Choosing your web framework is just as important as choosing your programming language.
Making the right decision will help you kick off faster, limit development costs, and scale more smoothly once you acquire more users. On the other hand, the wrong framework could make developing your product a drawn-out, costly, frustrating experience.
We’ll assume you’ve already made what is usually the right choice to build your next software project in Python, but the question remains: which Python framework should you go with?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the 2 most popular Python web frameworks: Django and Flask.
How you use these technologies depends greatly on your individual needs. Do you plan on starting off small, then scaling up quickly? Are you under pressure to release your product to market fast? Is stability or experimentation more relevant to you?
All of these and more play a key role in picking your framework. If you’re looking for a rule of thumb, Django is better most of the time, but that doesn’t mean Flask can’t work better sometimes, too.
Just to be clear, the goal of this article is not to give you a one-size-fits-all solution to all your problems. Rather, we’ll tell you where and when you should use Django or Flask.
We’re also going to focus on the business aspects of using these 2 frameworks, while giving you just enough technical details to make better business decisions.
Table of contents
II. Why use Django?
III. What is Flask?
IV. Why use Flask?
Django is a web framework through and through. Favoring a single-package, “batteries-included” approach to software development, it offers plenty of integrated, ready-to-use solutions.
Django is essentially a web framework on steroids, focused on delivering business value of the product, as opposed to forcing you to make technological decisions. For this reason, the framework is sometimes considered an enterprise solution, good for larger companies. It also includes a template system, built-in object-relational mapping (ORM), and custom admin panel.
The admin panel in particular is a great feature of Django that makes development incomparably easier. For many use cases related to advanced CRUD administration (“create, read, update, and delete”), the panel is more than enough to answer any and all of your needs and get you started fast.
That is, unless you give the panel to the end user, in which case support from Product Design will be necessary. But as long as the use of the panel is limited to you or the admin, it’s perfectly sufficient.
More importantly, though, Django is somewhat infamous for its monolithism. The framework takes an approach known as “convention over configuration”—making customization and modification more difficult, but for the price of simpler development and maintenance.
What is Django used for?
We’ve already mentioned that Django can be perfect for larger enterprises, but not all projects have that kind of scope since day one.
Let’s assume you know for a fact you’re going to either:
- start your app off small, but comprehensively, and keep it small in the future;
- start your app off small and grow it later.
In the latter case, what you may not know, though, is how you’re going to approach this planned future growth. Your product may be one thing in the beginning and something else entirely after three months of development. This happens more often than you’d think.
That’s where Django comes to the rescue. Should your app grow exponentially over time, the framework by default has what you’ll most certainly need. It offers greater flexibility in the later stages of development.
It’s possible to integrate those additional solutions with Flask, but the process is unstandardized at best. Large projects with many modules mean more work with Flask, which in turn means higher maintenance and costs of development.
All in all, it’s much safer to start development in Django and stick to it later if you scale up rapidly.
Big businesses tend to choose Django for its comprehensiveness and the aforementioned “convention over configuration” approach, which also means a more standardized and simplified development process.
The framework’s inflexibility may be seen as less inviting to developers, but on the business end, it serves to cover all the bases and prepare you for any challenges Flask wouldn’t be as well equipped to handle. This lowers maintenance costs dramatically.
Another huge advantage of Django is its market presence. More developers are familiar with Django, since it’s more widespread than Flask, meaning it’s easier and faster for you to add people to your project and scale your team up.
MVP development and startups: Django or Flask?
When it comes to proofs-of-concept, Django is a better fit than Flask, too. Building something—anything—first, then adding new modules on top of it is easy and safe with this framework.
Django effectively positions itself as a “start fast” solution, giving you the ability to launch quickly and grow later. This makes the framework a no-brainer for most startups, though naturally not all of them.
If a particular startup wishes to experiment a great deal very early on, or intends to rely on a large number of microservices, then Flask will be the more optimal pick for them.
