2018, a year of JS growth.
Welcome to Ionic’s second-annual Developer Survey. Over 10,000 members of the community shared their stories about the tools and technologies they use to develop apps, and what types of apps they’re building.
2018’s results reveal some very interesting trends that, we hope, will serve Ionic community members, customers, and vendors alike. While we encourage you to check out the data yourself, here are the top insights and observations from our team at Ionic.
The big three: Angular, React, and Vue.
While this excites those of us who have bet on the web, it’s popularity, unfortunately, led to the rise of framework fatigue in the mid-2010s. Many developers felt like it was impossible to keep up with the constant barrage of new frameworks, techniques, and ideas.
Fast forwarding to 2018, things have settled down a bit. Three top contenders have emerged: Angular, React, and Vue.
Angular is by far the most popular JS framework among developers surveyed with React and Vue coming in as the second and third most popular frameworks. This is not surprising given the survey is largely a reflection of the Ionic community as of this year, and Ionic has historically been exclusively Angular-compatible.
What to Expect in 2019.
As we introduce versions of Ionic that support Vue (currently in alpha) and React (coming in 2019), we expect to see the mix of Ionic developers surveyed shift more towards these Angular alternatives.
Mobile Tools & Approaches
The top mobile dev tools
It’s also not surprising to find that Ionic and Cordova/PhoneGap are the most popular mobile development stack among the developers we surveyed. React Native and jQuery Mobile came next on the list, though were much less popular by comparison.
What is surprising though, is that native Android and iOS development was more widely adopted among developers surveyed than cross-platform alternatives like NativeScript and Xamarin, suggesting that (at least among the developers we surveyed) these two cross-platform approaches are more niche players in the mobile development space.
Cross-platform vs. Native
Only about 8 percent of survey takers reported exclusive use of native tools.
Given our audience, it’s not too surprising that the results are heavily skewed towards cross-platform development.
Traditionally, frameworks that have promised to deliver cross-platform functionality have been met with disbelief. However, the numbers don’t lie. Cross-platform solutions like Ionic, React Native, and Xamarin have had many years of active development, innovation, and adoption, proving that companies that pick them over native are seeing success.
Most important factors? Efficiency & UX
The efficiency of sharing code across platforms was the most important factor in selecting a development approach.
But for those who develop strictly with native tools, quality of user experience was the number one most important factor.
And, for those who develop strictly with cross-platform tools, efficiency and cost savings were most important. Showcasing that the motivations for using these different technologies widely vary depending on the developer’s priorities.
Progressive Web Apps
Most building or planning PWAs in 2018
Sixty-one percent of developers surveyed said they have built a Progressive Web App (PWA), or plan to in the next year.
PWAs use modern web capabilities to deliver fast, native-app experiences with no app stores or downloads. They offer incredible mobile app experiences that are highly optimized, reliable, and accessible anywhere you find a web browser.
In most cases (72 percent) these PWA projects are for brand new apps, as opposed to just 28 percent that are updates to existing apps (PWA functionality can be incrementally added to an existing web app).
PWAs Complementing, Not Replacing, Native Mobile Apps
About 42 percent reported that the PWAs they’re building will also exist as native apps available in the app stores. With another 36 percent responding “Maybe” to the same question, and just 22 percent sharing that the PWAs they’re building will only exist on the web.
This suggests that PWAs will likely not replace native apps, at least not in the near term, but instead will be just one part of unified “digital experience” that spans across devices and across native and web.
PWAs = Efficiency Above All
By far, the most popular reason for investing in PWAs is the desire for greater cross-platform efficiency. Improving the mobile web experience and distributing apps directly to users (without having to go through the app stores) were the next most popular.
A lot of the hype around PWAs is the improved ability to reach users outside of the app stores, creating a better mobile experience that translates into higher engagement and more revenue. See Pinterest and Twitter‘s use of PWAs for example.
However, our survey shows that simplified operations, which make it easier for a development team to manage and maintain the app, is by far the most significant gain that teams have experienced after implementing a PWA. What this shows us is that for those that choose to build PWAs for their ease-of-use and productivity are actually seeing the desired results.
Preferred tools for building PWAs
Ionic and Angular were the most popular tools for building PWAs, followed by React and Vue. Though all three have support for PWAs, Angular’s is the most mature.
Firebase and AWS are the leading players in PWA-hosting.
Backend Tools & Services
At the top: MySQL, Firebase, MongoDB
In last year’s survey, we aggregated all self-hosted database options (MySQL, Postgres, etc.) into one set of responses. This year we split it out.
The results showed that MySQL is by far the most popular database solution, with 59 percent of respondents having used it extensively in the past year. Firebase was not far behind, followed by MongoDB. Postgres was much further down the list.
Firebase Dominates Hosting Platforms
No surprise here—Firebase continues to be the leading hosting platform and is by far the winner in push notifications with 66 percent of respondents using it.
Keeping An Eye On Serverless
Worth a special mention is the growing “serverless” trend this past year.
With serverless options like AWS Lambda (used by just 10 percent of respondents in 2018), web developers can use their frontend skills to do things that typically would be passed off to backend developers to implement. Authentication, real-time databases, storage, and cloud functions are just the tip of the iceberg.
The most exciting part of this is not the lack of running your own infrastructure, but rather, that web developers’ skills becoming more valuable as technology evolves.
Betting on the web has paid off. 💙
The web framework ecosystem has stabilized. PWAs are becoming mainstream and delivering real-world results. Web developers are becoming more valuable each day as innovations in cloud technologies unlock the path to full-stack development.
More people than ever are confident that their investment in time, money, and skills as web developers will continue to bear fruit for years to come. Companies are investing capital into their web strategy and reaping big returns after realizing that “cross-platform” doesn’t only mean “mobile.”
Ionic has always bet on the web, and it looks like now more than ever, we’re not alone.
Data from the survey is available below. Feel free to interact, play, and form your own conclusions!