React vs HTML – Can You Spot a Difference?
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What is HTML?
HTML uses various tags to define elements such as headings, paragraphs, links, and media objects, allowing browsers to interpret and correctly interpret and display the content.
A basic understanding of HTML is vital for anyone involved in web design or development, as it’s the starting point for all websites and many web applications.
What is React?
Unlike HTML, which structures content, React allows developers to create reusable components. Each component in React has its own logic and controls its rendering. This rendering is crucial because it allows a single element to change while the rest of the page remains static and doesn’t have to reload.
Key Differences Between HTML and React
While you can build the same website or web application using either React or HTML, they often work together, with HTML structuring the content and React adding interactivity and a component-based architecture.
Therefore, it’s fair to say that HTML vs. React is a redundant comparison because these are two different front-end technologies with different applications which mostly complement each other.
This comparison examines what would happen if you built a website or web application using HTML or React.
- Component-based: React employs a component-based architecture. Each component represents a part of the UI and can be reused throughout the application, enhancing development efficiency and consistency. In contrast, HTML doesn’t inherently support a component structure.
- Rendering: Traditional HTML-based applications often require a full page refresh to implement view changes. React uses a Virtual DOM (Document Object Model) to update only the components that change, eliminating the need for a full page refresh and offering more efficient, smoother updates.
- Data Binding: HTML lacks a built-in system for data binding. Changes in the UI, like user input, don’t automatically update the application data. React enables one-way data binding, allowing efficient updates to UI components without affecting underlying data.
- Use Cases: HTML typically structures content for static websites. React builds dynamic and interactive UIs, making it ideal for complex single-page applications (SPAs) and mobile applications with React Native.
Is it Possible to Spot the Difference Between HTML and React?
Even websites like BuiltWith cannot be certain about a digital product’s tech stack without the developers explicitly sharing this information or publicizing the project’s repository (i.e., a public GitHub repo).
Deeper Dive into HTML
How HTML works
When a user requests a webpage, the browser fetches the HTML file from a server and interprets it to display the page’s structure and content. HTML uses a set of predefined HTML tags to define content types, such as <p> for paragraphs, <h1> to <h6> for headings, <a> for links, <div>, and <img> for images, to name a few.
HTML uses a tree-like structure, with the <html> tag as the root with the <head> and <body> tags acting as the two main branches.
The <head> tag houses metadata, stylesheets, and scripts for the page’s styling and functionality. The <body> tag contains all the visible content, such as text, images, and links. Within these main branches, other tags, known as child elements, define and structure the content.
When a page loads, the browser reads the HTML from top to bottom. It interprets the tags to construct the Document Object Model (DOM), a representation of the page structure.
Deeper Dive into React
How React works
React creates a virtual representation of the DOM (the Virtual DOM), which it uses to improve performance.
When a user interacts with the application, instead of updating the entire DOM (which can be slow), React only updates the parts of the Virtual DOM where the state has changed. It then reconciles the Virtual DOM with the actual DOM in the most efficient way possible, updating only the changed parts in the actual DOM. This process is known as “diffing.”
React organizes code into components, reusable pieces of code that return JSX. These components can be as simple as a button or as complex as an entire page template.
Components can maintain their own state (data that can change over time), receive data from parent components via props, and pass data to child components. This data flow establishes a clear and predictable coding structure.
When a React application loads, it initializes the components and renders the JSX to the actual DOM using the ReactDOM library. During this process, it also sets up event listeners for user interactions.
When a user interacts with the application (e.g., clicks a button), this may trigger state changes in one or more components. React then updates the Virtual DOM to reflect these state changes and efficiently updates the actual DOM to match.
React’s structure and approach to DOM manipulation make it excellent for building complex, interactive web applications that must be fast and responsive. While the learning curve can be steeper than plain HTML, the performance and code organization benefits are substantial.
Why Developers Choose HTML vs. React
Why do developers choose HTML?
Even though HTML may seem more straightforward and less powerful than React, it still has a crucial role in web development. Here’s why:
- Fundamental and universal: HTML is the foundational language of the web. Every browser can interpret HTML, making it universally recognized and supported.
- Perfect for static content: HTML is a straightforward and efficient choice when building a website with mostly static content.
- Easy to learn: HTML is one of the easiest languages for beginners. It’s an excellent starting point for anyone interested in web development.
- SEO friendly: Search engines can easily crawl and understand HTML, making it favorable for SEO.
For example, HTML is perfect for a business that wants a simple website to showcase its products and services. It’s also an excellent option for beginners learning about web development.
Why do developers choose React?
React offers several features that make it a preferred choice for many developers:
- Component-based architecture: React’s component-based approach promotes reusability and consistency across the application, making development more efficient.
- Efficient updates: React uses a Virtual DOM to only update parts of the page that need to change, making it highly performant, especially for complex applications.
- Strong community and ecosystem: React has a large and active community, which means plenty of resources for learning and troubleshooting, as well as a rich ecosystem of libraries and tools.
For example, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp use React for their complex, highly interactive UIs. Startups and tech companies also favor React for its efficiency, scalability, and productivity. Organizations also use React to build design systems due to the component-based nature of the front-end library.
HTML or React: which one should you choose?
Choosing between HTML and React depends on your project’s needs:
- For static websites: HTML is often the preferred choice for building a simple, mostly static website.
- For dynamic, complex applications: React is a far better option to HTML for building complex, highly interactive web applications.
HTML vs. React Impact on User Experience
HTML-based websites generally load quickly due to their static nature. However, they might be slower to navigate if each user interaction requires a new page to load.
Conversely, React’s ability to update only the components that change leads to smoother and faster interactions, providing a more fluid experience for users, especially in complex applications.
With React’s component-based architecture, developers can ensure consistent implementation of UI elements across an application.
This uniformity promotes a consistent look and feel, which is critical to a good user experience. With HTML, this would require careful manual coding to ensure consistency.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
SEO and initial load time
HTML is straightforward for search engines to crawl and index, which can lead to better SEO. Also, an HTML page can start rendering immediately after the initial HTML file is loaded.
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