JSJ 269 Reusable React and JavaScript Components with Cory House

JSJ 269 Reusable React and JavaScript Components with Cory House

On today’s episode of JavaScript Jabber, we have panelists Joe Eames, Aimee Knight, Charles Max Wood, and playing the part of both host and guest, Cory House. Encourage your team to investigate reusable components, whether that’d be React, Angular, Vue, or Ember. Tune in!

[00:01:35] – Overview

We can finally write reusable components that it is really lightweight. It doesn’t take much framework-specific code to get things done.

Around 3 years ago, the idea of web component standard was all front-end developers could share our components with each other whether someone is in Angular or React. Web components continue to be an interesting standard but people continue to reach for JavaScript libraries instead – React, Angular, Vue.

[00:04:50] – Browser support issue

The story in JavaScript libraries is easier. You have more power, more flexibility, more choices, and get superior performance, in certain cases, by choosing a JavaScript library over the standard right now. If you try to use the web components standard, you have to Polyfill-in some features so you can run things across browser. You also won’t get JavaScript features like intelligently splitting bundles and lazy load different components.

Whether you’re in Angular or React, you have this model of putting your data in your curly braces. That setup is non-existent in standardized web components. You have to play the game of putting and pulling data into and out the DOM using DOM selectors. You actually take a step backward in developer ergonomics when you choose to leverage the platform instead.

[00:07:50] – Polymer

The reason that Polymer is useful is it adds some goodness on top of web components. One of those things is that it makes it easier to bind in data and not having to do things like writing a DOM query to be able to get your hands on this div and put this text inside of it. With Polymer, you can do something that feels more like Angular, where you can put in your curly braces and just bind in some data into that place. Polymer ends up adding some nice syntactic sugar on top of the web components standard just to make it easier to create web components. Polymer is also used to bundle in Polyfill for the features across browser.

[00:14:20] – Standards are dead

No. The standard itself has been embraced at different levels by different libraries. What you can see for the near future is popular libraries leveraging pieces of the web components platform to do things in a standard-spaced way. Effectively, Angular, Vue, Aurelia, are going to be abstractions over the web components standard. Arguably the most popular way to do components today is React. But React completely ignores the web components standard. When you look at React, you can’t see what piece of the web components standard would fundamentally make React a better component library.

Cory can’t seem to run to anybody that is actually using the standard in production to build real applications. People continue to reach for the popular JavaScript libraries that we so often hear about.

[00:17:05] – Libraries making reusable components

There is a risk that it would have been a waste for people writing components on Angular, for React, for Vue. But it’s not necessarily safer writing on the web component standard when you have so few people leveraging that standard. There’s always the risk that that standard may shift as well.

As an example, Cory’s team created approximately 100 reusable components in React. If they end up moving to a hot new library, the components are really just functions that take parameters and contain HTML. There is little there

[00:21:20] – Why opt for reusable components

Reusable components are inherently useful in a situation where you’re going to be doing something more than once. If you think about any work that you do as a software developer, we’d like to think that we’re coming in and creating new things but often it is groundhogs day. There are all sorts of opportunities for reuse.

As a company, we want to encapsulate our forms in reusable components so it’s literally impossible for our software developers to do something that goes against our standard. That’s the power of reusable components.

[00:31:20] – Rigid component vs. flexible component

As component developers, if we try to create a reusable component in a vacuum, bad things happen. If you’re going to do a reusable component, start by solving a specific problem on a given application. If we think that a component’s going to be useful in multiple places, we put it in a folder called reusable right there in our application source folder.

We try to follow that rule of three as well. If we’ve taken that component and used it in 3 places, that’s a good sign that we should extract it out, put it in our NPM package, that way, everybody has this centralized component to utilize. At that point, it has been tested. It’s been through the fire. People have used it in the real world in a few places so we can be confident that the API is truly flexible enough.

Be as rigid as you can upfront. Once you add features, it’s really hard to take features away. But it’s quite easy to add features later. If you start with something rigid, it’s easier to understand. It’s easier to maintain and you can always add a few more switches later.

[00:36:00] – Reusable components

The reason that we can’t reuse code is every time a new project comes up, people are spending up their own ideas rather than leveraging standards that should have been put in place previously.

We’ve had the technical ability to do this for a long time. We just haven’t been around long enough for consolidation to happen, for standardization to happen. You look at how quickly things are changing in our industry. For instance, a couple of years ago, everybody had pretty much decided that two-way binding was the way to build web applications. And then, React came along and shook that up. So today, you have different ways of thinking about that issue.

[00:42:45] – Component development on teams

Aimee’s team has component development and they’re using Angular 1.6. All of our base components are sitting in a seed application. We just go in when we want to create a new property and we just extend all of those components with specific functionalities that we need.

[00:47:45] – Mobile to web crossover

Cory’s team is creating React components but it’s not leveraged on a mobile application. But people use React Native components on the web. And in fact, if you use create-react-app today, you can do that right now. It’s wired up to work in React Native components. In that way, you can literally have these same components running on your Native mobile apps as you do on your web application.

[00:50:00] – Challenge

Cory’s challenge for everybody listening is sit down with your team and have a quick conversation about whether you think components make sense. Look back at the last few months of development and say, “if we have a reusable component library, what would be in it? How often have we found ourselves copying and pasting code between different projects? How much benefit would we get out of this story?”

Once you’ve realized the benefits of the component model, both in the way that makes you think about your application, in a way that it helps you move faster and faster over time, I really think you won’t go back to the old model. I’d encourage people to investigate reusable components, whether that’d be React, Angular, Vue or Ember.


Cory House

Joe Eames

Aimee Knight

Charles Max Wood

This episode is sponsored by

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