February 22, 2022
NodeJS has undeniably gained huge popularity from when it was introduced in 2009. Year on year the demand for web applications has increased. Companies are increasingly choosing to build platform agnostic web applications to target a wider audience. Hence, picking the most reliable and robust framework is of utmost importance in web app development. A framework should be chosen on certain criteria such as
NodeJS is one such technology that fits all the above criteria. Many tech giants such as Microsoft, Netflix, Uber, Nasa, Medium use NodeJS to create and improve their web applications and apis. In this blog post, we will analyse each and every aspect of NodeJS and all of the top node.js frameworks and pros and cons of each.
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From NPM trends downloads of the past 5 years, it is evident that ExpressJS is witnessing an increasing adoption day by day. It is the one of the most popular node.js frameworks that is actively used in server side programming with more than 80% usage in 2020 (Source).
Other top node.js frameworks such as Next.JS, Fastify, Meteor have also seen a spike in interest. More and more developers are flocking to technologies that help them deliver quality products while minimizing development time. Thus, the rise of modern frameworks that take advantage of the NodeJS platform.
ExpressJS is widely considered as the best node js framework for web app development on the NodeJS platform. It provides a minimalistic interface along with many in-built tools for building applications.
Wide compatibility with NPM packages means that one would not need to write as much code to achieve the same functionality. Moreover, the fact that it is unopinionated allows developers to create web applications tailored to specific use cases with top class performance and utmost flexibility.
Companies such as Twitter, Slack, Intuit among many others use Express to improve their web applications. Express can be used to create everything from open-source to enterprise grade apps as it has tested features.
It is the de-facto node.js framework used for web applications with robust and responsive backend. Detailed documentation and community support can help everyone from hobbyists to teams of experts in getting started. Thus Express.JS is an excellent framework for app development.
NextJS is another popular Node.JS framework used for building dynamic web apps. Armed with features like Server Side Rendering(SSR) and Incremental Static Site Generation(SSG) , NextJS can significantly boost the performance of your existing project.
It has out-of-the-box support for SaaS and Typescript which helps keep the code clean and organised, thus reducing debugging efforts required.
Tiktok, Netflix, Hulu, Twitch, Nike are amongst the most popular users of NextJS. Even the most novice developers find it easy to get started as the framework is an open source alternative and extremely easy to use and navigate around.
Meter is a full stack Node.js framework that can be used to create both client and server side programs.
The fact it provides full stack reactivity means that by default the user interface is in sync with the rest of the business logic hence saving development time and efforts.
Companies like Pathable, Lemlist, Chatra use Meteor to deliver web and hybrid mobile apps. With Meter one could target both frontend and backend thus saving time.
Meter has all the characteristics of a versatile and flexible node.js framework. It allows developers to use a single codebase for web app and mobile app and also features real time updates which can be pushed over the air without modifying user sessions.
Koa is a lightweight Node.JS framework that provides a variety of features and toolsets to develop responsive and robust web and mobile applications.
It is also very similar to Express, so it is quite flexible without any extra features. It is highly modular so it can be used in an existing project. Created using ES6, it has an edge over others like Express.
Paralect, Pubu, Bulb, GAPO, Clovis are some of the companies using KoaJS. Koa can be used when mission critical performance is required in a web application.
It is lighter and faster than Express (in specific use cases). Enterprises can take advantage of Koa to build web apps that are robust and highly flexible.
NestJS is one of the top Node JS frameworks that is primarily used for creating server side applications that are robust, reliable, and efficient. Nest is modular so it can be used with any other libraries and versatile enough to adapt to existing server-side applications.
Documentation is quite detailed and filled with examples. Many tools and services are provided to model the framework around security and best practices. Support for websockets and microservices is cherry on top.
MNCs such as Adidas, Roche, Autodesk, Decathlon have built innovative solutions using NestJS.
With robust architecture and performance benefits of Express (or Fastify) which is used under the hood, NestJS is an excellent Node framework for building applications that are responsive, scalable and highly performant.
Hapi is an open source NodeJS framework used for building REST APIs. Support for HTTP proxy apps, scalable REST APIs, SQL and NoSQL DBs makes Hapi extremely versatile.
With built-in features like routing, caching and i/o validation Hapi is flexible enough to be used in just about every project that requires REST API and its related functionality.
Walmart is one of the many corporations that utilize hapiJS to develop custom web applications.
HapiJS is an excellent choice for building HTTP proxies, APIs and SPA backends.
SocketIO is a JS library that is used to build real time applications that instant communication between client and server.
Its event-driven nature and support for bi-directional communication helps developers build real time apps such as chat-apps, live analytics, document sharing and video-conferencing apps and many more. It utilizes websocket protocol under the hood with fallback options.
Companies like Alibaba, Patreon, Trello use Socket.IO to develop web applications that require real time communication.
