What is React?
The more complex the site interface is, the slimmer is the chance to create it without using the React library and its main competitors – Angular and Vue.js frameworks.
Google’s Angular is the oldest in this trio as its first version was released in 2010. The framework is used in Google, Forbes, PayPal, Upwork and other majors.
The Vue framework came out in 2015. Its author is a former employee of Google Creative Lab, currently an independent developer Evan You. Though Vue cannot boast of the same patronage of major western companies the way its big brothers do, it has enough eastern users, such as Alibaba, Tencent, and Xiaomi.
In the second place, Angular suits better for the development of large corporate applications, while the entry barrier of React and Vue is lower and these tools are used to create MVP, small- and medium-scale projects.
And please, don’t mix up React with React Native. Their difference is that React Native is a platform used to develop mobile iOS and Android applications. The platform includes not only React, but also its own components, while React is used to develop only web applications.
Features of React.js
Let’s say a few words about the principles that underpin the React philosophy and ensure the speed and convenience of web application development.
Props and state objects
One-way data binding
React components forming the data model are divided into parent and child components. Developers write them from top to bottom because they know about the One-Way Data Binding paradigm according to which data is sent from parent to child components through props. This gives the developers more control over the application.
Probably, this is the key peculiarity of React that needs to be presented in some more details.
Advantages of React applications
- The server load and development time are reduced. The site performance is improved: the pages open faster and the interface responds to users’ actions quicker. In contrast to a typical web application that returns HTML layout with CSS upon the browser request to let the browser display the page, React applications make the browser download the set of scripts first and then execute them on the user’s device. This reduces the server load and improves performance.
- It’s not necessary to develop the whole website in React, if dynamic blocks occupy just a small part of the website. While static pages are working as usual, you can make a specific block in React and insert scripts so that they could be executed only in this block. There are companies that ended up rewriting their product in React after many years. It’s not necessary to do this migration at once, but from the perspective of development this may turn out to be more convenient.
- In contrast to standard websites, websites built on React have a clearer architecture, where it is easier to detect and eliminate bugs and which is more convenient to maintain. The developer controls data streams, layout, and styles and, ideally, knows the programming patterns that allow building applications quicker and more flexibly.
- If the frontend and backend teams prepare documentation in advance describing the format of data receipt and data sending between the parts of the application, the teams can work simultaneously: while the server part is being developed, frontend developers simulate – based on the documentation – the data coming from the server.
React.js and single-page applications
If the server load is reduced, the load on the user side increases. However, according to the statistics, client machines have sufficient random-access memory to paint the pages of a React-based website in the browser.
Nevertheless, if you need to get the quickest response from the interface, you should use the single-page application (SPA) approach. Essentially, it treats the entire website as a single page constantly repainted by React. But not completely.
With SPA, users navigating through the website sections are formally staying on the same page. They already have the script files and styles, so it’s only necessary to download the missing elements. For example, if the same header is used on all pages and only a certain block of the page is changed, it’s not necessary to paint the header again. This saves resources and provides a faster and more responsive interface. The owners of online shops have to treasure every moment, as clients can be lost if they have to wait for 5-10 seconds after clicking a button.
The website of one of our clients, a service for work with Instagram influencers Influize is a typical example of SPA with the headless Drupal architecture.
React and search engine optimization
Search engine optimization is the weak spot of React applications. The harm poor SEO does to the business is obvious – if search engines don’t see your website, it doesn’t exist.
That’s why there exists the server-side rendering (SSR) approach. Let’s describe it based on our projects – the above-mentioned Influize and the website of scrap car disposal service Scrapi. A part of the work on the websites painting is carried out on the server (yes, we’ve arrived exactly at what we tried to leave behind). This is the task of Next.js, a React-based framework. When the browser sends a request, the server returns a page painted in advance, which is ready and seemingly complete. After that, the elements start behaving as React components on the client side.
Thus, what the user sees are the pages partially painted on the server and partially built in the browser. Otherwise, the website pages would have been indexed less well.
In combination with the SPA approach, this gives what the web developers community knows as isomorphic applications. The users of such applications get a responsive interface and fast content display in an application which is already downloaded. The second advantage is that SEO issues are solved: if a search engine finds the page, it will receive its layout and will be able to index it without waiting until the scripts are executed. But an isomorphic application differs from a standard one in that, as soon as the user jumps from one page to another, the application works as SPA.
Search engines won’t be satisfied with Next.js only though - it’s also about CX (customer experience) and UX (user experience). Your clients or website visitors don’t think how cool this framework is but they do anticipate fast page load and a streamlined user flow. Hence, last but not least, make sure your in-house or external front-end developers optimize and maintain your application. They have to do the code refactoring and check if there’s room for performance improvement. See what should be done regularly here.
Well-known websites and applications built on React.js
Billions of people deal with the results of React.js’ work on a daily basis. Among them are the following:
- New York Times;
- Yahoo! Mail;