Top 7 Best Node.js frameworks for your project

Daniil Kopilevych
Daniil Kopilevych
Marketing Manager
May 2, 2018 8 min read
Technology
Technology May 2, 2018 8 min read

Node.js was a true revolution in the web development, as it became the first-ever environment where JavaScript code could be executed server-side. Its arrival enabled full-stack JavaScript development that had never been known before. With JavaScript used as a single language both for the back-end and front-end web development, the process and the result benefited greatly.

In addition to the ability to use the same language across the entire web development flow, Node.js has other important advantages, such as easy learning curve and great scalability opportunities.

When the same language is used across the entire application, it means better integration and compatibility, higher performance and, the last but not the least, a single massive community sharing reusable components and offering support.
Many 
global companies like Uber and Netflix are using Node.js as their development environment.

Since about 2015, JavaScript consistently holds the title of the most popular programming language in the global developers’ community. In 2018, JavaScript was again ranked as the most frequently used programming language.
Such popularity of 
JavaScript determines the development technology preferences as many rapidly evolving software building tools are based on JavaScript.

Javascript popularity - Top 7 Best Node.js frameworks for your project
Image credit: Stackoverflow

Consequently, Node.js is also getting its share of attention, and considerable effort is being made to enhance and improve its functionality. To make web development with Node.js more streamlined, different frameworks have been created.

One of the most popular Node.js frameworks is Express.js which also became a platform for many extensions built on its basis.
While Express.js is a powerful framework that can be used for creating applications of various size and complexity, its extensions provide some additional features.

Let’s look at Express.js as well as several other Node.js frameworks to see their advantages and disadvantages and the use cases where each of them shows the most optimal performance.
At the same time, we will also compare some of the most popular Express.js extensions and their application possibilities.

Node.js frameworks

Express.js

Express.js - Top 7 Best Node.js frameworks for your project

Express.js leads most of the Node.js framework ratings. It is very often mentioned as part of the MEAN (MongoDB, Express, Angular, Node.js) stack used to build web applications.

Express.js is a lightweight and flexible framework providing the middleware structure for Node.js.
By supporting lots of HTTP utility methods, Express.js is also a great environment for building REST APIs. With Express.js, you can create an HTTP server in Node that is used in running the website. In short, Express.js launches an application created with Node.js as a website.

The other advantages of Express.js are as follows:

  • Robust URL-based routing mechanism using the HTTP methods
  • Support of various plugins and extensions enhancing its default functionality
  • Easy database integration
  • Smooth learning curve for those already familiar with Node.js

Express.js, as part of the MEAN stack, is the optimal choice for building enterprise-size applications using big data, applications using media streaming or real-time chatting. Express.js ensures fast performance and easy scalability which are critical for large, data-heavy applications. For example, Express.js is used in such projects as MySpace, a social network is still alive supporting quite a reach functionality – video and audio playing as well as listening to certain radio stations. Another website built with Express.js is Klout, a content-sharing platform.

Koa

Koa - Top 7 Best Node.js frameworks for your project

Koa is another brainchild of the same team that created Express.js. It seems to be not as well known as the others, however, it also has its advantages.

With Koa, the developers’ team took a different approach as compared to Express.js.
In its operation, Koa uses the so-called generators allowing to avoid callbacks and to handle errors much more efficiently.

Below are some more features of Koa that the developers’ community appreciates:

  • Lightweight structure
  • High customization possibilities
  • Modular approach

Koa is a bit hard to learn, as it has a number of own methods. However, developers having considerable experience with Koa, prefer it for the possibility to create custom web applications. Its flexible modular structure allows starting with an almost empty application where a skilled developer can add their own code.

Koa is a relatively new framework and is now under heavy development. Recently, the team rolled out Koa2, a more stable version of the framework which has already been appreciated by the JavaScript developers.

Hapi.js

Hapi.js - Top 7 Best Node.js frameworks for your project

Hapi.js may be considered one of the Express.js competitors. The idea behind Hapi.js was to build a framework capable of supporting a large team working on multiple tasks simultaneously. That is the main advantage of Hapi.js, and the developers’ community agrees that it is an excellent solution for a large, distributed team working on a sophisticated application.

Other advantages of Hapi.js include:

  • Strong support of plugins that enables collaboration where different team members work on various components without affecting each other
  • Support of reusable components

Hapi.js framework was first created and used for the development of the Walmart retail chain application. Besides, you can find Hapi.js among the tools used to develop the apps and websites of Yahoo web services provider and even the United Kingdom Government.

Express.js extensions

LoopBack

LoopBack - Top 7 Best Node.js frameworks for your project

LoopBack was created by the same team that made Express.js and is a great framework for creating REST APIs that can be requested by any API client.
This framework allows building connections between browsers and data and services.

