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31.05.2022 | 9 min

Build a web application with Django and React

With Django for the backend and React for the frontend, nothing can stop you from creating a brilliant web app.

Build a web application with Django and React - 2022 25
Table of Contents
  • Web app, website, or mobile app? Let’s sort things out
  • Django and React
  • React app with Django backend
  • React and Django together - how to communicate between the two?
  • Top 3 benefits of combining Django with React for developing web apps
  • What about the dev’s pleasure? Django and React as desirable

With Django for backend and React for frontend, nothing can stop you from creating a brilliant web app. How to do this, and why is it worth it? Let's find out.

Web apps are desired by many. But to truly enjoy the benefits of having one, wise technology choices must be made. Robust, cost-effective, and glamorous web app development does not grow on trees. Instead, it may be achieved by a Django plus React duo.

Web app, website, or mobile app? Let’s sort things out

Websites have mostly static content, and we don't need much logic behind it. They play a presentational role, and interaction with them is limited.

Web applications have extensive logic which enables interaction. To put it simply, the user enters data, and then something happens. That's the case with web apps.

It's almost the same with mobile apps, but these additionally interact with the smartphone system. And above all, they are designed specifically for smartphones.

We can convert some web applications to mobile ones because there is something like PWA, which stands for Progressive Web Application.

If we code a web application in an appropriate way, in accordance with PWA assumptions, then such an app can be transformed directly into a mobile app.

In addition, each phone has a browser and we can simply access the web application from both desktops and mobile devices, regardless of the system, Android or iOS. If we use React Native, it can compile both on iOS and Android.

The web app is for any device. If you do not need a lot of interference with the smartphone's system, then probably a web application would be a robust solution for your business.

By choosing a responsive web app, you answer the users' needs, 90% of whom use the application on the phone.

So how to get one?

To create a competitive web app, it is worth using modern technologies. Such as Django and React.

Django and React

Two web frameworks and each has its part to play. Why does choosing them for designing top web applications prove to be so advantageous?

What is React?

React is a JS-based library for building UI. It is also used for developing frontend of single-page applications (SPAs).

React is one of the most modern frameworks, leading alongside Angular and Vue. In 2021, according to the Stack Overflow Developer Survey, it won first place on the podium as the most popular web framework. More than 40% of all professional developers who participated in the survey chose it. And it's not all! It is loved by almost 70% of over 66,000 respondents.

And Django?

Django is a Python web framework for the backend. Valued by such players as Instagram or Spotify, Django makes standard web practices of web development much easier.

In fact, the web apps world is so pleased to have Django that 55.3% of Django developers, who took the same annual Stack Overflow Survey, said they would continue to use it.

React app with Django backend

Let's take a closer look at a classic. Single-page React application in a Django project. Why even do this?

What is a SPA (single-page application)

SPA, or a single-page application, is a web application with dynamic content that loads on request. Instead of requesting the servers for the whole page, it asks only for the content. This way, the website behaves more like a native app.

Just like the city never sleeps, the SPA page is never refreshed. All code is retrieved with a single page load, or resources are added in response to the user's action.

It is faster and more agreeable to mobile-first users.

Why React for SPA

React is not only one of the most popular tech but also a rapidly growing community with an impressive development speed. Loyal developers say that it makes app development easy and approachable and can be well used to create advanced user interfaces.

It gives us code reusability, so we can design some small components and then reuse them, even between projects.

React is working really well for a SPA, where our site is actually one site. Because in fact, from the React perspective, it is one application that supports the so-called routing, i.e. jumping between pages. So the code is rendered on the user side.

What else makes React solutions stand out?

  • They are SEO-friendly with formidable UX and crawlers-friendly content (finally! details below).
  • They offer high performance and flexibility through the use of the Virtual DOM.
  • The components are reusable - just like custom widgets.
  • The unidirectional data flow guarantees the code’s balance.

Actually, Virtual DOM is one of the biggest advantages of React.

Because in general, when we operate on ordinary HTML and hook to it with ordinary JavaScript, we operate on HTML elements, i.e. on what is ready on the page. And if we want to make any changes, we have to re-render the page from scratch.

What React gives us is Virtual DOM, where React is responsible for displaying it all to the user. It can recognize which part of this Virtual DOM has changed and re-render only the part that is needed. So, it works faster. We have greater responsiveness and a better ability to interact with the user.

