparing top Node.js frameworks for Front-end Development

Introduction

Node.js is a highly popular runtime environment developed for running JavaScript code outside of a web browser. The runtime environment leverages the capabilities of the push-based, real-time architecture, which is cross-platform, open-source, and runs on a V8 engine. Not surprisingly, W3Techs reports that over thirty million websites utilize the power of Node.js for their backend/frontend development needs.

Many businesses hire Node.js developers to create traditional websites; the fact is that this runtime environment can be used for a lot more. These days, Node.js frameworks have become quite popular owing to the many conveniences they offer to the developers. Let us look at a few Node.js frameworks and compare them vis-à-vis for better insight.

What is Node.js Framework?

Node.js is, technically, neither a framework nor a language. It is merely a platform that facilitates the open-source development of JavaScript-based applications outside of the web browser. With that said, you can refer to Node.js frameworks as “workspaces” created on Node.js that incorporate extended libraries and tools, helping enhance the functionality of the Node.js platform. They facilitate quicker and more efficient development of applications or software.

Utilizing Node.js frameworks, according to the case studies performed by Hacker Noon, can help enterprises reduce server requirements for serving their customers. This is an even better reason to adopt Node.js frameworks for all your development needs.

Why is Node.js so Popular?

Creating an app from scratch requires a sizable investment of time, effort, and programming logic. Given that server-side programming can get exceedingly complex, writing any code from ground zero is not feasible where business timelines are concerned. Therefore, to facilitate faster app development, frameworks gather all the necessary and foundational programming building blocks in one place – the framework.

App developers can simply “call” the required function into the code by writing one or two lines instead of typing the code for the entire function. This convenience makes frameworks a highly popular choice among developers.

Another reason developers prefer the Node.js framework is that it enables them to write clean code that is easy to troubleshoot.

Types of Node.js Frameworks

There aren’t any strict rules for classifying Node.js frameworks into specific categories. However, the following four categories are widely accepted as justified classification:

  • HTTP Server
  • MVC
  • Full-Stack MVC
  • Rest API

Let’s discuss each of these in detail.

Node.js HTTP Server Frameworks

These frameworks are server frameworks that are based on Express.js. You can utilize these frameworks to build apps using HTTP methods and routes. Some of the popular frameworks classified under HTTP server category are Express.js, Koa.js, Fastify and Hapi.

The major benefit of using the HTTP frameworks is that it allows for typing simple syntaxes to generate server-side code. You would be working with high-level code that is easier to manage as compared to primitives of lower level. 

MVC Frameworks

Node.js frameworks based on MVC architecture, or Model-View-Controller architecture, provide a way for the developers to visualize what the code would look like. The JavaScript component of a framework provides the developer the “View” part of the framework by giving client-side functionalities. On the other hand, the Node.js component of the framework manages the “Model” and “Controller” parts, being a server-side runtime environment.

Two great examples of MVC frameworks are Adonis and Strapi.

Full-Stack MVC Frameworks

Also popularly known as isomorphic code, the full-stack MVC frameworks utilize JavaScript for both client-side and server-side development. Depending on which framework you are deploying, the functionalities across the frameworks may differ – some may have templating engines, ORMs, and WebSocket libraries.

Two popular examples of full-stack MVC frameworks are Meteor and Feathers.

Rest API Frameworks

Created by Roy Fielding, REST API stands for Representational Transfer Application Programming Interface. It is an integration framework that handles external requests from consumers. These frameworks typically help developers access data and manipulate it using a common set of operations that are stateless.

Three popular examples of frameworks based on RESTful API are Loopack, Restify, and NestJS.

Top 5 Node.js Frameworks Comparison

The table below highlights the distinct features of the top 5 Node.js frameworks.

 ExpressKoaNest.jsNuxt.jsFastify
USPDeveloper favorite with minimal, flexible frameworkFocuses on modern features like generators and async functionsAngular and RoR inspired architecture helps split apps into microservicesFramework is based on Vue.js and good for use in single-page app developmentSchema-based framework which is developer-friendly and TypeScript-ready
AdvantageFast app developmentControl over error handling is betterBest used to build scalable server-side applicationsAutomatic code splittingAutomatically parses JSON with quick rendering
DisadvantageFrequent and backward-incompatible API changesMigration to other frameworks is challengingSmaller community and lack of documentationAbsence of common pluginsNot popular in the industry yet, and lack of documentation

Conclusion

Frameworks are popular because they make the lives of developers easier. Not having to code an app from scratch is a boon for saving effort and time. This time can be effectively reinvested in getting the app to turn out how it was visualized in the conception stages.

Node.js was already popular (Node.js downloads had hit the 1-billion mark back in 2018, and the number is still growing), which contributes to the popularity of frameworks based on Node.js as well.

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