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A Deep Dive on MERN: Introduction to ReactJS

Introduction

This is article 1 of 4 exploring each technology in the MERN stack:

To check out our overview of the stack and why it is so popular, you can see our article here. In these articles, we’ll go a bit deeper on each technology, their history, and even tease out what the future of each will hold.

Without further ado – here’s React.js!

Understanding the User Interface (UI)

Imagine you’re visiting a high-end coffee shop. The moment you step in, you’re greeted by a pleasant ambiance and the aroma of coffee, a menu of pre-selected drinks to play to the strengths of the business, a centrally-located counter to easily place your order, and comfortable seats to relax in while you wait for your coffee. This entire setup could be thought of as a User Interface– an intelligently designed combination of elements that make customers more likely to interact with the business. Just like the coffee shop’s layout makes it easy for you to order and enjoy coffee, a User Interface (UI) in software helps a user interact with an application or website. It includes everything that you see and interact with on a screen – buttons, texts, images, and more.

What is a UI Library?

To continue with our coffee shop analogy, think of a UI library as a collection of pre-built furniture and decorations. Instead of crafting each chair, table, or menu board from scratch, the coffee shop owner can choose from a variety of ready-made designs. This makes setting up the shop faster and easier, while still allowing for customization to give the shop its unique flair. That way, the coffee shop owner can focus on what they care about most (the coffee and their business), without having to learn how to build tables out of raw lumber. Similarly, a UI library offers pre-built elements and functionalities for creating digital interfaces, saving time and effort for developers.

The History of React.js Development

ReactJS was originally developed by Facebook in 2011 to build Single Page Applications. It was born out of the need for a more efficient and dynamic way to build user interfaces, especially for large-scale applications with frequently changing data. React was first used in 2011 for Facebook’s newsfeed feature and later for Instagram in 2012. React development really took off when it was open-sourced in May 2013, allowing a broader community of developers to contribute to its growth and improvement. In 2014, React Router was introduced, which provided developers the tools needed to easily create Multi-Page Applications, with each page having its own route. Since then, many other businesses have chosen to build their applications in React, including:

  • Netflix
  • Uber
  • The New York Times
  • Airbnb
  • And more!

Why is React.js is Popular?

  • Ease of Use: React is like building with Lego blocks. Just as you can create different structures by rearranging Lego pieces, React lets developers build and rearrange parts of a website or app with ease. This flexibility makes it much simpler to create and update digital products built in React than those built without it.
  • Efficiency: Imagine a newspaper editor gets an update on a story close to print time. Instead of rewriting every article in the day’s paper, they are able to swap out the single outdated news piece with the updated version. React works similarly. Whereas previously, an entire webpage would need to be reloaded if any element needed to change, no matter how small. React uses a Virtual DOM (Document Object Model), which smartly updates only what’s necessary on a webpage, making websites faster and more responsive.
  • Community and Resources: React is like a popular club with a large and growing membership. It’s supported by a vast community of developers who continuously contribute to its improvement, share knowledge, and create useful tools. This makes working with React not only easier but also more innovative.
  • Adaptability: React’s approach to building websites and apps is akin to using a set of adaptable blueprints. It allows developers to build a wide range of projects, from simple websites to complex applications, making it a versatile tool in the tech world.

The Future of React: Server-side Frameworks and Components

Looking towards the future, React continues to evolve with trends and technologies:

  • Server-Side Frameworks: Frameworks like Next.js and Remix are extending the capabilities of React. They offer enhanced features like server-side rendering, static site generation, and optimized loading, making React applications even more robust and efficient.
  • Server Components: A newer concept in the React ecosystem, Server Components allow certain components of a UI to be rendered on the server rather than in the browser. This can lead to significant performance improvements, especially for data-heavy applications.

Several members of the React team have gone on to work at Vercel, the company that develops and maintains Next.js. In the eyes of many developers, the future of React is in Next.js and other frameworks like it. React has gone so deeply in on these frameworks that it even recommends using them as the default way to start React projects, instead of tools like Create React App.

Conclusion

As technology continues to advance, React’s adaptability and its community’s innovative spirit suggest a bright and evolving future for this popular UI library. Whether it’s enhancing user experience or building complex applications, React is well-equipped to handle the challenges of modern web development.

Further Reading

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