Polymer vs. Angular: The Battle for Front-End Supremacy

Web App Development May 8, 2021
Polymer vs Angular (Frontend)

Polymer vs. Angular: The Battle for Front-End Supremacy

While developing an application, designing a unique and intuitive UI is one of the top-most priorities for most organizations. However, it is easier said than done! Choosing the right frontend technology requires a deep understanding of how different platforms function and how to leverage it for your project. 

Running through the documentation of every technology, looking into its benefits and downsides, analyzing how different organizations have utilized it is an unachievable feat. 

Fret not! We have got it covered. 

In this comparison blog, we have assessed two frontend technologies: Polymer vs. Angular, on various grounds that form the base of any web app development project. These two platforms have diverse approaches to development, and at the end of the blog, you will have a clear idea of your requirements and a solution.  

Overview of Frameworks – Polymer vs. Angular

What is Polymer?- An overview

Polymer, released in May 2013, is developed by Google developers. It is an open-source library for creating reusable components to build web applications. Written in Javascript and HTML, Polymer is a simplified way of creating web components with cross-browser compatibility. The polymer was one of the sources of inspiration for Evan You while designing Vue.js.

Here are some cool market usage statistics for Polymer:

  • A survey by SimilarTech shows that 6152 websites are built with Polymer, with 1652 websites developed in the US.
  • On GitHub, Polymer has 57 repositories and 21.6k stars.

Use Cases of Polymer:

  • Single-page Applications
  • Progressive Web Applications
  • Reusable UI Components
  • eCommerce applications
  • Hybrid mobile applications
  • Real-time web applications

What popular apps are built with Polymer?

  • Youtube leveraged Polymer Web Components to rebuild their Mobile and desktop sites.
  • Google Maps has used Polymer’s Web components to create Maps JavaScript API that can be easily integrated into any app and customized as per the app requirements.
  • Google Earth opted to use Polymer’s elements and web components to redesign its website and mobile app.
  • McDonald’s chose Polymer to design its Menu Board software for stores in 15,000 locations in the US. The modular software structure allowed the company to alter layouts as per every store’s needs.
  • USA Today used Polymer to help development and design teams collaborate better on their UI redesign project.

Angular Hero- A development guide for CTOs

What is Angular? – An Overview

Angular is a typescript-based Javascript framework that helps businesses build scalable web applications. It is a standalone front-end framework with in-built tools and libraries that don’t hamper the size or application speed. It provides development opportunities across all platforms through its reusable code that can be used for any deployment target. It has a dynamic UI binding at a plain object or property level, and a two-way data binding that is integral to its architecture.  

Angular was initially released in 2016, which was a complete rewrite of the 2010 AngularJS. The application framework was developed by Misko Hevery and the Angular team at Google. It is the same team that is handling the framework today, along with other external developers.

Market Usage Statistics

  • Amongst the JavaScript library, we are aware of, Angular is used by 0.4% of all websites.  
  • While fewer sites use Angular, it is primarily used by high-traffic sites.
  • Angular has 72.6k stars, 19k forks, approximately 1300 contributors, and a repository of 1.7 million users on GitHub. 
  • Angular is used by 16.1% of developers worldwide. 

Use Cases of Angular

  • Video streaming applications
  • eCommerce applications
  • Real-time data application
  • User-generated content portals
  • Content-based websites
  • Progressive web applications
  • Native mobile applications
  • Single page web applications
  • Gaming applications
  • Cloud-based applications

Popular Apps Built with Angular

  • Mixer – The live streaming platform for video games incorporated Angular to create the interface of its video streaming facilities. It also helped the team to update data of single-page applications in real-time.
  • Gmail – The single-page mailing application uses Angular for its dynamic interface. The site renders data on the front-end, enables access to the cached data offline, and incorporates several SPA advantages. 
  • PayPal – The online payment processing website incorporated Angular to carry out stunning website performance and easily handle spikes in user transactions. Its few-clicks authorization and the checkout page are some of the other features built with the help of Angular. 
  • Forbes – The digital edition of the American magazine uses Angular 5 for its user interface, which has the capability to respond to 74 million monthly users in the US. 
  • Weather.com – The Weather Channel incorporates Angular for its UI that is managed by separate teams for its separate directories. Angular allows the site to integrate multiple maps, real-time broadcasting, and video streaming for news updates. 
  • Microsoft Office – The documentation software made a bold move with its migration on the online platform with its Office 365 API. The application’s single-page view with excellent UI has been possible through the use of Angular. 

