The speed of innovation in the web development space is accelerating every year. Five or ten years ago it seemed impossible that we’d be able to build such powerful and performant applications in the browser as we are able to in 2020 — like Netflix, Facebook, Spotify or AirBnB.
As the demands from browser apps continue to become more complicated, web developers increasingly need better and more versatile tools to keep up with rising expectations. Thankfully, we’ve never been more spoilt for choice, with both established companies and community members racing to build better libraries, frameworks and apps to make life easier for developers.
Just as the expectations from software development have evolved, so has the very job description of a developer itself. At an increasing pace, developers are expected to break out of their silos and turn into “jacks of all trades”, constantly switching context at work and collaborating within cross-functional product teams. Keeping this in mind, the modern developer's toolbox is incomplete without the right design, prototyping and collaboration tools to complement their technical work.
In this piece we’ll review 36 of the most used and loved web development tools as of 2020.
Web developers wouldn’t be able to do their jobs fast and efficiently without the code and text editors. Once they choose an editor that they like most, the software professionals tend to stick to it for many years and even sometimes decades.
Atom is relatively a new kid on the block of code editors. It was developed and released in 2014 by GitHub and has been described as “a hackable text editor for the 21st Century”. Atom has a smooth workflow and is quite intuitive. Its game-changing feature is however the ability to customize the workspace to individual needs and wants, and comes with a huge amount of extensions.
The Sublime is among the most popular text code editors out there. Although you can download Sublime for free, officially it is not — after you complete the evaluation, you are asked to pay $70 for a licence. Sublime is cross-platform (Windows, MacOS, Linux), has a quick navigation, adaptive matching of commands, simultaneous editing and Python-based plugin API.
Notepad++ is a powerful open source text editor, which only works on Windows. It supports 27 programming languages, regular expressions, support synchronized edits and views, syntax highlighting and folding and has many other handy features.
Vim is an easy to configure text editor that allows to quickly create and change any kind of text. It comes built-in as "vi" with most UNIX systems and with Apple OS X.
Visual Studio Code is a source-code editor developed by Microsoft which works on Windows, Linux and macOS platforms. VCS notable features are debugging, intelligent code completion, snippets, embedded Git control and GitHub, syntax highlighting, and code refactoring.
Web Application Frameworks are software libraries designed to help you build web services, web resources and web APIs. Choosing the right framework for your project is extremely important, since as the product becomes more mature and complex, switching to a different framework might become very time-consuming and expensive.
Below are just a few of the most popular web frameworks nowadays - both front and backend. Before deciding on any, be sure to do your own research and look into all the viable options.
Django is a high-level Python framework that promotes rapid development and well-organized, pragmatic software design. Django is known to be one of the most secure web frameworks out there, as it’s one of the fastest to react to new vulnerabilities.
The Django’s community is part of the wider Python community and actively contributes a whole lot of useful packages and utilities. If you want to explore around, just type in “Django” on PyPI, and you’ll come across over 4,000 packages ready for use.
To learn more about Django, check out the following resources:
Rails is particularly known for being easy to maintain and for opening many opportunities for dev-collaboration. It’s a result of the two key core principles that Rails has been built on:
Ruby On Rails is very friendly for beginners and has an active and supporting community behind it.
Check out the following Angular resources to learn more and get inspired to build something yourself:
Check out the following React resources to learn more and get inspired to build something yourself:
Check out the following Vue resources to learn more and get inspired to build something yourself:
Although it’s been argued that Meteor has lost some of its popularity in recent years, it still remains one of the most popular and loved web development frameworks out there.
ASP.NET is an open-source server-side framework for building web apps with .NET and C# developed by Microsoft. Since its release in 2002, the framework has been rapidly changing and never lost its wide popularity.
Check out the following resources if you’re interested in learning more:
Also called “CSS frameworks,” front-end frameworks are packages containing pre-written, standardized code. They are here to help you hit the ground running when building new websites.
There are hundreds of CSS frameworks out there, with own strengths and weaknesses. When choosing the right framework for your project, make sure you research its complexity. It wouldn’t make sense to use a complex framework for a basic project, but a too-simple framework might be not scalable for a large website.
To learn Bootstrap check out the following resources:
Semantic UI is a component framework for theming websites. It is based on the concept that at the core of sites are not individual HTML tags, but individual interface components like buttons, modals or dropdowns.
Foundation began as an internal CSS styleguide guide created by the ZURB design agency. Foundation is a good choice if you’re looking for a flexible and powerful framework that wouldn’t limit you in any way.
Materialize is a front-end framework based on the Material Design visual language. It’s fast, bold, intentional and has a low learning curve. You can check out the examples of websites built with Materialize here.
Material UI is among the world's most popular front-end frameworks, also inspired by Google’s Material Design. It’s open-source and based on the ReactJS. With the components in Material UI it is easy to make use of the Material Design elements in your web or mobile applications.
