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TOP opensource JavaScript UI libraries in 2020-2021

July 3, 2020 No Comments

Featured article by Yuri Kitin, Independent Technology Author

JavaScript is the most popular programming language on the planet. This spread is due to two factors: 

top ui libraries 760 355 1@2x 300x140 TOP opensource JavaScript UI libraries in 2020 2021

1. Growth of computing power of personal computers and mobile devices.  

Technological progress has made it possible to perform teraflops of calculations both on personal computers and on most modern mobile devices. Productivity increases simultaneously with energy efficiency, which leads to the miniaturization of computing devices and as a result, their wider distribution.

2. The rapid evolution of web browsers.  

To utilize excess computing power, a new approach to organizing the webspace was needed. Transferring a significant portion of calculations to the client-side has become possible thanks to complex and functional browsers. They have become multifunctional systems for performing a variety of tasks.

Thanks to this combination of circumstances, JavaScript has become a leader, because it allows you to implement an infinite number of browser solutions, from web front-end to complex browser calculations. At the moment, most business applications are Web-oriented and have a UI layer written in JavaScript.

What are UI libraries?  

UI libraries started appearing almost simultaneously with the birth of JavaScript. Reuse of code is a useful practice in programming because it allows you to reduce the development time and avoid many errors and bugs. Therefore, most developers have collected their own sets of the most successful UI components. Over time, they were completed, updated, and formed the basis of most open source UI libraries.

Why use UI libraries? 

1. Time-saving approach  

Using ready-made components saves a lot of time on development. This allows you to reduce the budget of your IT solution.

2. UX practices   

Modern web UI design is developed according to simple and clear rules under the general name Material Design. Using ready-made libraries allows you to accept the most modern UX practices. Developers can create ideologically correct interfaces without involving a UI designer.

3. Features-rich interface   

Libraries usually contain features-rich components. You get clipboard support, keyboard shortcuts, context menu, drag-n-drop, filters, data validation, pagination.

4. Performance and optimization  

JavaScript experts spend a lot of time optimizing the loading speed, rendering, and reducing the volume of source code in libraries.

5. Unique design  

Some libraries are interesting in terms of beautiful and unique graphic design. Developers can choose the appropriate design skin style to use in their project.

Jquery UI   

One of the oldest and probably one of the most popular UI libraries. It formed the basis of a large number of UI products and gave rise to a whole class of JavaScript libraries based on its core. The peak of Jquery’s popularity came during a period when the Angular and React frameworks that dominate today had not existed yet. Jquery UI allowed you to solve many UI cases that became possible only with the release of HTML5. Today, this project is experiencing a kind of a decline. This is reflected in the absence of current updates and new widgets.

Pros   

* excellent documentation  
* easy to use and learn  
* beautiful and smooth animation of UI components  
* presence of unique UI components  
* high performance and source code quality   
* wide customization options

Cons   

* limited functionality compared to full-fledged frameworks  
* limited set of UI components no longer updated 
* visual recognition (everyone will immediately understand your project is built on Jquery) 
* outdated UI design   
* not fully compatible with modern browsers  
* not fully compatible with mobile devices  
* poor compatibility with reactive programming   
* no commercial license

Follow-up   

In a modern way, the Jquery UI code seems clunky compared to more elegant and newer frameworks and libraries. With the release of the HTML5 standard, many Jquery UI features have become redundant, since they are now natively supported by modern browsers “out of the box”. Nevertheless, this library has earned our recognition and deserves to be mentioned in our review. It is still a good tool for training and rapid prototyping. Some unique controls of this library are in demand among developers to this day.

Webix 

The first version of the Webix project was released in 2013. Until that time, the product was developed as an internal tool of the software company XBSoftware. The library is designed for creating business applications with complex, advanced logic and a functional JavaScript UI interface. There are two versions of Webix available to users. The first is an Opensource library under the GPL3 license. The second is Webix Pro, which is a commercial package that contains more UI widgets and comes with a set of SPA applications for solving some application tasks (File Manager, Document Manager, Kanban, Pivot, Query, SpreadSheet, User Manager)

Pros   

* large number of UI widgets (100+)  
* availability of complex SPA applications  
* material design skins  
* templates library   
* excellent documentation in two languages  
* materials for self-study  
* dedicated support service   
* best rendering on the market (according to Bryntum specialists

Cons   

* not the best choice for mobile hybrid apps  
* limited set of charts   
* difficulties with default design skins customization  
* some features are available in commercial package only

Follow-up   

The Webix creators have found a Golden mean between simplicity and functionality. Using Webix ensures real time and budget savings. A huge library of widgets allows you to implement any UX case without the need to use third-party solutions. This product can be safely recommended for the development of any business applications. A commercial license allows you to scale your project and guarantees full intellectual property rights. At the same time, Webix is the right choice for startups and any prototypes since they can be developed on the opensource version without additional financial costs. Technical support guarantees success in the implementation of any projects.

