Web development is one of the most competitive and innovative industries today. New programming languages, frameworks, platforms and tools get released all the time. It’s no wonder it is hard for anyone to keep up, even experienced developers.
So, today we will shed a light on what we think are the top 10 most popular web development tools of 2020. Also, to make things easier, we will split these tools based on the five key needs in any development project:
- Prototype and design
- Backend development
- Frontend development
- Code and text editors
Prototype and Design tools
If you were ever a part of a web development project, you know that the first step is creating a prototype, then the designs. So, what are this year’s best design and prototyping tools?
1. Adobe XD
First contestant, Adobe XD (or Adobe Experience Design), is a vector-based prototype tool launched in March of 2016 which has been heavily updated ever since.
Creating a prototype in XD is simple, as it has one of the easiest learning curves possible. So, whether you are an experienced designer, a project manager or a product owner, XD is for you. From simple wireframes that help you explain your idea to functional prototypes and full designs, Adobe XD can do it all. Not to mention that XD allows users to install all kinds of fun plugins that make the design process even better.
Sharing projects with your team is also a breeze. All you have to save your project and sync it with you Creative Cloud. From there you have two options:
- Generate a feedback link – this allows you to present your project to different stakeholders, and they can pinpoint different aspects or features they want to give you feedback on. As each pinpoint is numbered and colour coded, communication is clear and the risk of misunderstanding feedback is significantly lower;
- Generate a developer link – this link syncs every aspect of your project, including assets (like icons f.ex), typefaces, color codes etc. This sharing option is an incredibly useful tool for you developers as they have every piece of information they need at hand.
Adobe XD comes with a free-to-use but limited package. With this package, you can only share one project at a time with your development team. So if you are working on more than one project at a time, you might want to consider buying a licence.
Our second prototyping and design contestant is the up and coming Figma.This amazing tool has gained a lot of popularity, especially among remote teams due to its “edit together” feature. Compared to XD, Figma allows teams to edit, add feedback, and collaborate in real-time, without needing to save and sync the project beforehand.
This feature breaks the barrier between designers and the team and speeds up the pace of the project, saving precious time. Also, Figma is a web application unlike XD, so it’s easily accessible from anywhere as it doesn’t have to be installed on a computer for it to run.
Just like XD, Figma comes with a free starter pack, which allows teams to work on up to three projects. Unfortunately, the team working on the projects is also limited to a maximum of 2 editors. So, if you are thinking about investing in a prototyping tool, Figma is definitely worth looking into.
Backend development tools
Backend development is what gives any application its functionality. Without it, you’d only see a pretty but still image and/or text. So what are the most popular backend development tools this year?
In one of our previous articles we introduced Express as a top framework for NodeJS. Not surprisingly, ExpressJS makes the list again. One reason for this is that Express is doing so well, even companies such as IBM and Accenture got behind it.
Another reason Express is so popular is the way it enhances Node’s capabilities in a more minimalistic way, without obscuring them. Express acts as a layer on top of NodeJS, but it is more flexible and it supports both REST APIs and full applications.
However, one downside of the framework is that it basically comes without any guidelines. Although there is plenty of documentation on the technology, beginner developers might find it difficult to start working with it as they are thrown directly into the technical side.
Django’s three core values are speed, security and scalability, all crucial factors in web development. Aside from that, Django comes with extensive documentation, offering support and tutorials, as well as step-by-step guides on how to start with the technology as a beginner. Needless to say, if you are interested in web development using python, this is the framework for you.
Frontend development tools
This is the stage where designs and backend development combine, as frontend developers literally bring web applications to life. So what are the top trending frontend tools?
Initially released in 2010, Angular has come a long way and has improved tremendously thanks to the huge team behind it. Also thanks to these amazing people, Agular has an awesome support system like few other frameworks, encouraging the community to become part of the evergrowing Angular team.
Another well known tool for frontend development is the “approachable, versatile, performant” JS framework, Vue. A strong contestant for Angular, Vue has taken the development world by storm in 2014, when it was launched as the progressive JS framework.
Today, we have no doubt Vue is sticking to their core values. Companies like Facebook, Netflix and even Adobe each use the framework in a unique way that meets their own distinctive yet demanding needs. Facebook used VueJS on the marketing side of their newsfeed. Netflix integrated the framework into their video streaming services. As for Adobe, they used Vue to recreate the entire frontend of their product, Portfolio. Is there anything it can’t do?
