Polymer vs. React: A Complete Comparison Guide for CTOs

Web App Development April 27, 2021
Polymer vs React

Polymer vs. React: A Complete Comparison Guide for CTOs

Have you ever wondered if there’s a master key (read perfect development stack) that opens all doors to app development and helps you build an exceptional web app? We all are guilty of it. Sadly, there is no silver bullet to easy web app development, which is why CTOs and VPs should keep an eye out on the new and upcoming frontend/backend development platforms and how organizations worldwide are using them to their benefit.

But is that enough? The technology trends are changing rapidly more than ever, and their detailed analysis is the only way to stay ahead of the competition.

So, we took it upon ourselves to compile all the necessary information of the top frameworks and libraries to give you an overview of the technologies. This article compares Polymer and React based on their potential to develop robust front-end applications.

Let’s begin!

Overview of Frameworks – Polymer vs. React

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.

What is React?- An overview

React.js is an open-source Javascript library to build web apps with rich user interfaces. React offers developers the flexibility to create reusable custom components that encourage rapid development processes. Furthermore, its ability to allow quick rendering of a web page makes it more search engine friendly. All in all, it’s a great library that promotes the development of lightweight and complex business applications.

Here are some cool market usage statistics for React js:

  • React js is used by 60 percent of the developers, according to the 2018 State of Developer ecosystem survey.
  • React tops the list of “Most loved frameworks of Stackflow 2019” for almost 74 percent and features “Topmost wanted frameworks” by StackOverflow at 21.5 percentage.
  • The framework boasts over 150k Github stars along with the continuously progressive community.

Use cases of React:

  • Web apps (React.js)
  • Video streaming platforms
  • Media sites
  • Software as a Service tools
  • Mobile apps (React Native)
  • Desktop Apps (React + Electron.js)
  • Progressive Web Apps (React + Ionic)
  • JAMstack sites (Gatsby.js)

What popular apps are built with React?

  • PayPal– The renowned Finance organization used Reactjs to improve the navigational workflows, bookmarks, and initial rendering of their payment gateway application.
  • BBC– The well-known British public service broadcaster BBC news channel used Reactjs in building their web more navigational towards a mobile-first page, offering super-fast user experience and making their website super accessible across all the devices.
  • Facebook– The largest social media network website globally uses Reactjs currently in their Facebook Ads Manager; however, the Facebook web app is built with more than 20000 Reactjs components.
  • Netflix– The famous video streaming website used React in fixing the performance issues and minimizing processing times for a blazing startup speed and seamless user experience.
  • Twitter– The largest American microblogging and social networking service website uses React to update content, improve user experience, and create browser-based UI. They renovated their site front-end architecture with React and came up with the progressive web app version.

Pros and Cons: Polymer vs. React

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 React:

  • Efficient web pages – React apps save a lot of time and increase web pages’ efficiency by refreshing the user interface to update the data, eliminating the need to reload the web pages.
  • Better user experience – Organizes the code for future optimization and increases the readability of the code. Hence, easy dead code elimination results in a better user experience and loading speed.
  • Reusability of Components – Separate logic and controls help build reusable components. Making application development faster and easier, more comfortable nesting of components to build complex functionalities.
  • High Performance – It eliminates the need to update data in the real structure and uses a virtual structure to update the data. This mechanism produces high-performing React apps, no need to take the extra load while loading the web pages, faster response times, and a smooth client-side experience.
  • Large Community – React js possess a robust community worldwide. From beginners to experienced developers, everyone enjoys building apps with maximum reusability of components that React offers.

Cons of React:

  • Continuous updates – React is frequently associated with the latest updates on all versions and contributions around the world. Hence, the Javascript library is less conventional and more evolving in coding practices.
  • Increased complexity of code – JSX is an extension of the syntax used by React js that combines Javascript and HTML. It’s a little old school, an intricate pattern for developers. Also, it is a bit hard to learn as compared to learning plain Javascript.
  • Only focuses on View – Building an application with Reactjs will only focus on the view layer from the model, view, and controller architecture. So you’ll have to use an additional platform for the other parts of the application. It means further integration of tools such as routing or APIs.

Performance Comparison: Polymer vs. React

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 React stand out in terms of performance?

React app’s performance is faster, a lightweight performance in user experience with individual components working in a fine functional manner. The component-based architecture of React helps build more robust single-page apps, reusability removes the code clutter, and reduced DOM manipulation speeds up the page loading. All this adds to seamless app performance and a pleasing user experience.

More so, the library works on updating the necessary changes to the webpage without reloading the entire page. So, it eliminates the unnecessary loading of pages and instead refreshes the data. You could use the minimal approach to build React apps by setting some programming practices at hand. For example, the DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) principle helps developers to make minimal mistakes and enhance team productivity.

Looking for Ways to Optimize Performance of Your React App?

Application Architecture: Polymer vs. React

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 React support?

Unlike other libraries and frameworks, React does not have a built-in architecture pattern. React caters to the view layer of application that is made up of components. Components in React work as functions that render the underlying user interface as the data changes. It’s a constant interaction between the users’ actions and the state of the application components that makes up the internal architecture of React js.