When to use Django? Case study: meet.mba
One of our clients, meet.mba, wanted to build an MVP fast when they first decided to work with STX Next.
Having picked Python as their programming language, they faced the very question we’re trying to answer in this article: which framework to choose? Django or Flask?
The choice was crucial for meet.mba, since they realized full well that their product—a social media platform for MBA students and alumni—would only last on the market if it scaled. In light of this, it needed to be built with limited risks and a robust foundation, so that it was ready to be market-verified from the start.
We recommended using Django, since going with Flask would’ve meant more work and less assurance that the product would be successful. If we had gone with Flask, we wouldn’t have been able to use Django’s ready-made solutions. Using them is what allowed us to save money, and even more importantly time.
The decision was and still is the right one, both then and now. It has allowed us to use every asset in Django’s vast toolbox out the gate to meet the client’s expectations.
Both meet.mba and STX Next have been very happy with the cooperation. But rather than take our word for it, we encourage you to hear it straight from Matthew Brooke-Hitching, CEO of meet.mba:
Flask is a microframework offering all the basic features of a web app. It’s easy to get started on and expand with Python’s wealth of libraries and extensions.
On its own, the framework’s capabilities are limited and extra functionalities need to be added with supplemental technologies. In many ways, it takes an opposite approach to that of Django, allowing you to change and tailor it to your particular needs at will.
With Flask, diversifying the structure of your software project with microframeworks is effortless. Flexibility is the core feature of the framework.
What is Flask used for?
Remember how we said that Django is a good fit when you know you’re going to start small and stay small, or start small and scale up later? Well, Flask may be the right choice when you know there will be more technological decisions to make on the way, and you don’t want to be limited by the decisions you would’ve already made with Django.
If that sounds familiar, you’re probably considering a whole bunch of solutions, trying to find the best one and go with it. That’s perfectly fine. Flask gives you a wide variety of options when you have little to no expectations.
In short, Flask is a great fit in 3 main instances:
- experimentation with the architecture, libraries, and newest technologies;
- unknown number of highly specialized (micro)services;
- multitude of small, disparate features.
Conversely, Flask also works really well with apps we know for a fact will be divided into many smaller services that won’t require that much code to accomplish their goals. Rather, they have a simple goal supported by simple implementation. An example here would be applications that fall under larger systems used in DevOps, like monitoring or large-scale logging solutions.
Django is opinionated, monolithic, and fixed, making customization more difficult. For instance, using a different ORM framework in Django is possible, but involves more non-standard work from your developers.
When you’re not sure which libraries or frameworks will work best for your software product, we recommend that you go with Flask.
Virtually every Flask project out there has its own unique “internal tech stack” of libraries, frameworks, etc. It’s something of a free-for-all.
Because of this, Flask is widely known to facilitate experimentation to a high degree. It’s really easy and admittedly very fun for your developers, which in turn means lower turnover for you.
However, when business is concerned, we’d argue that stability is more important than fun. Still, maybe your priorities lie elsewhere, which is just fine. It’s up to you.
New technologies: Flask or Django?
When new technologies emerge on the market, they’re usually much easier to adapt in Flask. Django is more mature, which is why it often takes longer before the decision is made whether to incorporate technical novelties into the framework or make them compatible with it.
As an example, Django to this day doesn’t have built-in/standardized async solutions—though they’re in development—so using async with Flask will be easier in most cases.
However, this is a pretty rare business need that doesn’t usually factor into the conversations we have with our clients. But if experimentation with emerging technologies is what you’re after, then Flask would be the way to go.
Yet putting personal preferences aside, the fact remains that new technologies themselves don’t translate to business value. In most cases, fast integration of new solutions isn’t a reliable business strategy.
For the majority of products, experimentation with those solutions is risky, dangerous, and potentially damaging financially, because they don’t have proven market presence.
