The JS Wars: Angular vs. React
Sean McGowanApril 26th, 20183 minute read
Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest innovations in app design, Sean can be found cooking, watching old movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.
Okay, maybe not. Picking the correct framework may not be a particularly glamorous or exciting decision (unless you’re as obsessed with software development as we are), but that doesn’t make it any less important for burgeoning startups or enterprise companies. It doesn’t matter if you’re Fortune 100 or Fortune Working Out Of Your Garage, the JS framework in your tech stack can make or break your application.
How you ask? Well, choosing the wrong one can mean more workarounds in development, longer coding cycles, more difficult code maintenance, and poor scalability. And all of these unfortunate side effects of a mismatched framework add up to an inefficient SDLC and, ultimately, a shoddy product.
Framework vs. Library
The first industry secret I’ll be divulging: ReactJS isn’t really a framework. Surprise!
It’s actually an open-source library, which serves as both a boon and a bane if you’re considering React for your tech stack. The calling card of libraries is their flexibility, and React is no different. It can be easily paired with all sorts of compatible packages, which is helpful if your tech stack is shaping up to be particularly diverse.
The drawback here is that you don’t have a complete MVC framework, unlike Angular. Angular offers much more concrete guidance into how your application should be structured and comes with more functionality right off the shelf. In other words, what it lacks in React’s flexibility and malleability it makes up for in being the total package. Take it out of the box and get working, with no assembly required.
Angular’s detractors often cite the framework’s unforgiving learning curve and unnecessary complexity, and while this does hold some truth, Angular has been improving in the clarity and usefulness of its documentation.
React, on the other hand, offers much more simplicity—which typically means faster developing and easier troubleshooting. Debugging in React is considerably easier than debugging in Angular—rarely do the QS engineers have to go under the hood to the library’s source code to find the error.
Of course, when you hire an experienced web development agency like Codal, you won’t have to worry about this. When your engineers are well-versed in both frameworks, the learning curve becomes a bit of a moot point.
There are several other differences between Angular and React—how they render, their packaging, their toolchain—but of all of these features, the key separator is the differences in their data binding.
Databinding is the synchronization of provider and consumer data so that a change on one end is reflected by the elements bound to it. There are two flavors of data binding: unidirectional (you can only change one end) and bidirectional (changing either end affects the other).
As you can imagine, bidirectional data binding (found in Angular, but not React), is much more useful to developers. It’s much less cumbersome to make minor data changes and does away with the work needed to sync data in view and model.
You’ve probably guessed by now that the question ‘Which is better, React or Angular?’ doesn’t have an answer any more concrete than ‘it depends’. If it did, this article would have been much shorter and I’d probably be writing about eCommerce web design or UI design services instead.