Published Oct 11, 2023 ⦁ 7 min read

Build Better Web Apps Faster With These Powerful Tools


Building modern web applications requires using the right tools to enable quick iteration and boost productivity. Legacy workflows with outdated tooling can hamper development velocity and result in inefficient debugging. This post covers key categories of tooling that can help web developers build better apps faster.

We'll explore popular code editors, bundlers, transpilers, CSS processors, testing frameworks, and more. For each type of tool, we'll do a deep dive into the leading options, comparing their features and use cases. We'll provide examples and recommendations for integrating these tools into effective workflows.

By leveraging the tools detailed here, you can optimize your development process, eliminate bottlenecks, and focus on what matters most - quickly bringing your web app vision to life. Let's get started!

Code Editors

A good code editor optimized for web development can greatly speed up your coding workflow compared to basic text editors. Key features to look for include syntax highlighting, intelligent autocomplete, extensions support, and built-in tools like source control management. These editors help developers code more efficiently. Let's compare some top options:

Visual Studio Code

VS Code has quickly become many web developers' editor of choice thanks to its great balance of usability and customizability. Its wealth of features include:

  • IntelliSense for smart autocompletion
  • Built-in terminal for managing tasks
  • Extensions marketplace with thousands of plugins
  • Git integration and pull request code reviews
  • Integrated debugging and task running

Useful extensions for web dev include Live Server for local development, CSS Peek for quickly navigating stylesheets, and ES7 React Snippets for React productivity boosts. While more lightweight than full-featured IDEs like WebStorm, VS Code still provides an excellent experience for web projects both big and small. Major sites like Facebook use VSCode.

Online Code Editors

Online code editors like CodeSandbox,, and CodePen can be great for sharing runnable code examples and prototypes. They require no installation and make it easy to collaborate in real-time. However, most lack the robust extensions and customizability of desktop editors like VS Code. Still, they excel for quick shareable demos. DevHunt's own online editor balances instant prototyping with production app development features like a smart bundler, transpiler, deployment tools, and GitHub integration.

Building and Bundling

Modern web apps require build tools and bundlers to manage dependencies and optimize assets for production. Bundlers combine assets like JavaScript modules into optimized files. Popular options include:

  • webpack - The longtime standard for bundling modules with loaders and plugins. Highly configurable but complex setup.

  • Parcel - Build tool aiming for zero configuration out of the box. Competitive performance.

  • Vite - Next-gen build tool leveraging native ES Modules and optimized dev server. Excellent DX.

Key considerations include build performance, ease of configuration, framework integration, and advanced functionality like code splitting. For example, Vite offers extremely fast Hot Module Replacement making it a great fit for frameworks like React and Vue.


Though complex to configure, webpack's robust plugin ecosystem has secured its place as a go-to bundler. Core concepts include:

  • Entry points - The starting modules webpack will trace dependencies from.
  • Output - Where to emit bundled assets like JS, CSS files.
  • Loaders - Transform non-JS files like images, CSS, JSX into valid modules.
  • Plugins - Further processing like minification, optimization, injections.

Recent versions like webpack 5 provide major speed improvements. With proper configuration, webpack can produce optimized bundles for production while enhancing the development experience. Sites like Twitter use webpack.


Vite leverages native ES Module imports for extremely fast Hot Module Replacement. Combined with its pre-bundling approach, Vite delivers lightning-fast iteration. For frameworks like React and Vue, Vite integrates directly with @vitejs/plugin-react and @vitejs/plugin-vue. In production, Vite bundles your code using Rollup, resulting in smaller bundle sizes compared to webpack and Parcel. If build performance is critical, Vite is definitely worth trying. Sites built with Vite include Vercel and Statickit.

Transpiling and Polyfilling

To leverage modern JavaScript while supporting older browsers, transpilers like Babel convert your code to ES5 compatible syntax. Polyfills backport missing features.


Babel is the standard for compiling modern JS to ES5. Presets like @babel/preset-env determine which transforms to apply based on target environments. Plugins enable translations for JSX, TypeScript, class properties, and more. Babel integrates seamlessly with all major bundlers. Configuring Babel with webpack builds a solid transpilation pipeline.


While transpilers rewrite syntax, polyfills add implementations of features not present in old browsers like Promise and Fetch. Popular options include core-js, regenerator-runtime, and whatwg-fetch. For optimal bundle sizes, use polyfill services to only include what each target environment needs.

CSS Tooling

CSS preprocessors and postprocessors supercharge stylesheet authoring with better syntax and automation. Preprocessors add features like variables and mixins. Postprocessors optimize and polyfill CSS. Popular options include:

  • Sass - Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets let you use variables, nesting, mixins, and more for cleaner and more maintainable CSS.

  • PostCSS - Transform CSS with JavaScript plugins like autoprefixer, cssnano, and stylelint. Integrates into webpack, Parcel, and Vite.

For example, Sass's nesting and variables allow much cleaner CSS authoring, especially for larger projects. PostCSS handles cross-browser polyfilling and optimizations.


Sass lets developers write cleaner and more maintainable CSS at scale. Key features include:

  • Variables - Reuse values like colors and spacing.
  • Nesting - Mirror HTML structure for clearer styling.
  • Mixins - Reuse groups of styles.
  • Modules - Scoped styles avoiding conflicts.

Sass compiles to standard CSS for use in projects. Recommended compilers include node-sass and Dart Sass which is faster. For CSS at scale, Sass helps manage complexity. Sites like Bootstrap use Sass.


PostCSS transforms CSS using JavaScript plugins. Essential plugins include:

  • Autoprefixer - Polyfill CSS for browser compatibility.
  • cssnano - Minify and optimize CSS.
  • stylelint - Enforce consistent conventions.

PostCSS integrates seamlessly into webpack, Parcel, and Vite workflows. While powerful, it lacks Sass's syntax improvements. Use PostCSS for cross-browser support and optimization. Major sites like Wikipedia use PostCSS.

Debugging and Testing

Robust debugging and testing is critical for catching issues early and ensuring quality. Testing helps validate code behavior. Essential tools include:

  • Chrome DevTools - Debug code, audit performance, profile JavaScript, and more.

  • Jest - Jest enables painless JavaScript unit testing with great TypeScript support.

Chrome DevTools

No web developer's toolkit is complete without Chrome DevTools. Its myriad features help diagnose problems quickly.

  • Elements panel - Inspect and modify DOM and CSS.
  • Network - Monitor requests and optimize performance.
  • Sources - Debug JavaScript code with breakpoints.
  • Console - Log diagnostics and test code snippets.

DevTools is universally supported across browsers now but Chrome's implementation remains the most fully-featured and intuitive for developers.


Jest has emerged as a hugely popular unit testing framework for JavaScript. Its main selling points include:

  • Snapshot testing - Render React trees and compare against previous versions.
  • Mocking - Stub dependencies easily.
  • Runs tests in parallel for increased speed.
  • Rich ecosystem of plugins and integrations.

Jest works seamlessly with React, Vue, Angular, and more. For unit testing JavaScript both server and client-side, Jest is easy to set up and use. Major companies like Facebook use Jest.


Modern web development requires an optimized toolkit leveraging code editors, bundlers, preprocessors, testing frameworks, and more. VS Code, Vite, Sass, Jest, and Chrome DevTools represent some of the top tools for building web apps quickly and efficiently.

By combining the right tools for your stack, you can eliminate bottlenecks, accelerate iterations, and focus on what matters - bringing your web app ideas to life. We encourage you to try out some of the tools highlighted here to enhance your development experience! Check out DevHunt to explore and compare the latest developer tools.