Ideal use cases would be real time applications such as instant chat apps, live multiplayer games, video conferencing platforms. For example, in a chat application where real-time bidirectional data transfers are essential. Hence SocketIO is a popular open source framework for developing real time applications.
Fastify is a popular framework that provides a modular/plugin driven architecture along with one of the best developer experiences. It is one of the fastest frameworks arounds that is also extensible with hooks, plugins and Typescript ready.
It uses Pino Logger to keep logs and hence it is extremely convenient to track back to the errors and iron out the bugs.
Many companies use Fastify to build various products and services such as Microsoft, Genesys, Hotstar and many more.
Fastify should be used in projects where high performance is the utmost priority. It handles server resources in a more efficient manner than express. The framework allows developers to code high performance web applications and rest api effortlessly.
Gatsby is a framework that is extensively used to create websites with a lot of static content.
The framework is mainly focused on frontend, hence it stands out from the rest of the alternatives mentioned here. Since it builds the sites (essentially compiles) the performance is very fast and fluid.
Snapchat, Tinder, Clubhouse and many more companies use Gatsby to create web apps.
The framework is highly versatile and flexible, hence it can be used to create just about anything from Saas products, e-commerce stores, to company landing pages, blogs, data visualization apps, and interactive surveys.
Nuxt is an open source framework that amalgamates the benefits of VueJS reactive component model with Server Side Rendered Apps.
It has an out-of-the-box feel like Angular/Ember with configuration, libraries and directory structures being very similar. Great SEO support, automatic code-splitting and fast startup are just some of the many features.
Upwork, Builder, Strapi (read more about Strapi in the bonus section below) use NuxtJS to build their products and services.
Nuxt takes full advantage of node.js platform. It can be used to create web applications and mobile applications that combine the advantages of Single Page Applications (SPAs) and static sites. Thus businesses that depend upon SEO can easily benefit from this framework.
When it comes to the best frameworks for web app development NuxtJS is our top choice to use in 2021.
Content Management System or CMS for short, is a piece of software that aids the user in creating, modifying and managing the content on a website without any technical know-how. One could build a fully functional website without any code.
From simple blogs to complicated ecommerce sites and everything in between can be easily made by using a CMS. There are many different types of CMS. Some are free while others are paid, some are open-source while others aren’t. Advantages of using a Node based CMS include but aren’t limited to:
Thus, it is evident that CMS are just as powerful as full fledged frameworks. So, here are our top NodeJS CMS recommendations
Strapi is the most popular and a leading headless CMS. It provides developers with flexibility to use various tools and services while providing writers and designers with easy access to their content.
Strapi allows one to design and develop backend and database models from GUI entirely. Intuitive and user-friendly interfaces help fill the gap of missing “frontend” (hence the headless part).
Many companies such as IBM, ASOS and Discovery Channel use Strapi to create and distribute content on their blogs, editorials, websites and mobile applications.
Strapi can be used to create blogs, web backend, services without any prior knowledge about programming.
Ghost is another popular CMS which primarily focuses on blogging. The design of Ghost is oriented more towards a platform rather than a CMS. It allows anyone to create a custom blog network/platform with built-in features like themes, sign up forms, analytics, creator tools, subscriptions and payment integrations.
While the open sourced version (MIT License) is free, it is missing some features that are reserved for pro version which is under subscription model
OpenAI, Buffer, Square, FreeCodeCamp are some of the many organizations that use Ghost to build and manage their blog networks and internal sites.
Since Ghost is focused on blogging only, the blogs created using Ghost tend to have better functionality. Use Ghost if you plan to focus on Blogs ONLY.
Keystone is another popular headless CMS. It is built upon the modern framework ExpressJS and has session management, email templating, Admin interface, form processing and multiple other features.
It is a very lightweight and flexible CMS. It is also easily extensible. One can develop or use existing functionality without losing any performance.
KeystoneJS can be utilized for creating an array of different web apps, e-commerce projects, forums, web services etc.
It has a highly extensible architecture so it is easy to develop a feature for it which doesn’t already exist.
Both CMSs and frameworks have their dedicated use cases. Often is the case when a CMS is itself internally utilizing a framework to interact with low level functions. This is NOT to say that framework is superior.
Before deciding whether to choose one or the other one should consider multiple aspects of the project such as:
I hope you find my list of Node.JS frameworks useful. Do not hesitate to delve deep into one and get your hands dirty. It will help you gain deeper insights of how top Node.JS frameworks function and pick an optimal solution. There is no one framework rules all. It is an always evolving picture. So make sure to adapt to it.
After reading the bonus content you may have gotten a clear idea on whether to pick a framework or a CMS depending on the use case. Deciding the best node js framework or best node js CMS out of all is not an intuitive task and neither does it add value to the debate.
I hope that this article provided you with a deeper insight into the top node js frameworks and helped you make an informed choice.