How to Choose the Right Front-End Framework for Your Software Project

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Many developers wonder if using a front-end framework is really worth it. It’s true that front-end frameworks have a learning curve and can take some time to study and understand. But unless you’re just building a pure HTML/CSS website that displays only static information, it makes sense to invest in a front-end framework. Otherwise, you will find yourself reinventing the wheel each time.

There are several features in a good front-end framework (data flow, modularization templating, etc) that enable you to hit the ground running when you’re developing a new app or website. No wonder that front-end frameworks have become more and more commonplace in the last few years.

Given their increasing popularity, a wide variety of frameworks are now available. In fact, new frameworks keep coming up every year. While most people are aware of popular options like Bootstrap, there may be a newer framework that is better suited to your needs.

Here are some of the top things to keep in mind when you choose a front-end framework.

What do you want the framework to do?

To begin with, we need to understand what the front-end framework is for. A framework is simply a canvas that makes it easier to develop software vis-a-vis if you had to do it from scratch. Think of a framework like an electrician’s toolkit. There’s a number of tools that they can use to fix an electrical problem. But the specific tools they use will depend on their own experience as well as the nature of the problem.
The front-end framework will help you build the part of the website that users see. Common pre-built features that come with front-end frameworks include side panels, navigation, and buttons. When you choose a front-end framework, you first need to make sure that it has all the tools you’ll be needing for your project. Secondly, your developers need to be comfortable with these tools.

Skill level

The front-end framework will help you build the part of the website that users see. Common pre-built features that come with front-end frameworks include side panels, navigation, and buttons. When you choose a front-end framework, you first need to make sure that it has all the tools you’ll be needing for your project. Secondly, your developers need to be comfortable with these tools.

Business goals

The size and nature of your project play a key role in deciding which kind of front-end framework works best. For instance, if you are building something very basic, such as a static website, you can get away with using vanilla JavaScript and not going for a framework at all. If the project is even a little more complex, a framework makes sense. Even so, simpler frameworks like Vue.js work better for smaller projects while more complex projects need more robust frameworks like Bootstrap, React, or Angular.
The ultimate purpose of the project also plays a big role in deciding which front-end framework will work best. For instance, if you’re building enterprise software that has a large budget and is expected to process numerous transactions, then you need frameworks that emphasize reliability, consistency, and reusability over everything else. Angular and React, having been around for the longest time, meet this need. If, on the other hand, you’re building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) with the goal of testing a new product, you want a simple framework that can help you make quick decisions and meet short deadlines. Vue.js works better in this scenario.

Prototypes and appearance

Wireframing and quick prototyping is the key to faster website design and development. In a business environment where time-to-market is crucial, you need to make sure your front-end framework comes with built-in wireframing and prototyping functionality.
The other important factor is the look and feel of the website. It’s the first impression of your product and needs to be completely aligned with your brand story. You need to choose a framework that let’s you achieve the perfect look and feel with the least amount of effort.

CSS Preprocessors

CSS preprocessors have a number of features including mixins, variables, and nesting that ease the development process. Most tech teams use either SASS or LESS. Make sure that the front-end framework you choose to use supports the CSS preprocessor you prefer.

Top front-end frameworks

There’s a wide variety of frameworks to choose from nowadays. These range from lean to robust, and popular to niche.

Here’s our pick of the top front-end frameworks in 2020.

Semantic-UI

Although Semantic-UI is relatively new, it’s a nimble and lightweight framework that’s growing in popularity among newbies. The best part about Semantic-UI is that it requires very little coding skill. It uses Natural Language, as a result of which the code is more-or-less self-explanatory. Secondly, it is integrated with a number of libraries, making the development process much easier and more streamlined. It also has versatile elements which make customization easier.
The flipside is that Semantic-UI has very large packages compared to Bootstrap and Foundation. Moreover, it’s not the best option in projects which are more complex in their design and functionality.

Materialize

Materialize is a front-end framework that incorporates Google’s material design specifications. Its major advantage is that it has a wide variety of components including icons, cards, forms, and ready-to-use buttons. It also has a ton of other exciting features like material design shadows, colors, typography, ripple-effect animation, SASS mixins, and drag-out mobile menus. It also has a version that runs on SASS so it’s great for teams that prefer this CSS preprocessor. On the other hand, Materialize has a very large file size which makes it a comparatively bloated framework to work with.

Pure

Pure is one of the nimblest and lightest front-end frameworks. It has a flexible array of CSS modules that can be used to create a number of features including menus, grids, tables, and responsive buttons. Its nimbleness makes it the perfect framework for those looking to design fast-loading, responsive mobile websites. The major drawback of this framework is that it’s purely CSS based; in other words, it doesn’t support any javascript or jQuery plug-ins.

Bootstrap

Bootstrap is one of the most robust and popular front-end frameworks out there. Developed for Twitter in 2011, it’s one of the most widely used open-source frameworks. Although it’s been around for a while, it gets updated constantly, which means it has themes that meet Google’s material design guidelines and adheres to responsive design standards. It also runs on the SASS CSS preprocessor. The only major drawback of Bootstrap is its bulkiness. It has a file size of 276 kB, largely due to a multitude of styles, most of which are rarely used. It also has too many DOM elements and HTML classes which can be unnecessarily confusing at times.
In an era where time-to-market is everything, most tech teams use frameworks to simplify and hasten website design and development. In addition to the well-established frameworks, there are new ones coming up every year. The one you ultimately go with depends mainly on the nature and goal of your project and the skill set of your front-end and full-stack developers.
Use the comment section below to let us know which front-end framework you’re currently using and why. If you’re struggling with front-end development and need some support, you can always reach out to our team of experts here at Santex.

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