You Can Now Build Isomorphic Applications Using React

6 May 2015

Austin: Isomorphic applications are not about writing the code once; it’s more like maintaining a consistent codebase without having to double-check each and every modifications in the server code to make sure it’s consistent. Now the latest news buzzing around is that, we can build isomorphic apps using ‘React’. React is a JavaScript library used to create user interfaces. It has gained a huge popularity in recent days and there are several reasons for it.    

One main reason is that it is created by Facebook and is being used by it. So many developers at Facebook work with it assisting in fixing bugs, suggesting some features and so on. Another reason for its popularity is that, it is very different compared to other JavaScript frameworks like Backbone.js, AngularJS, Knockout, Ember and many others which have come out during JavaScript revolution in the last few years.

Isomorphic approach has several benefits, a few are mentioned below:

  • Eliminate the FOUC: In the normal Ember, AngularJS or SPA-type architecture, when the user hits the page, all the assets need to get downloaded. This might take some time with SPA applications. But today, most of the users expect the loading time to be less than two seconds. When the content is loading, the page will be un-rendered. This is called Flash of Un-styled Content (FOUC). But with isomorphic apps, you can get the benefits of speed; it helps you to eliminate FOUC while providing a faster experience.
  • Shared code: This is one biggest advantage of using isomorphic apps; we will be able to use the same code both on client and also on the server. You just have to create the components and they will work in both the places. While using the systems like ASP.NET MVC and Rails, we will have cshtml or erb views for rendering on the server. We also need to have client side templates like Horgan.js or Handlebars. But with React, the same component works on both the sides. 
  • Progressive enhancement: It offers progressive enhancement by allowing you to send down the barebones HTML that a client needs to display a website. Later, you can enrich the experience or render some more components on the client side.

Rendering an amazing experience to a user on a flip phone or a 15 inch MacBook with retina display hooked up to a new 4k monitor is certainly a tedious task. React does a lot more than this going beyond sharing the components. When the React components are rendered on the server and the HTML is shipped down to the client, ‘React’ on the client side notices that the HTML already exists and it just attaches the event handlers to the existing elements, you are then ready to go.

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