[2018 Comparison] Angular vs React: JS Framework to Make Your Project Succeed

Before starting a new software project, any business has to make a hard decision about what technology to select. Choosing the best JS framework for the front-end is the most essential part of this process because it determines the product’s future. To put it simply, apps with great user interface don’t always succeed, but apps with poor UI most often fail.

Currently, the choice of front-end technology usually boils down to Angular 6 and ReactJS 16, the latest versions of the most popular JavaScript frameworks. We’ve been keeping an eye on the competition between JS front-end champions for a couple of years, and the ; battle is far from over. Luckily, both tools are benefiting from this contest. In order to retain their share of front-end market, they have to evolve, add new features, and offer substantial improvements with every new release.

For now, Facebook’s React is winning the popularity contest against Google’s Angular.

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Image credit: HotFrameworks

However, this fact alone doesn’t give you clarity of which tool will be the best option for your goals. The intensity of the competition and constant attention to its interim results reveal that both rivals are in high demand and able to efficiently solve a wide range of tasks.

So how do you choose between two superior candidates? In this article, we’ll compare React vs Angular to help you solve this dilemma most effectively.

What Do the Rivals Have in Common?

Some experts think it’s totally unfair to draw a parallel between React JS and Angular, as the former is a UI library while the latter is a full-featured framework. Though both are used for creating single page applications (SPAs), they offer quite different if not opposite approaches and concepts. At the same time, JS heavyweights share some important features that boost their popularity.

  • Components as building blocks. Both JS frameworks benefit from the same concept of building applications from independent reusable components. This approach saves time, effort, and money, allowing developers to focus on actual tasks rather than reinventing the wheel.  All in all, both frameworks build testable, maintainable, and scalable apps.
  • Support from tech giants. The backing of Google and Facebook lends credibility to React and Angular. They attract the best tech talent and induce more experts to join their development communities. Whichever tool you finally pick after reading our article, you’ll get access to a wide pool of professionals and a rich knowledge base.
  • MIT license. Just as important, both tools are open-source and available under the MIT license, which is a most welcome change for React fans. Before version 16, Facebook’s technology was under the controversial BSD + Patents license. The document caused concern among software engineers and businesses because its terms created risks of patent litigation. Luckily, switching to the more developer-friendly MIT license solved all these issues.

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That said, let’s concentrate on the key factors you should consider when selecting the right technology for your particular project.

Learning Curve

Angular is traditionally associated with a steep learning curve. The list of topics to grasp is huge, including templates, pipes, dependency injection, and additional tools like RxJS to name a few. Using TypeScript (TS), the primary language, is also a high entry barrier to Angular ecosystem. Obviously, programmers with strong .NET, Java, or C# backgrounds have an advantage, as they are familiar with TS.

Since React is just a library, not a large framework, it looks simpler than Angular 6. Engineers with deep knowledge of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS can understand how everything works in a few days. Yet in addition to React, they have to learn dozens of external tools and libraries required to design an app.

Bottom line. Angular is more complex and thus harder to understand, especially for newbies. React itself has a comparatively low entry barrier, which adds to its popularity. However, you should consider the background and actual skills of your development team.

Development Speed and Productivity

Here’s the main difference between Angular and React: once the long learning period is over, you get access to all the benefits inherent in a full-sized and feature-rich framework. It offers a huge number of libraries, high-level APIs, and packages for different needs.

One of the greatest benefits of Angular is its Command Line Interface (CLI) which allows you to create a workspace and design functioning apps quickly, as well as generate components and services with one-line commands. The sixth version is enriched with a new CLI commanding generate library my-lib, which lets you build Angular libraries instantly.

Plenty of out-of-the-box solutions make Angular a cost-effective way to build a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) that helps to evaluate chances of your application for market success. On the other hand, Angular has a built-in ability to solve large-scale problems. It dictates standards that facilitate smooth collaboration across teams working on the same large application. It is written on TypeScript, which helps to detect bugs at early stages of development. Its focus on productivity and consistency perfectly fits enterprise goals, minimizing business risks.

React provides little functionality out-of-the-box. You can't construct an app without third-party libraries. You have to select the right architecture, along with tools from different sources, which is a time-consuming process.

Another bottleneck is that the toolkit for React apps varies from project to project. If you decide to expand your team in the active app development phase, be sure to allow time for onboarding. New hires need to understand the project and its stack to become an integral part of the project team.

Bottom line. With React, the preparation period will be longer than with Angular. Angular outshines React in terms of productivity and the ability to be used for enterprise-scale apps as well.

Flexibility and Freedom

Flexibility is one of React’s selling features. It lets you decide what architecture, tools, and libraries to use. For businesses, flexibility means the ability to build a highly-customized application covering exact needs and to choose options that are really required. Unfortunately, this freedom comes at a cost. Besides a long preparation period, you risk facing a lot of problems if the project isn’t set up properly from the very beginning. So to afford React’s flexibility, you should rely on a skilled and disciplined team of developers able to design a maintainable architecture from scratch.

