Target Audience:

This article assumes only a basic familiarity with front-end web development and serves as an introduction to JavaScript in modern web development.

Introduction

Javascript code


Photo: Dmitry Baranovskiy / licensed under CC BY 2.0

The web is evolving. Websites, and more specifically, web design paradigms are changing constantly, and front-end developers must be aware of the latest trends in development to create the best projects. The tried and true languages of the web have been HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for nearly two decades. That still holds true today. How these languages are implemented has changed signficiantly, though, and none more so than JavaScript. JavaScript is seen the most today via web browsers, where client-side scripts interact with users.

Modern websites and web apps rarely, if ever, utilize pure Javascript. Rather, developers have created new frameworks with JavaScript that speed up development, improve functionality, and allow for the creation of agile, modern web apps. This article serves as an introductory overview of the concept of frameworks.

JavaScript Frameworks vs. Libraries

Understanding JavaScript frameworks necessitates an understanding of JavaScript libraries and the differences between the two. Often, the terms are used interchangeably, but each has its own particular role to play despite some overlap that may occur. A library is a set of pre-written code that acts as a toolkit for a developer. For example, jQuery–which aids in handling events or creating animations, among many other benefits–is one of the most used JavaScript libraries. Libraries, while useful, do not impose any structure onto a developer’s code. Frameworks, in contrast, impose structure and what this structure actually does will be discussed in the next section.

JavaScript frameworks are tools designed to speed up development and organize code used to build modern web apps. They exist to solve problems more directly rather than providing an open set of tools like most libraries do. The earliest frameworks were created to help manage what were becoming large and unwieldy codebases and to simplify the process of creating dynamic web apps that do not function like traditional server-side web apps.

Why are JavaScript Frameworks important?

Web apps have exploded in popularity over the past decade. Companies like Twitter and Airbnb don’t require you to download specific software to your devices (outside of mobile apps) to use their services. Rather, they have created web interfaces their users interact with. Web apps from these companies and countless others incorporate client-side loading to create a smoother user experience. Coding these modern web apps, even small ones, requires a large amount of JavaScript to create the desired client-side functionality. As web apps had increased in popularity, developers noticed that they were writing nearly the same code over and over again to produce the same basic features. They realized that it would be a lot more efficient to have tools to speed up this process.

What JavaScript frameworks help create are MVCs. An MVC (Model View Controller) is a concept that is key in developing structured user interfaces with client-side loading functionality. Constructing complex user interfaces that run in a web browser is incredibly time consuming, and you’ll likely write similar code that has been written over and over again. JavaScript frameworks serve to organize JavaScript for apps looking to quickly perform tasks client-side without constantly going to a cloud server.

These Frameworks help give web applications structure and cut down time spent working to create new MVCs. They may contain several libraries attempting to simplify everything from templating to working with Document Object Models. Each framework contains different libraries and tools that best suit different types of web apps. Understanding why JavaScript frameworks were first developed is extremely helpful when trying to learn more about individual ones and comparing them to each other.

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