A programming language is a human-readable way of telling a computer what to do. Any language uses a series of symbols that represent precise instructions for a computer. The combination of these instructions creates a program. There are thousands of programming languages, and new ones keep being created. This means you have many possible ways to build your website. With so many options, how can you make the right choice?
Though they may seem alike, no two languages act the same. When deciding on a programming language for web application development, don’t fall for a choice that’s hyped. Focus on matching a language’s tools, libraries, and support with your business needs.
Our market researchers and web app developers have collaborated to create a list of the top seven languages for web application development in 2021.
Best programming languages for web application development
Google “top programming languages” and you’ll find surveys that name different options as the best according to various criteria. For example, the PYPL index is generated based on the frequency with which language tutorials are googled, while the TIOBE Programming Community index considers the number of third-party vendors and developers who use a language.
These indexes are favored by software engineers who want to see whether their programming skills are in demand or they need to level up. As for business people, they’re left out of the loop and don’t know the best language to develop a web application.
In this post, our web application developers share insights into the most popular language choices of 2021. Study them before you hire a web application development agency.
Steelkiwi’s note: We’ve ordered the languages below arbitrarily.
Python is the fastest-growing programming language, with Django and Pyramid as its most popular frameworks. In 2018, Python showed a 456% growth in popularity over the previous year, and its consistent rise continues.
The simplicity of coding even complicated structures in Python is a big reason why web application development using Python is on the rise. Python helps software engineers cut development time from hours to minutes. Check out the infographic below and learn more about why we use Python for web development.
Python helps developers build the server side, or the back end, of an application. The back end stores the database and handles how data travels to and from the server.
Python is known for its many web-oriented frameworks that help developers create functional apps. The most popular are Django, Pyramid, Bottle, Flask, CherryPy, WebApp2, and TurboGears.
Read more about the top 13 Python web frameworks to learn in 2020.
Django is used more frequently than other Python frameworks because it has tools for building web apps faster and with less code. This toolkit helps developers easily add main website components like authentication, management panels, and structures for file processing. Without Django, a developer would have to code all these traditional features manually instead of focusing on new components.
The adoption of Python by Google, Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, Quora, Netflix, Dropbox, and Reddit for server-side tasks has brought this language to a new peak of popularity. And it continues to climb.
Programming with Java is popular especially for banking and FinTech web projects since, compared to many other programming languages, Java offers better security and functionality.
Java has become a popular choice as it enables vertical and horizontal scalability. With Java, developers will need fewer hours and less invasive coding to improve your website’s performance and response times.
Another great advantage of Java for web application development is that it’s a cross-platform tool. The Java runtime environment translates code into machine code compatible with the native operating system, whether it’s Linux, Windows, or macOS.
Java has some great frameworks for web app development including Spring, JSF, GWT, Play!, Struts, Vaadin, and Grails. Because of its ability to build complex web apps with high performance, Spring is the most powerful Java framework for web app development.
Though Spring provides numerous modules for creating web apps, Spring Boot and Spring MVC have been the most popular two years in a row.
Spring Boot is a combination of the Spring framework and Embedded Services. It allows developers to quickly bootstrap, avoid boilerplate code, and increase productivity. Spring MVC is a model–view–controller framework containing configuration files and ready-to-use features for quick app development.
By the end of 2020, Java was one of the most popular programming languages for web application development, allowing software engineers to build unique apps at lower cost and in less time. It’s expected to remain popular and be used extensively in 2021.
The PHP programming language is dead only if you ignore usage statistics. Though PHP isn’t modern, eight out of ten websites are built using this language.
PHP is an all-purpose scripting language for building entire web apps or their interactive elements. Using PHP, developers can create content management systems (CMSs) and online database systems, message boards, subscription-based websites, gaming web apps, blogs with comment features, and registration systems.
PHP is partially an object-oriented language that makes code reuse possible. Reusable components save developers’ efforts and cut the time needed for custom web application development.
Code written in PHP is compatible with Linux, Windows, Unix, and macOS and supports over 20 databases and most servers. The language’s great customization potential, quick data processing, and smooth integration with different CMSs makes it a good choice for dynamic web pages. The following two PHP frameworks make swift web app development a reality by providing well-organized and reusable code.
