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The Guide to React Development

Guide to React.js Development

Are you interested in using React framework for a web development project or looking for a guide? Would you like to know its benefits? Or are you completely lost when it comes to this incredible tool? You've come to the right place if you answered yes to any of these questions. This article will cover React and React Native and why and why you should use them. As well we'll review available tools and resources. Are you ready to dive in?

What is React? 

Although many people refer to React as a framework, the truth is that it’s a front-end JavaScript library. This library—also known as ReactJS or React.js—is open-source and used to build web user interfaces (UIs).

It was created by Facebook for internal use back in 2011 and released into the world in 2013. Today, React is a prevalent tool for development companies of all sizes. For instance, this includes Fortune 500 companies. Currently, it's on its 17.0.2 version (with version 18 looming around the corner). The main features of React are that it's declarative, simple, and supports the server side. Further, it's fast and easy to learn and is also component-based. What are components, you ask? We'll delve into this part of the React architecture next.

How does React work?

React divides the user interface into pieces called components. In this context, a component is an independent and reusable bit of code that represents part of a web page. To build a page with React, you need to call each component in a particular order so the user can see it. Each of these components is basically a JavaScript function.

There are two different types of components: function components and class components. Function components, or Stateless components, are simple JavaScript functions that return React elements. These are the ones responsible for rendering the user interface. Class components are simple classes that add functionality to your app. We highlight components here as they make it extremely easy to break down an app. Also, they are beneficial when adding or changing UI details or functionalities.

What Language does React use?

As we've mentioned before, React runs on JavaScript. So what is JavaScript? Well, it's a programming language used to create front-end and back-end web applications. JavaScript—often abbreviated as JS—first appeared back in 1995. Currently, it's the third most popular programming language, behind Java and Python.

What is React Native?

React is often confused for a framework, even though it is a library. Sometimes, React and React Native also get a little mixed up. That's why we’ll address both of these issues in this section. React Native is an open-source framework. That's probably where some of the confusion stems from. It was built on top of ReactJS and released in 2015. Meta Platforms, Inc., Facebook’s parent organization, also created it. Its development is currently in the hands of Facebook and the dev community.

React Native is mainly used to develop native mobile apps. The fact that it’s cross-platform means you can use it for iOS and Android. Other benefits include faster development, the creation of a native interface, and easy testing. 

React.js JSX and Virtual DOM

We’ve now covered React’s programming language, but there’s more to React development. Websites are built with HTML documents. Web browsers read these documents and create a Document Object Model (DOM) in the process. This is a representation of how the web page will get arranged. This is where JSX, a syntax extension of JavaScript, comes in. This little critter makes it easy for developers to change the DOM to build dynamic content for the web. Besides being very convenient, JSX also improves performance and efficiency.

But that’s not all there is to it. Using JSX helps React create something referred to as a Virtual DOM. This copy of the site’s actual DOM allows React to update it with recent changes. This comes in handy compared to going over the whole DOM each time there’s a small addition or modification to the site. If you still have questions, check React’s site for a more comprehensive explanation.

The Benefits of React.js

1. React Flexibility

One of the main benefits of React is its flexibility. Since it’s a library and not a framework, it applies to various platforms. Moreover, React technology has grown and expanded over the years. So, you can use it beyond building static websites. React Native can lead you into the world of mobile apps. Further, there’s also Electron if you are after desktop applications. But that’s not all! You can use React with Next.js for server rendering. Or, you can use it with React VR to create virtual reality websites and 360 experiences.

2. React Components

The fact that React is component-based is a significant advantage. You can easily reuse them on different pages or projects. That's because they are independent of each other. As a result, this saves you both time and money. React is open-source and has a large community. This makes reusable components particularly convenient. Many devs and companies share their elements to benefit the community.

3. React Resources

React is strongly backed by Facebook. In consequence, there are plenty of resources available around it. It's used in the Facebook app, website, and Instagram. The top 4 contributors to React in GitHub are Facebook employees. Moreover, the social media platform has racked up around 50,000 components! React also has a blog, which is constantly updated with details of each new release. (Good news! Version 18 is also underway, currently in its alpha version.) The website also includes handy tutorials and links to the greater React community.

4. React Community

React has accrued a rather large community of collaborators. Also, its GitHub repository rests among the Top 5. Moreover, the framework is also used by companies such as Netflix, Airbnb, and Amazon. You can reach the React community through Reactiflux —made only for React developers. Also, there's the popular StackOverflow, with over a quarter-million questions about the library. There is also a React community in Hashnode and another one on Reddit.  All of this means you not only have countless resources at hand. Besides, you have even more people willing to help you with any issues you may come across. 

