This article is based on original research conducted in 2023 to determine the most popular backend frameworks based on GitHub repository results.
From the perspective of the end user, a software application is one cohesive thing. But from the perspective of the software developer, a software app or website consists of many moving parts. While end users interact with the user interface (UI) on the frontend, also known as the “client-side”, modern software applications must provide robust, secure, and useful functionality on the back-end, also known as the “server-side.”
Choosing the appropriate backend frameworks to learn and use can help ensure the performance, scalability, and future viability of your projects. This article will review the best backend frameworks to help you make an informed decision.
Table of Contents
- What Are Backend Frameworks?
- What are the benefits of using backend frameworks?
- What are the Best Backend Frameworks?
What Are Backend Frameworks?
Backend frameworks are the technologies used alongside backend programming languages that create the logic and functionality behind a software application. While not visible to the end user, backend frameworks support the behind-the-scenes magic that makes an application work as desired. Also referred to as “server-side frameworks,” backend frameworks help control what your app or website does, and how it does it.
On the flipside, the frontend, or client-side, refers to what users see when they use a software app or website. Everything visible to the user, from the layout of the controls, the colors and animations, and the responsiveness of a software app is controlled by frontend programming languages and technologies.
What are the Benefits of using Backend Frameworks?
Backend frameworks provide ready-to-use tools, standards and templates for fast application development, with capabilities such as:
- Manage user authentication and authorization
- Collect, retrieve, organize, store and analyze data
- Deliver pages, views, and data to frontend applications to present to the user
- Manage application states such as shopping carts
- Securely process payments
- Safely manage user data
- Support multiple software applications, like a mobile application and a desktop website
- Interact with any number of other 3rd party applications and REST APIs
What are the Best Backend Frameworks?
Often, the choice of the best backend framework to learn or use hinges on which programming language is being used, since the frameworks are written in their respective backend language. In order to determine the best backend framework, it’s helpful to understand which framework is most used by developers today.
Below is a list of the most popular backend frameworks based on the number of GitHub repositories containing that framework.
Spring Programming Language
Spring GitHub Repository Results
What is Spring Framework?
The Spring Framework helps Java developers quickly develop complex, dynamic web applications. Spring is often referred to as a “framework of frameworks.” This is due to the varying Spring modules that you can pick and choose to use, such as Spring Web, Spring Security, Spring Data, Spring Cache, and so on.
Part of the framework, Spring Boot, makes stand-alone web applications and microservices far more efficient to code by minimizing time spent on boilerplate code and configurations. Spring Boot also supports many different Java Virtuation Machine (JVM) technologies, such as Kotlin, Groovy, and Scala.
Spring Boot is considered an “opinionated” framework, meaning that it favors certain design patterns in order to make development within those patterns more efficient. In other words, Spring Boot decides the configuration defaults and the packages to install based on the dependencies you include in your project requirement. This can save time and headaches in development.
Spring Framework Features
- Provides components to interact with your databases in a simple and powerful manner.
- Enables fast and secure authentication and authorization functionality, messaging services, templating engines, testing harnesses, and connects to various cloud services seamlessly.
- Spring’s Inversion of Control (IoC) container manages Dependency Injection (DI), allowing you to delegate the responsibility of creating and managing many aspects of your application to Spring.
Benefits of Spring Framework
- Spring is the most popular backend framework by a long-shot, with twice as many GitHub repository results than the #2 most popular backend framework – Django. As Java is consistently one of the most in-demand programming languages worldwide, using Spring means you’ll have a strong community of developers around you, and plenty of job opportunities.
- Spring makes building professional-grade Java applications smooth and easy, and makes your applications much more efficient.
- Spring allows you to spend less time configuring the framework, and more time working on your application.
- Spring efficiently handles tedious tasks like authentication, database management, aspect-oriented programming, interacting with cloud services, and much more.
Learn More: Interested in learning Java + Spring? Check out our Professional Java Career Track.
