Frontend Build tools : The Road ahead

Frontend Build tools : The Road ahead

It is needless to say, frontend tools play an important role in the frontend development process and make the life of the developer easier. In this article, we shall explore the need for frontend tooling, how it has evolved, the current state, and what could be the future of the tools and their usage in web development, especially front-end development.

Modern web development is fast-paced, competitive, and highly demanding when it comes to the expected outcome of the project. Building something robust and at the same time, a better customer experience with a feature-rich and good-looking interface always keeps the developers on their toes. In this context, front-end tools play a crucial part in the process.

Following are some of the advantages

  • Provides the ability to author modules
  • Set up local servers
  • Hot module replacement
  • With polyfills targeting ability for legacy browsers
  • Processing a range of file types

The list of benefits goes on and at the same time, for the end-users, the experience is enhanced due to optimal usage of resources such as caching, code-splitting, perfecting, etc along with a beautiful feature-rich application. Sometimes even the applications are available offline. Frontend development has come a long way from a time when it was not even required. Let’s take a look at that retrospectively.


In the past, Javascript was used with HTML to give interactive functionality, quite similar to the way adobe flash player was utilized. The applications were not Javascript heavy, hence there was no need for frontend tooling. However the times have changed, and there is a shift from static web development to dynamic web, more interactive users and the hunger for creating information-rich and data-capturing applications has become manifold. The present-day applications are heavy with javascript which called for better solutions when browsers had limitations on how many javascript could be loaded. Hence the pathbreaker was Immediately Invoked Function Expressions (IIFEs). This gave the ability to write Javascript in many different files and subsequently these files were served as one in the browser.

The Current Day Scenario

For some time it seemed like the solution was enough, but it was not that simple. As the applications kept evolving and more complex development came into place, there was a need for better processes. Tools like Broccoli, Gulp, and Grunt saw the rise, riding the tide of growing needs for such tools.

However, there were issues related to dead code elimination, performance issues, and other issues like full rebuild for making small changes pointed out that there needs to be a different approach. The observation was beyond concatenation there lies something else which needs to be addressed. Thus came  Parcel, Webpack, etc into the picture.

In the current times, the pace of advancement in the frontend space is ever-increasing and nonstop. The recent gaps and issues that have been identified by the community are with the modern build tools.

Let’s take a look at the prominent issues

  • Some of these bundles are very complex to set up and configure
  • When the application becomes larger, it results in increase in build times
  • In the development mode, the performance is suboptimal and not up to the expectation

The rate at which the Javascript ecosystem changes can be overwhelming for a standalone developer or an agency. However, when an issue is identified the community is quick to take notice and finds a solution for the same. The above issues are also duly noted and a new generation of tools are being developed.

What lies ahead

There are quite some new build tools available in the present day and it would not be an exaggeration to say that they meet the needs of the market quite soundly. But, as the issues have been identified, there could be two ways that could be taken to solve the issues.

  • A paradigm shift
  • A change in platform

Though Javascript has been used extensively, and the community is quite vibrant around it, as a high-level language Javascript can not reach the native levels of performance. Thus, the tools built on this platform will have some limitations. That is why newer build tools are being developed. Languages like Rust and Go have become popular options for authoring the next generation of build tools with a strong emphasis on performance.

And the next approach is a paradigm shift. That is moving from bundled to unbundled development. However, there are issues associated with it and processes and solutions are being developed to solve that. Unbundled development is great. It solves a major issue with existing build tools: they often need to rebuild entire sections of your application for even trivial code changes and build times get longer as the application grows.


Frontend tool development has come a long way. Keeping pace with the application development, changing dynamics of web functioning, and to meet with the enormous technological requirements generated from them, frontend tooling has evolved a lot. At the same time, the current front-end tools available are falling short of the rapid growth in the need for performance of the new-age applications. As we move ahead, and newer tools are being built to address the performance issues as well as ensure ease of use, in the front of the development space there lies an interesting path to be covered and more powerful solutions to be built.


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