Lastly, the few apps that do value fast integration of new technological solutions are mostly aimed at developers or tech-related target personas. A good example here would be tools related to CI/CD or containerization. So unless you happen to fall into this very narrow category, we’d steer clear of choosing Flask for that reason.
When to use Flask? Case study: Coras
We knew the Coras platform would be technologically challenging. It was meant to be as an API-based solution that combined multiple technologies Django wouldn’t help us much with.
The choice to use Falcon/Flask for Coras was made 3 years ago, and we haven’t looked back since. Having thought the project through carefully, we were convinced our choice of framework was the right call, and so far it has served us well.
A major difference between Flask and Django lies in the number of potential use cases. Django is richer and more comprehensive than Flask, allowing you to discover your business needs later and meet them better.
Django is often considered the more secure solution than Flask, thanks to its “batteries-included” nature. When you compile libraries and frameworks into your Flask setup, maintaining security becomes more difficult and the upkeep usually falls to your developers. With Django, the headache of worrying about safety is largely gone.
Many of the remaining differences between the 2 frameworks are mostly high-level. Because Flask lacks the multitude of ready-made solutions Django boasts, it usually needs a more complex, non-standard tech stack, since it has to rely heavily on external support from libraries and microservices.
The less standardized tech stack of Flask also means it can be more expensive to maintain than Django, which already has most anything you could desire. However, if you aren’t forced to use a large number of added functionalities, Flask is smaller than Django by itself. This could be a winning argument if what you’re after are the framework’s basic capabilities.
However, the greatest business difference between Django and Flask comes down to risk management.
We worked on a software project once that seemed highly technical in the beginning, so we chose to use Flask for it. For a while, all was going well, but then it turned out that the admin panel would be really important in the project after all, for various business reasons—something we hadn’t known at first. As we’ve mentioned before, the admin panel needs to be written in the case of Flask, while Django includes it by default.
Naturally, this meant additional costs to create the panel. We briefly considered switching to Django then, but decided against it once we realized that that would’ve been even more expensive. In the end, what would’ve taken a single day of development in Django took us 2 whole sprints in Flask.
The lesson here is clear: when there’s a chance you might want or need to make important technical or business decisions at a later date, Django clearly has the upper hand. It’s less risky and potentially more cost-effective.
1) Simplicity of development
One of the greatest advantages of Flask is that it’s simpler than Django. While both are well documented, Flask is just easier for developers to get their heads around.
This simplicity is hugely important when it comes to actually using the framework to develop software in it, which leads to faster development of smaller features.
However, the simplicity of Flask may not necessarily be as valuable from the business perspective. It’s an added bonus for your developers, but as a C-level executive, you don’t stand to gain a lot from this.
2) Library support
Supporting many libraries can be a major disadvantage of Flask. When you have multiple libraries integrated into a large product, some of them don’t stay on the market and lose support over time. This means that their maintenance becomes progressively more expensive.
Conversely, a big benefit of Django is that it supports underlying technologies (like templating or the ORM) and offers you supporting materials and tools to make migrations to newer versions easier. With a complete set of information at your disposal, you can smoothly transition from one version to the next. As a result, the risk of manual maintenance is much lower.
3) Community support
The community around Django is larger than Flask’s, which has a direct influence on problem solving, bug fixing, and maintenance costs.
Since Django is more widespread and has a stronger market presence, a lot of potential issues you may encounter during development have already been solved and extensively documented by other developers.
Having so many answers to your questions within arm’s reach means you save time and money you’d otherwise waste on coming up with them yourself.
The question of popularity is a bit challenging to answer when comparing Django and Flask these days. The situation on that front appears to be in constant flux.
Not too long ago, it was considered common knowledge that Django is vastly more popular than Flask. However, when JetBrains published the results of their 2018 Python Developers Survey, they found that Flask had actually overtaken Django as the most popular Python web framework.
Having grown by a staggering 15% within a single year, Flask ranked at 47%, with Django coming in as a close second at 45%, in a 4% increase from 2017. This rise in Flask’s popularity can be mostly attributed to its focus on microservices and data analysis.