Laravel is the most popular PHP framework. It’s an elegant toolkit with a rich set of features that boost the speed of web app development. Laravel gives developers access to functionality like caching, session management, and authentication. This allows developers to skip much groundwork, especially when developing a website from scratch.
Symfony is a highly flexible framework inspired by Django that’s mostly used for handling enterprise apps with millions of connections. Symfony enables developers to either use the entire framework or choose the functions they need, which is an important feature for those who care about modularity.
PHP is often blamed by developers for its lack of dedicated libraries. But each new version of PHP for web app development shows upgraded performance.
Ruby is a dynamic scripting language with high-level syntax. It was created to strike a balance between imperative and functional programming and make code look more natural. Ruby is straightforward and reads like English, making it a popular choice among beginners.
Like Python, Ruby is a general-purpose language and is mostly used for creating web applications. But the Ruby programming language also has other applications including prototyping and data analysis.
Free Ruby tools and libraries with basic features facilitate web app development. Apps built in Ruby are easy to scale. Businesses can launch basic Ruby web apps and scale them into powerful Ruby apps that handle thousands of simultaneous user requests.
Ruby on Rails (RoR) is a popular open-source Ruby framework. Great speed, simplicity, and a pleasing coding experience are three reasons why RoR stands out from other Ruby frameworks like Sinatra, Padrino, Hanami, and Cuba. RoR and Django are very comparable. Each provides many libraries, views, models, database migrations, and controllers — everything a software engineer expects from a framework. Well-documented machine learning (ML) packages in Python and the lack thereof in Ruby are the only notable exception.
So if you intend to create a web app with machine learning elements, go with Python and Django.
To cover all aspects of modern web app development, most frameworks work with additional tools. Angular can do the job by itself, however. This framework provides quality ready-made templates and components. Some of the best web apps like the Google Play Store, Microsoft’s Xbox web app, Office 365 for web, Netflix, YouTube, and PayPal are based on Angular. Angular has a modular structure that allows developers to organize pipes, services, directives, and other components into separate buckets. These independent components are easy to replace or scale. Plus, Angular is frequently updated, and every new update comes with performance improvements.
Flexible dynamic typing
Static typing; no undeclared variables allowed
Doesn’t catch mistakes in real time
Catches errors and provides fixes before developers even run their code
Perfect for simple web applications
Better for large projects since code is much easier to maintain and share
Doesn’t support many IDEs
Supports lots of different IDEs
Unlimited choice of libraries and frameworks
Choice of libraries and tools is slightly limited
The main building block of a web application:
Deals with the look and feel of a web application:
Enhances the functionality of a web application:
How can you choose the best programming language for web development?
These three criteria can help a business owner choose the right technology stack for their web app:
- Size and complexity — Simple tools without extra modules and libraries are the usual choice for small web apps. Complex web projects with a wide scope of functionality (like FinTech apps, social networks, or trading platforms) require more than one programming language.
- Extensibility — Want to reach millions of users? If you do, your web app servers will need to be able to work under heavy loads without lag. For this, you’ll need technologies that ensure vertical and horizontal scalability.
- Time, money, team — Fast web app development helps businesses stay ahead of rivals. Do you need a big budget to ensure quick development? To know the details, get in touch with a reliable web application development company. They’ll give you a rough estimate and will guide you in timing.
In addition to these criteria that you should consider when planning how to develop a web application from scratch, these are three factors that shouldn’t determine your choice of programming language:
- Your previous web apps — No matter how successful your previous projects were, their tech stacks shouldn’t dictate what programming language you choose for your current project. All projects are unique and have specific demands.
- Your personal preferences — Even if you have years of development experience, keep to current trends and current needs.
- Your competitors’ projects — You surely can learn from others’ experiences. But you shouldn’t blindly follow others, since all you see is the results of their work while knowing nothing about the background of the development process.
At Steelkiwi, we consult our clients on frontend and backend technology stacks for web application development. Our technical leads are careful about choosing technologies appropriate for each specific project.
To date, we’ve helped over 100 clients complete their web development tasks. If you have any questions concerning your startup, need to improve your current web app, or want to see a rough cost estimate, get in touch with our sales team. We’ll reply within one business day and will start helping you achieve your goals.