Polymer vs. Angular: Pros and Cons

Pros of Polymer:

  • Creating Custom Elements – Developers can leverage the functionality to compose enclosed HTML, CSS, and JS as custom elements.
  • Data Binding – Polymer allows one-way as well as two-way data binding. With two-way data binding functionality, changes can be made in both upward and downward directions between the host elements and the DOM elements. As a result, data updates between the host and target elements happen automatically.
  • Easy Onboarding – It comes with structured and well-maintained documentation compared to React/Angular, which is a significant advantage while introducing new developers to the team.
  • Connecting Third-Party Libraries – The architecture of Polymer is not equipped with an extra security layer, and connecting to third-party libraries like Mathjax, d3js, Chart.js, etc., is hassle-free for developers building applications.

Cons of Polymer:

  • Understanding Web Components – Developers often experience difficulty understanding Polymer’s web component structure and necessary changes in their coding styles. As a result, they end up rewriting the codes and spending countless hours testing them for any possible bugs. This ordeal affects the project timeline and causes delays in meeting the deadlines.
  • Handling Large Scale Applications – Polymer lacks a clear explanation of how it can be leveraged to build and organize large-scale applications. So, if you’re working on a large-scale application, you may not want to go with Polymer.
  • Issues with Mobile Platforms – Users of Polymer have often complained about its low performance in mobile applications. This implies, if the majority of your product users are on mobile, you may want to rethink your choice.

Pros of Angular:

  • Advantage of TypeScript – The superset for JavaScript offers superior navigation, refactoring services, and autocomplete, eliminating errors within code while developing enterprise-scale applications. 
  • Google Support – Long-term Google support backed with detailed documentation and further possibilities of expanding the framework with improved developmental features. 
  • High Performance – Provides high performance to the developers ensured by the hierarchical dependency injection, Ivy renderer, AOT compiler, differential loading, and Angular Universal support. 
  • Recommendation of Updates – Angular command-line interface provides time-to-time recommendations required for dependencies, loaders, and plugins. 
  • Third-party Integrations – The framework allows easy integration of third-party applications, providing more flexibility and tools for the development progress. 
  • Customizable Framework – Elements and modules can be easily integrated from other frameworks and customized as per the developer’s requirements. Reusing and managing Angular HTML elements is also possible by wrapping them as a DOM element. 

Cons of Angular:

  • Complexity – Despite its component-based architecture, the management of components and repetitiveness make the frontend framework verbose for its development community. 
  • Angular Versions – Migrating from AngularJS to Angular is a huge hassle for the developers, even more, when the framework application is vast. Moreover, learning about each version makes the learning curve steeper and decreases its popularity.
  • Heavily weighted framework – Simple and small applications can become bloated because of their requirements of boilerplate codes, abstractions, and other bundled features.

Polymer vs. Angular: Performance Comparison

How does Polymer stand out in terms of performance?

The performance of an application is naturally an important factor while building a web app. Keeping this necessity in mind, Polymer introduced lit-html v1.0 & LitElement v2.0. While lit-html serves as a fast and lightweight HTML templating library, LitElement is a JS library for creating lightweight web components. The key purpose of both libraries is to improve app performance with web components that can be used with or without a framework for app development.

At the Chrome Dev Summit 2016, Taylor Savage revealed how Jumia Travel, which functions as the travel division of Africa’s largest eCommerce site, used Polymer to maintain an exceptional performance,

“Thanks to the Polymer App Toolbox and web components, Jumia built a progressive web app that has twice as fast a page load on 2G, and uses six times less data than their native app to be able to deliver the same exact flow.”

How does Angular stand out in terms of performance?

When it comes to high-performance frameworks, Angular has proved itself for facilitating superior performance. The framework is powered by Ivy renderer, which is a rewrite of Angular’s rendering engine. It promises to make the applications super quick and compact for unmatched performance and compile components that also reduce its development time. 

