Hardhat Versus Truffle: Which Smart Contract Framework is Best?

Both tools help with testing, compiling, and debugging smart contracts. Find out which one is right for you.
Ned Rockson
November 28, 2022

Should you go with Hardhat or Truffle as your smart contract development framework? In this post, we’ll look at the pros and cons of the two most popular frameworks.

Hardhat vs Truffle is a common discussion in smart contract development. There are many other approaches to Web3 development and even smart contract development in particular. 

Other smart contract tools include:

But if you’re looking to save time and frustration, we recommend picking one of the most popular frameworks – Hardhat or Truffle.

Why develop with Hardhat or Truffle?

The Hardhat vs Truffle debate often comes up among Web3 developers that are tired of manually selecting resources and wondering what the error messages in smart contract language Solidity actually mean. Both Hardhat and Truffle are Javascript-based frameworks that make smart contract development a lot easier and faster. 

Both tools help with testing, compiling, and debugging smart contracts. They help to reduce the development loop and costs because you can deploy your contract to a local Ethereum network. 

If you’re anything like our team, you prefer helpful error messages and smart contracts that actually work. This is the main reason most of us end up going with either the Hardhat or Truffle framework. Which one you go with will often depend on personal preferences and the project at hand. So let’s take a close look at both of them.

Truffle was first released in 2015 and has been expanded with more helpful tools since then. Hardhat came out in 2019 and quickly became popular for its developer-friendly debugging approach. Hardhat has some default settings but offers more flexibility in the configuration than Truffle. Truffle has had a more opinionated approach to the way you should develop smart contracts. More on that below.

- helps with testing, compiling, and debugging smart contract development

- it reduces the development loop and cost since you can deploy your contract to a local eth network

What is Hardhat?

Hardhat is a Javascript-based environment designed for the development of dApps on Ethereum software. Hardhat consists of Hardhat Runner, Hardhat Network, and Hardhat VSCode. Hardhat Runner is the core component. It’s a task runner to manage and automate tasks in the development process, like compiling and testing, but you can add your own custom tasks as well. Hardhat Network is Hardhat’s own local Ethereum network you can use when deploying Solidity smart contracts, testing, and debugging on your own hardware.

Hardhat was created by Nomic Foundation. Formerly known as Nomic Labs, the organization is now non-profit and fully dedicated to empowering developers to “decentralize the world”. Nomic Foundation is backed financially by The Ethereum Foundation, Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, Coinbase, and many more.

The dedicated forces behind Hardhat make it clear to us that the suite of tools will only continue to grow in a way that benefits developers of Ethereum-based dApps.

What is Truffle?

Truffle is one of the oldest Ethereum development frameworks. It was developed by Consensys in 2016 and has grown into a suite of development tools. The Javascript-based Truffle suite currently consists of Truffle, Ganache, Drizzle, and Truffle for VSCode. Truffle itself is both a development environment, testing framework, and asset pipeline for developing dApps for several blockchains.

Ganache is a local blockchain network designed for fast and easy development, testing, and deployment in a safe environment. It runs in two ways – or as Truffle phrases it “two flavors” – a graphic user interface (UI) and a command line interface (CLI).

Drizzle is Truffle Suite’s collection of libraries you can access to sync data, while you develop the dApp front-end. Truffle for VSCode is a plugin for VSCode that makes smart contract development simpler.

The documentation for Hardhat vs Truffle

The documentation for both Hardhat and Truffle is clear and very accessible to dApp developers. Since Truffle is older, there’s naturally a larger amount of resources and examples for the use of Truffle tools, which does appeal to many developers.

Hardhat documentation includes a helpful overview, a quick start guide, and a step-by-step tutorial for Hardhat. The tutorials are particularly helpful and make it easy to get started using each component in the Hardhat suite. As a developer, you won’t risk wasting time getting started on your blockchain development with the Hardhat tutorials. Whether you’re a rookie or an experienced developer, the best practices in the Hardhat documentation will help you get to where you’re going faster.

Truffle documentation also has a very helpful approach. You can dive in by selecting one of the four Truffle components of the dApp development suite or by selecting the blockchain you’ll be developing for. There’s documentation for Ethereum, Tezos, Quorum, Corda, Filecoin, and Hyperledger Fabric (EVM). The docs also hold examples of how to connect Truffle with MetaMask. As an added bonus there are many walkthroughs and YouTube videos to help you discover best practices for development on Truffle.

