Top Web Development Languages 2020

Knowing the right web development language to use in 2020 is a key part of building your platform. It can be hard to know which language to choose as there are many popular ones out there and each language has its pros and cons.

While choosing a language for your project may seem overwhelming given how many different web development languages exist, most of the time it's a really simple choice. At the end of the day, if you know what you want to build and you know your industry, then you’re already heading down a path to finding your language.

Not sure if you need to build a web app, or just a website? Check out our article explaining the difference here.

What Are Some Popular Web Development Languages?

Currently, the 5 most popular web development languages seem to be JavaScript, PHP, Java, Python and Ruby.

Let’s break them down one by one and better understand the pros and cons of the top web development languages in 2020. When do you use each language? What tools do you use with each language? What are the limitations that you need to be aware of? Buckle up.

JavaScript

A classic amongst its peers, JavaScript is a gold standard when it comes to web development. No one group or company is the official governing body for JavaScript, so we've linked to the Wikipedia page since there is no "home page" for JavaScript. Typically combined with HTML and CSS for solid front-end development, it is a consistent go-to language.

Unofficial JavaScript logo

Pros

  • JavaScript is used everywhere.
  • There's a vast landscape of libraries and frameworks to keep your development speedy. Popular ones include jQuery, Vue, React and Angular
  • JavaScript isn't only limited to frontend, you can use it to power your server-side backend with frameworks like Node.js

Cons

  • Since JavaScript is typically a client-side language, there can be security issues since the code is executed on the user’s computer
  • Different browsers (and even different/older versions of the same browser) can react to Javascript in varying ways, so it may require more effort to maintain a consistent experience for all users

PHP

PHP is a powerful server-side development language that powers the backend for massive companies like Facebook, Slack and Lyft. If you're trying to choose between PHP and .NET, check out our comparison article here.

PHP logo

Pros

  • Commonly used backend language that has a relatively small learning curve
  • Like JavaScript, it too has many libraries and frameworks that you can use, including Laravel, CodeIgniter, CakePHP, and Yii
  • The language gets frequent updates, keeping it modern and fresh

Cons

  • PHP is very easy to learn, which means there's a lot of poorly written PHP out there. Be careful when using code from other sources
  • It is tougher to troubleshoot and perform QA on compared to other languages
  • If you need to perform complex client-side operations, either for security purposes or otherwise, PHP won't be able to handle this alone. You'll need to pair with a frontend language like JavaScript

Java

Think of Java as your utility player. Java is widely popular amongst a variety of platforms. We can use it on the web as well as for mobile apps on Android. Java is commonly taught in academia, so it is always a safe bet to use.

Java logo

Pros

  • It’s super easy to use. Everywhere from writing, compiling, to debugging, it is very user friendly
  • Java can be run on a large variety of platforms
  • It is a very secure language

Cons

  • Java is typically slower than competing languages
  • It uses up more memory than many other languages, so if your target platforms are lower on resources, it might not run as well

Python

Python is by far one of the most popular programming languages used today. It’s also known by many as the most loved language! It's a language that's most commonly associated with its applications in research and data analytics, in particular machine learning and artificial intelligence, but many commercial applications also make use of Python.

Python logo

Pros

  • Python is easy to learn and incredibly versatile
  • The syntax of the language is very easy to understand, as it reads quite similarly to English
  • It is open source and has a wide variety of libraries you can pull from

Cons

  • It can frequently be slower than other languages
  • There are some design restrictions as it is a dynamically typed language. This means testing will be more difficult and errors might show up on runtime only
  • Because it runs slower and is more resource hungry, Python isn't a good idea for mobile applications or web apps with heavy traffic

Ruby (on Rails)

Last but not least, Ruby is a common general-purpose language that is used by many web developers. Ruby itself as a language isn't used as much in web development, so when people talk about Ruby in the context of web development, they're usually referring to the web development framework that is written in Ruby, Ruby on Rails (also known as "Rails"). Rails is unique among the others in this list because it's a framework, not a language.

Ruby on Rails logo

Pros

  • Rails has great documentation
  • It's very easy to start with and is fairly intuitive, with an active community surrounding it
  • Rails strongly adheres to web standards

Cons

  • Rails isn’t the most flexible language, compared to others out there
  • Rails has slower performance compared to a language like JavaScript

Choosing Web Development Languages

No web development language is perfect, and different situations call for different languages or frameworks. Regardless of your choice, make sure you chat with your developer to learn the pros and cons of the language they’ve decided to develop in. Want a third party opinion? Shoot us an email at resources@aloa.co

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