Career AdviceIs React Worth Learning? 7 Reasons to Learn React

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writes on November 1, 2022

When you’re learning to become a front-end web developer, there comes a time when you’ll want to gain experience building web apps using a popular library or framework. But there are many front-end web technologies to choose from — including Angular, Vue, and many others — so how do you know if React is worth learning?

In this post, we’ll discuss what React is and seven reasons it’s a good idea to learn. Read on to find out if React is worth learning during your coding journey.

What is React?

React (also unknown as ReactJS) is an open source JavaScript library for building web user interfaces. More specifically, it helps developers create menus, search bars, buttons, and other interactive elements of a web app. The library is currently maintained by Meta (formerly Facebook) as well as a large open source community of individual developers and companies.

Facebook originally developed React because it was having challenges with code maintenance as its codebase and development team grew. The company eventually decided to release React as an open source project in 2013 and adoption steadily grew over the years. The most recent version of the library is React 18, which was released this year.

At its core, React is focused on dynamically rendering the user interface by manipulating the DOM (Document Object Model) based on the current state of different components. That means the UI updates automatically without requiring the user to refresh the page.

A unique aspect of React development is the use of JavaScript XML (JSX), which is an extension to JavaScript that adds markup-style syntax. Many developers choose to use JSX to create React elements because it’s very similar to HTML. This makes it even easier to make changes to React’s virtual DOM.

Since React has fewer requirements for the overall architecture of a web app, it’s actually considered a library and not a full-fledged framework. However, there are many additional libraries for routing, REST or GraphQL API clients, server-side rendering, and other web app functionality that are part of its open source ecosystem. That makes the broader React ecosystem comparable to web frameworks like Angular or Vue.

The primary advantage of React is the use of components. By dividing a large web app into many reusable parts, it’s easier for development teams to build and maintain an application over time. This helps large development teams work together as the codebase grows because they can make changes to an individual React component without breaking the overall web app.

It’s also worth noting that the popularity of React has carried over into the mobile development space with React Native. This is a cross-platform mobile framework that many development teams use to build applications for both Android and iOS with a single JavaScript codebase. It’s currently powering Facebook’s mobile apps along with apps from Microsoft, Shopify, and many others.

7 Reasons to Learn React

Now that we’ve covered what React is, let’s look at seven reasons the web library is worth learning.

1. Learning Curve

Since the core of React is fairly limited compared to larger web frameworks like Angular or Vue, it’s much easier for new developers to learn. Front-end developers can quickly begin building dynamic web apps once they learn the basic React concepts like components, properties, state, and JSX. This makes React a great choice for new coders that want to quickly become proficient to land a front-end development role.

2. Adaptability

React is a library that’s much easier to add to existing web apps because it doesn’t require a very specific application architecture. Angular, for example, is a much more opinionated web framework, meaning you’ll likely create an Angular app architecture from the start rather than adopt it later on. Since React is lightweight and flexible, it can be adapted to many different projects.

3. Demand

Most front-end development teams use a web framework or library for their projects — and React is the most popular. In fact, about 43% of developers use React worldwide, while just 20% use Angular and 19% use Vue. That means there are likely more front-end React roles available now, and there will be a huge demand for web developers with React experience for the foreseeable future.

4. Productivity

React improves developer productivity by breaking the user interface of a web app into smaller pieces. A React component is an individual and reusable bit of code that renders a part of your UI. By combining numerous React components, developers can create large web apps in a more efficient way. This can dramatically reduce the amount of code developers need to write — especially when compared to jQuery and other libraries — which saves organizations a lot of time and money when developing web apps.

5. Performance

React brings web app performance improvements in large part because of its virtual DOM. By manipulating the DOM, developers can dynamically update web pages without refreshing them,  but this is a relatively slow JavaScript operation. With React, developers make changes to the virtual DOM, and then the library automatically makes the minimum changes necessary on the actual DOM. This greatly reduces the number of DOM manipulations and improves web app performance.

6. SEO-Friendly

An important business consideration when building a web app is ensuring that it’s easy for potential users to find on Google and other search engines. Many companies implement search engine optimization (SEO) to improve their rankings in search results, which in part involves the right web app architecture. React is generally considered SEO-friendly when developers use Gatsby.js or Next.s for server-side rendering because it makes the app faster and it’s easier for web crawlers to index.

7. Relevant for All Business Types

The React library is easy to adopt and improves developer productivity when building web apps of all sizes. It’s also much more flexible than many highly-opinionated web frameworks, so development teams can more easily adapt their projects to use React. That makes it suitable for nearly any business, from a small startup to a large enterprise. React is currently used by many popular apps and websites like Facebook, Instagram, Airbnb, Netflix, and more.

What is Required to Learn React?

Although React is a great way to make developing web apps easier, most experienced developers agree that new coders should learn “vanilla” or plain JavaScript first. Web frameworks may come and go, so knowing how to build web apps from scratch using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript will always be essential. When you start with vanilla JavaScript, you’ll also have a better appreciation of the pain points that React solves.

Beyond the JavaScript fundamentals, it’s important to understand more advanced JavaScript concepts like asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX), exceptions handling, and working with the DOM. These Javascript topics and many others are covered here.

Since React is component-based, it’s also useful to understand how object-oriented programming (OOP) works . This includes concepts like classes, constructor functions, inheritance, and more. OOP is a very popular programming paradigm, not just with React and JavaScript, but across many other popular programming languages like Java and C++.

It’s important to understand how package management works as well. Since the core of React is focused on the UI, most projects require many other libraries for additional functionality. Many development teams use npm (Node Package Manager) or Yarn to install and manage these project dependencies. In fact, the npm registry is currently the largest software repository with over one million JavaScript packages to choose from.

Finally, you’ll want to be comfortable with command line interfaces (CLIs), which are text-based interfaces for interacting with programs. Everything from installing JavaScript packages to creating and running a React app requires the use of a CLI, so it’s important to learn how to work with various CLIs. Software developers use CLIs across nearly every programming language and type of role on a daily basis.

Here are some prerequisites to learning React:

  • Building basic web pages using HTML and CSS
  • Knowledge of “vanilla” JavaScript
  • Advanced JavaScript concepts like AJAX, exceptions handling, and DOM manipulations
  • Object-oriented programming with JavaScript
  • Using a package manager like npm or Yarn
  • Comfortable working with CLIs

Besides learning the basics of the React library itself, it’s important to gain experience with some related libraries to become a proficient React front-end web developer. For example, state management and routing are essential for modern web apps, but require libraries like Redux and React Router. This is essential for becoming a well-rounded front-end web developer with React expertise.

Learn React With Treehouse

As you can see, learning React is a great choice for aspiring front-end web developers. It allows development teams to build web apps faster and maintain them more easily as they grow over time. It’s also a common prerequisite for many front-end web development jobs.

Treehouse offers dozens of Tracks, including one to Learn React. This set of courses is designed to teach you the basics of React along with creating your first web app. For example, the beginner course introduces you to key concepts like components, properties, state, JSX, and more. Start your React web development journey with Treehouse!

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