Hardhat vs Truffle libraries & plugins

Hardhat has a large collection of libraries and helpful plugins. You can get started using the recommended bundle of Hardhat plugins and then add plugins for Chai, Etherscan, and even the competing suite in Truffle. There’s even an option to build your own plugin for Hardhat for your favorite tools.

Truffle offers Truffle Boxes as a kind of hybrid between plugins, templates, and libraries to help developers get started more easily. You can pick a Truffle Box for the development of your NFT collection, smart contract, as well as many other use cases. If the Truffle Box is exactly what you need, you’re good to go. However, if your project only needs part of the Truffle Box, you’ve got some work to do. You can check Truffle Boxes for inspiration. But they have an all-or-nothing approach, so you can’t leave out parts of the components in each box. This is a clear downside for Truffle in our comparison of Hardhat vs Truffle.

Hardhat vs Truffle communities

There are also some interesting differences in the communities when we compare Hardhat vs Truffle. Hardhat has an active community mostly consisting of blockchain developers. You can join the +9,500 members of the Hardhat community on Discord to draw inspiration from their interesting discussions and experiences.

The Truffle community has had more years to develop and spread across different platforms. This has led to confusion about where you can find the best support from other Truffle developers. To secure fast feedback for Truffle developers, and answers to their questions, Truffle decided to move away from Discord and connect with the community through GitHub, Zendesk, and Twitter. You can dive into the easily searchable Truffle Github Discussions for inspiration and best practices as well as interesting discussions.

Hardhat vs Truffle testing environments

In a “test-off” between Hardhat and Truffle, it’s clear to see the differences between the two suites. Hardhat offers a very flexible testing environment that lets you easily interact with smart contracts. In Hardhat you can use simple JavaScript commands like “test/sample-test.js” to get a fast test result.

Truffle’s testing environment setup is more complex. Truffle doesn’t offer support for direct interaction with smart contracts (*sad trombone*). You’d need to start Ganache (CLI or UI) to test your smart contracts. So unless you’re already used to Truffle and like how the suite works, this alone could be enough reason for you to choose Hardhat over Truffle.

Software companies using Hardhat

There’s an impressive amount of testimonials from software companies that use Hardhat for their development.

Multi-chain crypto trading and liquidity hub Kyber Network has worked with smart contracts across different versions of Solidity over the years. Hardhat has saved time in the development and operations at Kyber Network by not having to duplicate their setup. According to Kyber’s CTO, Victor Tran, the Hardhat team has also been helpful in saving them time when fixing issues and implementing new features.

Justin J. Moses, CTO at liquidity protocol Synthetix, improved one spec by 10x in his first 15 minutes working with the Hardhat suite. In his own words, this hooked him on Hardhat after having battled with other testing frameworks.

The Aragon One dApp also relies heavily on Hardhat for testing tools for the Aragon ecosystem. According to their CTO, Brett Sun, “the team had to constantly ‘reinvent the wheel’ with Truffle”. With Hardhat, Aragon One has freed up time to focus on the work that benefits their ecosystem and community.

Cross-chain app project Connext Network prefers Hardhat builder for the development and testing of Solidity contracts. According to CTO, Rahul Sethuram, “the developer experience is great”, and Connext enjoy contributing to the Hardhat project.

Software companies using Truffle

Truffle has some big-name projects listed as case studies, that include Starbucks, Dish Network, Microsoft Xbox, and the World Bank. The last two are worth looking at in more detail.

The World Bank: In conjunction with Microsoft and the Commonwealth Bank, The World Bank launched the world’s first bond that was created, allocated, transferred, and managed using a distributed ledger. The Truffle suite was used for authoring, testing, and auditing key project components.

Xbox: To reduce statement access times from 45 days to a few minutes, Microsoft and EY created a new application based on Quorum blockchain technology, built on top of the Azure Blockchain service. The team used Truffle to create the business logic in the smart contracts, test contracts, and deploy them to a variety of environments.

Which is better Hardhat or Truffle?

In the end, it’s all up to you to pick the winner in Hardhat vs Truffle. Your decision should depend on the project you’re working on. Do you want to move fast and make things or take your time to find the best approach for something novel?

If you want the highest degree of flexibility in the development of your smart contracts, we’ll always recommend Hardhat. As we covered, Hardhat offers much more flexibility as well as an active community of developers who will be excited to see what you’re working on.

If you want to build a smart contract in Solidity to fit a well-known purpose, you would be best to choose Truffle. The Truffle Boxes mentioned above let you pick a boilerplate framework for very specific purposes, which can make it very easy for you to develop a solid smart contract and move on with the other aspects of your Web3 app.

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