5. React Performance

As you may know, using DOM makes JavaScript slower than we would like. That is why React reduces DOM changes to improve performance by using a Virtual DOM and JSX, as we’ve seen above.

6. React Experience

Developers react very well to React (no pun intended). Its API is easy to learn as it has few new concepts. Also, the library deals with pure JavaScript and HTML, making it very simple to work with.

7. React Testing

React testing is user-friendly and requires minimal configuration (or even none). It also uses command-line testing, which makes the process faster and more productive. Moreover, there are many testing tools available for React. These include Jest and Enzyme for writing tests. It also encompasses web testing frameworks such as Jasmine, AVA, and Tape.

8. React Extensions

Our first definition of React mentioned UI design. Yet, the library has expanded way beyond that. There are currently many extensions available that provide full architecture support. These extensions, like React Development Tools, make it a pretty comprehensive tool.

When to use React?

React’s main job is building user interfaces for single-page applications. But the story doesn’t end there. So, when should you use React? Here are our top six uses:

1. React for Single-Page Apps. A single-page application is an app that works within a browser and doesn’t need the user to reload it during use. This is probably the most popular use for the React library. Some examples include Gmail, Trello, and GitHub.

2. React for Blogs Pages. Another use of React is to build personal or professional blogs. You can do this easily with the help of Gatsby, a static site generator powered by React. Gatsby also includes features from GraphQL, Webpack, and React Router. Further, it has various plugins such as WordPress and Contentful.

3. React for eCommerce. eCommerce and retail sites are popular today, and React is a great tool. The library helps developers install APIs, complex filters, and elements. Moreover, it offers other features by building separate components.

4. React for Messaging Apps. Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are great examples of messaging apps built using React. For this purpose, React acts as a WebSocket client. In consequence, it helps you maintain two-way communication between client and server.

5. React for Social Networks. Social networks are often built as single-page applications to make dynamic updates easier. Facebook used to be a simple website but has progressed to become a SPA and added many features in the process. Moreover, social network apps based on React have rapid development and an improved UX.

6. React for Cross-Platform Mobile Apps. We've mentioned React Native before, so this comes as no surprise. In this scenario, The React library and the React Native framework work together. As a result, the two create amazing native-feel mobile apps for iOS and Android. You can quickly take the web version of your app and turn it into a mobile one. While there is no code reusability, using the same architecture and method is a great perk.

What are the Best React Tools?

1. React Developer Tools. If you are somewhat familiar with React, you have probably already heard about this one. React Developer Tools is an open-source React extension for Firefox and Chrome. It aims to help you examine the React tree. This tree includes state, props, and component hierarchy. This React tool is excellent for debugging components. It also provides interaction tracking, support for React hooks, and filter mechanisms.

2. React Sight. React Sight helps you see your React app in a flow chart structure. This platform is lightweight and unconstructive. Also, it works well with all libraries, such as Redux and React Router. Other benefits include the fact that it’s open-source, enhances speed, and doesn’t need any setup.

3. Reactitude. Reactitude brands itself as the "first dedicated IDE" for "React web application development. This Integrated Development Environment is a cross-platform desktop app. It includes a custom browser simulator, a Node server, and visual editing support. Its features include component visualization, streamlined configuration, and hot module reloading.

4. Storybook. Storybook is perfect for achieving fast iteration and testing for UI components. This open-source tool brings you much more than code. With Storybook, you can develop, inspect and showcase your creations interactively. This is particularly helpful for visual components. Storybook is easy and fast to set up and configure and allows you to build UIs in isolation. It also includes add-ons to make your UI even faster.

5. Bit. Bit gives us a CLI tool and an online platform to publish and share React components. You can also search for components uploaded by others. This tool means you can reuse individual components. As well you can take advantage of components created by your peers. Bit features include making your component discoverable and easy extensions. Further, it has integration and is language agnostic.


It’s safe to say the React library is one of the most popular development tools. Over the years, it hasn’t grown its community but diversified to cover any need developers may have. It is no surprise that people often refer to it as a framework. Restricting it to a JavaScript library does not seem to be fair. This powerhouse has managed to create a whole ecosystem around it. This environment allows it to reach every inch of development. We certainly hope you agree!