Bootstrap 

This is a popular framework that allows you to quickly build the desired web application from ready-made blocks. Bootstrap is very popular with novice developers due to its simplicity, low entry threshold, and detailed documentation. Bootstrap is based on the experience of one of the Twitter developers. The first version of the product was released in 2010.

Pros   

* time-saving development philosophy   
* good adaptability starting from V. 4. 0  
* good responsive compatibility  
* easy to learn  
* good documentation  
* useful gallery of examples and templates  
* ideal for web sites and web portals  
* no commercial license

Cons   

* insufficient number of UI widgets  
* need to use third-party UI libraries  
* difficulty in customizing and integrating custom design  
* bad for Business Web apps  
* too recognizable without customization 
* difficult migrating from early to current versions

Follow-up   

Bootstrap is a full-fledged framework that greatly simplifies the process of Web applications development. But the product has limited functionality and UI components. You may encounter problems scaling your project in the future. Bootstrap allows you to get quick results, but if necessary, customize or integrate your design template You will have to spend a significant amount of time studying the documentation, which will reduce all the time savings to nothing. Without deep customization, your project will lose its identity and will be similar to other projects created on Bootstrap. Creating complex business applications may require using third-party UI libraries.

Semantic UI   

One of the most interesting, conceptual developments in our review. The creators of this product aimed to make the UI layer programming process as similar as possible to writing text in natural language. Thanks to this approach, the written source code is easy to read. Programming becomes intuitive. This is a great product for those who are just starting to learn web development. Semantic UI is a good alternative for those who consider Bootstrap  to be too complicated.

Pros  

* perfectly readable code (written in natural language)  
* fast learning and classes memorizing   
* free Open Source licensing  
* simple feature of styling and theming    
* innovative and fine designs  
* great response and mobile compatibility   
* large community of users   
* better documentation   
* no commercial license

Cons 

* fragmented design  
* insufficient number of UI components  
* suitable only for web  
* performance issues

Follow-up  

The project has a pronounced educational connotation. Great for rapid prototyping of simple functionality and simple web sites. The limited capabilities of this product will become a stumbling block when trying to develop a complex business application. Projects created using the Semantic UI will have difficulties with further growth and scaling because they will be limited by the technical capabilities of this product.

The above-described library is a good choice for beginning developers due to its semantic approach to class names and wide documentation. The absence of technical support can be repaid by the assistance of the user community. Zero “entry fee” will save you resources, but restricts you to the frames of the MIT license. Which is not always good for commercial projects. The main point here will be to cope with technical problems, as the product does not offer professional technical support. Semantic UI is a relevant option for unloaded solutions, websites, and simple business applications.

Kendo UI 

This library has gained its reputation as a quality product for web business apps. A vast community of developers values this library for the timely updates and support for four frameworks at once (Angular, React, Vue, jQuery). The creator company Telerik even provides UI tools for ASP.NET, including AJAX, MV, and Core. There are solutions for PHP, Silverlight, JSP. Such a thoughtful approach makes it possible to integrate Kendo UI into almost any system platform.

Pros   

* multiple frameworks development support  
* perfect documentation and support service   
* regular update  
* simple customization  
* automated testing tools 
* ready-to-use design themes

Cons   

* small number of UI components   
* performance issues   
* lack of documentation    
* high entry threshold  
* commercial license

Follow-up   

Kendo UI may appeal to those looking for great flexibility in the UI toolkit and experience in deep customization of the front-end layer. This solution perfectly fits huge and difficult projects, which apply multiple development frameworks. There may occur some issues in the performance of the main components though. A small number of components will help you only with rather simple layout designs. It is enough for most business applications but may seem insufficient for future project scaling.

Conclusion  

As sad as it may sound, the time of Opensource UI libraries is coming to an end. We are observing rapid growth in the popularity of full-fledged frameworks and commercial products that attract users with excellent quality, beautiful design, and additional services. Previously popular projects now look abandoned and forgotten. But they are still relevant for novice JavaScript developers, as a training tool.

About the Author – Yuri Kitin (https://by.linkedin.com/in/yurikitin?trk=author_mini-profile_title)

APPLICATION INTEGRATION, DATA and ANALYTICS , OPEN SOURCE

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