Why You Should Use React.js For Web Development

By Why You Should Use React.js For Web Development

What is Reactjs?

Reactjs or React is a JavaScript library for building user interfaces. This is the definition of React as it is from its official website. React should not be mistaken to be a web framework (even though many people refer to it as a framework) but is rather a JavaScript library for building User Interface(UI) components for web applications. Learn the difference between a framework and a library in this article.

Let’s look at a more detailed definition of React.  It is an open-source JavaScript library that is used for building user interfaces for single-page applications (SPAs).

What is a Single-Page Application (SPA)

Single-Page Applications are becoming a more popular way of creating modern web applications. They allow interacting with the web page, delivering dynamic updates without refreshing it. SPAs come with a performance advantage in that websites built in this technology load faster because they don't hit the server every time the user interacts with the web application.

When a user enters a domain name of a particular single-page application, the server only responds with a single HTML page. Once a user interacts with the web app by clicking links, only the required component(s) will be modified and rendered without reloading the full page. It is this feature that gives SPAs a feel and taste of the mobile app experience.

Advantages of Single-Page Applications

Before looking at some features that make React unique, let’s look at some advantages that are common among single-page applications:

i) Performance – The most notable feature is the performance boost they bring to the front-end development with them. We have already seen that the main reason for this is because SPAs only load a single HTML page from the server. All the other rendering is done by JavaScript in the web browser thereby reducing the need to make many requests to the server which could result in an increased load time.

  1. Simplified Development – Most of the rendering is done in the browser therefore there is no need to write code to render pages on the server. A lot of heavy lifting is done in the front-end by JavaScript. This is advantageous because development is simplified by allowing developers to concentrate only on the presentation part of the web app without concerning what goes on in the backend.
  2. Easy to debug with chrome – Chrome browser has support for single-page applications debugging in the development phase through developer tools. React, Vue, Angular and some other technologies have tools that come as chrome extensions that help developers to debug their code on the browser during development.
  3.  Caching capabilities –  SPAs can cache any local data. A single-page application sends only one request to the server and then stores all the data it receives. This data is what is used to do rendering in the browser on demand. This makes SPAs work even offline.
  4. Cross-platform functionality – SPAs can work on different operating systems like Mac OS, Windows, and Linux from any browser. This feature is more beneficial to developers because they don’t have to worry about cross-platform compatibility and also regular users working with different devices can greatly benefit from it.

Disadvantages of Single-Page Applications

Despite their numerous advantages, SPAs also have some drawbacks. The following are some of their disadvantages:

  1. Poor SEO ranking – Rendering is done in the web browser. SPAs load data from the server through AJAX or some other technologies like browser’s fetch API or using HTTP libraries like axious. SEO becomes poor because web crawlers/search engines are unable to locate specific page URLs from the server, therefore, ranking these web applications poorly.
  2. Loading large CSS and JavaScript files – Single-page applications need to load all the JavaScript and CSS from the server on the first load. As the application gets bigger with time, JavaScript and CSS files become many and this causes SPA to load slowly whenever the user first makes the request to the server. This reduces reliability.
  3. Loading indicators – The browser's loading indicators as common in multi-page applications provide an accurate and predictable experience to users. SPAs don't have a loading indicator by default which can result in a bad user experience in that, the user may click a link more than once thinking that the page is not loading. To overcome this, additional code must be added which is also a challenge.

Comparison Between React, Vue, and Angular

Web development is experiencing a transition from the traditional way of building web applications using a multi-page application approach to using a single-page application approach. Many technologies are emerging that are helpful in the development of SPAs. These include React, Vue, Angular, EmberJS, Backbone.js, etc. Here we are going to look at some comparisons of the popular ones, i.e React, Vue and Angular.

Angular is a TypeScript based open-source framework by Google that is used for developing front-end web applications.

Vue on the other hand is a progressive framework for building user interfaces for SPAs.

i) Owner – Angular was developed by Google and released in 2010. It aims to simplify both the development and the testing of SPAs by providing a framework for client-side MVC(Model-View-Controller) architecture.

Vue is also known as Vue.js was developed by ex-google employee Evan You in 2014. Even though Vue doesn’t have the backing of a large company, it has become more popular over the last few years since its development.

React is maintained by Facebook and a community of individual developers and companies. It was first released in 2013 and Facebook uses it extensively in its products.

ii) Popularity – React is the most desired framework with 74.5% of developers preferring it. Vue is right behind it with 73.6% of developers embracing it. This is according to a 2019 stack overflow survey. More than 50% of users still love Angular even though the number of users for Angular isn’t the same as before.

Google statistics show that React is the most popular framework followed by Angular and then Vue.

iii) Performance – Angular is considered the best option for SPAs due to the coherent update. It is also the most popular JavaScript framework because it practices real DOM.

React applies the virtual DOM to enhance performance for all size applications.

Vue being the youngest doesn’t need to deal with those issues which earlier arose in React and Angular. It also has the smallest community.

Why Choose React?

Let’s look at some reasons why you should consider React in your next project:

i) JSX (JavaScript Syntax Extension) - JSX is a feature in React that allows us to write HTML elements in JavaScript. This makes the code easier to understand and debug because it avoids the usage of complex JavaScript DOM structures.

ii) Virtual DOM – React uses virtual DOM to render components on demand. When the state of a component changes, React updates that particular object without reloading the full page.

iii) Performance – Through virtual DOM, React can respond to changes very quickly. React also breaks the complex UI into individual components which as a result helps many developers to work together on different components. This also speeds up the development process.

iv) Simplicity -  JSX simplifies React because it is very easy to learn and understand. Also, the concept of components in React makes it easy to structure a React application.

Conclusion

There are many ways of building a web application. The choice of a particular architecture should be based on your project's goals. There is no better way of doing things and therefore whichever approach you pick, don't be restricted to it in all your projects. Feel free to try some other technologies. Get started with React and happy coding!.


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Eric Murithi Muchenah

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