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Why is React So Popular for Web Development?

By: Taru M. Taru M.
18 May, 2022

What are the features of React that make it so popular? Why use React in 2022?

’cause you can build fast and intuitive User Interfaces. Moreover, the rich ecosystem around this library offers flexibility in creating stable, immersive and scalable websites.

The React team adds new features (which we will elaborate soon) to better manage complexity among UI elements, create smooth interfaces, and tweak its algorithms for fluid animations and gestures.

Also, the social proof speaks loudly for itself on why react is so popular.

In the Stack Overflow Data Survey 2021, from 49,941 responses, 41.4% of professional developers opt for React as a web framework.

Each of us has experienced blazing-fast and highly interactive User Interfaces of Facebook, Uber, Netflix and many others.

It’s pretty natural to wonder why React is preferred for web development and apps?

And no doubt, you also want to create such web and app experiences for your users.

So, the motivation for this blog is to:

  • present a high-level overview of React’s design principles.
  • Show what you can achieve with React for your web development project.

Before we move on, it is essential to remember that React is only a library for building User Interfaces and not a whole framework. This distinction will help you not over-indulge and acknowledge that it is not a magic solution.

The innovative algorithm to update UI elements swiftly.

Most of the single web applications were slow because updating UI elements using earlier methods was inefficient. UI elements are-buttons, forms, layouts, sections like the news feed on Twitter, checkboxes, etc.

The traditional rendering method to update changes in the DOM (Document Object Model) manipulation was expensive. Even simple frequent changes from scrolling, toggling, etc, contributed to abrupt interactions. Technically, earlier methodologies had to deal with O(n3) complexity.

React’s team solved this issue by designing the Diff algorithm, which heuristically, in fewer steps, updates, or renders UI elements. This process is reconciliation. Virtual DOM is another name for this concept.

With Virtual DOM, only those components that have changed are updated in the real DOM rather than re-rendering the whole DOM tree iteratively. It thus helps in creating fast, dynamic websites.

Virtual DOM to React Fiber

As said, React’s team keeps on working to refine the user experience. Though Virtual DOM is fast yet it has its limitations. Virtual DOM is synchronous, i.e. there is no way to prioritize tasks. Prioritizing work is always a sound strategy. Isn’t it?

Examples of high priority work may be the user’s need for immediate feedback when it clicks or types, auto-complete suggestions, etc. In comparison, low priority work may be calculating the number of likes from the server.

But Since you can’t delay low priority work that may be data-intensive with Virtual DOM, users would have a jarring experience interacting with UI elements.

And therefore, React Fiber was introduced in the React 16 version to perform incremental rendering and scheduling. Since then, it has been the default reconciler. It enhances the perceived performance, thus eliminating even the slightest unresponsiveness.

Lin Clark, the developer behind, explained quite simply what React Fiber does-It teaches how to do effective project management to the main thread.

React Fibre makes it possible to split, prioritize, abort, or resume tasks to improve the rendering of animations and gestures.

Independent and reusable components

What are React Components? It can be a navbar, table, chat window, news feed, comment section, etc. A highly interactive website like Facebook has more than 50k+ React components. So what is the motivation behind the components based approach?

The design principle document of React mentions the composition of components as a significant feature. The components in React are isolated, immutable and independent. It means that change in one component won’t affect other components. Managing and visualizing UI then is intuitive.

Another handy feature of components in React is that they are reusable. For us, who are concerned with the rapid development, it allows reusing the components without writing them again. And even utilize components created by other developers.

Walmart contains many brands and has numerous branches. So, their UI elements like forms, navigation bars, etc., must be consistent. Also, they didn’t desire any duplicity of code. The reusability of UI components was the solution to their problem. Hence, they opted for React as its front-end development tool.

In the context of Facebook, developers can create multiple chat windows using reusability and unidirectional flow of data, i.e. movement of data from top to bottom only. Because of it change in one chat window won’t affect other chat windows or overall UI.

So, modular components are reusable and follow a unidirectional pattern. The simple benefit is systematic scalability and easy data flow prediction.

Isomorphism for performance and SEO.

Isomorphism in web development means using both client-side and server-side for rendering. The React allows the usage of isomorphism to speed up the performance. You must emphasize fast loading when your audience is on multiple devices and uses varied networks.

The Walmart and Twitter research team found that the fast loading of the first page or landing page enhances the user experience. In fact, Time-to-Interactive is a more helpful metric to follow to optimize performance than the loading page metric. Decreasing delay in response to interactions even by seconds results in excellent user engagement.

Netflix using isomorphic React optimized its performance past the sign-up page. Actually, it was one of the crucial reasons for their developers’ team to choose React, besides the component approach and Virtual DOM concept. Also, Netflix solved its network latency issue with React. I enjoyed reading their ‘Netflix like React‘ blog and recommend it.

Fast loading and quick response to interaction with elements directly impact SEO. Furthermore, server-side rendering makes it easy to crawl websites made using React. At the end of the article, I have mentioned how React has revamped server-side rendering in its recent update.

It is fascinating how React comes up with new ideas to make the web experience smoooooth!

If you are looking for an experienced website development company. In that case, I assure you, my team enjoys participating in complex and unique web and app projects.

We love delivering addictive user experiences (in a positive sense, of course, we don’t want to indulge in evil design patterns).

You know, I stumbled upon a nice statement. It goes like-’Software testers go to heaven’. On that note, let’s talk about testing.

Test, and test more.

You know the significance of testing to find bugs and faults in any app, software or website. So, how helpful is React when it comes to testing? Simply put, it provides all the resources for debugging and maintaining the stability of the codebase.

But to give more authority to this claim. I will provide examples of two successful tech companies-Netflix and Asana.

