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Frameworks Software Support Architecture Community
Sep 25th, 2020 - Joan Ruiz

Established or Indie Frameworks?

Introduction

In today’s software ecosystem, there are around 25 established Javascript frameworks and near countless libraries. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either amazing, or a bit silly, that you can work with one programming language in so many different ways.

Some of these frameworks and libraries are smaller projects, written and deployed by small teams or even lone developers. Others have major influence in the space, and are backed by powerful corporations. The scale of each project can have a real impact on performance, and quality of life for the developers who use it.

Programmers, of course, have to decide what paradigm they’ll adopt and then use to develop webpages and applications. So is it better to choose a bigger, more established framework? Or a smaller, niche one? In this article, we’ll outline a few of the advantages to each.

We primarily use ruby on rails as our core web application framework, but we’re constantly re-evaluating our technology stack, to make the best decisions for the products we create.

Established Frameworks: Easier Collaboration

Imagine working on a project with five people who speak five different languages. You know English, but the developer next to you speaks only Spanish, the guy across only Korean, and so on. You’d have a hard time getting anything done at that table.

By the same token, developers need to share an understanding in order to work on the same products. This is especially important for companies with big teams. Companies are constantly hiring developers, and new hires will need to get up to speed on what’s been done before them. Training a new hire on a framework they’ve never worked with before is an added barrier, with unnecessary cost. Therefore, any marginal benefits of using a less-widely-known framework are offset by the time and investment necessary for training.

For the individual developer, this is equally important. Say you’re coming out of college, looking to make something of yourself in the tech industry. You might stand out by learning a framework that most developers don’t know, and might be good for some specific project you’re thinking of working on in your spare time. But that skill will be less marketable than, say, if you’d learned React instead.

Indie Frameworks: Better-Suited to Specific Use Cases

Ultimately, the reason why any framework exists is because others didn’t suffice in one area or another. As with any market, it takes an innovator to identify a hole in the market, and provide a solution that others might gain value from.

Take, as an example, a Javascript framework called Svelte. Where other Javascript frameworks do most of their work on the browser level, Svelte does most of what it does in the compiler. In doing so, it’s able to be in some respects more reactive, more dynamic with UI elements than the existing frameworks on the market. It’s not better than those other frameworks overall, but what it does well it does better than any other solution out there.

Established: Community Support

There are great resources online for learning a popular library like jQuery. That isn’t always true of its less popular counterparts. It’s why most of the developers who know those newer, lesser-known frameworks are experienced--they’ve already worked with the industry-standard tools, they’re embedded in the community and adept at picking up new languages and approaches to coding.

Newer developers will have a harder time picking up those skills. You just won’t find the same online bootcamps, the same Stack Overflow threads dedicated to an unpopular framework as you will a popular one.

Indie: Community Support

What niche frameworks give up in popularity, they make up for in tight-knit communities. The developers supporting an indie framework will, naturally, be closer to the developers they serve--more available to answer questions, and engage with feedback. You can’t exactly call up Facebook on the phone, but you could probably get the creator of a lesser framework to reply if you write them a polite note.

Established: More Reliable Quality

Most of the clothes you buy, the food you eat, the shows you watch are made by established, well-regarded companies. You shop, eat, and watch those things because there’s a certain quality standard associated with those companies’ work. H&M, Shake Shack and NBC would be out of business if they didn’t output consistently high quality product.

React, from Facebook, and Angular, from Google, are of very high quality. It’s not impossible that a small team or single developer could build a framework better than React or Angular, but it’s unlikely. After all, Facebook and Google are the most successful internet companies in the world, employing thousands of the world’s most talented developers. With those kinds of resources at their disposal, they can code better than you can, design better than you can, probably wipe your own rear end better than you can.

Established frameworks, supported by successful companies, are a near-guarantee of quality. You just can’t get that anywhere else.

Conclusion

Different developers, working on different kinds of projects, will require different solutions. A lone developer, trying to build something really new and interesting, might find unique benefits in indie frameworks that support smaller, idiosyncratic communities. Companies, teams, and junior programmers will almost always be better off--both logistically and financially--for using established, reliable, quality-assured solutions.

For more information on what kinds of tools we use to build custom software solutions for businesses, drop us a line.

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