March 17, 2024
min read

The 7 Most Popular Backend Frameworks for Developers

Luis Minvielle

Which backend frameworks should developers focus on in 2024? We’re listing the 7 most popular for you and showing their advantages and drawbacks. 

Which one is the best? There is no clear winner in the best-backend-framework competition for 2024. They are all in demand somewhere, they’re all appreciated by their community, and they all have their advantages and shortcomings.

What are backend frameworks? 

Web development is a lot like other types of engineering — it's great when you're passionate about your project, but not so fun when you're indifferent to the final result. This is where backend frameworks step in. They make the not so fun be a little bit more fun. 

Backend frameworks are pre-built structures offering developers a solid foundation for constructing server-side components. They provide a structured environment with predefined libraries, modules, and tools, speeding up development and improving maintenance and scalability.

Read our Guide to Backend Development →

How to choose the right backend framework 

Short answer: you don't have to pick one framework. Someone else will do it for you. And if you really have to start with one, check which framework has more job openings and start with that one. The best developers don’t get married to ONE framework.

The most critical aspect is where you want to work. The framework will highly depend on the region you are settled in. Ultimately, the choice may not be entirely yours, especially when starting.

Most backend frameworks work very similarly. Once you've mastered one, transitioning to another becomes relatively straightforward. Just choose the one that intrigues you the most, and you’ll learn many transferable skills along the way. The advice is to learn as many languages and tools as you can, stick with the ones you feel more comfortable with, and always stay adaptable as trends change all the time.

Considering you’re already a skilled backend developer, these are the top backend frameworks in 2024:

1. ASP.NET Core

ASP.NET is a go-to for big companies and offers a gateway to Unity3D for those keen on learning C#. Using C# as the primary language, choosing .NET seems solid. The widespread popularity of C# among the community has opened doors to many job opportunities, with users even suggesting whipping up a web app with .NET for job prospects. Yet, it’s not a recommended framework for freelancers. 

ASP.NET brings a bag of upsides. It has tight security, high effectiveness, speedy development, user-friendliness, cross-platform compatibility, and a large developer community. It supports various languages, has a rich toolset, and buddies up with Microsoft's tech like Azure and Office 365. It also facilitates seamless integration with JS frameworks 

The .NET ecosystem extends beyond ASP.NET to include versatile tools like Blazor for web development, .NET MAUI for cross-platform native apps, SignalR for real-time messaging, and Entity Framework Core for database connectivity. Criticisms about .NET being outdated are mitigated by its evolution into an open-source, cross-platform solution.

Compared to Java, .NET introduces features like Generics, Linq and async-await. With minimal technical distinctions, choosing between Java and .NET boils down to industry trends and talent availability. Many developers seamlessly transition between the two. 

Note: Mind the difference between .NET Framework and .NET Core. While both are runtimes for the C# language, the former is a legacy Windows-only runtime, and the latter is a newer cross-platform version. Despite minimal differences in code, make sure tutorials and learning materials are for .NET Core.

2. Spring Boot 

Opt for Spring Boot if working with Java is at the top of your list. Spring Boot provides extensive documentation, a strong and mature community, and supports additional languages like Kotlin and Groovy within the JVM ecosystem. Devs claim that spending three hours with the official docs covers the essentials. Sounds catchy, right? 

Despite its long startup times and some legacy quirks, Spring Boot is a steady, industry-standard backend framework, especially favoured for robust applications. It's the go-to for big enterprises like Netflix and Uber

With integrations with popular libraries like Hibernate and messaging Middleware, Spring Boot lets you get a quick start. Although GraalVM Spring Native has addressed some concerning issues regarding high memory overhead, users point out a slight increase in latency. Value-added features like Spring Cloud add extra appeal. 

The amount of cash employers are willing to shell out for Spring Boot experts is difficult to pin down, but its open-source fame in microservices and cloud-native apps keeps it at the top. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a Spring Boot developer in the US is around $102,000 per year.

Looking down the road, Spring Boot's survivability seems like a given. It's not just about today; the skills you gain with Spring Boot will likely stay valuable for years to come. It is — and is likely to remain — the powerhouse backend framework in Java.

3. Express.js 

Developers often choose Express.js when building backend applications with Node.js, given the language synergy and widespread Node.js demand. Transitioning from learning JavaScript in the frontend to Express.js in the backend makes sense — it's the same language.

Express.js is praised mainly for its minimalistic design, flexibility, and scalability. It simplifies routing, making the handling of various HTTP requests effective. Also, it supports middleware and has a prominent and active community. However, it faces criticism for being stuck on v4 since 2022, without clarity on when v5 will drop. 

Its user-friendly nature and the ability to create both frontend and backend apps using full-stack JS features make Express.js especially popular among startups and freelancers. Yet, it is more focused than other backend frameworks — meaning its scope is narrower —  which can be good or bad. It's great if you're looking for a custom setup, but it might take a bit more effort if you just want to dive into business logic.

4. Django

Consider Django if you would like to work with Python. It's got extensive features for almost anything. With solid documentation, a strong community, and support for languages like Kotlin or Groovy, it stands out as a reliable choice. Yet, if you are a fresh starter in Python, keep in mind there are few junior-level postings for Django.