Django Programming Language
Django GitHub Repository Results
What is Django?
Django is a high-level web framework that enables efficient development of fast, secure web applications in Python. Django uses a paradigm called model-view-template (MVT), which is a variation on the standard model-view-controller (MVC) pattern. Django’s MVT paradigm helps you keep your code logically organized into layers. The Django framework handles many of the controller aspects of the model, leaving the specification of data view and presentation templates to you.
Django is a batteries-included framework, meaning it includes most libraries and tools needed to build common web applications out of the box. Django’s philosophy is to manage the data model in one location, namely your models.py file. Once the database is created and a connection established, everything should be done in Django, including schema updates and data migration, to avoid conflicts later.
Django contains all the functionality you need to:
- Manage databases, including updating schemas.
- Handle user authentication.
- Render HTML templates.
- Administer your application through Django’s fully automated admin interface.
- Write and execute tests.
- Connect to many different databases out of the box, including SQLite, MySQL, PostGres, and Oracle.
Benefits of Django
- Django helps enforce programming best practices, and allows devs to work completely within the framework which can be helpful for junior developers.
- Because Python takes the #1 spot as the most in-demand programming language, Django has a strong community of passionate developers that can be a resource while building your project.
- If you are working with relational data, and prefer an all-in-one framework with a trusted built-in ORM, Django is ideal for your project.
- The batteries-included philosophy means you can get started with Django, and expand your application later without needing to add to the framework. You also don’t have to worry about compatibility issues with other libraries.
Learn More: Interested in learning Python + Django? Check out our Python Web Development Career Track.
Laravel Programming Language
Laravel GitHub Repository Results
What is Laravel?
Laravel is a cross-platform PHP framework that helps streamline the development of web applications using the model–view–controller (MVC) architectural pattern. One of the original server-side web scripting languages, PHP has been around almost as long as the web, and Laravel is built atop PHP. While PHP no longer tops the list of the most in-demand programming languages, it persists based on legacy code, as it is used in nearly 80% of all websites
- Laravel provides many features including user authentication, API routing, HTML templating, database access, and security.
- Laravel is a progressive framework, which means you can start with simple routes to individual RESTful URLs, and build up to a fully scalable data-driven application using the same tools.
- Cross-site request forgery protection is provided automatically through session tokens, and user authentication and authorization is handled using a gate and policy approach. Data encryption is provided as part of the framework as well.
Benefits of Laravel
- PHP has been around almost as long as the web has, so Laravel allows you to leverage that knowledge and community support base.
- Modern web application features are built-in, so you can focus on more coding rather than configuration.
- Installing Laravel is made easy with Sail, a Docker based installation that you can customize.
Flask Programming Language
Flask GitHub Repository Results
What is Flask?
Flask is a simple, lightweight, and modular Python web framework that enables the developer to utilize third-party tools and libraries only as needed. While Django utilizes a “batteries included” approach, Flask keeps the core of a web application simple and extensible.
Installing Flask is quick and easy, and it brings all the required dependencies upon install. These include:
- Jinja, an HTML templating module.
- MarkupSafe, which escapes untrusted input to prevent injection attacks.
- Werkzeug, a WSGI layer for Python to allow client-server communication.
- ItsDangerous, which provides secure data signing capabilities.
- Click, which provides a command line interface to manage Flask.
- Flask also includes several dependencies for communication between the frontend and backend, HTML templates, and data security.
Flask also has numerous extensions you can add to provide more functionality if you need it:
- Flask-SQLAlchemy enables SQL database connections using the familiar SQLAlchemy library.
- Flask-WTF provides HTML form rendering and validation with WTForms.
- Bootstrap-Flask, which provides helpful Jinja macros for HTML templates.
Benefits of Flask
- If you want a lightweight, compact codebase, Flask keeps it simple and helps reduce your project size.
- If you prefer to use a non-relational database such as mongoDB, or a third-party ORM, then Flask is easier to configure and customize.
