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.NET Development in the Backend – What’s the Best Option for the Front-End?

May 27, 2021
a woman working on a .net development project

For many years now, .NET development has been the backend web development framework of choice. With its comprehensive toolset, open-source availability, strong community and eco-system, and most important of all, continuing support from Microsoft, it’s no wonder that most Fortune 500 companies are using .NET for their software projects. When it comes to backend web development, .NET is king.

But what about the front end? The story there is a bit different.  There are several front-end framework options vying for primacy. Some are already widely used; others are technologically promising and gaining in popularity. So far, none has established itself as the clear best option.

Choosing the right front-end framework for your application is vitally important. After all, the front-end is the means by which users interact with your application. As far as they are concerned, the front end is your application.

With several front-end framework options from which to choose, how can you determine which will best suit your needs? To answer that question, let’s start by considering some important trends in front-end development.

How .NET Development Is Changing

In the early days of web development, practically all the intelligence in web apps was on the server side. The application logic ran on the server, and the client simply displayed the HTML pages the server delivered to it. But with the rise of the Single Page Application (SPA) approach, the focus has shifted from the server doing all the processing to most of it being done in the client’s browser.

JavaScript has long been the dominant programming language for browser-based SPA development. But that’s beginning to change. Recently there has been a groundswell of interest in using C# for web development. The latest version of ASP.NET Core reflects this, which uses the same C# code across all platforms. This new prominence of C# in web development is driving the emergence of new front-end frameworks such as Microsoft’s own Blazor.

With that background, let’s look specifically at some of the most prominent options for front-end development frameworks today.

Your Best Front-End Framework Options

Some of these solutions are JavaScript libraries rather than complete frameworks. For our purposes, we’ll sometimes refer to all of them as frameworks.

1. Native .NET Development for Front-End Solutions (MVC, Blazor, Razor)

MVC (Model-View-Controller) is one of the most widely used frameworks (or design patterns) for creating user interfaces. Its great advantage is that it decouples the UI (the view) from the data (the model) and the application logic (the controller), making both development and maintenance easier.

Many still consider MVC a great server-side solution. But on the client-side of SPA implementations, it’s difficult to maintain MVC decoupling because there may be multiple controllers and views interacting. That’s why some influential developers consider component-based frameworks, such as Angular and React, to be a much better alternative, and have declared client-side MVC to be obsoletedying, or already dead.

But Microsoft is breathing life into the client-side .NET development model with its newest front-end framework, Blazor.

Blazor is a free, open-source, component-based framework that allows developers to write code for browsers in C# rather than (or in addition to) JavaScript. Steve Sanderson, a developer on Microsoft’s ASP.NET team and one of the creators of Blazor, describes it this way:

What is Blazor? It’s a framework for browser-based (client-side) applications written in .NET, running under WebAssembly. It gives you all the benefits of a rich, modern single-page application (SPA) platform while letting you use .NET end-to-end, including sharing code across server and client.

Whereas Razor components run on the server, Blazor uses Razor templates to create components that run in the client’s browser (the name Blazor comes from Browser + Razor).

Although Blazor is interoperable with JavaScript, its great advantage is that it allows C# developers to build their entire stack, including the UI, in .NET. Its major downside is that it is still very new, and not yet a stable, mature framework.

2. JavaScript Libraries (jQuery, BackboneJs, ReactJS)

Two programmers analyzing code for a .NET development project.
Two software developers are analyzing code written into the program on the computer.

jQuery has historically been a great choice for fast development with a short learning curve. However, many of the features that formerly made it uniquely useful have now been added to JavaScript. Also, jQuery is extremely large and relatively slow; no longer do professionals consider it the cutting edge of .NET development.

BackboneJs, unlike jQuery, has a tiny footprint and is very fast. But its minimalist approach will require you to write lots of additional code. Use it best for building small and simple apps.

ReactJS is the most popular and fastest-growing of all the JavaScript frameworks. It’s actually a JavaScript visual library that can be used in place of Razor as the view in MVC implementations. Its greatest attribute includes component-based architecture that results in less coding (reuse components on both the server and client sides), and improved maintenance. ReactJS is fast, SEO-friendly, and has a large community and eco-system. Importantly, Facebook backs it and regularly updated. Its major drawback is that because of those frequent updates, the documentation often lags behind.

3. JavaScript Frameworks (Angular, VueJS)

Angular (sometimes known as Angular 2+) is the granddaddy of all the major front-end frameworks, but is now second in popularity to ReactJS. Unlike its original incarnation as AngularJS, which focused on MVC, newer versions use components. Angular is a complete front-end framework that’s an excellent choice for creating large, enterprise-scale SPA applications, especially those with dynamic content. However, because it is so comprehensive, there’s a steep learning curve, and smaller development teams may find it overwhelming.

VueJS is designed to be a much simpler environment than Angular—it is considered to be one of the most beginner-friendly of all the front-end frameworks. It has a tiny footprint, is fast, and has an extensive toolset and detailed documentation. The negatives include private development without backing from any major corporation; it has a small support community; most of its plugins and components are written in Chinese!

ParallelStaff Can Help With Your .NET Development, Whichever Framework You Choose

Most industry experts agree that in terms of their capabilities, none of the major front-end .NET development frameworks stands head-and-shoulders above the rest as the best option for all situations. Your choice will come down to which one best suits your particular development environment and project goals.

No matter which front-end framework you choose, you’ll need developers with the appropriate skills and experience to use it most effectively. That’s where ParallelStaff can help.

ParallelStaff is a global business process outsourcing provider based in the U.S. We specialize in providing clients with staff augmentation and nearshore software development services using highly skilled contract employees working remotely from Mexico and Latin America.

We draw from a deep pool of expert dotnet developers and engineers to supply your project teams with exactly the front-end skills you need to develop your web applications quickly and cost-effectively.

If you’d like to know more about how ParallelStaff can supply your company with the nearshore .NET developers your projects require, please contact us.

Miguel Hernandez