I’m a backend developer - do I really need a JS framework?

Web Development

Sarah and two other software engineers smiling while looking at a monitor in the Komodo studio
Sarah and two other software engineers smiling while looking at a monitor in the Komodo studio
Sarah and two other software engineers smiling while looking at a monitor in the Komodo studio

By Sarah Heanan, Software Engineer

One of the great things about the development community is the spirit of learning. Anecdotally, a popular topic of conversation is what you are learning for self-improvement, and indeed there can often be an expectation that a good dev will have a side project, especially at job interviews.

As a backend developer, your role is likely to vary, but JavaScript may be a small aspect of hooking up the functionality. And though knowing a JavaScript framework can be seen as a specialism for a frontend developer, many choose one as part of their training, whether personal or professional.

So, why bother with a JS framework?

You’ll probably have to work with one at some point

Working as a developer can often mean you need to be flexible, especially in a fast-paced environment like an agency. You could be pulled onto any project at any time.

The pace that the world of JS frameworks moves at has become a bit of a running joke (see this t-shirt) so it is not implausible that you will have no experience with the next thing you work with and have to think on your feet.

Having experience of at least one framework may make this task a little easier, as many share common aspects.

They teach structure

If a team chooses to work with a JS framework, they are bound by whatever structure that framework implements, such as a component-based workflow.

Working in this way arguably exposes a dev to good practice and encourages them to structure their own Vanilla code in an organised manner - for example, working in modules and encapsulated components.

Browser support can be easier

When working with the newer standards of JS, it is usually necessary to use a compiler such as Babel to ensure a good standard of browser compatibility.

This is, of course, improving all the time, but by using a well-maintained framework such as React we automatically get to work with newer syntax without worrying too much about browser support.

Reactivity can be (almost) effortless

Reactivity in programming is not compulsory, but it's a nice thing to have - especially if you are keen to create a positive UI experience.

Keeping things reactive involves asynchronous functionality, which can be a fairly advanced topic. Of course, understanding this would be another tick for personal development, but maybe this is not your focus for the moment.

If that's the case, choosing a framework such as Vue can make updating data on the front end significantly easier.

Testing and debugging can be simpler

The most popular frameworks are well documented and there are specialist testing frameworks for several of them - Protractor for Angular and Jest for React, for example.

How to test is documented by the frameworks themselves, and the sheer amount of users suggest that if you have an issue to solve, someone else will have had something similar. Testing Vanilla JS can be done, but how to do it is perhaps not as intuitive and requires a little more research.

Learning a JS framework is not necessarily a prerequisite to writing good JS code, and having a good grasp of Vanilla is undoubtedly helpful whatever approach you prefer. Having some insight into how a framework itself works can stand you in good stead come debugging.

Whether the benefits of learning a framework outweigh spending that precious free time learning something server-side is up to you.

One thing is for certain - JS frameworks aren’t disappearing any time soon!

Got an idea? Let us know.

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