Frameworks are like jet packs for development languages: They boost performance, extend capabilities, and offer libraries of coding shortcuts so developers aren’t hand-coding web applications from the ground up.
Frameworks aren’t just bundled snippets of code; they offer features like models, APIs, and other elements to streamline the development of dynamic, rich web applications. While some frameworks offer a more rigid approach to development, others allow for more fluidity in the process—developers can choose based on project needs or their own work styles.
Key takeaway: Frameworks are designed to speed up the coding process. It’s as if you’re making a sandwich: It’s much easier to buy pre-made, sliced bread from the store than to bake it on your own from scratch. Frameworks are your site’s sliced bread.
Below, you’ll find more about what you need to know about frameworks.
- Web application framework core features
- Types of programming frameworks
- Mobile development frameworks
- Frameworks vs. libraries: key differences
- How to use a framework
Web application framework core features
Web application frameworks are software frameworks that streamline web app and website development, web services, and web resources. A popular type of web app framework is the model-view-controller (MVC) architecture, named for how it separates the code for each application component into modules.
Each programming language has at least one universal, reusable framework. But they offer more than just the code—frameworks are fully layered workflow environments. While some developers use “library” and “framework” interchangeably, they are actually different in how they work (see Frameworks vs. libraries: key differences).
Some common framework features include:
- Ajax. Ajax is a cross-browser framework that helps developers create feature-rich internet applications.
- API. API is the programming interface you use to interact with another application or operating system. It pulls from the framework’s code to work with other code applications.
- Caching. Caching enables you to store data in memory for rapid access, cutting back on server workload.
- Compiler. Compiler is a software tool that translates a programming language's source code into machine code, bytecode, or some other programming language.
- Library. While a framework isn’t technically a library, it often contains a low-level library with shareable, reusable bits of low-level code in each coding language.
- Scaffolding. Scaffolding is a meta-programming technique used by some model-view-controller frameworks to build database-backed software applications. The programmer can write specifications about how a database can be used, creating a template to build more powerful applications.
- Security. Designed to keep a computer or network secure and safe (a more pressing need given the proliferation of cloud drives), security framework features work through authentication and authorization protocols.
Types of programming frameworks
Below are some of the different types of frameworks, broken down by the computer programming languages in which they’re written.
- CakePHP. Tailored to the business, shopping, and entertainment industries, the CakePHP framework is easy to configure and has good security features.
- CodeIgniter. CodeIgniter is a popular MVC-style PHP framework with a small footprint that is “built for developers who need a simple and elegant toolkit to create full-featured web applications.”
- FuelPHP. FuelPHP is a fast, simple, flexible PHP 5.4+ framework that takes some ideas from other frameworks and improves on them.
- Laminas Project. Formerly the Zend Framework, the Laminas Project is designed to be an enterprise-ready PHP framework that continues to be open-source and community supported.
- Laravel. Billed as the “PHP Framework for Web Artisans,” Laravel has a console that speeds up development by enabling developers to automate repetitive tasks and “generate skeleton code fast.”
- Yii. Claiming to have reasonable defaults and to work right out of the box, Yii is a fast, secure, and efficient PHP framework that supports four types of caching.
- Catalyst. Catalyst is the most popular Perl MVC framework—an open-source solution great for building dynamic and scalable apps.
- Dancer. Dancer is a simple but powerful web application framework for Perl that depends on as few CPAN modules as possible, so it’s easy to install.
- Interchange. Interchange is an open-source e-commerce web application server and platform that creates tailored e-commerce and catalog solutions.
- Mojolicious. Mojolicious is a real-time web application framework designed for both complex and simple applications. Its tagline: “Web development can be fun again.”
ColdFusion Markup Language
- ColdBox. ColdBox is a conventions-based modern HMVC (hierarchical model-view-controller) framework for ColdFusion, Adobe’s application server that simplifies complex coding tasks.
- Fusebox. Now found on GitHub, Fusebox is a free, simple-to-use framework for web development that “organizes your code for fewer development bugs and faster maintenance.”
