See how you stack up with these 6 essential skills for React developers.
1. HTML + CSS
No front-end dev is a stranger to HTML and CSS. The ability to work with and craft user interfaces is necessary to every organization. At a high level, React developers should be able to:
- Work with and write semantic HTML tags
- Work with and write CSS selectors
- Implement a CSS reset
- Understand the box model and how to reset to border-box
- Understand flexbox
- Work with and implement responsive web principles including the proper user of media queries
JSX is an abstraction on top of the React.createElement() API. One reason it is vital to the library—and why the React team chose to go with it in the first place—is that the API would be too cumbersome to use in terms of scaling. One potentially could use React.createElement() to build out an entire application, however this wouldn’t be any more efficient than just using HTML proper. It may feel at first that we’ve taken a step backward by adding our Markup into our template logic, however a few quick minutes with JSX and you’ll be hooked on the style.
Variables and scoping
ES6 brought with it new keywords that we can use to store variables other than the traditional `var` keyword (like `let` and `const`). You may choose to live by the principle that unless you absolutely need `var`, use `const` until your linter tells you otherwise, then default to `let`.
Arrays and objects
React suggests a pattern that your `view is a function of your state`. Arithmetically put, that’s `v = f(s)`, and something you need to remember as you revisit your skills in the foundations of the library.
State is data that we want to show to users or items in memory that we can access in order to allow our users to interact with our data. We hold all of the data that we present on an object called state and access these bits of data via properties on this state object. This is how React received its name; when state changes, the view updates (`v = f(s);`). So your view ‘reacts’ to the changes that are made in your state object.
You should brush up on how to mutate objects and change values of properties on them. Don’t worry, React takes care of the mechanism through a nifty function called `setState()` to make this work to your advantage.
Functions and arrow functions
In React, every single component you build is a function in one way or another. Remember that ‘classes’ are just `constructor functions` under the hood. Regardless of the syntax you’re using, when building `functional components` or `class components` you’re using some form of a function.
DOM Manipulation and event handlers
In React, manipulating the actual DOM elements is rare. Remember we now have the JSX abstraction at our disposal. The native event object that you get with normal DOM manipulation in React is actually wrapped up in what’s called the SyntheticEvent. Make sure you can attach different types of events to HTML elements such as `onclicks`, `onchange`, `mouseenter`, etc.
The “this” keyword
Higher order functions and callback functions
The idea that functions can be passed around as arguments—in the case of high order functions and callbacks—is what drives the `input/output` model of functional programming.
You pass handlers around everywhere in React. Most of the time the handlers you pass around are in the form of methods that are chained onto an object and accessed as properties, which will be bound up in the prototype chain. However, there are moments that you need to reach outside of the React component paradigm or create a few different types of components that extend some of the functionality to one another. These patterns are commonly referred to as advanced React patterns and they’re finding their way into the better/common practices realm. React will push you to be innovative and creative as you scale along with it.
Prototypal inheritance and object creation
The ‘class’ keyword
Assess your proficiency with classes by making sure you can answer:
- How do I set up methods on a class?
- How do I bind those methods together?
- How do I access properties that are found on the constructor?
- How do I create objects that would be considered ‘children’ of parent objects?
Git is essential to every developer's toolkit for storing projects on solutions like GitHub, Bitbucket and GitLab. Skills that should just be part of your day-to-day include:
- Tracking changes with add, commit, push and pull
- Branching and merging strategies
- Handling merge conflicts
5. Node + npm
Node may be a surprise to many. Why would you need to know how to work with Node in order to be a client-side React dev? While you can pull React into any HTML file, there will be many other packages out there that will allow you to extend the React library.
React developers need to have a solid understanding of the npm registry. This is the place where software developers can go to get software to help them build software. Sounds funny, but truly that’s all the npm is: a cloud storage for packages we call dependencies.
Yarn vs npm
Yarn is a package manager that is built to utilize the npm registry. Yarn actually optimizes your npm workflows. Yarn and npm somewhat compete today, but the mission of Yarn has been to solve a lot of the problems that are accepted in the Node/npm ecosystem. npm has been doing everything it can to follow the patterns and practices that Yarn presents.
Hot button issue alert: React has built-in state management. And many devs have been burned along the way by discovering the asynchronicity of state updates and how React handles them. For that reason, and for scalability, Redux was born. Redux is a state management library and more. It’s not a framework, but an opinionated way of working with data. The principles behind Redux are along the lines of functional programming and immutability, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all-solution. Mastering the concepts of fundamental React programming prior to diving into Redux is key.
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