Angular, on the contrary, provides patterns and clear rules on how everything must be structured. Does it keep you from being flexible? Absolutely not. Our developers state that Angular is highly manageable and enables them to build everything they want. Moreover, the Angular Elements library, introduced in the sixth release, paved the way to new levels of freedom and shareability. It enables you to use Angular components inside other frameworks and embed code in any HTML-based app. For now, this tool is not fully-fledged, but it will be refined in Angular 7.

Bottom line. React gives your team complete freedom to choose the structure for your app. Yet it also means greater responsibility as developers need to build app architecture from scratch. While being more rigid, Angular still offers a sufficient level of flexibility for most projects. Besides, now everyone can use Angular components in React, Vue, or PHP, across different teams and environments.

Ease of Updating

The Angular team follows a predictable schedule, introducing a new version every six months. At the same time, Google cares about ensuring a painless transition to the latest release. As Igor Minar, a lead on the Angular project, put it, “We're trying to change Angular in a good way so that you can take advantage and build better applications. But we also want to make sure that it's very simple for you to upgrade.”

Starting from Angular 4, the framework applies Semantic Versioning (SEMVER) for automatic upgrades and takes advantage of a Long Term Support (LTS) policy. The latter means that enterprises using Angular shouldn’t rewrite their software twice a year to stay up-to-date. The initial release is followed by six months of active development when the current version receives all scheduled improvements. During the next 12 months, LTS provides crucial bug fixes and security patches. All-in-all, companies have an 18-month window for gradual, no-hassle updating.

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The v6 makes updating process even simpler. Its improved CLI includes an ng_update command to quickly upgrade the Angular environment and apps to the latest version. Another new command, ng_add, facilitates adding new features to your project.

Similar to Angular, React is a rapidly evolving technology, and its team makes sure that all transitions between versions are as smooth as possible. Yet, as we’ve already said, the technology uses external libraries, which change and evolve independently of React.  So you need to take care of updating and migrating of third-party elements on your own. On top of that, you can’t predict if they will be compatible with next versions of the JS framework.

Bottom line. Both frameworks aim for smooth migration from version to version. ; However, React is highly dependent on external tools, which can cause scalability and upgrading issues.

App Performance and User Experience

React is famous for its superior performance, which largely stems from using the Virtual Document Object Model (DOM). The real DOM tree, initially created for static UIs, calls for revision of all nodes every time a user interacts with an app. In ReactJS, changes happen in a lightweight, simplified copy of the DOM. Then the system conveys updates to real DOM, leaving the rest of the structure untouched.

Within its 16th release, React has significantly improved its Virtual DOM idea with Fiber, the re-written core algorithm. It breaks all rendering work into smaller chunks and ranges them by priority. The most important updates get on screen first while the rest are delayed. For example, animations or responses to user actions receive higher priority while API responses may wait an extra 100-200 ms, but users won’t even notice any lags.

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Image credit: Lin Clark

Applications built with Fiber aren’t really faster, yet they have better UI responsiveness and thus enhance the user experience. Besides, such apps ensure more effective work with animation.

As for Angular, it has significantly improved performance since AngularJS. With its ability to use ShadowDOM API and a modified change detection mechanism, the framework proves to be fast enough for most apps, and the best is yet to come.

Using Angular 6, you can already test a demo version of a new renderer and view engine Ivy. Among other things, it utilizes tree-shaking to remove unused chunks of code. Ultimately, the tool aims to reduce load times and app size. The full version of the feature is expected to be available in the seventh version of Angular, which is expected to be released in September-October 2018.

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Bottom line. The React team focuses on great user experience and app speed. The Angular team, for its part, is constantly working on performance. Both frameworks are fast enough for most goals. React.js may be a better choice if your project needs a highly responsive interface and deals with multiple inputs. However, the final performance of your app depends the most on the expertise of your developers.

Final Considerations

Our team uses both technologies for app development, and each of them is efficient, yet in its own way. The right choice between two JS frameworks depends on a particular project, its requirements, and skill set of your development team.

React is fast, flexible, and able to cope with heavy loads of data, which makes it a great option for high-load applications with complex UI. The low-level framework leaves a lot of space for custom solutions. Yet this comes at the price of development speed, especially at the initial stage when your team has to find a set of tools for specific tasks.

Angular provides a solid and scalable foundation, wide range of tools, and various ready-to-use solutions that result in great development productivity. Go no further in your search for building enterprise software. 

Have you already made up your mind which of the two JavaScript frameworks you prefer? Have you decided that Angular or React is better for your project scope? If you still have doubts and questions, write to us. We’ll help you come to the right decision given your project requirements and the goals you set. Our company engages best tech talent to analyze the scope, discuss the feature list, agree upon the timeframe, estimate the cost of development, and, finally, turn ideas into real apps.

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