Using frameworks for backend is slightly less common, but it is just as helpful. When we work on web development projects, we apply frameworks to a client- and server-side alike – because it’s highly efficient and convenient.
How to choose the best Node.js framework?
When we choose the best Node JS framework for our projects, we always pay attention to determining factors. Normally, it takes experience to select the fitting Node.js framework for a particular task, but there are some rules that work well for all products.
Node.js web frameworks provide a defined structure for a codebase. In the long run, they decide what characteristics your product will have, how the app will process the data, and handle computing. You want a framework that isn’t too opinionated – it shouldn’t limit you in possible ways of executing the project. If the framework boxes you one method, it definitely is not good enough.
On the other hand, you want to be able to use packages, Node.js libraries, and reusable code frameworks. This is where the ecosystem comes in. You want a framework with an actively contributing community, educational materials, and the one used across many industries.
If you define quality standards for your Node JS frameworks selection early on, you’ll have an easier time narrowing down the options. The list of optimal functionality is certainly subjective for each development project – still, we have selected our favorites to give you an idea of the big picture.
- Support of declarative programming: such programming describes the platform saved by a feature and its solution. We prefer the frameworks that support declarative metadata describing the parameters and middleware of Node.js handlers.
- Cluster management: it’s nice when a framework allows organizing, previewing, editing, and managing clusters, as well as sorting them by their characteristics.
- Middleware support: middleware is software that helps developers improve their application’s performance, security, etc. It’s not a framework, but it can be integrated. Middleware helps to optimize your application functionality and to deliver a better experience.
- Batch support: not all frameworks are equally good at handling multiple background processes simultaneously. We prefer frameworks that let us access the same databases and APIs caches, regardless if they are currently running. This allows us to get many things done as soon as possible.
Learn more about the main stages of product development lifecycle to build a sustainable product.
Best Node.js API frameworks
We will review the best Nodejs frameworks, describing their respective advantages and use cases. To make this list, we have analyzed statistics, functionality, use cases, and advantages.
Express.js is the most popular framework for Node.js. It allows reusing code to process data in web applications, storing user sessions, managing cookie files, and handling the payload. Without a framework, Node.js requires you to rewrite a lot of repetitive processes from scratch.
Express combines Node.js API frameworks with browser-specific APIs that aren’t normally supported by the runtime environment. You can connect the backend code to the browser and store certain files directly in the browser. This is why Express is a top choice for dynamic content. It quickly responds to users’ requests, uploads text, images, videos, and other content on the page.
- Easy route handling with URLs and HTTP protocol;
- Supports middleware, allowing developers to install helpful tools for speed, responds, and performance improvement;
- Supports multiple template engines;
- Works well with both static and dynamic content;
- Easily integrates with SQL and NoSQL databases;
- As the most popular Node.js framework has a rich open-source ecosystem.
Companies that use Express.js
Meteor.js has a reputation for being a go-to Node.js framework for fast development. Its packages and libraries have a lot of reusable components. You will be presented with a very clear structure that will allow you to get your project off the ground in several weeks.
The framework can be integrated with Cordova, which means developers are able to build native mobile apps while reusing Meteor’s code. That said, Meteor is hardly the best option for complex long-term projects; the ecosystem of the framework has the reputation of being a ghost town – the framework has been getting increasingly less popular over the years. Still, it’s a good choice for time- and cost-efficient solutions.
Advantages of Meteor.js:
- A fast Node.js framework for MVP development and prototype;
- Smart packages: a single command can be used to connect multiple features;
- Small codebase: in Meteor, developers can get quite a lot of functionality with only a few lines of code.
Companies that use Meteor.js
Koa is one of the simplest Node.js frameworks out there. It’s elegant and lightweight. On top of that, the installer file doesn’t feature a built-in templating tool or router. Many Express plugins and libraries have been adapted to Koa. It’s similar to Express, only simpler and slightly less universal.
Koa is not hugely popular among enterprises, and it’s considered a startup solution that offers a lightweight approach to web development. The framework mainly gained traction when Express wasn’t updated for some time, but now, after Express’ team resumed active support, the framework is losing its initial traction.
Advantages of Koa.js
- Koa.js doesn’t use callbacks, unlike Express and other frameworks, which allows avoiding callback chaos;
- Easier error handling: developers can spot technical issues with a try/catch command;
- Koa doesn’t have a built-in middleware that could make the application heavier and slows down the software;
- Many Express packages and libraries are translated to Koa, so Koa developers get to benefit from Express’ rich ecosystem;
- Koa doesn’t spam middleware; in the situations where other frameworks require another layer of software, Koa allows simply writing functions instead;
Companies that use Koa
Sails.js is a popular framework for small projects. Similarly to Meteor, it doesn’t have the most active community which was probably affected by the absence of any recent updates. However, that aside, Sails is an elegant framework that integrates well with JS frameworks and databases.
Its model-view-controller is similar to what Ruby on Rails offers but supports more data requests. It’s a popular choice for real-time services and data-based applications. The framework is famous for its ability to generate REST JSON automatically and default HTTP support.
Advantages of Sails.js
- Sails is one of the most popular Node.js MVC frameworks;
- The framework supports multiple databases simultaneously;
- Sails has multiple integrations and plugins, and has a solid support of Angular;
- The framework automatically generates REST APIs;
Companies that use Sails.js
- Lithium Technologies
Node.js’ architecture is hugely inspired by Angular – to the point where both teams participate in the events together. The logic behind code providers, controllers, pipes, interceptors is similar to Angular’s structural solutions. Developers that worked with Angular before will find Nest easy to master.