- While Flask is a smaller and lighter framework than Django, you can extend it as needed to provide all the capabilities you need.
- Flask works well with existing Python frameworks for data access and security, meaning you can use familiar tools to get the job done.
- By allowing you to choose the exact tools you want to use, Flask makes it easy to develop completely new or custom features.
Learn More: Interested in learning Python + Flask? Check out our Python Web Development Career Track.
5. Ruby on Rails
Ruby on Rails Programming Language
Ruby on Rails GitHub Repository Results
What is Ruby on Rails?
Ruby on Rails is a web framework that enables Ruby developers to quickly build robust web applications with relative ease. Also referred to as “Rails,” Ruby on Rails uses the MVC paradigm, and provides default structures for a database, a web service, and web pages.
Ruby on Rails Features
- Ruby on Rails uses rich objects to encapsulate data and business logic, making data modeling easy.
- Action Controllers handle all requests, process incoming parameters, set caching headers, and render templates.
- Ruby on Rails comes with a unit testing setup called RSpec, which is considered easy to learn and use.
- Ruby on Rails includes libraries to allow for automated deployment, so you can spend less effort and time on deployment and updates.
Benefits / Pitfalls of Ruby on Rails
- Ruby is considered an easy language to learn, so Rails can be an easy framework to learn for beginners.
- Ruby on Rails includes tools that make common development tasks easier, so it is ideal for prototyping.
- However, Ruby performs slower than languages like Java or Python and their respective frameworks Spring, Django and Flask. As companies scale, they tend to migrate to systems that run on higher performing languages.
Express.js Programming Language
Express.js GitHub Repository Results
What is Express.js?
Express.js is a minimal framework for building fast responsive web applications, mobile applications and APIs. Express runs on top of the Node.js environment, and makes creating Node.js applications more efficient. Express.js is an unopinionated framework, which allows developers to structure their code to their personal preference instead of forcing a pre-defined code structure.
- Express.js provides templating engines that help build dynamic content on the server through HTML templates.
- Express.js has a built-in debugging mechanism that can quickly find bugs within the application to reduce debugging time.
- The Express.js documentation contains numerous examples for more advanced features, and new dependencies can be added at any time.
- Express.js is highly customizable, and saves a lot of time in developing backend applications.
Next.js Programming Language
Next.js GitHub Repository Results
What is Next.js?
Next.js is a framework that allows for fast and efficient development of static website using React.js. Next.js is considered a minimalistic framework, while still containing all the necessary features to create a high performing application in React.
- Next.js provides building blocks to create static and dynamic websites and web applications.
- Next.js provides additional structure, features, and optimizations for React applications, such as routing, data fetching, and integrations.
- Next.js allows developers to choose from two forms of pre-rendering: Static Generation and Server-side Rendering, which allow Next.js to generate HTML for a page in advance.
- Next.js’ advanced pre-rendering capabilities enable better site performance, which helps search rankings and SEO.
- Because of its minimalistic nature and out-of-the box components, Next.js is great for efficiently creating a minimal viable product (MVP).
- Next is one of the most popular React frameworks for creating server-side rendering web apps, and therefore has a strong support community around it.
8. ASP.NET Core
ASP.NET Core Programming Language
ASP.NET Core GitHub Repository Results
What is ASP.NET Core?
ASP.NET Core is a framework developed by Microsoft for creating applications using .NET. It is the next generation and replacement for the Windows-only versions of its predecessor ASP.NET. ASP.NET Core is an open-source, cross-platform framework that runs on macOS, Linux, and Windows.
ASP.NET Core Features
- Continuous compiling
- A cloud-ready environment-based configuration system
- A light-weight and modular HTTP request pipeline
Benefits of ASP.NET Core
- ASP.NET Core is hyper-focused on performance, and runs faster than other web frameworks like Node.js.
- The ASP.NET Core framework supports side-by-side versioning, so that various apps running different versions of ASP.NET Core can coexist on a single server.
