Web services, APIs and resources can only be built upon a solid foundation. Developers thus rely on a web framework which can best be described as a software structure which supports the development of these web applications. They provide developers with a standard way to develop and deploy these apps on the internet.
Developers often have to perform a lot of common activities in web development. They are repetitive tasks that can take up time and thus delay the project. Web frameworks make it easier to automate these repetitive tasks by providing libraries for things like database access and session management. They can also often allow code reuse.
Django and Flask happen to be the two most widely used Python web frameworks. Both have mature developer communities with widespread support. They have their strengths and weaknesses but ultimately, they're both used to develop web applications.
What is Django?
Django is an open-source Python-based web framework that allows for easy creation of database-driven websites. Django operates on a "batteries included" approach whereby components for patterns, tools, features, functionality and more are provided out of the box. This helps save time for developers.
For example, most web apps require authentication and authorization, in order to ascertain who the user is and what they're allowed to do. Django has support for both with an account management solution out of the box. A functional admin panel is also available for Django. It's a web application that provides a user interface so that it's easier to manage data based on the developers' models.
- It’s Written In Python
Python is one of the most popular programming languages because it's clean and easy to learn. The fact that Django is written in Python is a major advantage for this web framework. The programming language is simple to work with, particularly for newbies, which makes the web framework accessible to developers of all skill levels.
- Built for speed
Django is the web framework of choice for developers on a deadline. The framework's design is entirely focused on reducing development time. Django provides developers with features that allow them to build custom web applications quickly.
- MVC programming paradigm is supported
Django has support for the model-view-controller (MVC) design rule. This programming paradigm enables developers to keep their web app's user interface and business logic layers completely separate. This enables them to quickly scale up web apps while also allowing them to reuse the same business logic for multiple projects.
- Strong security features are built-in
The security of web apps is of paramount importance and this framework acknowledges that. To that end, Django has integrated security features that protect web apps from targeted attacks launched through methods like SQL injection, cross-site scripting and cross-site request forgery.
- Not suited for small web apps
Django doesn't really prove to be useful for simple and small web apps. Its impressive suite of features is very useful for developers that want to build large and complex web apps but that functionality is normally not required for simpler apps. This additional functionality could thus end up affecting the performance of small web apps which means developers have to actively find ways to improve the performance of their simple apps if they're built on Django.
- Uses Regex to specify URL
Django uses Regex or regular expressions to specify its URLs. These URL routing patterns make the code larger with more complicated syntaxes. It can be difficult to accomplish particularly for developers who are not highly skilled and it can also feel bloated for small projects.
- Template errors fail silently
One shortcoming that Django has is that its template errors fail silently. This means that developers don't immediately know what's wrong and they can spend a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what went wrong. There may even be cases where they don't even know there's a problem with their application.
- Over-reliance on ORM system
Django's ORM system allows developers to work with multiple databases and this speeds up common database operations. However, its ORM system doesn't have many useful features that other ORM systems provide, so developers can't take full advantage of the Python SQL toolkit.
What is Flask?
Flask is a microframework and as such, it's better suited to single-page, small and medium-sized web applications. It doesn't have any data models of its own as Flask takes a more modular approach towards development. No ORM is provided and Flask only gives developers a basic set of tools that they can use for web development.
Many developers prefer Flask because of the flexibility that it offers. Since it's a minimalistic framework that places no restrictions, developers can rely on external libraries to achieve the intended result.
- Facilitates experimentation
Developers that are working on a project with unique needs should opt for Flask. All Flask projects have their own internal tech stack of libraries in general as developers are not bound to follow a monolithic structure. This facilitates experimentation to a much higher degree.
- Comparatively simpler
Compared to other web frameworks, even ones that are properly documented, Flask is simpler. Developers just find it much easier to get their head around Flask. This results in faster development of projects since there are fewer bottlenecks.
- Slightly better performance
Contrary to popular belief, Flask isn't significantly better in performance. That's because Python's capabilities ensure that the performance difference between Flask and other frameworks like Django are minor. However, Flask does have a minor performance advantage since it's smaller and has fewer layers.
- Wider database support
The obvious advantage of Flask not having its own ORM system is that developers have more flexibility when it comes to database selection. They can run their database operations through SQLAlchemy as a SQL toolkit. Developers are also able to perform general database queries through SQL.
- More expensive to maintain
There is a disadvantage to the less standardized tech stake of Flask. This makes it more expensive to maintain compared to a framework like Django that takes a more monolithic approach.
- No integrated bootstrapping tool
Flask doesn't have an integrated bootstrapping tool which means that developers can't start building web apps without any external input. They can't divide a single project into several applications or use the tool to create new applications within one project.
- Developer community isn’t mature enough yet
Flask doesn't have a big and mature enough developer community behind it just yet. This means that if a developer has questions, they will find it somewhat difficult to get relevant answers through forums like Stack Overflow. Developers who face difficulties with coding in Flask or just have questions about the framework may often have to wait a while before they can get a satisfactory answer by their peers.
- Migrations can be complex
Flask doesn't make it quite easy to undertake migration tasks compared to other frameworks like Django. The framework doesn't have a direct way to migrate the database. Developers who need to do something like this have to install the Flask-migrate library instead.
Which should you use?
Both Django and Flask have clear advantages and disadvantages. It all comes down to the unique needs of every project. The developer first needs to have a firm grasp of the project and only then will they be able to make a decision about what framework would better suit the job at hand.
Generally, developers should opt for Django if they have limited time or are on a tight budget. This web framework is better suited to large web projects such as government websites and e-commerce platforms. It has robust security features built-in, a well-established support community with excellent documentation and an integrated ORM system for databases.
Since this is a much more full-featured framework, it requires the developer and their team to make fewer decisions. This is something that helps out a lot when the idea is to get something done quickly.
Developers who are working on small or mid-sized projects should consider using Flask as the framework. It's very simple and flexible which allows for more experimentation. Developers can thus play around with their ideas more as the framework has a customizable structure that's easily extendable.
One of the biggest advantages of Flask is that it's very beginner friendly so even developers who are not highly skilled can take a crack at it. Flask is better suited for small projects like single page apps and it's particularly good for prototyping.
The fact remains, though, that both of these popular web frameworks have made it much easier for developers to build web applications. They have actually lowered the barrier of entry so that developers of all skill levels can participate in the process.
Ultimately, it comes down to understanding the needs of the project that needs to be built. Developers should opt for Django if they're working on a large and complex project. Conversely, they should favor Flask when the objective is to build simple web applications that just need to do one thing but they need to do it right.