React vs. Vue—which one to choose in 2021

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React and Vue are two different JavaScript-based frameworks that let developers build, work on, and scale apps and pages. They have a lot of similarities, but also some important differences, particularly in how easily they lend themselves to existing projects and how quickly developers can adopt them.

 

There are many types of frontend frameworks available for developers to use that will give your project a head start and allow deadlines to be met. While in 2021 React has become the most commonly used frontend framework among professional developers, Vue is becoming a strong rival, becoming the fifth most loved framework in 2021 following closely React.

So, which one to choose? To answer that question, you need to know the differences and similarities between the two. Once you are familiar with these, you can confidently decide which framework is best for your project.

 

What are React and Vue?

React is an open-source JavaScript library that is used for building user interfaces and UI components. It was developed for Facebook by Jordan Walke in 2013, and Facebook has used it since then.

Other massive companies such as Netflix also use React, as do huge apps owned by Facebook such as Instagram and WhatsApp. The continuity of React is thus guaranteed. It is also used by a large community, and the React ecosystem is still growing over time.

React grew from the needs of a massive corporation and, as such, is suited to large and complex projects, with a JSX based language that allows for great scalability.

Vue’s own conception could not have been more different. Instead of attempting to meet the specific needs of an online behemoth, a single developer, Evan You, created Vue with the aim of building the most efficient framework a developer can use.

He took his expertise in React, as well as Angular and Ember, and aimed to combine the best features of each into the kind of framework he would most like to use himself.

The result is an open-source JavaScript-based frontend framework. It is maintained by You and his original team and has a growing global community that continues to offer more support and features.

Vue is a progressive framework, meaning its components are able to take on existing projects element by element, and uses core tools that, as we shall see, allow for the fast creation of a project.

 

React vs. Vue: similarities

React and Vue are strikingly similar due to several features. These are:

  • A Virtual DOM (VDOM)—In both React and Vue, virtual DOM objects are used to represent the original DOM objects. If a component changes in the actual DOM, most JavaScript frameworks then update the entire DOM. This inefficient process can make pages unstable as they render in real time. A VDOM, however, updates only the highlighted components, saving a great deal of time and complex DOM manipulation.
  • Lazy loading—Sites and apps that bulk-load all of their HTML elements take longer to render onscreen, and so leave the user hanging. Lazy loading, however, uses placeholders to cache the content. This means the content displays only when the corresponding resource is visible on the user’s screen. This greatly increases the loading times of your product and is therefore an important optimization.
  • Component-based Core Tools—React and Vue scaffold the UI that they help create with pre-written code and functions. Both include important basic tools as standard, and both also boast a large repertoire of tools built by other users. This greatly aids the speed at which a product can be created and helps a lot with developer productivity.

 

React vs. Vue: language and syntax

The main difference between the two is the method that renders content to the DOM and so the final display. This difference has significant consequences as to which of the two is more appropriate for newer developers and which for experienced developers.

While both React and Vue are JavaScript frameworks, React emphasizes the use of JSX, which incorporates HTML and JavaScript elements together.

Vue, conversely, allows the use of HTML and CSS templates and also gives the option to operate in JSX.

Therefore, developers require more experience and knowledge to operate using only JSX in React. The combination of HTML and JavaScript elements together makes the code appear more complex. This is difficult for new or inexperienced developers, who might need further support.

An experienced React developer, however, will be able to complete everything they need using only JSX, and so be able to include all necessary rendering instructions in one place, which lends itself to the creation of projects and functions of greater complexity.

Growing a project over time using HTML/CSS templates, on the other hand, can be much more inconvenient. An experienced React developer can continue easily in JSX if this is where the project began, however, and this saves time on jumping between templates and languages. React, therefore, is the preferred framework for larger and more complex sites and apps.

 

React vs. Vue: documentation and support

This brings us to the question of developer support, specifically in terms of documentation versus community. Vue has better documentation (a style guide) than React, which contributes toward its ease of use, as developers can simply follow the published guide to immediately start creating.

React however, has a significant edge over Vue in terms of the online community, as it has a greater number of open-source users and contributors. As an example, there are 339K React related questions on Stack Overflow, compared to 85K for Vue (as of October 14, 2021). While Vue is growing in popularity, as of 2021 React still has the more responsive online community offer guidance and feedback.

