Application development always starts with identifying a need. An idea that will drive the entire endeavor and provide a starting point. There are many ways to achieve the goal of creating a working application that performs its primary function while delivering high performance and stability. One of them is using the possibilities of React. What are the characteristics of React? And why should you consider using it when building web applications?

What is React used for?

React is an open-source JavaScript library, that’s why its full name is ReactJS. It allows for the quick and easy creation of interactive user interfaces for websites. To build web and mobile apps with one technology, you’d have to use React Native, as React doesn’t support mobile app development. 

React itself is used for front-end development to create rich web interfaces and single-page applications. However, thanks to React Native, even (even do rozważenia) large companies like Uber, Netflix, or Airbnb create their web apps with ReactJS. But not only that! Here is another interesting fact: React was created by Meta (former Facebook).

This library’s main point is to enable developers to build user interface components that are reusable. This aspect contributes to a shorter development time of an app. How so? We will explain it further in this article, with a full description of the components. 

web development with react - what is component?

What is a component?

Components are the main point of React technology. Let us explain this in an easy example.

Imagine Netflix. It consists of small tiles with an image of some movie, right? Well, you can consider every tile to be a component. They have one shape, one size, and the same functionality (when you click on them). The only different aspect is the image and description. The mentioned above reusability means exactly this – using one, same-looking component with various data.

To sum up, React components allow web applications to:

  • Have even dozens of the same elements with distinct content.
  • Get rid of the need to code these elements from scratch – this aspect saves a lot of development time.

Why should you use React?

1. Fast Rendering

ReactJS was designed with high performance in mind. Even a perfectly designed interface will not help if the application is slow and unresponsive.

The core of React framework uses virtual DOM. DOM is a structure of a web page – it contains its elements, their names and so on – and typically, if any element changes, DOM has to be entirely rebuilt. However, virtual DOM allows for reducing that effort. In this case, developers can update only objects on the page that have changed – while the rest of them remain as they were 

To make it more visual: imagine a weather app. It consists of 7 elements (one per day of the week) – each features a weather icon and temperature. Let’s assume the app got new weather predictions for Thursday. It should now update and show you the latest prognosis, right? Sure, but it would be inefficient to reload the whole page. That’s why apps built with React would only update the one element with Thursday data.

What does this mean from the business perspective? Your app can be speedy and super responsive – and users love that.

2. Reusable Components

The most significant advantage of React is reusable UI components. A React developer creates the UI element once and uses it multiple times throughout the application. Yes, it’s this simple. It gets even better, as React allows for the usage of the same component with different data. For example:

  • a button with the text: “click me”,
  • another button that looks the same, but its text is: “apply”.

How does this translate into the project? The lack of need to create particular elements from scratch means:

  • rapid development of UI,
  • more consistent appearance of web and mobile apps, as every piece looks the same.

These significantly reduce development time and lower the costs of the entire project.

High code stability of React

3. High code stability

React app has to be stable to achieve your company’s goal and avoid downtimes and errors. Creators of this library achieved that with two different approaches.

  • Family tree-like structure and single direction data flow – during app development, a developer creates basic components, and then new ones that inherit functionalities and look from these first (parent) components. This is a standard way to create React apps. Such structure allows for data transfers from parent to child components, but not the other way around. Therefore, each modification of the existing component in React doesn’t affect the parent structure. Thanks to this single-direction data flow, the risk of application stability violation is limited to a minimum.
  • Upgrades force developers to update the code – if any significant changes are included in a new version, React provides clear warnings at the development level. It also gives instructions on how to solve these issues. This way, it is easy to avoid any problems caused by outdated code. In the end, the Meta (former Facebook) team makes React safe to improve and modify.

The above factors ensure the high stability of the code, smooth and predictable application operation, and consequently, fewer problems with its maintenance.

4. Strong community support

React gathered an extensive and robust community willing to share knowledge and experience. The community support and the popularity of React result in the enormous availability of solutions to obstacles connected to developing products with this technology, and tools that integrate with it. One of the examples of the latter is JointJs which allows developers to create advanced diagrams and graphs in a web application.