LoopBack comes with a lot of built-in models and features, thus making the development faster and easier. Its extensive out-of-the-box structure allows adding custom code in an easy and consistent manner. Among other LoopBack advantages, we can find the following:

  • Full-stack development flow. LoopBack allows not only creating server-side components, but also connecting them with the client via code sharing
  • Intuitive CLI wizard
  • Built-in API documentation and SDK generation tool

At the same time, LoopBack is relatively hard to learn, even for developers already proficient in JavaScript. However, with certain LoopBack experience, development will be fast and easy.

The advantages of LoopBack have been recognized by such companies as Symantec, a provider of security solutions, and the US Department of Energy.

Sails.js

Sails.js - Top 7 Best Node.js frameworks for your project

Sails.js is another spin-off of Express.js. It includes an MVC (Model-View-Controller) pattern that can be used to build applications of various sizes and data-driven APIs. With Sails.js, you will get a complete application ready for production within a very short time.

The most important features of Sails.js that can influence the choice of the framework include:

  • Compatibility with multiple front-end frameworks, thus giving amazing flexibility in choosing the toolset for web application development. With Sails.js, you can develop the front-end with Angular, Backbone, iOS/ObjC, Windows Phone, etc.
  • Automatic generation of RESTful JSON models supporting both WebSockets and HTTP
  • Support of the common MVC architecture with other frameworks making the transition easier.
  • Compatibility with multiple databases, such as MySQL, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, and Redis.

Its rich functionality and flexibility make Sails.js a perfect framework for applications handling large amounts of data, such as real-time chats, multiplayer games, dashboards, and other apps heavily dependant on the real-time performance.

The list of applications built with Sails.js is quite impressive. For example, you can find there such names as Apigee, an API management platform, JetBlue airline, and American Eagle clothing company.

Kraken.js

Kraken - Top 7 Best Node.js frameworks for your project

Kraken.js was intended to structurize and organize the Express.js framework. Although it is an extension of Express.js, it was made by a different team – the developers of PayPal.
If you already have an application built with Express.js and need to expand or modify it, Kraken.js can create a convenient foundation for your development by separating models, templates and route controllers, thus organizing them into a transparent and easily manageable structure. This way, new developers coming in the middle of the project can find their way around.

In addition, Kraken.js can be appreciated for:

  • Internationalization possibilities. Multiple language support is one of the main features of PayPal, and Kraken.js was created with this option in mind.
  • Security. A special built-in module serving as middleware performs the security support functions right out of the box. This saves the developers time as they do not need to set up the required security measures on their own.
  • Code generator greatly increasing the development speed.

Kraken.js was, naturally, used in the development of PayPal. Besides, this extension was a part of the development toolset of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a corporate division of Bank of America.

Meteor

Meteor - Top 7 Best Node.js frameworks for your project

Meteor is not exactly a framework. It is rather a development platform that belongs to the Node.js family.
We mention it here because it is immensely popular with web developers. Thousands of GitHub stars, enormous developers’ community, superb documentation – aren’t these the indicators of an extremely well-built tool?

With Meteor, you will get excellent performance right out of the box. Meteor uses just one API both on the client side and on the server side which ensures seamless operation. The Meteor package has a recommended stack that allows starting the development immediately. At the same time, you can choose any other acceptable technology you are comfortable with.

The main advantages of the Meteor framework are as follows:

  • Same code supported across different devices. This is especially effective for mobile app development, as it ensures an easy update procedure
  • The default package contains many ready-made modules, thus accelerating the development
  • Less JavaScript code required, making applications lighter and improving the performance
  • Large community offering dozens of reusable packages and modules

Meteor is a great choice for applications intended to be running on various devices. Its ability to use the same code resolves the device compatibility issues easily.
Such brands as IKEA, a Swedish home decor and furniture manufacturer, Honeywell, a US conglomerate operating in the IoT industry, and Mazda Corporation, an automobile producer, have chosen Meteor as the tool for developing their applications.

How to choose the best Node.js framework for your project

If you have opted for Node.js as the runtime environment for your web application, you may be slightly at a loss about selecting the optimal Node.js framework. There are so many of them out there, all having their advantages and disadvantages. However, this should not discourage you, as it means that you have plenty of choices.

Of course, the selection of framework largely depends on the type of project you are working on.
Identify the main requirements of your application and choose the framework best suited for them. In addition, you can also use the following criteria:

  • Performance
  • Scalability
  • Easiness of use and learning curve
  • Quality of documentation
  • Availability of built-in features and modules
  • Flexibility in the compatibility with other development tools

This way, you are sure to choose the Node.js framework that suits your project best. In any case, all frameworks designed to work with Node.js are intended to enable easy development and high application performance.