Advantages of Nest.js
- Integration with Express: add-ons and packages for Express can be easily reused for Nest;
- Smooth integration with Angular: teams that use Angular for front-end development, will have no issues connecting Nest to their codebase;
- A quickly-growing community: many Node.js frameworks had their growth peak back in 2013, but Nest.js keeps the momentum and can now easily compete with Express;
- Ready-to-use patterns: Nest.js is a highly predefined framework that does a lot of basic development activities for developers;
- Fast performance;
- Easy-to-learn: if you have used Angular or Express before, you would easily switch to Nest.
Companies that use Nest.js
An open-source Node.js framework that uses ready modules to connect Node.js to APIs of HTML5, iOS, and Android. With LoopBack, applications can record data, upload files, create emails, create push notifications, register users, and request information from databases.
The application supports the SQL and NoSQL databases, allowing conversion of web applications to mobile apps, running the software locally, or in the Cloud, and changing the settings of push-notifications.
Advantages of LoopBack.js
- Rich built-in modules: developers can use CRUD APIs, ready code-fragments for tasks like defining user management and access permissions, or interacting with a server- and client-side APIs.
- Organized code: LookBack is an opinionated network that limits users in their coding freedom. While such an approach limits creative possibilities, it also offers a well-defined structure and increases the development speed.
- A lot of built-in functionality: predefined functionality is already enough to build a simple project;
- Accessible official support: the company that developed the platform has been acquired by IBM and is now supported by its official team;
- A code that defines relations and models is stored in a separate JSON file.
Companies that use LoopBack.js
- Department of Energy of the United States;
Hapi.js has the reputation of being a safety-focused Node.js framework, and we can confirm that it is the case indeed. The team clearly prioritized code quality control and verification over extensive functionality, but ultimately, came up with a great mix.
First and foremost, Hapi checks each installed NPM package. We already discussed how problematic Node Package Manager content could be – Hapi solves this issue by running a security test. Hapi focuses on enabling advanced cookie functionality, secure HTTPs, and authorization settings.
All security updates in Hapi’s development have a clearly defined immutable ownership. If something goes wrong, developers know whom to hold accountable. Hapi also offers a collection of plugins, although not as many as in Express or Nest.
- Doesn’t require middleware to perform many essential and advanced tasks;
- An in-built algorithm for creating and processing cookie files;
- High-performance stability and safety: the framework was designed for a Walmart team to support increased traffic during Black Fridays;
- Flexible RSS memory, event loop day, and V8 heap;
- Suitable for microservice development: Hapi itself is built as a microservice and uses an HTTP protocol for communication.
Companies that use Hapi
Adonis.js is a relatively new Node.js framework for microservices development. The tool itself consists of multiple packages that run the server-side of the application. The framework provides quite a lot of abstraction over Node.js – you won’t be working with typical runtime’s syntax.
The framework was hugely inspired by Laravel, so developers who worked with this PHP framework will perhaps have the easiest time transferring to Adonis.js.
Advantages of Adonis.js
- Adonis has native support of Express, MEAN, and Koa;
- Adonis.js is not an opinionated framework – it can be compared to Vue.js by the degree of freedom;
- Developers can customize WebSocket, ORM, routing, JWT, and other features;
- Adonis.js is the first Node.js framework to support JSON APIs natively;
- Flexible template engine for dynamic content delivery.
Companies that use Adonis:
- Synergy Global Network
It’s a framework for static and dynamic content management that is commonly used for content-heavy web projects. Information portals, content management systems, online editorials, forums, social media, and e-commerce platforms are the most common applications of Keystone.
Keystone consists of a range of modules, supporting core functionality for backend, UI tools, web protocols, and Mongoose 4 – a database for object modeling in Node.js.
- A flexible tool for dynamic Node.js development that can handle large masses of content quite well and easily;
- Intuitive UI that consists of decentralized modules;
- Smart data models enabled by native Mongoose support;
- A real-time framework for managing, tracking, and publishing updates;
- A native add-on for image editing, storage, and management;
- Location tracking with Google Places;
- Intuitive embedding with Embedly.
Companies that use Keystone.js
Total.js started as a Node.js framework for real-time applications. REST servers, e-commerce platforms, and Internet of Things projects, but now turned into an entire platform. The platform now combines the functionality of the platform and library, providing, on the one hand, established structure for a web project, and on the other, reusable functionality codebases for different types of projects.
- Computing services and support of Cloud deployment;
- An active open-source community;
- Code editor;
- Thousands of custom Node.js libraries;
- A framework precisely describes the structure of content management systems, forums, information portals – developers can start building solutions right away;
- Support of classical and dynamic routes; developers can use the existing ones or edit WebSocket on their own;
Companies that use Total.js
Even though Node.js frameworks technically aren’t essential for backend development, they make a huge difference in development efficiency, product performance, and code quality.
Having access to predefined templates, libraries, and middleware allows developers to save time on writing repetitive code, getting through thousands of callbacks, and struggling to integrate Node.js with front-end frameworks.
We can’t say for sure which one is the best Node js framework 2020, although we do have our favorites. Still, when a Node.js project comes along, we always base our choice on the product’s needs and characteristics.
Some frameworks are better equipped to handle dynamic content, while others fit best for MVP development.
A professional team is able to pinpoint the key product characteristics and take them into account while choosing a framework. You are always welcome to talk to our team to get a third opinion on the project’s tech stack.
Leverage the top skills and resources to scale your team capacity.