In the last month I've been playing with React in my spare time. Said time is extremely limited so I'm unable to read the documentation or source code as a way to learn. Instead, I follow various tutorials and snippets on stackoverflow etc. to get going. I have something now that will soon be production ready and I'm excited about it even though it only scratches the surface of what React can do.

If you're learning React, starting from more or less scratch, here are some of my tips:

  1. Start with skimming the official tutorial or this little gem on Both start with a simple index.html in which you include JSXTransformer.js and you write your React/JSX code in a <script type="text/jsx"> block. Not a bad idea. That helps you appreciate what JSX is and how it relates to turning your code into production code.

  2. Don't fear jQuery! For those who've lept from jQuery based apps to AngularJS or Ember are often told to stay away from jQuery and learn to do it the "new way". But don't fear jQuery. Suppose you're working on a widget/component with React code; then you can continue to let your trusted jQuery code handle some other effect or widget on the page like a bootstrap modal window or something. Apparently, at Facebook, the first production use of React was just the little commenting widget underneath posts. They didn't rewrite the whole site in React when it all started. Also, even the official tutorial advocates using jQuery to do an AJAX fetch. (Personally I prefer the built-in fetch and this polyfill for doing AJAX fetches)

  3. Avoid "super-normalization" of components. A lot of React apps is about one master component rendering one or more other components that renders itself with other components. That's fine but can easily get messy when you're starting out. Don't fear writing extra rendering functions in your class instead of always relying on writing yet another deep component. For example, this is perfectly fine.
    It's good to split up distinct functionality into sub-components but don't go overboard. Ideal things for sub-components are things that have their own and different context. Just calling other local functions is for when your render function simply gets too many lines long.

  4. Avoid ES6 (aka Babel) unless you're comfortable with tooling like Webpack and Gulp. I personally jumped into the deep end straight away writing my first big React app in ES6 which has been fun but it's been hard sometimes to find matching resources. In particular around testing frameworks. A lot of stackoverflow posts and blog posts don't use ES6 so some things just don't work. I chose ES6 because I was curious about React and this project is not on any deadline so I was OK with getting stuck here and there.

  5. Remember, React is just Javascript. For someone who has done a lot of AngularJS I sometimes stop and have to think when I'm in AngularJS, "How do this the AngularJS way?". For example, in AngularJS you can't just use var timer = setTimeout(function() { ... because you're leaving "the way AngularJS works". React has its own state-awareness pitfalls but it's not nearly has precarious. Just write your code. It's just Javascript. Use React for what it's good at but don't be scared to just write code. Having said that, it might help to be aware of how binding this works. Here's a good example. (And here's a good counter-example to avoid too much function() {...}.bind(this) noise)

  6. Learn to distinguish between state and props. It's confusing at first. Especially in terms of which should I use when? My attempt of explaining it is that you can think of the state as the database and the props as that data being extracted and passed around to be shown and changed.

  7. Let render() just render. Every component has a render function. Its job is to render the current state and nothing else. It's tempting to do too much logic in there before it returns the JSX but you should avoid it. Suppose your render function renders a list of object. You might be tempted to apply filtering or sorting of that list using other queues, like the state, before displaying. Try to avoid that, it means you can't change the state without causing that whole filtering/sorting logic to run again. Basically, keep the render function short and simple if you can.

Note, I'm a beginner too. My hope is that by sharing these tips more people will get a chance to enjoy React too without being too intimidated by all the things you think you need to learn and understand to build something.


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