Python web frameworks: Django vs. Flask vs. Falcon
An Overview of Three Solid Web Frameworks:
Django, Falcon, and Flask all have sizable communities and ample resources specifically built for them. Each have been used to develop some of the most well-known apps in today’s world. Below we will provide an overview as well as the pros and cons of each framework.
The Flask framework is designed to be lightweight and easy to pick up. Its short learning curve minimizes the time needed for your developers to learn how to use it. Flask’s simplicity makes your app easier to maintain and build from day one.
However, the simplicity of Flask can present a downside. If you intend on adding many new, complex features as you expand, Django may be more suited for this type of scaling. On the other hand, the flexibility and simplicity of Flask allows you to choose the technologies that you want to implement. What kind of database should we use? How will we be creating the admin panel? These are all considerations that you may find easier to address with Flask.
As Flask is well-suited for simple service architecture, many companies choose to use a combination of Flask and Django in their technology stack. Some of the largest companies that use Flask include Pinterest, Lyft, Twilio, and Netflix.
To many, Django presents the best solution for building a scalable web app. Django is powerful and includes many more built-in features than Flask. The expandability of Django makes it perfect for the creation of an MVP with plans to greatly extend functionality in the future.
While the scalability of Django is a significant draw, it is more complex to learn and use in comparison to Flask. Django has an included database panel and admin interface; however, these prescribed components can make it more limited. In comparison, Flask allows you the freedom and flexibility to architect and implement these components whichever way you want. This being said, the prescribed features in Django can lower your product’s time to market as they are convenient and familiar to work with.
Django is undoubtably the most popular Python-based web framework, with a huge community of users and resources behind it. Major companies that rely on Django today include Instagram, Spotify, Dropbox, and Youtube.
Falcon is both a similar yet very different animal in comparison to Flask and Django. Falcon is not designed to serve HTML pages; therefore, it is not a frontend framework. Flask and Django can both serve HTML templates, while Falcon is primarily designed for building REST APIs.
REST is an architectural style used for building APIs (application programming interface). APIs are used to facilitate communication between different applications. For example, if you were building a weather app but do not have access to your own weather data, you would use an API to connect your app to an online weather data provider. In other words, an API allows your app to access data from another online service in order to populate your application.
Due to Falcon’s specialized nature, it excels at projects dependent on APIs. Companies that use Falcon in their tech stack include Paypal, LinkedIn, RackSpace, and OpenStack.
Considerations When Choosing a Framework
Using a popular web framework compared to building your own system from scratch not only saves significant time and money, but can also help maintain security and functionality. Here are a handful of important factors to keep in mind as you choose your framework:
1) Keep Calm and Stay Agile
For technology companies across the globe, Agile is the new way of working. This project organization technique places emphasis on creating many smaller, cross-functional teams that deliver frequently. As opposed to the waterfall methodology in which you determine requirements and deliver the product 6 months later, Agile highlights the importance of constant customer feedback, continually pivoting, and making changes on the fly. The goal is to always be adapting as requirements are expected to continually shift.
2) Technology Changes
When building a proof of concept, you may opt to use Flask due to its short learning curve and speed in lightweight development. When it comes time to build your MVP or further develop your product, you may conclude that Django is the best path forward. This concept ties into the Agile methodology. As your requirements change, don’t get tied down; be prepared to change and pivot. Be Agile!
3) Support for WSGI
WSGI, an acronym for Web Server Gateway Interface, is a standard that allows different computer systems to interact with one another. Relevant to our case, it allows a web framework to interact with a web server. This is a huge advantage when creating an application: a developer can easily communicate with another online service if there is a common way to communicate. Applications may also be scaled as WSGI is equipped to handle many requests at the same time. Flask, Django, and Falcon are all WSGI compliant.
4) Support for Your Framework
Getting started with a framework with a small community and limited support can leave your development at a standstill. Django, Flask, and Falcon are all well-known frameworks with extensive documentation, armies of experts and users, and numerous resources built for them. This being said, Django boasts the largest community for Python-based web framework, with developers across the world maintaining and continually expanding upon its capabilities. When creating your MVP, a sizable and involved community is an invaluable resource that not only saves you time and money, but leads to a better final product.
5) Type of App
What kind of app is your company building? What will its core features require? If you are building an app with a robust frontend, Flask or Django are likely your best options. Falcon, on the other hand, is not designed for frontend development. However, if you are building an API, Falcon becomes the ideal choice as it is lightweight, easy to use, and specialized for that purpose.
Is your web app reliant on a database? There is a good chance that this is the case. Both Django and Flask have robust database integration. Both support database migration – the process of editing and updating your database to hold more or different data. Django and Flask also integrate with SQLite and MySQL, two very popular systems used to communicate with databases. For any CRUD app (create, read, update, delete), these frameworks make sense. Falcon may not be the best option for a database-reliant application.
7) Go Open Source
Open source software is free to use and may be modified however you want with access to the full source code. Your developers may even contribute to the framework. Django in particular has a large community and fairly regular release times; this is important when keeping track of versions and managing bugs. Make sure to upgrade versions on a regular basis so that your app remains secure and functional. Using a free, open source framework with a predictable release schedule can make your development team more efficient and cohesive as they are prepared ahead of time for the changes.
8) Application Structure
Application structure will vary depending on the framework you choose. In particular, Django has a more rigid application structure. Many developers see this as a downside because it limits creativity and hinders the ability to choose a structure and implementation. Django uses the MTV (model – template – view) architecture pattern. Closely related to MVC (model – view – controller), MTV is a way to separate different parts of your program for the sake of organization. On the other hand, Flask and Falcon are both microframeworks, thus they do not use MTV or MVC patterns and the way you structure your application is up to you.
Routing is an important consideration with any web application since we are always dealing with a URL (uniform resource locator). In Flask, there is a decorator located in a Python file that defines certain actions when a specific URL is triggered. Django takes a more centralized approach to routing, making Django a more flexible option. On the other hand, Flask makes it easier to extract URL parameters. This is very important for a complex app that has multiple pages and components that communicate and pass data to each other through a URL.
The Verdict: Deciding Between Django, Flask, and Falcon
These three fantastic and popular web frameworks each have their own unique use cases, thus it is important to identify your project’s needs before choosing a framework to work with. Consider whether you are building an API, a microservice, or front-end application that relies on a database. Determine where you stand in the development phase – are you focused on bringing an MVP to the next stage, or simply developing a proof of concept?
As you begin developing on your framework of choice, remain flexible and open-minded, consistently reassessing the needs of your project and feedback from users. By choosing one or a combination of frameworks for your project, you set the foundation for efficient development of a reliable, secure app.