In today’s design-driven world, your user interface can make or break your product. A smooth, intuitive experience will help your company attract customers and talent, while a buggy experience can send potential clients running to your competitors. Choosing the right technology to power the front end can be one of the most important business decisions you make and making an informed choice can give your product a much greater chance of success — but it can be challenging to take stock of what’s out there, particularly in a rapidly changing technological landscape.
We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of Angular vs. React to help you get the conversation started with your development team. In general, Angular and React offer comparable performance and similar capabilities, so the choice is not so much which is better overall, as which is the best fit for your project.
The Angular framework, on the other hand, comes fully packaged, with all the necessary components for developing complex web applications. Still, comparing React and Angular is not exactly like apples to oranges.
While it may seem like Angular is the more established technology, in fact, the opposite is true. React was created by a Facebook employee in 2011 to power the site’s newsfeed and became open source in 2013. Angular 2 — a complete rewrite of Angular.JS by a Google team — was released in beta in 2015 with the final version following in 2016.
That said, both have been adopted by big-name companies. Netflix, Dropbox, and Airbnb all built utilizing React, while PayPal, HBO, and Nike built their websites built on Angular. It’s clear there is broad acceptance of both Angular and React by large, reputable businesses for delivering complex, innovative, and delightful experiences to their user bases.
According to the benchmark, the two code bases are pretty much neck and neck, with React slightly outperforming Angular in startup and memory allocation tests. React gets this little edge due to working with a virtual DOM (Document Object Model — an abstraction of a page’s HTML structure), unlike Angular, which uses a direct DOM rendering system. A virtual DOM provides a performance boost by allowing a web application to refresh only those parts of an HTML element that have been updated by the server, without re-rendering the whole element. For instance, this is how new comments appear under a post in Facebook’s newsfeed without re-rendering the post itself.
Angular, in turn, outperforms React when it comes to manipulating rows in tables (see “partial updates” in the figure above), which means it can refresh pages overloaded with tables faster. Regardless, the difference counts in milliseconds and varies in favor of one or another each time there is a major release of a new version of Angular or React.
Angular and React belong to different development paradigms: object-oriented and functional programming respectively. These modalities affect the underlying building blocks, tools, and principles for developing in both frameworks, such as data binding methods, DOM manipulations, architecture, rendering, and so on.
That said, both frameworks utilize a component-based architecture that organizes individual view elements of a web page into independent components. For example, in the online version of Gmail, the list of emails, a window for composing a new message, and a chat with one of your contacts are all separate components. The component-based architecture of the Gmail web app allows these individual views to be updated independently without the need to alter the whole UI.
The two-way data binding that comes out of the box with Angular results in a more structured architecture and less boilerplate code compared to one-way data binding in React, where developers need to rely on additional libraries like Redux to reduce the number of callbacks. On the other hand, both frameworks support server- and client-side rendering.
Here’s a comparison table that sums up the under-the-hood factors of both front-end tools:
Companies researching the React-vs-Angular subject are most often concerned with their long-term business goals. You’re looking for a stable and mature technology that also offers plenty of support for your developers. And on the flip side, you want to be able to find developers well-versed in the framework and code base who are ready to be plugged into your projects.
Both React and Angular have been on the market for some time already. Angular is used by most of Google’s projects, along with some of Microsoft’s, Barnes & Noble’s, and Citibank’s web portals while React is used by such respected tech companies like Amazon and Instagram. Clearly, both front end frameworks are here to stay for a long time and both are available as open source under the MIT license.
If we turn to the most trafficked developer community websites like GitHub, we’ll find that both React and Angular are quite popular with front end developers. Angular has been “starred” by developers more than 40,000 times while React has over 111,000. At the same time, Angular has more questions and followers on Stack Overflow.
Here’s how React and Angular stack up in the Stack Overflow 2018 Developer Survey, which features answers from over 100,000 developers:
As we can see from the survey, both React and Angular have made it to the top five most wanted frameworks. About 21% of all interviewed developers expressed interest in developing with React while 14% are eager to try out Angular, probably due to the steeper learning curve with Angular.
And beyond interest, both also offer extensive talent pools. Indeed.com lists around 1,300 developer CVs with Angular in job title and 700 with React in the U.S. alone. Glassdoor offers results in the same range.
However, if we check developers’ activity at downloading npm packages (aka reusable code blocks) for both frameworks, React seems to dominate. It should be noted that Angular caches npm downloads for companies, and these downloads won’t show up in charts like the one from npmtrends.com below:
One thing worth noting is that, even though React seems to be more popular among developers, the talent pool for Angular is almost twice as large in the U.S. The Angular framework also takes better care of developers by providing all necessary components (including npm packages) right out of the gate. React, on the other hand, is easier to pick up and more front end developers are willing to give it a try.
So how do large companies choose between flexible and opinionated? Disney Technology Studio favors Angular over React specifically because it’s such a particular and well-supported framework. On the other hand, Netflix, another tech-savvy company has shown the advantage of working with React — by removing the client-side portion of React from its landing page. The fact that a company like Netflix was able to seamlessly remove React from the landing page without rehashing the whole back-end testifies to the flexibility of the framework.
As you can see, it’s hard to pick an outright winner between React and Angular. Each offers pros and cons, and comparable performance too. It’s only when you take your business’ goals, your team’s capabilities, and your project’s needs into account that you can tip the scales towards one technology over another. At DOOR3, we take a holistic view of your needs and take all these factors and more into account before making the choice of the best underlying tech stack.
In general, you can look to the following factors when it comes to choosing a front end technology.
Angular is great when:
You plan a large, enterprise-grade web project that will last for years, and you need an opinionated framework for everyone on the team to follow.
Your developers have a substantial background in Java or C# development.
You favor object-oriented programming (OOP).
React is great when:
You have a project with a flexible scope and you are comfortable with choosing between hundreds of available third-party libraries and packages to create a unique combination.
You favor functional programming (FP).
DOOR3 has a proven track record of deploying both React- and Angular-based web solutions. We’ll be happy to review your business needs and help you find the best front end framework to help your company succeed.
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