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Interactive Web Apps with React

Interactive Web Apps with React

React is a web framework made to simplify the engineering of interactive web applications. More and more sites are becoming web applications running through browsers in lieu of static brochureware. These applications allow for more engagement with site visitors, and React’s main purpose is to help developers create more interactivity.

React was a popular topic featured in numerous presentations at this year’s All Things Open conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. Here are my main takeaways.

React is a lightweight Javascript library with a philosophy of “learn once, write anywhere.” Its core purpose is writing web components that can be used in many different contexts. This means developers using React write base components knowing they can add additional elements on top to tailor them to different environments. For instance, while writing a web application utilizing React components, a developer can use React Native to generate a native mobile application from the same components. This makes it possible to generate a 100% native iOS or Android app with native UI components, and not just web-based UI-type components.

Another core and cool feature of React is the internal state associated with each component. Components created with React can track either the value of a field or certain other data the developer may associate to them, and they can be used from page to page, on and on to a developer’s satisfaction. This feature is commonly used to link back-end notifications and changing form field values to the front-end. If a user has five notifications that they choose to view, each update will highlight when clicked on, and the number on the notification badge will decrease as each is opened - all of these actions being controlled by React.

This software is also being innovated upon by developers, some of whom are creating React hardware and expanding the uses of React components. For example, an Arduino can turn LEDs on and off based on button presses, or a virtual reality environment can be created to render web components in 3D (while updating based on the state of the underlying application). These are just some of the new ideas React is spawning while keeping a more interactive end product for site visitors in mind.

In sum, React doesn’t try to be all things to all people, and that’s a positive. While some developers may not prefer a program that’s unable to provide control over a whole page, React does provide a lightweight program, good documentation, and an easy starting point. I enjoyed learning about React during this year’s conference, and will be keeping an eye on it and other programs like Angular to share more about the latest in web application development.