The advanced change detection mechanism and ahead-of-time compilation reduces the number of times DOM manipulates, pre-compiled HTML, and app components before the browser downloads and uses them. This might be the reason behind the much-gained popularity as a Javascript framework for building high-performing apps.

Polymer vs. Angular: Application Architecture

What kind of architecture does Polymer support?

Polymer does not require you to follow any particular structure as its primary function is to build web components for applications. Polymer’s internal architecture is divided into 4 interconnected layers:-

  • Native consists of all essential features available natively on browsers
  • Foundation includes polyfills which add features to browsers that are not natively added to these browsers
  • Core provides the necessary infrastructure to explore the features offered by Native and Foundation layers
  • Elements are a basic set of elements that act as building blocks for developers to create applications

This block structure is crucial as it enables repeated reuse in various other projects without the need to code from scratch.

What kind of architecture does Angular support?

Angular has a Model-View-Controller architectural pattern that isolates the application logic from the user interface layer and efficiently supports the separation of concerns. The architecture also helps in organizing the code components according to design and performance variations. It also simplifies the development structure by combining the MVC pattern and two-way data binding.

Unlike other web frameworks, which implement two-way data binding by using fragile event listeners and handlers, Angular makes this process an integral function of its architecture. Moreover, given that the framework isolates the business logic from the UI components, developers are more confident in designing a neat user interface with smooth business logic applicable.

Polymer vs. Angular: Ease of Testing

How easy is it to test Polymer apps?

The Polymer team has developed an end-to-end testing environment called the Web Component Tester. It is built with similar functionalities as third-party testing tools like Mocha, Chai, Sinon, Selenium, and more and eliminates the necessity to learn a new tool.

While discussing the benefits at the Polymer Summit 2015 of using the Web Component Tester, Chris Joel, software engineer at Polymer has explained the functionality in a simplified manner,
“WCT can drive multiple browsers with just one command and writing tests for WCT is as simple as creating an HTML. […] Not only are they (web components) easy to test, but web components can make the whole experience of testing just much better. And the Polymer team has built some great tools to make the whole experience even better than that.”

How easier is it to test an Angular app?

Testing is an integral part of the Angular framework, and all JavaScript codes in Angular are required to go through a series of tests. The convenience offered in testing allows us to develop the project from scratch and seamlessly test the components. 

Thanks to the dependency injection in Angular, it manages all the scopes and controllers. The unit test functionality in Angular can force dependency injection to perform testing by injecting mock/dummy data into the controller. This process is followed by the assessment of the output and its behavior. What’s more interesting is that Angular also has mock HTTP providers to push fake responses from servers into controllers. 

Polymer vs. Angular: Scalability

Is Polymer scalable?

With Polymer’s block structure, developers are at liberty to add new blocks of codes to the structure to scale up or down the app without changing any previous codes. Polymer is also supported by the majority of known browsers, and this improves the chances of app compatibility. To sum it up, building scalable frontend applications with Polymer is achievable.

YouTube is a notable example of adopting Polymer to build websites like YouTube Gaming and YouTube TV. The websites hosted a large user base and are popular for being the largest Polymer deployments in the world. Mikhail Sychev, at the Polymer Summit 2017, discussed the company’s achievements after choosing Polymer,

“We have about 400 components that are YouTube specific and more than 1000+ components across all the codebases […] Polymer played a major role helping us organize our internal workflow. Overall the site is faster, that’s up to 15% faster, depending on the page. We finally share components across our projects, and we’re using a standard stack instead of developing everything by ourselves.”

Is Angular scalable?

With continuous support from Google and other established corporations, Angular is a complete framework with the capability to create enterprise-level applications. The scalability of the framework is a result of its powerful command-line interface and feature designs. 

Grouping folders and modules based on their features and logical units provides a scalable project structure and easily organizes large codes of a complex application. It is also natural for feature components to keep growing for larger applications, and the suitable action is refracting those into smaller components. Alternatives for improving the scalability include designing the page data model with typescript interfaces, and creating a single file for all CRUD operations.