As mentioned above, React itself is quite small, for example, compared to an earlier standard, jQuery.

It is not even a framework, but a library, so it gives us a great opportunity to choose what we really need in the web app. And if we are lazy (which should be praised as a symptom of thriftiness), there is a great bouquet of ready-made solutions to use. We have off-the-shelf UX and UI sets that we can easily customize. We don't have to build such things from scratch.

React is highly scalable, we can freely add elements and build whatever we want, small and large applications, and it will always work well.

However, React is still “just” a JavaScript library, so another tech should accompany it to enable the development of more complex, large applications.

What about SEO? React evolution

There are rumors that React is not SEO-friendly. And ... that would be true, and until recently SEO crashes did happen with React.

The way it worked is that if you're using standard React, everything is rendered on the client side. The client gets the code in JavaScript and based on this, a html is rendered. Crawlers use html, so they simply could not handle the JavaScript code that created the target html. For a crawler, if it couldn’t read the page, it was indexed as blank and therefore not ranked.

Fortunately, it is now improved and gossip can be put in the rubbish bin. The latest version of React (18th) has something like server-side rendering. It can display the code on the server side and then the browser gets the html code ready. So finally, it is SEO-friendly.

Additionally, when it comes to React, we have some superstructures, just like Django has Wagtail. The most popular ones are Next.js and Gatsby. Even before React supported it, they also allowed us to render things server-side, which provides SEO-friendliness. This workaround for SEO is working just fine.

Additionally, the issue on the crawler side is also already covered.

Django’s secret

An additional advantage is that Django gives us very quick access to the so-called "ugly admin". The user who manages the app can code something straight away, give data to the admin and it is really very quick at adding stuff.

It has its standard templates, so if we want to add a new model to it, it is super easy.

Of course, we can customize the models, e.g., change the logo or colors, and this is usually enough for users. If we want something more, we can upload custom templates to Django. They are ready for purchase or we can customize single views using a regular HTML in Jinja2.

We put things from the Python model into HTML - new, easy to use.

In Django, we could also theoretically build a frontend. But... why bother if we have React.

React and Django merge - what for?

As explained, Django is a backend web framework while ReactJS is a frontend framework (or even more a library) for developing SPAs.

In fact, React has similar perks to Django in terms of:

  • scalability,
  • robustness,
  • being well-documented,
  • having an active, contributive community,
  • having a useful set of built-in tools that are ready to serve the developer's ideas.

Combining Django and React technologies is essentially a canonical merge for building web software. So, the web apps will have Django as backend and ReactJS as the frontend.

React and Django together - how to communicate between the two?

To connect the frontend with the backend of our application, we need an API, i.e. Application Programming Interface. Its task is to enable communication between both environments.

All we need to do is set up such an API on the backend, and the frontend will be able to ask us about everything.

Top 3 benefits of combining Django with React for developing web apps

Django and React together:

  1. reduce loading time, which counts for better Core Web Vitals and positioning,
  2. enable good code management with code reuse opportunities and the easiness of applying clean coding practices,
  3. make it easy to flexibly adjust the web app by adding e.g. VueJS or AngularJS without changing the prebuild structure.

What about the dev’s pleasure? Django and React as desirable

From the developers' point of view, it is fun to work with. It is quite a modern combination. You can develop your skills, there is a very active community, and new versions and functionalities are released every now and then.

The team likes to work with new technologies, and employee satisfaction is always a plus. It's fun to do something that is alive and thriving and doesn't look like it's going to die soon.

In addition, a large community guarantees the security of the technology. If there are people who are looking for bugs, the framework is patched quickly. In old technologies, such security patches no longer exist.

Python phenomenon, the popularity of React, and a Full-stack perspective

Django has been and is very popular when it comes to the Python framework. And Python itself is a mega-popular language that is taught in college and is also easy for independent study.

Young backend developers who enter the market often start with Python. Small threshold of entry, and if someone already knows Python, they go to Django for web app development. There are many opportunities available for those who focus on Python-based tech stacks.

When it comes to the front, React is also slowly becoming the standard. If we do not necessarily want the same person to do front and back, it is relatively easy to attract specialists from these two popular technologies. In fact, the only point of contact that they have to agree with each other is the API, so what the data exchange will look like.

It's actually really easy for both Django and React to work together. And Full-stack devs often know two frameworks/languages ​​- it is also a benefit and a way to better communicate in the team.

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