What Is a Programming Framework? A Guide To Understanding Frameworks

what is a programming framework
Written By: Grant Darling
October 2, 2021

Programming frameworks are a very common tool used by software developers every day to help design and build projects. However, the term can be very confusing for a new programmer just starting out on their journey to learn how to code. So, what is a programming framework?

Well, in this article we are going to break down exactly what a programming framework is in simple terms to give you a good overarching view of why they are important and how they are used. 

What Is A Programming Framework?

In simple terms, a programming framework is a foundation of code used to enhance both the quality and speed at which software is created. A framework consists of a set of methodologies and tools that make the programming process simpler, easier and faster. These frameworks are generally created to solve a particular task well so you can focus on the unique aspects of development and not the aspects that have been solved by others already.

What Is The Purpose of A Programming Framework?

There are many reasons why programming frameworks are so beneficial in software development, these includes:

Laboursaving

A core principle in software engineering is to avoid “re-inventing the wheel”. Having multiple people solving the same problem multiple times is both a waste of time and easily avoidable. Frameworks allow the advantage of providing a built-in solution for common problems so you don’t need to waste time building out the same functionality from scratch. Within a work setting this also translates to lower development costs and increased productivity. 

Simplicity

Another key benefit of programming frameworks is that they simplify the development process. You don’t need to be a programmer to know that software development is hard! Providing a framework ensures that certain methodologies are followed and takes much of the guesswork out of building scalable and maintainable software.

In addition, a framework also provides a standard way to build and deploy an application that is understood by any developer familiar with that framework. Allowing better, simpler collaboration when working on software.

Readability

The use of frameworks also improves the readability of your code. Writing clean maintainable code is one of the most important aspects of being a good software developer. It allows for easier bug-hunting, the ability to write new features faster, and helps other developers read your code.

Many frameworks provide basic guidelines to follow that keep your code clean and maintainable. For example, modularity is a key concept in building React applications. Instead of building out applications as one large unit, proper React applications are built up of many smaller components. Making it very easy to organize and re-use code. 

Security

When it comes to software development, security is an incredibly important and difficult aspect to get right. SQL injections, cross-site scripting, and proper authentication practices are just a few of the many security vulnerabilities you need to account for to ensure you are deploying software safely.

Although not perfect, frameworks help mitigate some of the security risks that need to be addressed by developers. For instance, the Python framework Django helps mitigate SQL injections by abstracting away SQL queries through their Queryset API.

Additional Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Framework VS A Programming Language?

Distinguishing a programming language from a framework can be tricky for a new programmer. It is important to understand that frameworks are built from a programming language. A framework itself is not a programming language and a framework cannot exist without the language it is created from.

A simple way to differentiate a programming language from a framework is by understanding that programming languages are multi-purposed and are created to solve many different problems. Frameworks are built using programming languages to solve specific problems. 

What Is The Difference Between A Framework And A Library?

It can be very easy to mistake a framework for a library. Both are pre-packaged 3rd party code used to help solve specific problems. However, there is one important distinction in how they are used. A common saying is that “Your code calls the library, but a framework calls your code”.

What this means is that you can utilize a library from within your codebase to help solve specific problems. However, a framework is the foundation of your codebase. The framework exists first and you build from within it. You can utilize unlimited libraries from within an application, but you would only use one framework at a time. 

Who Creates Frameworks?

Technically speaking, anyone can create a programming framework. Whether it is an individual, a team of open source contributors, or a company. However, the majority of popular programming frameworks are built by large tech companies looking for ways to improve their codebase.

For instance, the frontend web framework React was created by the team at Facebook, and Angular was created by the team at Google. It is also common to build unique frameworks at a company for internal use that is not publically available. 

What Are The Different Types of Frameworks With Popular Examples?

Programming frameworks exist in all subdivisions of software development. Whether you are building software for the web, mobile devices, or desktop applications.

Web Application Frameworks

Web frameworks consist of any frameworks that are used in the creation of a web application. The popularity of programming frameworks grew with the birth of web development since many issues like routing, templating, and data storage needed to be solved to create software over the web.

These can be broken into two divisions: frontend frameworks and backend frameworks. 

Frontend Frameworks

Frontend web development involves creating the graphical user interface of a web application using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These frameworks are generally built using JavaScript since it is the only language of the three that is a true programming language.  

The most popular frontend frameworks in 2022 are React, Angular, and Vue. All three frameworks are heavily used and trusted within the industry. If you’re a first-time frontend framework user, I highly recommend starting with React or Vue as they will be easier to begin using immediately. 

Note: It is important to state that React by itself is technically a library, not a framework. However, there are many frameworks built around React such as Next.js, Gatsby, and Redwood.js.

react, angular & vue

Backend Frameworks

Backend development, also known as server-side development, can be thought of as the language that connects the frontend of the web application to the database through APIs and backend logic.  Frameworks for backend development exist in many languages, such as Python, PHP, Java & C#. 

A few of the most popular backend frameworks in 2022 are Django, Laravel, Ruby on Rails, Express.js, CakePHP, Flask, ASP.net, & Spring Boot. These frameworks were each built in their own languages. So make sure you understand them first before picking up their frameworks.

top backend frameworks

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Mobile Application Frameworks

In addition to web frameworks, there are many frameworks built for mobile apps as well. In the past, mobile development was generally split between Apple and Android development. Each with its own languages and frameworks for building apps. In 2022, cross-platform frameworks have become very popular.

If you are looking to start building apps in 2022, the top frameworks in the industry are currently React Native and Flutter. Both allow cross-platform development and developer who know these frameworks generally have strong job prospects. 

react and flutter

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Final Remarks

So that’s pretty much it! Everything you need to know to understand what a programming framework is and why they are so commonly used. If you are new to the world of programming and want to learn how to become a web developer, check out my free guide! 

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