React vs Angular For Web Development: How To Make The Right Choice

Krunal Shah

Apr 21, 2020 | 13 min read

React vs Angular for web development

Both Angular and React are immensely popular technologies for front-end development. Because they have their own set of magnificent features, businesses are often confused between the two for their next project. Making a well-informed decision based on differences between Angular and React is vital for the application to deliver the performance and efficiency you want from it. Read on to know which one is better: React vs Angular for web development.

Before You Start The Comparison Between React vs Angular For Web Development

Angular vs ReactJS

Which one out of Angular or React is better in 2020? Are there any similarities between the two? What are the differences between React and Angular?

Most importantly, how to choose between React vs Angular for web development?

While these questions may seem simple, the scope of each one is very wide. So let us try breaking down these broader questions into smaller, more narrow questions.

To infer whether a framework is good enough in itself, you must gather information to answer the following questions:

  • Who developed it and how mature it has become so far?
  • What kind of features does it offer for front end development?
  • What is its coding language?
  • How versatile is its ecosystem?

To answer whether React or Angular is best for your web development project, you must ponder over  the following aspects:

  • Does it offer the features my project requires?
  • How easy it will be for me, or my team to learn to work on this framework?
  • How is the developer experience like while working on this framework?

These questions lay a fairly accurate foundation for a comparison between React vs Angular for web development. Having understood the differences, you can choose the right framework for your project. Let us try to address the differences between Angular and React one by one.

What is Angular?

Angular

Angular is a front-end JavaScript framework very commonly used for web application development. It is an open-source framework, developed and managed by Google’s Angular team.

Launched in September 2016, Angular (also known as Angular 2.0) is a totally revamped version of AngularJS (introduced in 2010). Currently, the industry uses the term “Angular” or “Angular 2+” for all the versions of Angular namely Angular 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11.

The latest version of Angular is Angular 11 which was released on November 11, 2020..

What is React?

React

React too is a popular front-end JavaScript library for web application development. It was developed by Facebook in 2013 and has since been managed by them.

Let us have a look at the features offered by Angular and React.

Angular and React

React vs Angular For Web Development: A Side-by-side Comparison

Differences between Angular and React span across a lot of aspects. So I have classified all the aspects into broader categories for your easy understanding.

React vs Angular for web development: which one makes development easier and faster?

1. Coding style in Angular vs React

The code structure in React vs Angular is slightly different.

In web development with Angular, you have to use @Component decorator for developing components. Some custom directives and regular HTML is also needed for bubilding the templates.

While building a web app with React, you use Component class and JSX for both the components and the templates.

Choosing one approach over the other is up to your team and you. If the designers in your team feel more comfortable with delivering HTML files, Angular might be the best choice for you. However, you will also have to tell a developer to learn all the specific syntax to leverage Angular in these files.

If your designers are pretty comfortable with JSX, React will facilitate cleaner, well-structured code for you.

2. Programming languages used

TypeScript vs JavaScript

Both Angular and React are JavaScript framework/library in nature. So you can write the application code using JavaScript for both Angular development and React development.

However, Angular recommends using TypeScript for efficient, faster code. Similarly, React recommends using JSX with XML syntax. So you can take advantage of statically written code in both React and Angular, although the mediums of writing the code are different.

In such a scenario, you can base your decision of Angular vs React on how easy it is for you and your team to learn TypeScript or JSX.

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3. Directives

Angular has one advantage in terms of directives. It lets you create your own directives that suit the data you want to fit into different templates. It’s great, especially for binding DOM elements.

However, a major problem is the way these directives are defined in the application. In most cases, each object in each directive consists of as many as 10 properties. The syntax of Angular framework is too sophisticated to be understood easily.

Therefore, only the developers who have a pretty decent experience of working with Angular can understand the syntax of Angular directives.

On the other hand, React doesn’t differentiate the logic and templates when it comes to directives. Everything necessary to understand the syntax is located at one place, i.e., at the end of the component.

Thus, anyone can understand the codes (JSX) written in React. That’s a major advantage of Reactjs development in terms of ease of development.

4. Toolset

There are more similarities than differences between Angular and React when it comes to the toolset.

5.  Backward compatibility and migrations in Angular vs React

With the trends in software development and user experience changing by the day, it’s important that you use a framework/library that is backward compatible.

App development with React is much easier compared to Angular since the library offers complete backward compatibility with its built-in tools.

However, since you rely on third-party tools too, you have to check the backward compatibility of all the external libraries while upgrading your React application.

