Getting Started with React!

I’ve been playing with the spate of new Javascript technologies, and ran into a problem. As a beginner in this new ecosystem, I chose one of those big “starter kits” because I wanted to avoid the hassle of configuring all the tooling (see Javascript fatigue).

But there was so much boilerplate that it was hard to see what was happening, and hard to steer away from its preconceptions to customize it for my needs. Here’s what I wish someone had told me a few weeks ago:

  1. I found create-react-app – a Facebook-supported tool for creating a basic React application. Although it’s a simple app, create-react-app brings along all the modern Webpack facilities without farbling around with configuration. You can focus on the code that’s important. See: Create Apps with No Configuration and the Guide for create-react-app

  2. In addition to the static pages, my application also needed to get data from a separate (“api”) server. There’s a great post from fullstackreact.com that shows how to create and integrate a server (to handle the API) alongside the Webpack-provided development server that handles the GUI. See: How to get “create-react-app” to work with your API

  3. I found a helpful tutorial from Christophe Coenraets that shows how to integrate Socket.io so that React components can listen for updates from a socket.io connection. See: Real Time Trader Desktop with React, Node.js, and Socket.io

  4. Finally (and too late to save me lots of work…), I found Dan Abramov’s React Makes You Sad flow chart. Regrettably, I took most of the “wrong” turns he depicts. But I am now happily working in a vastly simpler environment using the tools above.

TL;DR Dan Abramov is right (he’s always right 🙂 ) When you’re just getting started with React development, start simple. Follow the steps on the React Makes You Sad page. Maybe use create-react-app for your first prototype. And only add new technologies/packages/etc. when you understand why you need them.

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