Netflix rigorously performs A/B testing to validate design and performance and ensure that the changes are based on real-world data rather than assumptions. Its UI engineers make use of the Component-based approach to test and maintain the code of many variations of UI and discard versions that do not increase performance.

Asana is a work management system that runs on mobile and the web. Its UI engineers are obsessive about performance. When they were designing new tour guides, they also benefited from the modular approach taken by React for building UI. They were better able to mitigate risks and form a clear path for adding and experimenting with new features in the future.

Additionally, Error Boundaries are components introduced in React 16 to find errors in the respective child component tree. Developers can use ReactDev Tools and Jest, a testing framework, for practical and easy debugging.

Easy migration and seamless integration with other libraries.

Interoperability is another design principle mentioned in the official document of React. And it helped companies migrate to React without much hassle and deploy React when necessary.

Facebook extensively uses server-side systems (XHP) and many UI libraries besides React. It glaringly shows React is flexible enough to work coherently with other powerful web development tools.

Asana’s team observed that almost 99% of users skip product tours. It was evident that they needed to design new product tours for better engagement. They were using Luna1, and it was difficult to add features.

But UI engineers didn’t want to scrap Luna1 abruptly. They chose React as you can sprinkle code using it with existing tech and gradually migrate to manage risks.

Other notable examples to convince you about the Interoperability feature.

  • Tinder used React for UI and Redux for state management.
  • Flamingo, a women’s body care brand, coupled React with Gatsby for server-side rendering. As a result, page loading got five times faster.
  • moved completely from WordPress for better performance using Redix.
  • React Native to build mobile apps. Check out our blog on React Native as well.

You can read about many case studies on React’s blog resources to know why and how companies opted for React.

Other popular libraries are:

State Management for scalability.

In React, State is an object that holds information about the component. The component’s state changes when the user interacts with it. There is frequent and numerous change in state in any current dynamic website.

If there is no efficient and fast way to manage changes, you know how your users will treat you.

In an e-commerce website, there are too many components-check-out, add to cart, save for later, quantity, etc. A change in the state of one component has a rippling effect as other logical components’ states need to change. Therefore, you need a tool for robust scaling and handling complexity.

While developers can use classes for state management, React has introduced Hooks onwards React 16.8. With hooks, there is no need to write classes.

But why Hooks?

Classes confuse both machines and humans-A critical insight mentioned in the official React documentation.

Additionally, it is easy to separate logic from UI when using Hooks. It helps in better shareability of components as the extracted logic state is independent and reusable.

Did you notice the pattern? The React team introduces abstractions to help developers think and manage UI intuitively and more humanly.

React 18 new features to display content intelligently.

React released its most updated version in March 2022. The new features introduced are Concurrent Rendering, Automatic Batching, and Transitions.

Covering all the aspects of React v18.0 is beyond the scope of the current blog. Hence, I will give a high-level understanding of only concurrent rendering. It will help you understand how rendering affects user engagement.

Pre-React 18, rendering was non-interruptible. It involved fetching data, loading JavaScript, and rendering an entire application. Users could not immediately interact with websites because only static HTML was rendered when websites were content-heavy.

Concurrent rendering aims to upgrade the server-side performance of React so that users can interact with the helpful content almost immediately.

It does so with the help of Suspense, a React component that allows prioritizing the rendering of different UI elements.

Suppose, your web page has a navbar, profile and comment components. Making the comment component fully interactive is a data-intensive task. With the help of Suspense, you can delay the rendering of the comment component but prioritize the rendering and interactivity of the navbar and profile.

The users perceive high performance because they can immediately interact with other elements of the webpage and not stare at the static or blank website.

Now, suppose the user clicks on the comment section. In that case, React will begin loading the comment component and pause the rendering of other elements as they are currently low priority tasks.

So with React 18, significant improvements are made in the architecture to provide a more engaging experience to the users.

React is not a magic solution.

By now, understanding how React works and why major tech companies have adopted React, you may deduce that React will solve all your web development issues. Or it will magically create a high-performing website.

This section wishes to show some red flags so that you don’t cultivate any incorrect view of React.

First, overusing React can downgrade your performance. React is designed as a UI library and not a complete framework. Many developers use too many components for UI even when it is not required. It leads to undesired complexity and an unmanageable codebase.

Since reusability and modularity are design concepts, experienced developers must harness these concepts in a balanced way.

As said, overusing React affects performance. Netflix discarded React for logged-out pages and sign-up pages. Instead, they wrote in Vanilla JS and prefetched and observed betterment in Time-To-Interactive metrics.

Our web development services will assist you in choosing the best stack for your web development project. We do so by analyzing your projects’ needs with our developers. Or, if you are sure React is best for your web project, our company is eager to be your front-end development partner.


React discussion forums: DEV’s React community, Hasnode’s React community, Reactiflux online chat, Reddit’s React community

Submitting final remarks on Why is  React so Popular?

We have covered a lot of conceptual principles like Virtual DOM, isomorphism, reconciliation, concurrent rendering, etc. These design principles were not new but have been implemented elegantly by React’s team. It is evident that React is committed to innovating to develop stable and scalable websites. The community of millions around React not only helps developers across the globe. It also drives innovation.

I hope now you understand the features behind React’s popularity. The information will assist you in taking better decisions for your next web app project.

Taru M. Author
Taru M.

For over 18 years, Taru M. is a successful technology entrepreneur by profession and a tech enthusiast by spirit. She takes pride in offering expertise in her domain to business people's success across the globe. As a business woman and technology expert, she manages to keep her balance along with her family responsibilities. She did her masters in computers, and her work delivery shows the expertise of her education. Connect with her via Linkedin profile to know more about her exciting personality

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