Polymer vs. Angular: Suitability for building complex apps

Can you build complex apps with Polymer?

With the web standards-based web components APIs and custom elements, Polymer can be used for building high-performing complex apps. However, many developers have expressed concerns about insufficient information available on how to build enterprise apps with the Polymer.

Netflix’s Cloud Platform team leveraged Polymer and web components to rapidly build a set of intuitive tools for monitoring app performance, visualizations, and self-service tools for their team of engineers. With the help of these tools, the teams can efficiently operate Netflix systems that are distributed on a large scale across the cloud.

Can you build complex apps with Angular?

Angular is still one of the preferred frontend frameworks used to create complex and large enterprise applications. The most well-known single-page applications like Gmail, Forbes, PayPal have made use of the framework’s architecture for developing complex applications. Its features of limitless scalability allow applications to expand without thinking about their size; reusable codes allow development for multiple platforms; and high performance boosts its speed and user experience. No matter how dynamic the application’s interface is, Angular can turn it into gold for its users. 

Polymer vs. Angular: Security

How security is handled in Polymer?

In the past few years, XSS vulnerabilities are the most frequent bugs in websites and makeup 18% of the total bugs found. The JavaScript security model of Content Security Policy is a part of Polymer and prevents the apps from XSS and other attacks. Thus, it makes an app built with Polymer more secure for its users.

How is security handled in Angular?

User-generated websites demand a high level of security and management. Cross-site scripting is one of the significant vulnerabilities that the client-side platform needs protection against. These attacks can be prevented by some built-in provisions that the framework provides. 

Since there’s no guarantee that attackers won’t enter malicious code through the property, attribute, or any provided value, Angular treats each value as untrustworthy by default. The framework has introduced inner HTML to display the user-generated content and a built-in sanitizer – DomSanitizer – as a security feature. Other security resources include maintaining updated libraries, updating content security policy in security-reviewed code, and using AOT for compiling HTML templates and components. Therefore, following the best practices along with its internal security features and external tools makes Angular a secured framework.

Want to Know the Best Practices for Angular Web Apps?

Polymer vs. Angular: User Experience

Polymer’s way of delivering the best user-experience

As Polymer is not a framework, developers use the many functions that the library offers while building web apps. For instance, the Shop is an e-commerce app that leverages Polymer’s App Toolbox that offers a component-based architecture, responsive UI elements, modular routing elements, and more to build a smooth user experience.

Angular’s way of delivering the best user-experience

Angular has emerged as a significant frontend framework in building user interfaces and independently handling the frontend. Since the framework has been divided into components, classes, and segmentations for a clean coding architecture, it manages the users’ interaction through templates. The framework manages the display of data to the users in a sophisticated way. Moreover, the library store is responsible for handling reactivity and asynchronous programming responsible for making the application responsive to users and their actions.

Providing the template language helps keep the data binding and rendering of HTML on the same page. That means, every time the application page is rendered, the framework interacts with the template syntax and updates the view in no time. Again, keeping no time gap between updating and displaying the information to the users.

Polymer vs. Angular: Rapid Development

How Polymer contributes to rapid application development?

Owing to the ‘lego block’ structure of Polymer, the reusable modules significantly reduce development time, and developers can attach modules as and when required without making major changes to the codes.

How Angular contributes to rapid application development?

What can be more precious for developers to build applications regardless of worrying about huge file sizes? With Angular, developers invest less time and effort, for it lets them reuse codes and streamlining the development process. It brings about more functionality with shorter codes, making it productive for the teams working on back-to-back similar projects.

Angular offers flexibility in coding like no other framework because of its simple design architecture. In terms of flexibility, it allows beginners to get started and make modifications in their application projects seamlessly. Also, Angular handles heavy web applications that are loaded with features and components exceptionally well.

Polymer vs. Angular: Application Size

What is Polymer’s application size?

The size of a basic Polymer app is 127 kb, and when additional polyfills for browsers are attached to the app, the size extends up to 168 kb. Moreover, Polymer’s toolset provides functionality to help you reduce the download size of an app by minifying the code.

What is Angular’s application size?

