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React Is Taking Over Front-End Development

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React Is Taking Over Front-End Development

React is undoubtedly one of the most popular development frameworks out right now. In this article, we take a look at why that is.

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Selecting a JavaScript framework for your web application is a tough task. Especially when you have a plethora of convincing frameworks to choose from, including Angular, Backbone, Node, Ember, and the newest addition to the impressive list, Vue.js.

You also have React.js - a JavaScript library that witnessed an immense growth in the past few years. Statistics show that front-end developers have wholeheartedly adopted this lightweight framework, forgoing other available options.

Source: http://stateofjs.com/2016/frontend/

According to the data presented by stateofjs.com, over 50% of front-end developers prefer React over other JavaScript frameworks. Google Trends further goes to show the noticeable increase in the interest over ReactJS.

This apparent choice leaves us with a question - what’s so special about React to make it one of the most sought-after primary JavaScript frameworks?

Why don’t we dig deeper into the vast world of React and find out all the possible reasons behind it?

An Introduction to the React Framework

Let’s start with the basic intro: what is React?

React.js is a JavaScript library designed to simplify the user interface components development process. It helps create modular, reusable, and intuitive components (e.g. comment boxes, tab bars, pop up models, lists, sortable tables, and more) efficiently. You just have to design simple views for each state in your application, and this framework will render the desired components with ease. This directly translates to better performance without any added complexities.

React is often coined as ‘the V in the MVC structure.’ In simple words, it rules the V(iew) section by augmenting your views and providing you with unlimited ways to enhance your UI components. This, in turn, helps develop interactive web apps for a seamless customer experience.

Introduced in 2013 by Facebook, the isomorphic JavaScript library has since pushed the boundaries of UI. It’s easy to comprehend and work on - the two biggest factors contributing to this tectonic shift towards React. The sudden rise in the number of React.js development companies we witnessed in the last couple of years can be derived from this reason itself.

Websites using React

The data compiled by Builtwith clearly demonstrates our point. We can see the huge leap in the number of React users over time.

React’s creation is touted as one of the milestones in the front-end arena, especially on the CSR front. Sure, we had dynamic front-end flows and interactive user-interface components before React. But there was a distinctive complexity to it which kind of killed the main purpose of implementing such components. And, don't forget, we had to deal with loading screens and other performance lags even before entering the main work domain.

With React came the added advantage to SSR, the Virtual DOM - we will learn more about it in the next section. Anyway, React has helped developers skip the necessary (but lengthy) step of loading the entire web page every single time a user makes a small change to the User Interface/View. This way developers are able to extract the best out of the inherent performance advantages of SSR, without having to load the page time and again.

But there is a lot more to React than just the Virtual DOM.

Why React Is Favored by Front-End Specialists

In this section, we will discuss some of the features that make React a superior choice for front-end developers. Have a look:

  1. The Virtual DOM: As discussed above, React.js brought in the helpful Virtual DOM - a virtual browser infinite times friendlier than the real browser. You may take it as the middleman sitting between the developer and the real browser.

    The Virtual DOM

    The Virtual DOM assists React by modeling two versions of the DOM: the original and the updated one which reflects the changes made on the view. The framework then notes the differences and updates only the parts of the UI that differ from the original. Hence, easing the previous SSR version where they had to recreate the entire updated view.
  2. React Native: React has revolutionized the mobile app development field as well. The React Native framework allows developers to create and deploy mobile apps in JavaScript that work as the ones made in native Java and Objective-C/Swift. This is because React utilizes a compilation of native code for both iOS and Android to write unique UI components.Additionally, React makes switching from the web to mobile pretty easy, something other mobile frameworks like Cordova and Ionic are incapable of. This is possible because React treats the view layer as an output of state, giving you the liberty to write code for both web and mobile (iOS as well as Android).
  3. JSX: React mixes JavaScript and HTML into one accessible JSX file. This way, React developers get the freedom to write HTML-like code directly into their JavaScript. It’s quick and convenient, giving you a way to build a reusable UI component with the advantages of both HTML and JavaScript.
  4. Interactive User Interfaces: React gives developers the liberty to mold and define their User Interfaces the way they want. Front-end developers just have to describe the interfaces in terms of functions to get the desired components, thus automating the development process. Before React, developers had to manually create steps to describe transactions on interfaces by utilizing native Web APIs and JavaScript.
  5. Flux Programming: While React is the ‘V’ in the MVC structure, Flux fills in the ‘M’ and ‘C’ components. This architecture is basically used to create data layers in applications built with JavaScript, defining simple, explicit, and traceable update paths for your application’s data. It fast-tracks the entire updating and bug-tracking process by effectively identifying and managing ‘Actions.’
  6. Reusable Components: The world is slowly moving towards interactive components, and the React team seems to understand that. React encourages the use of components, which can be anything under the sun - from simple buttons to complex lists - as long as the application requires it. These components are specifically built to use over and over again, in singular form or as a mix of separate, smaller components coming together to serve a different purpose altogether.
  7. One-Way Data Flow: Last but not the least, React utilizes unidirectional data flow, ensuring a clean data flow architecture throughout your application. This focused flow allows developers to have a better control over the functions.

React Data Flow

Source: http://blog.embengineering.com/post/2016/04/16/introduction-to-react-data-flow/

Conclusion

Of course, React has its own share of downsides. But if we go solely by the numbers, its many advantages most definitely outweigh its flaws. The Virtual DOM promotes ease of use, reusable components fast-track the development process, JSX makes coding workable, unidirectional flow helps provide optimal control, React Native makes react familiar in mobile apps.

It all goes to show only one thing: React is popular and for all the right reasons.

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Topics:
javascript ,web dev ,react.js ,front-end development ,web application development

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