- CFWheels. CFWheels is an open-source CFML (ColdFusion Markup Language) framework inspired by Ruby on Rails that “provides fast application development, a great organization system for your code, and is just plain fun to use.”
- Foundation. Foundation claims to be “the most advanced responsive front-end framework in the world.” It’s very flexible and has a massive toolkit to help developers in their work.
- Tailwind CSS. The “utility-first” framework, Tailwind CSS, promises to help you quickly build a website “without ever leaving your HTML.” It automatically removes all unused CSS when building for production, so your final CSS bundle is as small as possible.
- Kore. Use this web application to write scalable and concurrent web-based processes in C or Python. Kore’s primary focuses are security and scalability.
- Facil.io. The C web application framework, Facil.io, is designed to be high-performance, be easy to code with, and minimize learning curves.
VB.NET and C#
- Quick. Quick is one of the frameworks created for Swift, the Apple programming language for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS, designed to be an improvement on Objective-C.
- SwiftMonkey. The SwiftMonkey framework is designed to generate randomized user input in iOS apps.
- Vapor. Vapor is a simple but highly functional framework, great for projects involving websites, APIs, and cloud computing.
Mobile development frameworks
Open-source mobile user interface toolkits enable developers to create consistent cross-platform applications for Android, iOS, and all web interfaces. They include:
- Flutter. Google’s open and free framework, Flutter, uses a simple, single codebase to let you create mobile, web, desktop, and embedded apps.
- jQuery Mobile. jQuery Mobile has a touch-optimized framework with an HTML5-based user interface system. It’s designed to build responsive websites and apps accessible on all smartphones, tablets, and desktop devices.
- Swiftic. The Swiftic do-it-yourself mobile app platform is designed for small businesses, offering a selection of design themes to facilitate application development.
- Xamarin. The Microsoft framework, Xamarin, provides a platform for building Android and iOS apps with .NET and C#.
Frameworks vs. libraries: key differences
While many developers use “frameworks” and “libraries” interchangeably, the two have different but related functions. Both work with reusable code created by someone else, but they offer different ways to tackle web application development.
With a code library, the developer has full control and responsibility for where the code goes, “calling” it as needed. With a framework, the application dictates where the code is plugged in, offering an inversion of control. Working with frameworks in this way makes the process of writing code easier, reduces bugs, and simplifies testing.
A library is like a car owner who does their own mechanical work so the vehicle runs exactly how they like it. A framework is like a car owner who lets a mechanic do the repair and maintenance work so they can concentrate on what they love doing best: taking the vehicle for a drive.
How to use a framework
While frameworks can simplify and organize coding projects, you must take time to familiarize yourself with how they work and what they can do. Of course, this begins by knowing the coding language used in the framework.
This might go against the grain of fly-by-their-seat programmers, but it’s a good idea to read the official documentation that comes with the framework. Are there online tutorials or hard-copy manuals? Use them, and take notes so you don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel. If there are specific tasks you want to do in the framework, a web search should turn up numerous YouTube videos and blog posts devoted to them.
To learn a framework, you can also:
- Subscribe to the framework mailing lists aimed at developers and users.
- Carefully analyze the sample apps offered by frameworks to demonstrate their capabilities.
- Ask questions in framework communities, usually full of users willing to support others needing help.
- Subscribe to a bug tracker so you can learn about any problems with the framework and what kind of debugging needs to be done.
- Write about your framework experience on a blog, which might prompt other developers to respond to your experience, point out where you might have gone wrong, and suggest fixes.
Work as a software developer or hire one
While learning a new framework may pose challenges, hiring a software developer skilled in its use couldn’t be simpler. You will find some of the most accomplished independent developers in the business on Upwork, with experience in the most popular frameworks, starred ratings, and hourly fees clearly displayed.
If you are an independent software developer, search a constantly updated list of jobs, with descriptions of the work required, experience needed, project duration, and, in some cases, the money offered.
Upwork is the world’s work marketplace, providing a framework that ensures clients and talent can find the right fit for just about any job.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.
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