What Angular’s 2023 Transformation Means for Businesses and Teams
11 Jan 2024
2023 came to an end, and it was a huge year for Angular, the Google’s web development framework. Massive improvements in both performance and developer experience mean that Angular is going to disrupt markets in 2024, so, with this article, let us discuss what all of this momentum means for businesses and enterprise projects. First, let’s refresh our ideas about what Angular is and why enterprises focus so much on it.
Angular is a powerful framework aimed at facilitating frontend development (usually on the Web, but can also be used for mobile applications and desktop apps), with a vast array of tools coming right out of the box for software engineers to use.
Angular is firmly in the second place in terms of job openings (the most important material metric), and is widely loved within the community of developers that use it, who value it for its powerful features and transparent policy in moving forward.
Angular is also generally associated with enterprise-level application development, wherein large corporations often prefer it for their projects to benefit from its rigid, strict approach to architecture, type safety (Angular is built on TypeScript), and a multitude of built-in features.
Many companies in enterprise use Angular, with some notable names from different spheres of business, including, but not limited to medical fields, insurance, financial enterprises, and, of course, Google itself, which uses Angular on hundreds of its own products.
As we know, enterprises love stability, and, as we mentioned, Angular is transforming rapidly, so next, let us see what is new in Angular, and then figure out what this means for applications, teams, and finally businesses in general, what downsides are there, and how to approach these rapid changes.
What is New in Angular?
Starting from version 13, the Angular team started introducing multiple new features and coding approaches, the most notable being the following:
- Standalone building blocks, which will allow developers to ditch the previous architectural approaches and for newcomers to learn and adopt the framework easier
- Signals and improvements to RxJS interoperability, which will help developers add reactivity to their web apps with ease, and also make the framework more approachable
- Improvements to server-side rendering, to help applications improve their initial performance and search engine optimization
- Addition of runtime performance improvements like NgOptimizedImage to help load images faster and make them more suitable for responsive design
- Improvements to build times with the introduction of Vite + ESBuild to the Angular pipeline
- Introduction of a completely revamped documentation website, angular.dev, posed to become the new home for Angular
- Many less revolutionary but still useful changes
This is a massive list all by itself, so big in fact, that the Angular team itself named this process of innovation the “Angular Renaissance” in a viral introduction to the new documentation website.
As we can see, the bulk of these new features and improvements are aimed at helping new adopters of Angular have a much easier time familiarizing themselves with the framework which was previously notorious for having a quite steep learning curve.
On the other hand, Angular is now improving both the developer experience and the actual users’ experience by introducing features and optimizations that help build more modern and performant applications in a much easier fashion. Let’s discuss some concrete benefits of Angular in regards to the applications themselves.
Benefits of Angular. What Does Angular Renaissance Mean for Applications?
We briefly outlined some features concerning app development, so let’s dive a little deeper and see some concrete advantages of Angular on the level of the actual applications built on top of it.
Angular has been a pretty performant framework from the get-go and got massively improved with the introduction of its current rendering engine (named Ivy) in versions 8 and 9. However, the team has not stopped there and introduced several new changes aimed at even further improving the user experience.
As mentioned previously, a special directive has been added to help load images in a more optimal way, which forces developers to take into consideration important metrics like LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) and accessibility.
The introduction of signals means developers now get to have more performant change detection (the process by which Angular determines when and how to update the UI), resulting in improvements to how fast the pages and views get refreshed. This is still a work in progress, but the outline given in the following roadmap shows some impressive goals for the next versions of Angular.
Better SEO and Initial Load Times
Finally, the improvements to server-side rendering (SSR) lay the groundwork for building Angular applications that are not only enterprise-oriented but also facing huge quantities of users that want the fastest loading time, and for applications to enjoy way better SEO, another metric that is extremely important for businesses oriented more towards individual users like e-Commerce and marketing.
What Does Angular Renaissance Mean for Teams?
So far, we discussed the direct impact of these innovations on Angular applications, however, lots of Angular experts would argue that the main beneficiaries of these upgrades are the Angular developers, rather than application users. So let us see what this innovation means for the actual developers of Angular applications.
