If you're just beginning your development journey as a web developer and you've chosen to use React, or you are considering it, you probably have questions you need answers to. We have gathered some of the frequently asked questions about React and will answer them here. The questions are going to be grouped into six segments, each about various aspects of React.
1. What is React?
2. Is React a framework or a library?
The question of whether React is a library or a framework is one that keeps coming up. Although I already stated that it is, in fact, a library above, I want to explain further why it is a library and not a framework.
One key difference between a framework and a library is that a framework defines the structure and architecture of your code. It dictates how your app is to be developed. You can think of it as a template for a house. A library, on the other hand, is more like the furniture and house fittings you can add to an existing house.
A library is a collection of programs that perform common repetitive functions during development. So just like with furniture, you can add a library to an existing codebase to make use of. This is precisely the way React is designed. It can be used to create UI components for your application or edit ones previously created with HTML. You define how you want to use it, which contrasts to how a framework functions.
But React does have some framework characteristics. Although you define how you make use of the library, it is still pretty opinionated about how certain things are to be done(Flux specification, GraphQL specification, etc.). By the way, Facebook, the creator of React, calls it a library.
3. What language(s) is React made of?
Setup & Use
4. When is React used?
5. Does it need any additional setup?
Setting up React isn’t as simple as just launching a setup file. It involves a lot of processes. Asides installing the React library itself, there are other packages you need to install and a lot of configurations to make to have a complete React development environment.
You still have to install packages like webpack and babel and configure them to have a complete React development environment. You could probably skip installing these packages and develop simple projects without them, but for larger projects, you should have them installed.
6. Can it be added to an existing project?
7. Does React support gradual migration?
8. How do I host React applications?
React applications can be hosted like any other web app. There are a lot of options you can choose from. You can host your React app on Github Pages, Netlify, Heroku and so many others although these are more suited for static websites. For dynamic sites, you might want to consider a solution like AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud.
You can also decide to make your website either server-side rendered, client-side rendered or prerendered before hosting. Your use case would determine which of the three is best for you. React supports all three of these rendering methods. React apps are by default made to be client-side rendered.
But sometimes, you might need some of the advantages that come with a server-side rendered application like SEO and perceived performance. However, if most of your webpages are only accessible behind login pages, then a server-side application isn’t worth it. A client-side rendered website would be more suited for your purpose.
9. What is a React developer’s experience like?
Overall, developing with React once you have all the necessary packages installed is easy. But you have to set up your development environment first which involves installing several packages and making configurations needed for smooth and hitch-free development.
React also supports full use of HMR (Hot Module Reloading), allowing you to update your application on-the-fly, without the need to reload the page.
10. What’s React ecosystem like?
There are a lot of tools and libraries available to aid your development with React. There are state management tools, formatting, type checking, authentication, testing and lots more. Together they form a kind of framework but with more flexibility as some of these tools have more than one option.
11. How performant is React?
The React Virtual DOM is a simpler copy of the actual DOM which you interact with React. Instead of reloading the whole DOM each time there is a change in state, it re-creates the React DOM and compares it to the previous version using a difference algorithm. It then instructs the DOM to reload only the affected area. This significantly reduces the time taken to update a page.
12. Who are React’s competitors?
When React was initially released its only competitor was Angular JS There are now more than ten libraries and frameworks taking React’s market share. Some of these libraries or frameworks are Vue, Ember, Aurelia, Elm, Mithril, etc. with Vue being the most popular of them all.
13. Which companies use React?
React is being used by a lot of popular companies. Some of them include: Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Netflix, Khan Academy, Yahoo, Codecademy, Dropbox, Airbnb, Microsoft, Atlassian, Slack, Storybook, and many more
14. Pros & Cons
What are the advantages of React?
By now, you should have gotten a good idea of what those are. But to recap, I would list them here.
- The use of a virtual DOM makes React apps faster.
- With React you can re-use previously composed components.
- There is support for server-side rendering of websites.
- You do not need to worry about framework-specific code as React is a library.
What are the cons of React?
React just like a lot of things has disadvantages. Some of them are:
- React is continuously and frequently being improved. It might be hard to follow the pace of development.
- Unlike with frameworks that define how your app is to be structured, you have to structure your app yourself. This is not necessarily a disadvantage if you know how to.
So that’s it. I hope some of the questions you had if not all about React have been answered. To get started with React, you can visit React’s website, ー Reactjs.org.
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