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Front-End Frameworks for Drupal – Helping you to Make a Better Choice

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Are you among those who are still wondering if your web application really demands a front-end framework? With names like React, Angular, Vue, Backbonejs, Emberjs and jQuery hitting the tech market, choosing the best front-end framework for your Drupal website is another added conundrum. Read on to find answers to these popular questions that can help you make a better decision in choosing the best front-end framework for your Drupal website.

Front End Frameworks for Drupal

Why do you need a front-end framework?

Today's world is a close reality to something I dreamt of as a child. A world run by devices, the technology they use and their potential to change the future. New interfaces and devices have brought in sweeping changes to transform the web as we know it. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence and IOT have started to establish and make an impact in the digital world. This impact has changed the way we perceive a future with seamless, feature rich websites.

However, while newly web-enabled devices continue to dominate, we have evolved the way we develop for the web. Though the content remains the same, delivering this content differs from one to another based on requirements and complexities. The next generation of user-experience is here and websites are expected to function seamlessly and instantaneously.

With such requirements, it is tough to stick with the old solutions. While it isn’t impossible to build a complex yet awesome UI/UX with plain HTML and CSS, implementing one a front-end framework does reduce some bulk and messiness off as your front-end grows. Not surprisingly, most of the bigwigs like Airbnb, GitHub, Forbes, Netflix, Pinterest, PayPal, etc., who offer outstanding user-experiences, implement popular front-end frameworks like React, Angular and Vue.

Headless Drupal and Front-end frameworks

While Drupal can handle the backend beautifully, it isn’t as flexible in terms of its front-end capabilities. The need for modern, intricate, dynamic and application-like front-end interfaces gave rise to headless Drupal or decoupled Drupal as we know it. In a headless Drupal architecture, developers have the flexibility to build the front-end on their own without using Drupal. While Drupal still serves as a backend repository, front-end frameworks can talk to the database via API calls.

But how do you pick the right front-end framework for your Drupal website? While every framework has its own set of pros and cons, the choice largely depends on the needs and business requirements for the project. Let us discuss in detail.

AngularJS

The most preferred front-end framework on the list, Angular JS, is a developer's favorite when it comes to interfacing with Drupal. It lets you create feature-rich dynamic web applications and allows Drupal to work more efficiently, resulting in a dynamic, secure and a gripping Drupal website. Backed by Google itself, this open-source framework allows you to do handle your user's browser without having to fetch data from your server.

Things Developers Love about Angular

  • Extremely light weight and extensible with a wide scope of features.

  • An interactive framework, a result of which is great functionality like the two-way binding, which allows user actions to immediately trigger application objects.

  • Developers love HTML and the fact that AngularJS uses plain HTML templates that can be easily re-used, modified or extended, allows them to build interactive feature-rich web applications.
  • With a client-side nature, AngularJS does a great job in handling cyber-attacks as any data looking to breach the security cannot get anywhere near the server.
  • Immense community support which provides answers, tutorials and used cases, with well-developed documentation.

Drupal & AngularJS

With the user expectations growing with each passing day, decoupled Drupal or headless Drupal as it is commonly known, is gaining more popularity these days. The idea is to take advantage of Drupal's flexibility and powerful back-end capabilities while using a front-end framework to handle the client-facing interface. What better option than the interactive AngularJS to do the talking to the browser while Drupal takes care of the feature filled back-end.

Also, AngularJS does a great job in offloading Drupal from some of its logic and helping Drupal function effectively at the back-end. By moving display logic to the client-side and streamlining the back end will result in a site that performs better and faster.

VueJS

Created by former Google employee Evan You, this incredibly adoptable JS has quickly gained recognition among developers. A JavaScript library for building modern web interface, it provides data-reactive components with a simple and flexible API.

Things Developers Love about Vue

  • With a subtle learning curve and a component model, Vue stands on the shoulders of giants to provide benefits of reactive data binding and composable view components with a simple API.
  • A combination of React's best - Virtual DOM and Angular's best - two-way binding, allows VueJS to perform efficiently and improve the performance of the websites.
  • Real-time monitoring of the progress in development with a built-in state management is an added advantage.
  • Vue JS follows a component-oriented development style with modern tooling and supporting libraries. With a simple-to-use syntax, people who are using it for the first time find it easy to adopt.
  • VueJS is one of the top trending JS frameworks on Github.
  • It is highly supported by an awesome community and adoption within the PHP community which does a great job of maintaining good documentation.

Drupal & VueJS

Vue allows developers to request and store Drupal content as data objects using the official Vue-Resource plugin.

In combination with Vue, Drupal can exhibit its magic at the back end while the compelling features of the JS handle the client side. The component system in Vue is one of its most powerful features that allows large-scale application building which comprises small and self-contained reusable components.

ReactJS

ReactJS is more of a library than a framework, used to build user interfaces that work on a concept of reusable components and aim to solve the issues created by the slowness of the DOM by replacing it with the virtual DOM structure. An open-source project maintained by Facebook, ReactJS is the go-to option for some of the biggest corporations for a fast and seamless client-side user experience.

Things Developers Love about React

  • By nature, ReactJS is very readable and easy to understand thus making it easier to understand how components render from their source files.
  • ReactJS does a great job in combining HTML and JavaScript into JSX, which is a great asset for developers as the complexity between HTML and JS is eliminated.
  • With Virtual DOM, React can easily process large amounts of data in an efficient manner by monitoring the lightweight virtual DOMs.
  • Rendered extremely fast, ReactJS is a great option to build speedy public facing apps and sites that are smooth and offer a best in class UI experience.
  • A ton of proper documentation, invaluable tools, add-ons and more which are available to developers, courtesy of constant contribution by Facebook towards the development of React.
  • It is highly supported by an awesome community and adoption within the PHP community which does a great job of maintaining good documentation.

Drupal & ReactJS

A hybrid approach to use React for dealing with the UX complexities while relying on Drupal for handling the content can be an added advantage which easily allows consistent mapping of Drupal and React components.

With Drupal, one of the major weaknesses that hinder its performance is the way it consumes and displays the structure of content to the end user. This goes out of hand when the user interactions are complex and even the combination of Twig with JQuery is not good enough to match the complexities. However, integration with a modern library such as React provides all the necessary modern mechanisms that do a great job in building seamless, rich user experiences.

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