NestJS Programming Language
NestJS GitHub Repository Results
What is NestJS?
- Creating the basic project structure of a NestJS application is done using the Nest CLI. From here, you can add controllers which manage incoming requests and outgoing responses with the client side, and providers which handle tasks like data access, input validation, and configuration.
- Due to NestJS’s built-in structure, developers must follow a specific manner when writing the controller, service, and repository.
- Because of NestJS’ various out-of-the-box functionalities and APIs, developers can spend less time writing code by leveraging NestJS’ built-in features.
- NestJS is more than just a framework. It’s an entire development kit for building server-side applications using TypeScript and Node.
- NestJS has a modular architecture that allows the flexibility to use the libraries of your choosing
- NestJS is considered versatile and adaptable, allowing you to build a variety of backend applications
Meteor.js Programming Language
Meteor.js GitHub Repository Results
What is Meteor.js?
- Meteor comes with several out-of-the-box features, including reactive templates, automatic CSS, JS minification and hot code reload.
- Meteor provides all the tools necessary for the application development life cycle – from setup and configuration to API and deployment.
- Meteor’s code is simple, efficient, and flexible, which saves time and is ideal for prototyping.
- Because of its cross-platform capabilities, developers can use the same code across web, iOS, Android, and desktop, and makes updating your app very efficient.
- Meteor can easily be integrated with hundreds of other extensions maintained by the Meteor community.
Cake PHP Programming Language
CakePHP GitHub Repository Results
What is CakePHP?
Another PHP-based framework, CakePHP stresses conventions over configuration. Using an opinionated model-view-controller (MVC) paradigm, CakePHP applications require very little configuration to get started, while still providing the same data and security features as Laravel.
- Installing CakePHP requires the Composer, the dependency management tool for PHP. You use it to create the basic CakePHP project structure, which also installs necessary dependencies.
- You define your models to access data from various sources, then controllers to access that data.
- Views are HTML templates which call the controllers to read, create, and update data.
- Smaller than Laravel, CakePHP is great for small to medium sized applications where maintainability is a key factor.
- Cake’s opinionated nature gets you started quickly with a minimum of configuration needed.
Recap: What are the most popular backend frameworks?
The choice of a good backend framework can make all the difference when creating a robust, secure, and scalable app or website. Backend frameworks are a critical component of every full-scale backend development project. If you’re planning to learn a backend programming language, plan to learn a backend framework as well.
Below is a recap of the best backend frameworks discussed in this article, based on GitHub repository results.
- Spring is the de-facto backend framework for Java developers. Its opinionated approach gets you coding quickly without a lot of configuration, while also handling the tedious aspects of authentication and security. With Java’s popularity and community, Spring is a popular choice for backend development.
- Django is based on Python, with a batteries-included philosophy. Once installed, you can do everything in Django, from updating database schemas to administering your application. For beginners to coding, Django helps reinforce coding best practices.
- Laravel is based on PHP, and automates many key web application tasks, such as user authentication and security.
- Flask is a lighter-weight option for Python developers, allowing you to start smaller and build up to larger apps. It features a rich ecosystem of extensions which add key functionality when you need it. For experienced developers, Flask gives you the freedom to choose the libraries you prefer to use.
- Express.js is a minimal framework which gets your apps up and running quickly.
- Ruby on Rails is easy to learn and great for prototyping, but not the best for large scale applications.
- Next.js provides building blocks to create static and dynamic web applications for React applications.
- ASP.NET Core is the framework for .NET applications. It boasts fast performance and side-by-side versioning, and is the ideal choice for .NET developers.
- NestJS adds TypeScript support, and supports separating request handling from data processing.
- Meteor.js adds capabilities to build for iOS and Android.
- CakePHP is another PHP option, which is lighter than Laravel, and emphasizes minimal configuration.
Written by Jon Fincher and Kim Desmond, CodingNomads
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