It is a well-known fact that Angular applications are generally large enterprise-scale applications, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if their size is bigger than expected. Compared to other frontend frameworks and smaller application sizes, medium-sized Angular applications usually range between 250 KB to less than 500 KB. While it is no wonder that larger and complex applications can exceed those figures, one has to resort to using a compiler for compressing the bundle sizes. 

Polymer vs. Angular: Code Maintainability

How convenient is it to maintain code in Polymer apps?

The build toolset by Polymer ensures that apps are compatible with old browsers. For example, while Polymer 2.0 was written in ES6 for more maintainable code, the toolset compiled it to ES5 for better compatibility with these old browsers.

How convenient is it to maintain code in Angular apps?

For any strong development environment to be successful, code consistency is the key. Thanks to the Angular CLI and documentation style guide, they both drive consistency at the pioneer level. Its feature of reusable code also speeds up the development process for a project with a tight deadline. 

Angular employs the Plain Old Javascript Objects (POJO) Model to make the code structure handy and independent. This way, we can save ourselves from adding complex functions or methods in the programme, eliminating dependencies on external frameworks or plugins.

Polymer vs. Angular: Learning Curve

How easy is it to learn Polymer?

Polymer components can be written in ES5/ES6 Javascript, and even beginners with basic knowledge about the library can work with its easy-to-use syntax. Thus, the learning curve for Polymer is gentle, and any developer with an understanding of Javascript can use it in app development.

Comcast, the biggest entertainment platform in the US, chose Polymer to develop their website XFINITY Home for home security systems. The company successfully created 500+ components with Polymer while the website hosted half a million users daily. Talking about how the learning curve for their developers, John Riviello at the Polymer Summit 2016 explained,
“So the people we’ve brought on to work on Polymer projects at Comcast, probably only 20% had any experience with Polymer before working on these applications. And that really hasn’t been an issue. If you have engineers who have a solid understanding of html, CSS, and JavaScript, that’s all you really need.”

How easy is it to learn Angular?

Being a vast and dynamic frontend framework, Angular has a steeper learning curve. 

Developers may find it challenging to cover numerous topics at first, but it is worth giving time at the initial phase to have a better understanding of its workarounds. For a productive development in the framework, developers have to be confident with Javascript and a few other programming concepts. 

For experienced developers, Angular CLI has a gentle learning curve, allowing developers to predict compilation behavior. This advantage makes it possible to generate smooth builds and reduce the iterating efforts that lead to bad code quality in the end. It is advisable to pick tech stacks based on the requirements of your upcoming projects since Angular gives the best solutions to solve the most challenging problems in large-scale applications

Looking for Ways to Optimize Performance of Angular App?

Polymer vs. Angular: Hiring Developers

How convenient is it to hire Polymer developers?

As Polymer developers are experienced in Javascript, you can hire Javascript developers at an average of $25-$30 per hour. However, the price range largely depends on the experience held by the developer.

How convenient is it to hire Angular developers?

Angular is amongst the most chosen frameworks for developing large-scale enterprise applications, and despite losing its market share, developers are widely available. Depending on the type of project for application development, you can choose to hire beginners with few years of experience or even skilled, experienced developers. The cost of hiring Angular developers ranges from $10 – $150 per hour in the US market. In-house experienced consultants with more than 15 years of experience would cost more than $150 per hour. 

Conclusion

Now that you understand how these two frontend technologies function, the next step is to choose one that will transform your frontend application according to your vision. Here’s a list of use cases that will help you make an informed decision:- 

Choose Polymer if: 

  • You want to build an eCommerce web application like Net-A-Porter. 
  • You want to develop a news platform like Bloomberg LP. 
  • You want to create a website like FamilySearch 
  • You plan to build a cab hiring and sharing service like OlaCabs.

Choose Angular if: 

  • You need to develop a customized app with specific requirements. 
  • You want to leverage HTML, CSS, and Javascript to develop web applications.
  • You need an application with multiple events and personalized features.
  • You are building an application with shareable components for users to leverage on the platform.
  • You are planning on building a messaging application like Whatsapp.

Hiren is VP of Technology at Simform with an extensive experience in helping enterprises and startups streamline their business performance through data-driven innovation.

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