That being said, those are the results of a developers survey, who factor in technical aspects like entry point—often lower for Flask—in their answers. Because of that, these numbers aren’t very representative of the business side of software development.
The difference in popularity between the 2 frameworks might not be as clear-cut as it used to be in the past, but Django is still thought of as the tried-and-tested, go-to framework for established businesses, especially the larger ones.
Across the board, enterprise-level companies tend to go with Django for the monolithic, comprehensive package of services it offers. Django has also been on the market far longer than Flask, making it more trustworthy in the eyes of seasoned C-level executives.
With all that in mind, it’s safe to say that from the business perspective, Django is more popular than Flask and this isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
A common misconception circling around the software development community is that Flask can be used to write faster apps.
While not entirely incorrect, Python’s capabilities make the performance differences between Flask and Django minor and usually insignificant. Many specialized libraries or tools can be used to boost the performance capabilities of both frameworks, even if Flask could still work a bit faster in certain projects.
The real performance comparison between Django and Flask comes down to faster delivery of comprehensive features vs. higher overall framework performance.
As a rule of thumb, Flask will do slightly better in terms of framework performance (because it’s smaller and has fewer layers), while Django is more effective in delivering complete, more complex features.
We have reached the core question at the heart of this article: which of the 2 Python frameworks is better for your web development?
The answer, as always, is: it depends.
When you first talk to a software house like STX Next, there’s a good chance neither you nor them will know which technologies your product is going to need. We advise that you go for effectiveness above anything else.
Ask and answer questions. Use the Scrum methodology to approach your project individually. Work Agile with your service provider. Instead of trying to figure everything out from the get-go, try to determine whether Django or Flask will meet your needs best.
Most of our clients tend to lean more toward Django, and they’re right to do so. They don’t suggest Flask too often, since Django requires fewer decisions from them, making it easier for their project to change hands if they decide to move their development back in-house.
Ultimately, though, there are no hard and fast rules here. With larger, enterprise-level clients, for instance, we sometimes use both Flask and Django, combining the admin panel from Django with smaller components from Flask.
Anything’s possible. Our clients rarely have a fixed opinion on the matter when they approach us to build software for them. We’re usually the ones suggesting the framework(s), and most of the time both sides end up being in complete agreement.
You just need to decide what works for you and you don’t have to do it all by yourself. A competent tech partner will help you make the right choice.
Let’s recap this article as briefly as possible.
Advantages of Django-based systems
- “batteries-included” approach,
- high project stability,
- high scalability for more complex solutions,
- fast delivery of comprehensive features,
- very good security,
- fast MVP development,
- standardized tech stack,
- simple maintenance for larger systems.
Disadvantages of Django-based systems
- lower flexibility,
- lower compatibility with latest technologies,
- higher entry point for simple solutions,
- larger size of the code base.
Advantages of Flask-based systems
- higher flexibility,
- higher compatibility with latest technologies,
- high scalability for simple applications,
- technical experimentation,
- slightly higher framework performance,
- easier to use for simple cases,
- smaller size of the code base.
Disadvantages of Flask-based systems
- more potential for security risks,
- slower MVP development in most cases,
- more complex tech stack,
- higher maintenance costs for more complex systems,
- more complicated maintenance for larger implementations.
The choice is yours.
As is most often the case, your choice of Python framework depends almost entirely on the specific business context of your company.
Feel free to drop us a line below if you have any questions or comments about this article or otherwise. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
If you’d like to learn more about Python and the many ways it can benefit you, we have plenty of other free resources you might be interested in, such as:
- Python vs. Other Programming Languages
- What Is Python Used for?
- Introduction to Python for Tech Managers
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STX Next is well versed in both Flask and Django. We’d be happy to assist you in picking the solution best suited for your individual needs. Give us a shout and we’ll see how we can help you!