What is Django?

By Rachel Meltzer
Last Updated June 21, 2021

Django 5 reasons infographic

Django is an open source web framework that is popular because of its security, scalability, simplicity, and versatility. But how is Django used by developers today? In this beginner’s guide, find out the link between Django and Python, and the top 5 reasons developers rely on Django. We’re also digging into the differences between Django and Flask, and how you can use Django in your own web applications! 

What is Django?

Django is a free, open source web framework that allows developers to rapidly create clean, pragmatically designed web applications. But let’s back up – what’s a web framework? A web framework is a collection of pre-written code that make up components needed for the foundations of a web application. Instead of implementing the same solutions over and over from scratch, frameworks allow developers to focus on developing new and unique components for their specific project. 

Django emphasizes structuring an application with reusable components that aren’t dependent on one another. This allows developers to “plug” and “unplug” individual pieces of their application as they please. This practice also promotes using less code, makes scaling easier later, and fosters rapid development. It’s known to be fast, secure, scalable, and includes extras, like RSS feeds, site maps, content administration, user authentication, and more.

The History of Django

Django is a Python framework that was created in 2003 by two programmers – Simon Willison, an intern, and Adrian Holovaty, a staff member – at the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper in Kansas. Jacob Kaplan-Moss also joined the early development of Django. It was released to the public in July 2005. Django’s namesake comes from guitarist Django Reinhardt, one of Holovaty’s idols. Python’s community loves to name their work after fun references. Python itself is named after Monty Python! 

5 Reasons Django is Popular

Django is written in Python, one of the world’s most popular and easy to learn programming languages. The Django framework release lined up perfectly with the first big marketing push for Ruby on Rails. Rails is a similar framework written in Ruby. Python pushed Django into popularity in response to Rails. While Django’s rise to popularity began as a response to a direct competitor, it has stuck around for good reason. 

1. Batteries Included

Django is designed to be “batteries included,” meaning that as soon as you download it, you should have everything you need to create a fully-functional web application. The main Django distribution bundle has a number of applications in its package, including:

  • An authentication system
  • Administrative interface
  • Tools for generating RSS and Atom syndication feeds
  • A "Sites" framework that allows one Django installation to run multiple websites, each with their own content and applications
  • Google Sitemaps tools
  • Built-in security including mitigation for cross-site request forgery, cross-site scripting, SQL injection, password cracking, and other typical web attacks
  • GIS application framework
  • Django models

The framework comes with all of this and more. It’s nearly everything you’ll ever need to create a solid web application. The Django community has the same Python culture that developers love and there’s an entire library of over 4,000 community-created packages to use with Django.

2. Well-Maintained

Governed by the Django Software Foundation (DCF), Django has a responsive team that quickly handles bugs and security issues. While it’s not bug-free per se, the Django team is constantly working on improvements and releasing new, in-demand features. The DSF handles Django according to a code of conduct and they have a good reputation. They even have community guidelines and advocate for diversity in their community. 

3. SEO Forward

Unlike many web application frameworks, Django was born out of the publishing sector where search engine optimization (SEO) is a necessity. It’s naturally designed to enforce SEO best practices like human-readable URLs that use actual keywords. This design is great for anyone who wants their web app to be found easily. 

4. Scalability

Django has incredible scaling power. Especially for startups, this is a big deal that not many frameworks can truly say they offer. Django is programmed as individual components that are essentially plug and play ready. The components work together but aren’t dependent on each other so they can be unplugged and replaced or more can be plugged in when your team is ready to scale. Developers can also add other plugins, frameworks (like the Django REST framework), and libraries to their Django-based web application. 

5. Security

Security is a popular reason for any developer to learn Python. Python’s packages are some of the most secure options for plug and play code. Django, by design, prevents common security mistakes by camouflaging source code, dynamically generating web pages, and through templates sending information to web browsers. 

How is Django used with Python?

Django is a Python framework. It’s a package of pre-written code in Python that developers can use as the foundation for their own web application. The pre-developed components of Django provide Python developers with secure, scalable basics that save them time so that they can focus on building the more complex and exciting pieces of their application. 

Django is made up of individual components that aren’t dependent on each other, which makes it a versatile framework. It’s considered a model-view-controller (MVC) architecture which is commonly used for developing user interfaces that divide up the program into interconnected elements to separate internal representations of information. MVC divides up the three main architectural pieces: the relational database, HTTP request template system, and the URL dispatcher to make a secure, out-of-the-box solution for user interfaces. 

Who uses Django?

Django is used to create content management systems, social networks, scientific computing platforms and more. It’s trusted by companies who promote security above all else, massive social media platforms that have scaled exponentially since their start, and science foundations with large data requirements.

Companies that use Django include:

  • Disqus
  • Instagram
  • Mozilla
  • Pinterest
  • National Geographic
  • Open Stack
  • Knight Foundation
  • MacArthur Foundation
  • Open Knowledge Foundation

Django vs Flask

Within Python, developers often debate over whether Django or Flask is a better choice for building a web application. Django and Flask are two of the most popular web application frameworks in Python and they both have extensive community documentation. Flask is a lightweight framework that was released in 2010 while Django is a full stack framework that was released five years earlier. Django comes with everything you should need for a web application pre-coded, while Flask requires some coding or add-ons to complete its lightweight frame. 

Flask does allow developers to add numerous libraries and plugins to expand on their micro framework. Developers who use Flask have more control over the core of the application but usually have to code more to get the result that Django offers out-of-the-box. Flask and Django do have similar template engines. Django boasts stronger admin features which some developers love and others may find “bloated.” 

If you’re trying to decide between Django and Flask, consider the needs of your application, your experience, and the amount of time you have to create your application. If you’re a beginner, it may be best to start with Flask so that you can understand every part of the application you’re building. 

If you need a fully designed and developed application that’s quickly secure, Django might be your best bet! Understand that both frameworks will have a learning curve for beginners, but that Django’s will likely be steeper because of all of its options. It can help to try a Django tutorial when you’re using the framework for the first time. 

What can you do with Django?

Django was originally created to power a newspaper web application, so it’s fantastic for use as a content management system. Django was designed to handle large volumes of text content, media files, and heavy traffic. This makes it a great all around solution to hundreds of other types of web applications, too! There are plenty of Python tutorials that touch on how to create any of these web applications with Django. 

Django has been used to create:

  • Finance platforms
  • Customer relationship management systems (CRMs)
  • Business to business relationship management systems (B2B CRMs)
  • Communications platforms
  • Social media platforms
  • Booking Engines
  • E-commerce sites
  • Mobile apps that support web applications
  • Real Estate applications
  • Document management systems
  • Legal Platforms for mortgage conditions and lease statuses
  • Email systems for notifying users
  • Filtering systems
  • Administrative Dashboards
  • Internal interfaces for banks and investment funds
  • Photo-based verification systems

Have you used Django? Let other beginners know what you thought in the comments!

About The Author

Rachel Meltzer is a freelance writer who loves writing about career transitions, tech, and the outdoors. She helps adventurous people tell their stories on her podcast and coaches new freelance writers. She was born and raised in New England and currently lives in North Carolina.

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