Functional vs Class Components – What Do You Need to Know?

functional vs class components

As a web developer, you may have heard of React, a popular JavaScript library for building user interfaces. One of the key features of React is its component-based architecture, which allows you to break down your user interface into reusable and independent building blocks called components.

In this article, we will explore two types of components in React: functional components and class components.

Key takeaways:

  • Class components employ JavaScript classes that extend the React.Component class. 
  • Functional components are similar to JavaScript functions that receive properties (props) and return React elements for rendering.
  • Class components are preferred for complex components that demand precise control over state and lifecycle behavior.
  • Functional components shine in simpler scenarios, embracing a more functional programming approach.

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What are Class Components?

Class components have been the traditional way of creating components in React and are still widely used in many existing codebases. They offer a more familiar syntax for software engineers coming from object-oriented programming backgrounds and provide more fine-grained control over the component’s behavior.

Class components in React are created using JavaScript classes, which extend the React.Component class provided by React itself. This inheritance grants class components access to React’s features and functionalities.

One fundamental capability of class components is their ability to manage their own internal state using the setState method. This method enables class components to update and handle data that changes over time, allowing the component to re-render when the state is modified.

Additionally, class components make use of lifecycle methods, which are predefined functions that execute at different stages of a component’s existence. They help developers orchestrate specific actions or behaviors at different phases of a component’s lifecycle, enhancing control and customization over how the component behaves and interacts within the application.

Advantages of Class Components vs Functional Components

Let’s see the advantages of class components over the other type.

  • Performance: Class components can optimize performance by reusing instances and updating only necessary parts. This comes in handy when handling large datasets.
  • Internal State Management: They can maintain their own internal state using setState. This allows for handling dynamic data changes within the component itself.
  • Precise Control over Behavior: They offer detailed control and structure, which can be beneficial when dealing with components requiring intricate control over their behavior.

Downsides of Using Class Components

While class components have their benefits, they also come with some drawbacks. One of the main drawbacks is their complexity. Class components have a steeper learning curve compared to functional components, especially for developers who are new to React. The syntax and concepts used in class components, such as the use of this and the lifecycle methods, can be confusing for beginners.

Class-based components are also more verbose compared to functional components. They require more code to achieve the same functionality, which can result in more boilerplate code and make the code harder to read and maintain.

Another drawback of class components is that they can lead to code that is tightly coupled and harder to test. Since class components encapsulate both the UI and the behavior, it can be challenging to isolate and test specific parts of the component. This can make it harder to write unit tests for your components and make your code less modular and reusable.

What are Functional Components?

Functional components are the simpler form of React components. They are essentially JavaScript functions that don’t have their own internal state. They rely on props (short for properties) to receive data and return the JSX that represents the component’s output.

Functional components gained popularity with the introduction of React Hooks that gave the stateless class components the ability to handle state and lifecycle features. Introduced in version 16.8, hooks closed the gap between functional and class components. From that point, functional components could do what a Class component did, but they were simpler and easier to reuse.

Advantages of Functional Components vs Class Components

There are at least three advantages to using functional components in your React project. 

  • Easier to reuse and compose: Since they are just functions, you can easily extract logic into separate functions and reuse them in multiple components.
  • Promoting Functional Programming: They encourage a functional programming style, leading to more modular code that’s easier to reason about and debug.
  • Easier to test: Functional components, lacking internal state and lifecycle methods, are easier to test as they involve straightforward input-output testing based on props.

Best Practices for Using Functional and Class Components

Regardless of whether you choose to use functional or class components, there are some best practices you can follow to write clean and maintainable code. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep your components small and focused: Break down your UI into smaller, reusable components. This makes your code more modular and easier to understand.
  • Use descriptive names for your components: Choose meaningful names for your components that accurately describe their purpose and functionality. This makes your code more readable and easier to navigate.
  • Separate concerns: Separate your UI logic from your business logic. Keep your components focused on rendering the UI and move any data fetching or state management logic outside of the component.
  • Follow the single responsibility principle: Each component should have a single responsibility and do one thing well. This makes your code more maintainable and easier to test.
  • Write unit tests for your components: Test your components to ensure they behave as expected. Use tools like Jest and React Testing Library to write unit tests for your components.

Time to Build a React App Layout

Understanding the strengths and limitations of functional and class components empowers developers to make informed decisions while building React applications.

React Hooks extend the capabilities of functional components, while class components provide control over state and lifecycles. By grasping these concepts and adopting best practices, developers can create robust and efficient React applications.

Now that you have a better understanding of functional and class components, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice. Build your first React app user interface with UXPin Merge, an intuitive design technology that makes it easy to create prototypes with coded components. See how easy it is to build your first frontend design. Discover UXPin Merge.

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by UXPin on 23rd November, 2023

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