Many dev veterans claim Django is the only true backend framework — but it might not be the go-to everywhere, especially in big tech hubs. It remains viable for certain apps, especially those requiring complex relational data structures. If you decide to follow this path, users suggest learning DjangoREST too. 

Despite criticisms, Django is praised for scalability and is used by major tech companies for microservices. Yet, it executes better when building server-side rendered websites backed by a SQL database. Criticisms include concerns about performance and not being as fully featured as Spring Boot. Others compare it to Rails, highlighting differences in developer happiness emphasis. 

However, developers appreciate Django's ease of use and efficient code writing. While opinions may vary, it remains a mature and reliable tool to have in your toolkit — just not the only one.

You can visit the Django Flag Project on GitHub. It has a remarkably clear code and 100% coverage. 

Check out Django Jobs →

5. Ruby on Rails 

Ruby on Rails is celebrated for its speedy and enjoyable development, particularly with Rails7 and Hotwire. In terms of job relevance, Rails isn't at the top of the list, yet many startups are using this backend framework and often offer competitive pay.

With Rails 7, Webpacker is now the default JavaScript compiler, enhancing the development experience, especially with Hotwire/Turbo for a Single Page Application (SPA) feel. While concerns about Rails’ runtime performance exist, companies like GitLab and Shopify showcase its scalability, and the Ruby gem Sorbet provides static type checking.

The Ruby on Rails community — very stable, by the way — emphasises its forward-leaning nature, which contributes to a productive and especially enjoyable development experience. Developers started talking a lot about “Rails Magic” when they noticed everything worked alright from the outset. But magic became a matter of criticism as well because, down the line, it would curse the app out of operation.

Even after a decade, developers find Rails efficient and a favourite for building CRUD-type apps with dependable support for testing and collaboration. Its magic, once frustrating, becomes appreciated over time. 

💡 “Rails will never die… Unless it de-rails”

You can check the Rails Slack group for savvy community support. It’s one of the few times a community won’t be running on Discord, so enjoy!

6. Lavarel

Laravel, a backend framework built on PHP, is widely accepted in the community for its simplicity and practicality, particularly in projects involving databases and datasets. Developers find that projects run smoothly when built on Laravel, and praise it for its straightforward syntax and user-authentication features. Some users even describe Laravel as a “bread and butter” tool for personal or small-team projects.

Laravel also gets props for its well-organised code, excellent documentation, and quick time-to-market, making it manager-friendly. The framework's compatibility with PHP7/8 helps it rule out JavaScript from the formula.

Despite these merits, some users acknowledge the initial challenge of dealing with PHP when adopting Laravel. The routing system has also been a point of contention, with routes concentrated in a file rather than being distributed across attributes.

Laravel is recommended for platforms, admin panels, CMSs, and e-commerce projects. It supports asynchronous job processing through queue workers and even handles web sockets with no trouble, with users sharing experiences of running over 1000 async jobs at a time through Laravel queues.

The Laravel community is great, and Laracasts is a good place for beginners and people who are just starting out. While some complexities exist, Laravel's structured nature allows for efficient out-of-the-box integrations, though some are paid, giving it a freemium feel. PHP and Laravel are considered reliable, powering a significant portion of the web and offering job security with increasing salaries. Laravel Livewire, introduced by Laravel in 2020, is seen as a valuable addition, providing a seamless integration of HTML generation and front-end technologies.

If you feel like trying Laravel, we recommend you to watch this “amazing” (we’re quoting the audience here) documentary on it. 

7. FastAPI 

FastAPI receives more attention than actual job postings. It's a noteworthy framework, positioned between Express's simplicity and Django’s features. It's open-source, easy to fork, and offers excellent content for learning, especially for those new to Python. 

FastAPI’s strength lies in its performance for async Python. Also, it is considered very helpful for automation scripts. However, many users point out it’s especially slow to implement changes and bug fixes, as it relies on a single maintainer — the creator himself. 

These concerns would lead to jokes about the project's fate if the creator suddenly got bored and left or — worst-case scenario — got hit by a bus. While some consider a single maintainer a potential red flag, others emphasise the importance of prudently reviewing top-rated PRs and issues before implementing them. Yet, in this regard, improvements have been noted in the past year. 

Despite the worries about scalability and project continuity, FastAPI is a highly recommended backend framework in the dev community, supported for its effortless API documentation generation and intuitive file structure. 

FastAPI has proved to be really productive for smaller projects. So, it might be a wise pick for backend developers seeking an easy-to-follow and future-proofing tool with essential features, that allow them to meet project goals without the complexities of more established frameworks.

The creator of FastAPI, the one who can’t sneeze without the community getting freaked out, offered us an excellent presentation at the WeAreDevelopers World Congress 2022. Check it out here to learn from the uttermost pro.

Check out FastAPI Jobs →

Ready to land a job as a backend developer? 

At WeAreDevelopers, we're dedicated to assisting developers in securing positions at top European companies. Join us, explore our job boards, and begin your career as a developer in a place where you'll naturally gain insights into the best backend frameworks through hands-on experience. Best of luck!

The 7 Most Popular Backend Frameworks for Developers

March 17, 2024
min read

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