The state of the React components is excellent when you want to build apps with limited functionality and scope. But for building real-world applications, React is dependent on external libraries like Redux, Flux, MobX, Reflux, and more to implement an architecture pattern.

Ease of Testing: Polymer vs. React

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 easy is it to test React apps?

React offers important test runners, and with the help of these tools, the development process becomes easy to follow. For example, test runners such as Jest, Mocha, and others help practice a standard pattern of executing test suites that help testers identify problems in real browser environments, unnecessary functions, and the spot where expensive manipulation of functions execute. It reduces the time-to-market, speeds up the deployment of apps, and gives a push to a more productive environment.

Scalability: Polymer vs. React

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 React scalable?

Since React apps are made up of pure javascript, developers can rely on traditional ways to organize the code to make the project more scalable. Having said that, React is an excellent framework to build scalable UIs pertaining to the concept of virtual DOM and component reusability.

Suitability for building complex apps: Polymer vs. React

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 React?

React js supports building highly interactive single-page apps. Moreover, it lends support from external server-side rendering architecture such as Redux, Flux, and SSR frameworks like Next.js. Hence, you can build complex apps with React js because of its code management capabilities.

Security: Polymer vs. React

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 security is handled in React?

React-based applications are more prone to threats such as XSS vulnerabilities, Server-side rendering attacks, SQL injections, and a few more. It is only up to your developer to implement various security best practices to protect your application from such kinds of threats. The best practices might include but are not limited to, exploiting script-injection flaws, defense from the insecure links, using the serialize Javascript module, etc. Though React is easy to learn, getting an expert handle on securing React apps requires considerable experience.

React Security Vulnerabilities that you should never ignore!

User Experience: Polymer vs. React

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.

React’s way of delivering the best user-experience

Through its high-quality user interface and fast rendering of web pages, React applications are more likely to be adopted by the users. The applications incorporate rich user interfaces with a clean, everything-on-place system. The UI components such as buttons, forms, text boxes, and others are so well constructed that they feel comfortable interacting.

Moreover, the representation of information is seamless and quick because of the fast rendering. If the application is built correctly, nothing could stop React apps from delivering “bug-free” performance.

Moreover, the technology is frequently updated by the community and Facebook, making it more focused on its functionality, and development is more easily incorporated towards business logic. In short, there are zero framework issues as such since the platform is quite active and supported by the community. It makes React apps offering seamless integration of third-party integrations and user experience in all terms.

Rapid Development: Polymer vs. React

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 React contributes to rapid application development?

React demands an in-depth understanding of choosing the router system, configuration caveats, and problem-solving attitude at various stages of the project lifecycle. If you have a skilled resources team, having worked on several projects, you will find React faster and productive. Also, for the short-term goals, you are likely to gain good results from using React. React seems to be the fastest framework for developing fundamental apps or features, with a moderate level of experienced developers.

Application Size: Polymer vs. React

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 React’s application size?

React is just a library and not a fully featured frontend framework like Angular. So, if you’d see from that perspective, it should make smaller applications than those frameworks, but React’s app sizes are bigger comparatively. However, the latest React versions have minified overall bundle size by reducing the app size by 30 percent to the previous version.

Code Maintainability: Polymer vs. React

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 React apps?

React has component-based architecture. It focuses on building UI components, custom functionalities in a user interface, and optimally using logic to build meaningful functionalities. Once you start developing your application with React, you are developing functional and individual code snippets. These code snippets are reusable to other applications, as well as different modules of the application.

Moreover, this breaking down of application into certain parts helps manage application more efficiently. You are ultimately increasing developers’ productivity. For example, you could replace React developers at the instance of time without worrying about how new developers would fit in the project and whether an understanding of the project would take a lot of extra time and effort.

Learning Curve: Polymer vs. React

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 React?

React is easy to learn for those who have experience with Javascript. The experienced developers take very little time to learn the workflow and architecture of React because of the thorough understanding of API structures and data flow in Javascript. Due to its shorter learning curve, the team establishment becomes easier as any beginner or experienced developer can join the team. Even in the cases of emergency when a developer leaves your team, the resources are easily available in the market.

However, only the versions after 16.0 are up-to-date. So, there might be some trouble for new developers to implement the more advanced features.

Hiring Developers: Polymer vs. React

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 React developers?

Hiring React developers is easier than ever as javascript developers are more likely to be interested in building web applications. The average cost of hiring a React developer is $34 per hour. However, It goes up to $100 based on skills and experience, and sometimes the rate also varies from country to country.

Conclusion

Now that we saw the differences between Polymer and React, let us take a look at how companies have leveraged them to build various applications:- 

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 React if:-

  • Want to play around with lots and lots of libraries, tools, or ecosystems.
  • Want to develop scalable applications without any hassle for Testing and Debugging.
  • Want to build a complex app with better time-to-market.
  • Want to build video streaming platforms and media sites.
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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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