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31.05.2022 | 7 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 - 2024 15
Table of Contents
  • What's the Difference Between a Web App and a Website?
  • Django & React
  • React App with a Django Backend
  • Django: A Powerful Python Backend
  • Why Combine React and Django?
  • Communication Between React and Django
  • Conclusion: A Modern Development Approach

The combination of Django & React, nothing can stop you from creating a good 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 web app development isn't an easy feat. Instead, it may be achieved by a Django & React duo.

What's the Difference Between a Web App and a Website?

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. An example would be a marketing site. There isn't that much happening behind the scenes.

Web applications (web apps) have extensive logic which enables interaction. They often feature complex logic, and usually are much more complex to develop, and thus take much, much longer to create. An example would be YouTube.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)

Web apps have an interesting aspect. You may create PWAs, which, in short, work similarly to how a regular mobile app does. You can either keep using the web app in your browser, or you can install it, and use it offline.

In addition, platform restrictions do not apply to PWAs. You may use them from Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux distributions, FreeBSD, you name it. That's (most often) without any changes to the codebase, too!

One of the best libraries to create web apps is React. It's an industry standard, and is the preferred option for the majority of web developers. Front-end covered. What's with the back-end? Django is a great option; it ships with many features built in for your convenience and development speed.

Django & 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, Vue, Svelte, and Solid. 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.

What is 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 a 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 Single-Page Application (SPA)

SPA, or a Single-Page Application, is a website or a web app, which, in simplest-terms, does not reload on navigation.

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 on subsequent navigations, but the initial load will always be longer than in the case of a Multiple-Page App (MPA)

Why Is React a Great Choice?

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?

  • The components model of creating apps is easy to reason about
  • The components are reusable - just like custom widgets.
  • The unidirectional data flow guarantees the code’s balance

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

How Does Virtual DOM Work?

Let's use a metaphor.

Imagine you have a complex painting. Updating a small detail on the canvas would be a hassle - you'd need to repaint the whole thing! That's kind of how traditional web pages work.

React, a popular web development library, uses a smarter approach called the Virtual DOM. Think of it as a blueprint for your actual web page. When you make a change in your React code, it first updates this blueprint efficiently. Then, React compares the changes in the blueprint to the actual web page and only updates the specific parts that differ.

Here's a breakdown of how it works:

  1. Virtual DOM Update: When you make a change to your React code, React efficiently updates the virtual DOM to reflect those changes.
  2. Diffing: React then compares the new virtual DOM to the old one. It's like finding the differences between two drafts of your painting.
  3. Minimal Updates: Instead of updating the entire web page, React only identifies the minimal changes needed (like a brushstroke here or there).
  4. Real DOM Update: Finally, React applies those minimal changes to the actual web page, making it appear updated efficiently.

This virtual DOM approach makes React fast and efficient, especially for complex web applications that constantly change. It's like having a handy assistant who knows exactly what to update on your painting without wasting time.

Furthermore, React is a library, and not a framework, so it gives us a great opportunity to choose what we really need in the web app. And if we want to save time, you may choose a wide array of ready-made solutions. 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 and SEO: A Modern Approach

While React offers many benefits for building dynamic user interfaces, it wasn't always ideal for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Traditionally, React rendered content on the client-side (user's browser) using JavaScript. Search engine crawlers primarily rely on HTML content to understand and rank web pages. This mismatch between what React displayed and what crawlers saw could lead to SEO issues.

Thankfully, React has evolved significantly. Modern versions of React (including version 18) and frameworks built on top of React (like Next.js and Gatsby) address SEO concerns through techniques like Server-Side Rendering (SSR). With SSR, the initial content of a web page is generated on the server-side, providing crawlers with the necessary HTML for indexing. This ensures your React application remains SEO-friendly.

Django: A Powerful Python Backend

Django is a popular and well-established Python web framework. It provides developers with a robust foundation to build web applications. Here are some of Django's strengths:

  • Fast Development: Django offers tools like its built-in admin panel to quickly add functionality and manage data.
  • Scalability: Django can handle small and large web applications effectively.
  • Usable Templates: Django provides well-structured templates for building web pages, simplifying development. These templates can also be customized for unique needs.

Why Combine React and Django?

While Django excels on the back-end, it doesn't have the same capabilities for building complex user interfaces as React. Combining these two technologies allows developers to leverage the strengths of each:

  • Improved User Experience: React enables building dynamic and interactive user interfaces, enhancing the user experience.
  • Strong Backend Foundation: Django provides a secure and scalable foundation for managing data and application logic.

Communication Between React and Django

The key to connecting React and Django is through an API (Application Programming Interface). An API acts as a bridge, allowing the React frontend to communicate with the Django backend to retrieve and manipulate data.

Benefits of Using React and Django Together

  • SEO-Friendly Applications: Modern React practices and frameworks ensure your application is crawlable and indexable by search engines.
  • Improved Performance: React's focus on user interface updates can lead to faster loading times, which benefits both users and SEO.
  • Clean and Maintainable Code: Both React and Django promote well-structured code, making it easier to maintain and update the application in the future.
  • Flexibility: The modular nature of React and Django allows for easier integration of other front-end libraries like Vue.js or Angular.js if needed.

Conclusion: A Modern Development Approach

The combination of React and Django is a popular choice for building modern web applications. It offers a powerful and scalable solution with a focus on user experience, SEO-friendliness, and maintainability. For developers, working with this combination allows them to utilize well-established and well-supported technologies while building engaging and performant web applications.

If you want to talk about creating a full-stack Django & React app, talk to us today.

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