Code and text editors
Programming languages and frameworks are one thing. But just how a carpenter needs a work bench where they use their tools, developers need code and text editors. So which are the best code and text editors out there at this very moment?
Codepen is a unique tool for web development that focuses on the community’s development rather than individuals. Imagine GitHub combined with Visual Studio Code. The editor is compatible with your favorite languages, and beloved by companies such as Netflix, AirBnB, SalesForce, Adobe, IMB and more.
However, their strongest characteristic is the support for the community. As they describe it, Codepen is not just a development tool, but a social development environment. Their over 1.8 million contributors provide incredible inspirational and educational resources available for free. Plus, their platform promotes jobs, challenges and free discussions between like-minded developers so they grow together both personally and professionally. Codepen brakes the isolation created by the nature of a developer’s job connecting them with the rest of the development world in a heartbeat.
Node Package Manager (NPM) is today’s world’s largest software registry with over 800.000 packages. This tool is free to use but, as the name implies, it’s installed with NodeJS. In other words, you have to have Node before you can use NPM.
NodeJS is an extremely popular backend development framework. Along with its rapidly increasing popularity however, more and more Node-based tools such as Grunt, Gulp and webpack emerged to help developers in their everyday work. NPM manages these tools for you. But, is NPM really as good as it sounds? Well, all we can say is that if it’s good enough for companies like Slack, Netflix, Adobe, Microsoft, MongoDB and so many others, it is good enough for us.
Ok. We have our designs, we wrote our code and everything is all put together nicely. All that is left now is testing. So where do we start?
Chai Assertion Library is a Node-based Behaviour-driven / Test-driven development tool or BDD/TDD assertion library. The Chai library is compiled of lots of tools that help make testing a lot easier.
Chai comes in three different “flavors”, Assert (for the TDD side), “Expect” and “Should” (for the BDD side). Although all three types of test are different in their own way, in simple terms it allows the developer to reduce their coding time to simply adding the parameters. The rest of it is taken care of by Chai. Simple, fast and easy.
Now that we’ve learned what Chai is and what an assertion library means, let’s spice things up with a Mocha! MochaJS also runs on Node, but it is a testing framework instead of a library. Confused and/or thirsty yet? Well, let’s break them down. An assertion library checks if things work properly. So you use them to literally ask your code “is this true?”. But the testing framework, Mocha in this case, helps you organize and execute your tests.
So, in a wonderful caffeine induced way, Chai and Mocha complete each other. And although it starts to sound like an overly complicated Starbucks order, using both these tools will make your code better and save you a lot of time.
There are so many available tools that picking the ones we consider as the best to use was a tricky task. However, we do have two honorable mentions that we felt deserved an image in this article.
Our first honorable mention is, of course GitHub. If you are new to the development world, Github is the most popular platform for connecting developers with one another. In fact, developers on Github share projects both with each other and with the world. At the same time, users and collaborators are brought in one place where they discuss bugs, features, ideas and more.
Moreover, since everything on GitHub is open source, developers also contribute to, experiment with and learn from the different projects available on the platform individually or as teams. In fact, GitHub is so well known and respected withing the community that developers and agencies use it as portfolios and even business cards.
The second honorable mention is the unique and quirky Codekit who made our list due to their no-nonsense approach to web development. According to the developers behind it, Codekit is literally compatible with every language you can think of, “No stupid config files or plugins required.” That is a strong and bold statement. However, if it weren’t true would they boast these reviews?
Jokes aside, Codekit was created in 2011 by Bryan, during his MBA. It was during this time when he saw a need for a kit that would accommodate specific languages and tools such as Less, Sass or CoffeeScript. But, since there was no such thing available, he decided to build one. So, together with his friend Guy Meyer who designed the user interface of CodeKit, and many others, Codekit became a reality.
However, no matter how much fun Codekit is, there are two big downsides to it. One, Codekit is only for Mac developers… and two, you have to buy a license. That being said, this is a cool tool, so if you are a Mac developer and are looking into investing in a great tool, check it out.
As we said before, there are so many web development tools emerging every single day. Some are unique in their own way, others are simply looking to solve an existing problem in a better way. But the important thing is: find the tools that work with your skills and your project’s needs.
And don’t forget that if you want to build your own web application, the Wiredelta team is here for you. Simply reach out to us and let’s get started with your project!