The Rise and Fall of Web Frameworks

The Rise and Fall of Web Frameworks

Web frameworks speed up and simplify the web development process by providing developers with a set of high-level APIs that allow abstract access to underlying system resources and other low-level functionalities. In this article, we look at how web frameworks have risen or declined in popularity, and we explore the profiles and technology use of the developers who use them.

The big picture of web usage framework

Born out of the necessity to provide consistent web experiences, frameworks revolutionised how web developers create our online world. With standardised approaches to development and framework-specific communities available for support, they are still a popular choice amongst web developers. According to our survey data, 60% of web developers use either client-side or server-side frameworks.

Indeed, web frameworks often present a time-saving option for web developers to do their jobs in simple and efficient ways. When turnaround times are tight, developing a website or a web app from the ground up may not necessarily be the best option, particularly when working with demanding clients. Indeed, when we look at deployment frequency, lead time, and time to restore service, framework users are likelier to be at the elite efficiency level. 12% of web developers who use frameworks deploy their code on demand, 8% have a lead time of less than an hour, and 51%take less than a day to restore service. For web developers who don’t use frameworks, 9% deploy their code on demand,5% have a lead time of less than an hour, and 43% take less than a day to restore service.

“Web developers using frameworks are more likely to deploy code on demand, have smaller lead times, and are quicker to restore service”

However, there are disadvantages to using frameworks. For example, it is unlikely that one framework will provide everything a web developer needs, just as it is unlikely that a web developer will use everything that a framework or a library has to offer. The proliferation of different frameworks with different standards and guidelines only further muddies these waters. In this case, it may be easier to stick to one or two frameworks and supplement their use with custom code rather than creating a bloated working environment.

Indeed, that’s what our data shows–the share of web developers using three or more frameworks is gradually dropping. Now, the average number of frameworks used is approximately the same for developers of all experience levels, around 3.2. However, usage habits change depending on specific years of experience–and may give an indication of what’s in store for the future of web development.

For example, those with less than five years of experience are more likely to use one framework (22%) than those with six years or more (17%). While age is not necessarily correlated with experience, we see a similar trend for those aged 24 and under(22% use one framework) compared to those 45 and above(17%).

We can take a look at specific frameworks to see who is using what. React is by far the most popular client-side library, as it is used by 58% of web developers who use client-side web frameworks. React’s stable popularity as a library is contrasted by jQuery’s decline, which has experienced a 13 percentage point drop in usage in the past 12 months. Comparing the two, React is perhaps more capable of handling the modern web development environment–it’s faster, has a larger library of npm packages and is efficient at creating larger web applications.

Who are the developers using jQuery?

Looking closely, we find that those with more than 11 years of web development experience are nine percentage points more likely to use jQuery than those with less than ten years (49% vs 40%). Similarly, these seasoned web developers are less likely to use React(52%) compared to their peers (58%). As jQuery was created nearly a decade before React, it makes sense that those with more web development experience are sticking to what they know.

“Experienced developers are more likely to use jQuery and less likely to use React than their peers”

What about server-side frameworks?Next.js and Spring have been on the rise in the past 12 months.Next.js’ and their popularity is likely linked with React–after all, Next.js is a framework built upon React. Infact, 86% of those who use Next.js also use React; for comparison, only 45% use jQuery. As for Spring–a Java-based framework–itsincrease in usage may be explained by a similar increase in Java use amongst web developers–8 percentage points in the past 12 months (27% vs 19%).

A frameworks user mindset

What does framework use mean for the technology use of web developers? If a web developer is forced to configure or write an application in a particular way, it may narrow their skillset as it forms a reliance on a particular architecture. When we look at the web developer population, it seems that those who use frameworks are actually more likely to be self-driven, have technical skills, or use web technologies when compared to those that don’t use frameworks.

Framework users are more likely to have learnt how to code through self-education (66% vs 55%) and are more likely to manually download packages from npm(45% vs 36%). Similarly, they are more likely to use each of the top-ten web development technologies listed in our survey.

“Web developers who use frameworks are much more likely to have learnt to code through self-education”

Of these technologies, continuous integration/deployment (CI/CD)services are particularly worth mentioning–framework users are more than twice as likely to use these compared to non-framework users. As we’ve previously highlighted, framework users are more efficient when it comes to code deployment. However, framework users that also use CI/CD tools are 5 percentage points more likely to deploy on demand (15%) than framework users who don’t use CI/CD tools (10%).

Finally, while the share of web developers who use low-code or no-code tools has increased by 9 percentage points in the past six months (54%)–for framework users this share is 40%. This corresponds to an increase of only 5 percentage points in the same timeframe. In other words, those who are using frameworks are more likely to rely on old-fashioned coding by hand and have the skills to do so.

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