Choosing the right technology stack is a pivotal step in planning a web development project, and the choice between using a MERN or MEAN stack to support those efforts is a common -- and critical -- part of that phase. Both stacks make use of MongoDB, Express and Node.js as core functional elements, but software teams need to understand how their respective employment of React and Angular affect their suitability for certain types of development scenarios.
MERN vs. MEAN: The common elements
The names MERN and MEAN are acronyms that refer to the major elements that make up each stack. MERN stands for MongoDB, Express.js, React and Node.js, while MEAN stands for MongoDB, Express.js, Angular and Node.js. Let's examine the three major elements these two stacks share.
MERN and MEAN use MongoDB, a NoSQL database renowned for its flexible schema and high scalability. MongoDB adeptly handles JSON and similar document formats, making it a go-to for application projects that require rapid development cycles and flexible data modeling structures. It's particularly useful when dealing with cloud applications that need to scale on demand.
Express.js is another common element between MERN and MEAN stacks. This lightweight Node.js-based web application framework contains a comprehensive feature set and handles back-end tasks such as server provisioning, request routing and API management. Express.js is highly configurable and has advanced mechanisms for parsing incoming request bodies, cross-origin resource sharing (CORS) and automated logging. These features make Express.js versatile for single- and multi-page application development.
React or Angular?
- Reusability. React's component-based architecture readily facilitates code reusability, making it a good choice for smaller application projects.
- Updates and rendering. The virtual Document Object Model (DOM) found in the React library ensures efficient updates and rendering, making it suitable for dynamic and interactive web applications.
- Community support. React boasts a large, active developer community that provides a wealth of resources and third-party tools designed to speed up the development process.
- User experience. React's unidirectional data flow enables a more dynamic and interactive user experience, which can be a significant advantage for small, consumer-facing applications.
- Structured approach. Angular provides features like two-way data binding and dependency injection, making it a better option for complex enterprise-level applications.
- Enterprise preference. Angular's comprehensive tool set and strong backing from Google make it a strong framework for large-scale web application development projects.
- Learning curve. Angular's feature-rich environment could present a steep learning curve for novice developers, which might pose limitations for teams new to the framework.
- Community support. While not as extensive as React's, Angular's community is still active and offers a range of support for common development challenges.
The contrast between React and Angular often leads developers who place a premium on flexibility and fast innovation to lean toward the MERN stack. Conversely, MEAN typically finds favor among development teams that require structure for large-scale applications.
MERN vs. MEAN: Practical considerations
Unfortunately, no "one-size-fits-all" answer regarding MERN vs. MEAN stacks exists. Making the right choice requires a deep understanding of a project's technical and business objectives and a clear assessment of the development team's strengths. However, some basic considerations can still lead a team in the right direction.
MERN: Flexibility and innovation
- Rapid development. MERN's component-based approach makes it easy for development teams using this stack to create reusable code, assemble prototypes quickly and continually iterate on existing application designs.
- Dynamic applications. React's virtual DOM enhances rendering speed, making MERN suitable for highly interactive and dynamic applications.
- Use cases. MERN is ideal for small- to medium-sized application development projects, e-commerce platforms, or other cases where rapid development and user experience are paramount.
MEAN: Structure and resilience
- Two-way data binding. Angular's data binding capabilities help developers using MEAN simplify development and provide consistency across large-scale application systems.
- Scalability. Features like lazy loading and modular development help MEAN support the scalability and long-term growth often required in enterprise-level development projects.
- Use cases. MEAN is often the preferred choice for large-scale enterprise applications, financial systems, CRM platforms and other development projects where structure, security and resilience are a priority.
Despite their differences, development teams also have the option to adopt a hybrid approach that combines the elements of MERN and MEAN. For instance, a project might use React's component-based design for front-end development while using Angular for back-end process control.
In addition to the hybrid approach, the front-end library Vue.js adds another dimension to the MERN vs. MEAN conversation. The MEVN (MongoDB, Express.js, Vue.js and Node.js) stack combines Vue's simplicity and performance and provides a potential option for development teams seeking a balance between React's flexibility and Angular's structure.