But what about solving those potential problems? Of course, you can never be sure that the team doesn’t encounter significant problems during the product’s development. The thing is, in this case, you don’t have to worry about that too much. It’s almost guaranteed to find solutions to any problem online, as the React community widely shares their knowledge and experience. 

This means that the risk of getting stuck during any stage of development is limited to a minimum because you always have access to a strong army of specialists that can help you find the right answers. This, in turn, ensures a stable pace of the whole process.

Read also: Getting started with JointJs

React gathered a robust community willing to share knowledge and experience.

5. Easy to find developers

When considering the choice of technology, you should first take into account the chances of obtaining the expected results with its help. However, that’s just the beginning. In today’s extremely competitive job market, you also need to consider the availability of programmers.

What does it look like in the case of ReactJS? Well, React is often the first choice technology, and additionally, it is preferred by developers. There is no fear that we would encounter serious staffing problems, as React is the most commonly used web library, according to StackOverflow’s 2021 Developer Survey.

The takeaway from this aspect is: it’s easy to find developers or a good tech partner with the necessary skill-set. With such a broad job market, it’s also possible to demand better skills from candidates.

When should you use React?

Now that you know the advantages of React, we present in what situations its usage seems to be a reasonable idea. From a business point of view, of course. Think about choosing ReactJS when:

  • You plan to create a rich and highly interactive UI, which is practically becoming a standard nowadays, rather than a feature that allows you to stand out.
  • Your website users are starting to complain more and more about its responsiveness, long loading times, or numerous errors.
  • You’d like the development of your web app’s front-end side to be faster and cost-efficient.

If you’re curious about how React has proven itself in an actual project, check out our case study about building a fitness app with this JS library: moving a fitness studio online to boost customer experience for the existing clients and reach over 20,000 new users.

Is React the only solution?

React is not the only solution available. It is one of the most popular ones, though. There is also the Vue.js framework or React’s biggest competitor – Angular. So, if you are interested in all sorts of technologies, try reading about what is Angular used for. We also have an article about their differences here: Angular vs. React.

However, remember: building a great app and good maintenance is only possible if you have the support of a reliable tech partner providing great web app development services.

React.js vs. JavaScript

ReactJS is the most popular JavaScript library, while JavaScript itself is a programming language – that is the first and most crucial difference. But what a library is? Practically, it is a code with previously prepared functionalities that extend the primary language. In this case, React extends JavaScript code. Therefore, React doesn’t even exist without JS.

You should also be aware of a few other differences between React and plain JavaScript for front-end development:

  • React has a structure based on components and one-way data flow from parent to child components, while JavaScript does not have such a particular form or restrictions.
  • Pure JavaScript is used in general web application development, not only for UI purposes – JavaScript developers can also take care of logic, calculations, and data processing. React is not suitable for tasks like that, as it focuses on appearance.
  • If any data/element update is necessary, React refreshes only a specific part of a page. Whereas JavaScript has to refresh the whole page.
  • React is easier to use when creating complex UI and, at the same time, is more performant. Why? Because writing a piece of UI in plain JavaScript requires many more code lines than writing the same element with React.
ReactJS is a free and open-source library

Is React free?

Yes, ReactJS is a free and open-source library you can use whenever you want. It is maintained by Meta, a vast community of companies, and individual developers worldwide. If you think that React is the best technology for your project, you can freely use it without worrying about additional costs.

This aspect can seem attractive to startups. We’ve actually described use cases like this in our other articles. If this is something of interest to you, read more here: LunchBadger – Case Study.

Should I use React? 

When choosing a technology, analyze well the idea of the application, its concept, purpose, and business value. Put yourself in the shoes of future users and honestly assess the planned project. Because, after all, no technology can fix a project that doesn’t answer customers’ needs.

As to this particular technology, if used properly, the benefits of React are undeniable. In many cases, it will save time, effort, and money. It will also provide an excellent user experience and minimize the problems with maintaining the application and removing any possible issues.