Web developers use package managers to automate the process of installing, upgrading, configuring, and removing computer programs. Once the user requests a package using the particular package manager, it finds the requested package from a known location, downloads it and then installs, notifying of any additional actions necessary.
Yarn is one of the newest package managers out there, built by Facebook. It’s loved by the community for its superior to most other package managers speed, reliability and security. Getting started with Yarn is easy — check out the official docs here.
There are a number of Git GUI clients available for various operating systems. It’s good to try out a few before settling down for the one which works best for you and your team.
Built by GitHub, it’s a tool that allows you to interact with GitHub from the desktop. It’s got a rich interface that allows to manage code without the command window. With the recent release, GitHub Desktop 2.0 now also supports rebasing and stashing — two most requested features that the original version lacked.
It’s a cross-platform Git client for Mac, Windows and Linux. GitKraken has got an intuitive UI, built-in code editor, tasks tracking and integrates with all possible repositories.
SourceTree is a free Git client available for Mac and Windows which is developed by Atlassian. It’s perfect for Git newbies and yet has all the advanced features to satisfy the pro-level users.
It’s another free and quite powerful Git graphical user interface which is written in Python. It’s less popular than other clients, but still has a small yet active community behind it.
SmartGit is another cross-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux) Git client. It’s got all the features a web developer might need, and is quite customizable to individual preferences and workflow. Unlike some other clients, you’d have to purchase a licence to use it.
Web APIs are a crucial part of web developers’ work nowadays. It’s important to have reliable tools to build, test and communicate with the APIs efficiently and securely.
Postman is a collaboration platform for API development, currently used by over 8 million developers and leading companies worldwide. Postman's features aim to simplify each step of creating APIs and streamline the collaboration. There’s a very active community behind the tool, running regular offline and online events.
It’s a testing and validating tool for REST services in Java. REST Assured brings the simplicity of using dynamic languages into the Java domain.
It’s no longer enough to just code web sites or apps. If you want people to actually use them, you need to put a lot of effort into the UI and UX. As a result, the digital companies are doubling and tripling the size of their design teams.
As a result, most of the web developers are interacting and cross-collaborating very closely with the designers. Therefore, it’s important to have shared tools that might help to facilitate these workflows.
Figma is currently the world's leading UI design software. It’s gained popularity mainly due to its collaboration features, allowing multiple people work on the same document simultaneously.
Figma also has decent prototyping and hand-off features, which eliminate the need to switch between multiple tools.
ProtoPie is an advanced visual prototyping tool. It would fit in great into the workflows of designers and developers looking to quickly prototype how something is supposed to work (for example an e-commerce website), without wasting time writing code.
Getting started with ProtoPie is quite easy, just check out their tutorials page.
Framer is a great choice for those designers and developers who are looking to create advanced high-fidelity prototypes made of the real UI React components. It’s a perfect bridging tool between the design and development teams, allowing them to collaborate and rapidly experiment in the shared space.
With Animator you can create high-fidelity timeline animations for apps and websites. You first design the animations visually or using a code editor, and can then export them for various platforms.
A solid vector graphics tool is a must-have for any web developer. While Adobe Illustrator still remains a classic option, there are other great tools available — Affinity Designer is one of them. It has essentially all the same tools as AI, but comes with a perpetual licence, and thus is more affordable.
Mockplus is a robust all-in-one product platform for prototyping, collaboration, and design systems. You can quickly turn ideas into functional prototypes with components, icons, and interactions. Bring designers, product managers, and front-end developers to work better and together. Mockplus helps you create better design experience faster and easier.
In that final section we are going to cover the tools that web developers use to collaborate with their peers. Teamwork and interpersonal skills are becoming more and more important in the space, as the success of whole projects sometimes depends not on the technical excellence, but on the clear and efficient communication.
Asana is one of the most widely used project management tools out there. It’s famous for being simple and visual, and thus being a great fit for cross-functional teams.
Basecamp is another popular and loved by the development community project management tool. It’s really well-suited for day-to-day tasks, but has a slightly less advanced reporting than Asana or JIRA.
JIRA is a go-to project management platform for millions of developers. It’s got all the most advanced features to plan, track and report on the development of agile projects. One big advantage of JIRA above the other project management tools is that it’s so customizable, but that same thing is also a drawback, resulting in the steeper learning curve and more efforts needed to set it up.
If you don’t know about Slack yet and never used it — you must be living under a rock. Slack is a messaging platform built for digital teams and supercharged with all the possible integrations and nifty features which make the remote collaboration easier.
Sometimes, messages just aren’t enough — nothing can replace the power of face-to-face communication. Zoom is a great video conferencing solution that makes it easy to hold personal and team calls. It has a limited free tier, allowing you to make calls up to 40 minutes long.
The landscape of web development is constantly changing. Modern developers have various apps in their tool-boxes — and it's important to constantly stay tuned with all the latest news in the industry to remain efficient.
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