Migrations in Angular are neither too simple nor too complicated. There are two things to consider here. First, you can’t easily upgrade your Angular app to any Angular version you like. Angular only allows you to migrate to the next version.

For instance, you can’t upgrade Angular 4 to Angular 9 without facing some breaking changes. Angular 4 can be upgraded to Angular 5, which in turn, can be upgraded to Angular 6 only.

However, Angular’s CLI makes it extremely easy and quick for Angular apps to be upgraded to newer versions. In some cases, you can upgrade your Angular app in just a couple of hours!

6. App and component structure in Angular vs React

Component Based Architecture in Angular

Angular boasts of an efficient MVC (Model-View-Controller) architectural pattern. The Controllers initializes the object that affects the Model and the View displays the output. This structure, however complex it may seem, is fixed and stable.

Moreover, the components in Angular are distinctively and cohesively organized. As a result, code in Angular is easily reusable and maintainable.

Contrary to Angular, the structure of React apps is very customizable. It depends on the external libraries you use to build the web application. Thus, you only get the View layer at the beginning of the project. The rest two (Model and Controller) layers can be known as you add newer libraries to the code.

In that sense, the app structure of Angular apps is complex but consistent. On the other hand, the architecture of React apps is dynamic but easy to work with.

7. Scalability

To reiterate, Angular is a full-fledged front end framework in itself while React is a library that often needs some help from external libraries for front end development.

Thus, when it comes to scalability, Angular is clearly the best choice with its advanced set of tools and a super-efficient CLI.

However, if you do love React and want to make it work for scalable apps, it’s totally possible. Server-side rendering in React has been very successful in developing scalable and maintainable enterprise apps like Facebook and Instagram.

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8. Flexibility

Flexibility for front end development is clearly one of the notable differences between Angular and React.

Angular developers don’t have much choice for building the UI of web apps. You often have to use only the built-in tools of Angular.

React provides you with a lot of freedom is you can easily integrate it with third-party libraries. Choose whatever UI components, features or widgets you like from any external library while building your web app with React.

If you hire a skilled Reactjs development company, you can easily build a profitable, highly customized web application for your specific needs.

9. Development speed and productivity

Development speed and productivity

Owing to the tough competition, most of the app development projects are time-sensitive. In such scenarios, the development speed is a decisive factor in choosing the tech stack for web application development.

React’s dependence on third-party tools may make the development process a bit complicated. You have to run a few permutation combinations between external tools and desired app architecture to ensure good performance. Moreover, new developers joining in later also need to be well-versed with the libraries used.

Angular offers a much better development speed and productivity compared to React. The following reasons make Angular a better choice for time-sensitive web app projects:

  • Powerful CLI for automating configuration and set up
  • Built-in tools that provide consistency in all the projects
  • TypeScript that facilitates real-time debugging

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10. Mobile development

Nobody can ignore the pervasiveness of mobile apps in the current era. No matter what industry your business is in, I am confident you are thinking about replicating your web app into a mobile app too.

However, whether to choose Angular or React depends on how significant the mobile app is for your business.

Angular offers a great framework for mobile app development called Ionic. It provides you with an engaging library to give a native feel to your mobile app. However, such apps will still feel like web apps that have been converted to mobile apps.

On the other hand, React’s React Native gives a truly native mobile feel to the applications. You have the liberty to build your own components. You can then easily bind them into native codes using Java, Objective-C, or Kotlin.

11. Testing

One of the most notable differences between Angular and React is how they facilitate app testing. You can test an entire Angular app using just one tool (Jasmine, Karma, or Protractor). On the other hand, you need to use multiple tools to test a React app.

12. Documentation

Both React and Angular are backed by corporate giants yet the documentation for the latest versions is quite slow. This is mainly because both these tools are constantly evolving.

Angular does provide you with a platform to seek official help for updates and other issues. Additionally, Google’s LTS (Long Term Support) is quite helpful too.

Similarly, React has a guide for all its versions but again, keeping up with the ever-changing integrations and updates is tough. This is where the huge community of React developers comes to the rescue!

13. Learning curve

Learning Curve

Generally, for a beginner, getting started with Reactjs web development is much easier than getting started with Angular web development. The reason is the sheer amount of features Angular offers for front end development.

On the other hand, since you require other libraries for React development, you have to make difficult decisions about choosing the right kind of library. This also means that you must learn how to use all these other libraries for developing a React app.

