The Case of the Missing React Framework
Learning React is easy, but learning how to properly architect an app using React is an exercise in frustration. React is just the view layer and Flux is a pattern for updating views. But there is a large gap - how to organize your data in a React app. And while React is an amazing library, Facebook left the data organization part as an exercise for the reader. And this, I believe, is a big problem.
Facebook left data organization as an exercise for the reader.
Separating data concerns from React views is fundamental to architecting a clean app with React. You can’t use just React to write an app of any real significance. You’ll incur a lot of technical debt quickly. Why? Because it’s stupidly easy for your app to become very disorganized quickly. You have no choice but to deeply intermingle your data and complex interactions with your views.
The next best thing is to reach for a boilerplate. There are literally hundreds of React boilerplates to choose from. These boilerplates are essentially the frameworks individuals from the community have cobbled together in the absence of an official framework.
But here’s the problem with these boilerplates — who is to say that one framework’s decisions are “better” than another’s? Or which libraries should or should not be included and why? Most boilerplates are intended to be used by power users who already know the libraries they include. The authors of React-boilerplate provide great documentation for the scripts and generators it uses, but they do not include comprehensive documentation for how to use all the libraries it includes. And why would they? They are not intending for it to be the official framework; they assume you already know how to use all the included libraries. This is something that a full-fledged framework would (and should!) do, and it’s exactly what new users need.
Dan Abramov, one of the clear community leaders, made a flowchart in an attempt to quell the masses about just learning react and not worrying about “missing out” on libraries, techniques, or features. I would agree with him that boilerplates are not for newbies or learning React. The boilerplates are numerous and intimidating. The number of libraries and techniques to learn, and even choosing which libraries and techniques to learn is a daunting and paralyzing task. But the thing is, developers new to React need to know about separating their data from their views, and the best ways of how to do that. The lack of a clear direction from the community leaders and Facebook is the real problem here.
Developers new to React need to know about separating their data from their views, and the best ways of how to do that.
DHH once said (much to the hemming and hawing of the community) that Rails is Omakase. Rails is a distilled, curated collection of the best libraries that make up a great framework, and DHH is the head chef. They provide sane defaults for the full stack, and they also have comprehensive documentation for how to use everything. This is exactly what the React community is missing. In the React community, everyone is a chef, regardless of your experience level.
Grant Ammons is the VP of Engineering at PipelineDeals, a sales CRM platform. Grant is focused on building better software products and engineering teams through fostering an amazing team culture, developing software smarter, and utilizing the right metrics. He has hired and currently manages multiple development teams, defined and matured the software development process, and built an infrastructure with three 9s of uptime.