Vue allows a developer of any skill level to immediately start work on a project and create something more quickly due to its delineation of programming languages, core tools, and excellent documentation.

React allows the more experienced developer to create more complex projects, and its vast online community makes up for the lack of documentation and provides support for the less experienced developer.

React vs. Vue: core tools

React and Vue both offer useful basic core components, such as DOM manipulation and lazy loading. However, this is where the buck stops for React. Any further required functionality means the React developer has to rely on third-party tools created by the large React community. This is extremely liberating for the experienced and resourceful developer, but new developers will need more guidance because of the lack of React documentation.

Vue’s core tools, however, are far more extensive than React’s, containing built-in packages for routing, server-side rendering (SSR), and a debugger. These are all accompanied by full support documents. Vue Cli offers a range of core tools and suggests updates, and Vue UI offers a graphical user interface, so reducing the learning curve even further.

Vue also alerts users to the most frequently added third-party builds, ensuring the Vue developer doesn’t miss out on any useful new developments. The community-built tools are not as extensive as those of React, as the Vue community is still developing, though they are by no means meagre.


Does this mean Vue is easier?

Despite both React and Vue being JavaScript frameworks, it looks like the differences between the two mean that Vue offers the less steep learning curve.

Vue’s delineation of the programming languages into familiar templates that all developers encounter during their training means it’s easier for new developers to start immediately working with the framework.

The use of HTML templating also makes it easier to share projects. UI/UX developers can instantly engage with Vue’s approach as they are more familiar with these modes of representation rather than React’s JSX-based one.

Vue includes more core tools than React, including debugging software to check the code. This combination of useful core features and more extensive documentation means that the inexperienced Vue developer can more quickly begin work and build something. Meanwhile, React’s JSX environment, uncertainty as to which third-party tools to add, and the lack of extensive guides, make the framework more difficult.

For example, where a Vue developer can use core tools to start on SSR work, a React developer will need to use a third-party tool such as next.js. This reliance on third-party tools by the community, however, is what makes React a better framework for the experienced developer, whereas the built-in ease and familiarity of Vue makes it easier for the newer developer.


Will Vue replace React?

Given the comparative ease of Vue compared to React you might conclude that Vue is certain to overtake React in popularity: this isn’t necessarily the case.

While Vue is great for new developers, there is already a large community of experienced developers who are comfortable with both. Also, inexperienced developers will learn React in order to increase their employability and make use of the React ecosystem to help them create more complex projects.

Vue is definitely growing, however. The 2020 HackerRank Developer Skills Report shows that Vue has moved up two places in the top ten for developer awareness, and this trend is expected to continue. According to web technology usage trends, Vue has grown since its inception to host nearly two million live websites, and the number continues to rise as the framework evolves and the community grows.

However, React has several times the number of live websites than Vue. There is no reason, therefore, to think that Vue’s growing popularity will threaten React’s established dominance. Indeed, stats show that downloads of React are increasing, with downloads of Vue remaining static as most developers state only an intention to learn it.


React vs. Vue: which is better?

It should be clear by now that the answer is: it depends.

Vue is a better framework to employ if:

  • you have employed a new developer, or at least one that is not thoroughly conversant with JSX;
  • you have a tight deadline to create an MVP—Vue’s core tools and quick templating mean that a prototype can be finished very quickly;
  • you are updating or exporting an existing project—the progressive infrastructure of Vue allows elements of prior projects to be included and worked on;
  • you are creating a single page application (SPA) that is unlikely to be an enormous project—Vue’s SSR tools are especially useful for efficient creation here;
  • you are creating a project that involves a high degree of cooperation—the common and most recognized programming languages incorporated into Vue make this easier.

React is a better framework to employ if:

  • you have access to a developer who can take advantage of React’s active community, is comfortable with operating solely in JSX, and is aware of the extensive third-party libraries available;
  • your project is set to be a complex app or you anticipate it being scaled over time;
  • you are developing a mobile app—the React UI can be adopted by React Native and translate the interface immediately;
  • you are creating a massive website or SPA with video functionality, such as Netflix, who do use React.

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