Angular Becomes Easier to Learn
As we saw, Angular did two important things in its quest to simplify the framework for newcomers: it introduced a new. fresh, easier-to-understand documentation website and also started doing away with complex and arguably not very necessary concepts that only hindered the learning progress. This means more people will want to learn about the framework, translating into a more competitive job market.
Angular Becomes Easier to Adopt
Lots of teams today work with multiple technologies, rather than a single framework, and the improvement to Angular’s mechanics means more teams will consider Angular as a viable choice for not only enterprise products, but also for e-commerce, landing pages, marketing, and more
Better Developer Experience
A happy developer is a productive developer, and nothing makes a developer more unhappy than an obscure bug or a performance hindrance that just can't be fixed. The latest developments in Angular mean fewer bugs, and simplified code that is easier to maintain and reason about, which will surely result in reduced time to production, even more innovation, and more stability inside existing teams.
What Does This All Mean for Companies That Use Angular?
Finally, with all of this movement, let us see what the fuss means for the largest stakeholders - businesses that build their products with Angular. There is quite a lot to unpack here.
Faster Build Times
A lot of time is spent by developers waiting for their latest changes to be merged, pipelines to run and their new feature actually deployed on a QA or production environment. This can cause some frustration, especially if the build fails or introduces a bug, which is something that we want to be aware of as early as possible.
With improvements to both unit testing (introduction of experimental support for Jest, which is considered more performant) and the build process itself (introduction of ESBuild that we mentioned earlier in this article), we can now be sure that teams spend more time actually developing new features rather than waiting/building/testing, which is a big boost for business wanting to reduce their time to production.
Easier to Build Teams
With Angular getting simpler and easier to adopt, the process of actually building a team (hiring new developers, training them, and setting them up for success) will become shorter and less stressful. This means businesses will be able to begin new projects and focus on the actual goals of development instead of trying to figure out who can be the best fit for certain positions.
Easier to Begin New Projects
Angular now comes with everything necessary to start the development process (it comes full circle with the integration of server-side rendering directly into the framework as an add-on package). This means we can preconfigure everything from the get-go and focus directly on the business logic.
While all these changes we listed might sound intimidating (especially to businesses!), Angular continues to be backward-compatible and supports projects that have been dragging along on older versions. If we update an old Angular application to a newer version, we might get some minor problems, but most fundamental things will reliably work even with older approaches), making the process quite smooth overall. This reliability is extremely important for all sorts of businesses, but especially for enterprises that have huge juggernauts for applications that are quite hard to maintain.
So, What Are the Downsides?
Of course, we listed some amazing features and improvements, but obviously, as with everything, not all of the things listed come completely problem-free. So, let us be intellectually honest and also mention some problems that might come along when we try to migrate old projects to adopt the newest features.
Difficulties Migrating Existing Projects to the Latest Features
While we argued it's relatively simple to upgrade our applications to the latest versions, actually switching to the latest features is an entirely different question. Some new features like standalone and the new template syntax require a large overhaul of the entire application, which can be costly and time-consuming (not to mention potentially resulting in catastrophic bugs).
To mitigate this, the Angular team offers special CLI commands (known as Angular Schematics) to automatically migrate to certain features. These, coupled with unit tests and an iterative strategy, can yield good results but still be somewhat time-consuming).
Existing Teams Need Time to Adapt
While the features we discussed are amazing, and almost everyone is very excited about them, current teams, from juniors to seniors, need some time to fully grasp the new concepts and approaches, to learn and fully integrate them in their day-to-day work. This may result in some initial delays to production releases, some serious bugs, and unwillingness to use older versions when necessary.
To address this, as we mentioned, Angular now provides far superior documentation coupled with real-world examples and interactive playgrounds to facilitate learning.
What About the Future?
Angular is in a very dynamic process as of right now, and promises to deliver even more new features and optimizations in upcoming minor and major versions:
- Zoneless applications (near-perfect change detection!)
- Even further simplified approach to reactivity
- More improvements to SSR
In conclusion, we can say that Angular is continuing its renovation, and more amazing stuff is coming our way. For businesses, this will mean an improved development cycle for Angular teams, better performance for products, and more!
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