Thus, the learning curve here is a very subjective aspect that depends on various factors. You can choose Angular or React on the basis of the expertise of a developer, history of working with certain kinds of projects, and what parts of the framework you intend to use in your web application.

Differences between Angular and React in terms of app performance

14. DOM and performance in Angular vs React

DOM, or Document Object Model, is a programming interface that is language-neutral. It enables all the scripts or programming languages to edit the content, style, and structure of the app document.

The major contributing factor to React’s popularity is that it uses virtual DOM. Virtual DOM in React is not browser-specific and is extremely lightweight. Angular, on the other hand, works with real DOM.

The problem with real DOM is that every little change requires restructuring of the entire DOM tree. That becomes very time consuming most of the times.

In the case of virtual DOM, re-rendering the entire app has to happen very rarely.

Thus, React is a good choice for a front end application that needs regular content updates. With Angular, the integration of real DOM in the framework affects its performance if your app needs frequent updates.

15. Bundle size

The bundle size of the framework is directly related to the load time of the application. Hence, it is an important consideration for whether to choose Angular or React for web applications.

Angular is a robust framework, packed with advanced features. Naturally, its bundle size is much heavier compared to React. Angular framework size is approximately 500 kb while React framework size is 100 kb.

Now, lighter doesn’t always mean better.

Certain web applications are intended to perform complex operations and store large amounts of data. In that case, Angular is an ideal choice. You can solve the slow load time issue by getting rid of unused modules and development utilities.

Similarly, the job of certain web apps is to perform lighter functions but with a higher frequency of content updates. React is the best choice for building lightweight web apps that need to perform reloading time and again.

Differences between Angular and React in terms of popularity

16. Stack Overflow insights on Angular vs React

Web frameworks professional Developers

Image source: Stack Overflow survey 2019

Until 2019, the difference between Angular and React had been decreasing but Angular did retain a higher position in popularity amongst developers.

Web frameworks professional Developers

Image source: Stack Overflow survey 2020

For the first time in 2020, the Stack Overflow survey revealed that React has overtaken Angular as the most commonly used web framework (only second to jQuery) by professional developers.

When it comes to most loved web frameworks, React takes a much bigger lead to Angular.

In fact, Angularjs surprisingly bagged the first position as the most dreaded web framework. However, Angular (2+) is moderately dreaded while React is one of the least dreaded web frameworks.

This proves that differences between Angular and React for web development are pretty significant and React is a clear winner.

17. GitHub rates on Angular vs React

GitHub rates on Angular vs React

On GitHub, React has almost double the watcher as Angular, as you can see in the image above. Moreover, GitHub stars for React (146k) are way more than Angular (59.2k). The pattern is almost the same for Angular vs React in terms of GitHub forks (16.2k vs 28.1k).

18. Maturity and community support.

A tough choice that software developers often face is whether to work with an established, mature technology or to try new technology with edgy features. A lot is at risk if you consider adopting a fairly new framework for your web application:

  • The tool may have bugs which haven’t been encountered yet
  • The vendor may abandon it at any time
  • Lack of knowledge base of community support for the times you need help with some issues.

That is why a good rule of thumb for web application development is to go for a mature front-end JavaScript framework that has a proven track record of delivering high performance and is backed by a reliable vendor.

Here is a brief background of Angular and React:

Angular and React

Since both these front end frameworks have been around for many years now and are backed by corporate giants, you can be confident about the reliability of both Angular web development and React web development.

React vs Angular

For any issues that you encounter while developing web applications with either one, a large community is there to help you out.

Angular or React, which one is better?

Now that you have understood the major differences between Angular and React, you must have gotten the idea that there is no one solution that fits all the needs. Choosing the right framework heavily depends on the requirements of your project and the skill set of the developers.

When to use React for app development

Of course, the most basic requirement is that your developers must be comfortable with HTML, JSX, and CSS. Additionally, you should React for your app when:

  • There is a requirement for huge customization in your application
  • Your app needs frequent content updates. For example, social media apps.
  • You want to build a lightweight application
  • You want to port your web application into a really good mobile application with minimum effort

When to use Angular

Angular may seem difficult to learn at first but it’s only a one-time investment. As a complete web framework, Angular is most commonly used for:

  • Large scale apps with complex structures
  • Time to market is short and you want to build a consistent application in a shorter duration
  • You want predictability in version releases to ensure the stability of your app

Both React and Angular are good for developing Single Page Applications (SPA). You can make the decision based on whether you need a library or a full-fledged framework for your SPA.

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