React for Beginners

Web development is one of the fastest growing, in-demand careers today.

 

In the next decade, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be approximately 21,800 new job openings for web developers and digital designers per year – 2x the national average.

 

While the world of web development has many complex parts, there are a few core languages and frameworks you can learn to kickstart your tech career – including React.  

 

In this React for beginners guide, we'll review basic React concepts and explain how beginners can get started learning this valuable web development tool.    

What is React?

React (aka React JS) is an open-source JavaScript library used by web developers to build interactive user interfaces (UIs) using reusable UI elements called components. UIs are a collection of text, images, search bars, buttons, and anything else a user might interact with to use a website or app.

 

Developed by Facebook in 2011, React simplifies and speeds up the process of creating web applications with its reusable, component-based infrastructure. React is one of the leading development tools used by companies to develop and maintain their user interfaces.

 

To better understand this definition, let's take a closer look at the basics of JavaScript.

What is JavaScript?

JavaScript is a programming language that allows developers to create and implement dynamic web content (i.e., anything that changes on your screen without requiring you to reload the page manually). This content includes interactive maps, animated 2D/3D images, timed content updates, and more.

 

JavaScript is the third layer of standard web development, after HTML and CSS. While HTML and CSS perform more basic functions like structuring the page (HTML) and controlling the aesthetic or presentation of the content (CSS), JavaScript is responsible for controlling the behavior of the content.

 

What is a JavaScript library?

JavaScript libraries play a critical role in website and web application development. A JavaScript (JS) library is a collection of pre-written code used to perform standard JavaScript functions like animating image effects or auto-populating search terms.

 

These libraries of pre-written code snippets allow developers to bypass the labor-intensive process of re-coding a function every time it occurs. Unlike traditional coding frameworks, libraries also give developers more freedom during the development process. 

 

React is one of several JS libraries and frameworks available to developers. In the next section, we'll review why React is one of the most popular JS libraries, how it's used, and why you should learn it.

Why React?

React is one of the most popular web development tools used today, with more than 40% of developers indicating that they use it to develop web applications. So, why is React so popular?

 

React is one of the most efficient and cost-effective web development tools. Facebook created this tool to help developers create user interfaces with less development time and more flexibility. Because React is a library, not a framework, it is referred to as an "unopinionated" software, meaning that developers have more control over the composition and flow of the application.

 

React is also easy to learn and highly scalable. Once you understand React's basic architecture, you can develop fully functional interfaces for different types of projects: static sites, web applications, and mobile apps. Unlike traditional frameworks, you don't need to learn multiple ways to represent your app, making it easier to bring your product to the end user.

React is backed by a large community of developers who frequently develop new solutions and grow its components library. Access to this type of community further adds to its appeal, especially for beginner users.

 

What is React used for?

React is exclusively used for client-side programming. The primary purpose of React is to create fast, efficient, and scalable user interfaces with easy-to-use, reusable components.

 

React is responsible for the "view layer" of an application or webpage. The view layer performs two functions: it presents data to the user and handles user interactions with data. Social media apps like Instagram make extensive use of React’s technology. Numerous elements, like geolocations, search engine accuracy, and tags (aka hashtags), help create a rich and responsive experience on the app.   

 

Developers use React’s library of reusable components and other innovative features to improve development efficiency and deliver a high-quality user experience. Let's look at two React components that contribute to this success: JSX and virtual DOM.

 

JSX

Every website contains an HTML script. Web browsers read and use this script to display content on your screen. As part of this process, browsers create a DOM (Document Object Model) to represent the web page's structure. Once created, developers can add dynamic content to the page by modifying the DOM with programming languages like JavaScript.

 

JSX (or JavaScript XML) is a React extension that allows developers to modify the DOM by enabling them to write simple HTML code directly within the JavaScript code. JSX also improves page performance by performing optimizations while it is translating the code to regular JavaScript.

 

Virtual DOM

In React, every DOM object has a corresponding "virtual DOM object." A virtual DOM object is a representation, or lightweight copy, of the actual DOM object. React uses this copy to figure out precisely what objects have changed, a process called "diffing." Once React knows which objects have changed, it selectively updates that section of the DOM only.

 

For example, if a user enters a comment on a blog post and hits the "comment" button, React will scan the DOM to see what changed after the user action (i.e., the comment) and only update this portion of the page. This process takes less time and computing power than standard DOM manipulation, resulting in faster loading speeds and, ultimately, a better user experience.

 

It may seem simple when talking about one blog comment, but the dynamics of this process on a larger scale are significant. React's reputation for performance and faster development speed largely come from these two features.

Why should you learn React?

React is widely accepted as one of the fastest, most efficient ways to build interactive user interfaces. Most leading IT companies rely on this library to power their businesses. React's increasing popularity translates to high demand and competitive salaries for skilled React developers. React developer salaries range from $84,000 - $145,000 annually. On the low end, this is almost $15,000 more than the average general front-end web developer's salary.

 

If you want to stand out to future employers, increase your earning power, and advance your career in web development, React is a must-have skill.  

How do beginners learn React?

To get started, you'll first want to assess your existing programming skills and knowledge. React is not a stand-alone skill - you'll need some basic programming knowledge before diving into learning React. Once you've done that, take some time to familiarize yourself with the tool and determine the best route to master React.   

 

Is React good for beginners to learn?

Compared to other popular front-end frameworks like Angular or Vue, React is considered one of the most beginner-friendly JavaScript libraries to learn. React has a straightforward, lightweight framework. It uses simple component-based logic to build more extensive, complex user interfaces. With that said, we recommend that beginners reference the list of prerequisites below.

 

Prerequisites

Before learning React, you should know how to write HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Since React is a JavaScript library, you'll also want to have some knowledge of JavaScript fundamentals like objects, arrays, and conditionals. You may also want to be familiar with JavaScript ES6 features like let, const, arrow functions, class syntax, etc.  

 

Aside from a basic understanding of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, there are no formal requirements for learning how to use React. However, the more programming experience you have, the faster and easier it will be to learn React.

 

What should I learn first in React?

If you are ready to start learning React, you might be wondering what concept(s) you should learn first. Start by brushing up on your JavaScript knowledge base. Then, consider browsing the materials available on React's official developer site, reactjs.org. This site has an extensive library of documentation, practical and concept-based tutorials, and support resources. These training materials will give you a basic understanding of React's core concepts. If you prefer a more hands-on learning experience, consider researching learning alternatives like coding Bootcamps or guided training programs.

 

How long does it take?

If you already have previous knowledge or experience using JavaScript libraries, you can learn how to use React in as little as 1 – 2 months. However, if you are just getting started, you may want to consider a more comprehensive, technical training program like Sabio's Coding Bootcamp. Depending on your chosen path, you can complete one of Sabio's full-stack coding programs in 13 or 17 weeks.

 

Key takeaways

React is a JavaScript-based library of UI components used to build interactive user interfaces. React is one of the best front-end development tools, used by nearly half of all web developers. React is known for its ease of use, efficiency, flexibility, and performance.

 

If you want to increase your marketability and earning potential as a web developer, React is a must-have skill. You can learn React and other full-stack web development skills in one of our online coding programs. Sign up for a free info session and get started learning React today.    

 

 

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