The Promising Path Ahead: React Native's Future in 2023
The Promising Path Ahead: React Native's Future in 2023

Comparing Web Components and React

In this article, we’ll delve into a comprehensive comparison between web components and React. It’s essential to understand that these technologies serve distinct purposes. Web components empower us to develop reusable and highly encapsulated custom HTML elements for webpages, while React is a declarative JavaScript library designed for creating web app frontends using a component-based development pattern.

Understanding Components

As mentioned, both web components and React allow us to create reusable UI elements. However, there’s a crucial difference. React components are confined to use within React applications, whereas web components can be employed in any HTML document or frontend library.

Web components are versatile, compatible with frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue, thanks to their integration into the HTML specification. For instance, a custom header element crafted using web components can seamlessly function across various libraries and frameworks. Now, let’s explore the key concepts, features, and libraries provided by React and web components.

Web Component Technologies

The web components specification offers a mechanism for crafting reusable custom HTML elements, comprising three core technologies:

Custom Elements

Custom elements enable the creation of new customized HTML tags. This is achieved through the browser’s JavaScript API, specifically the customElements.define() method. A custom element takes the form of a JavaScript class extending HTMLElement. It’s worth noting that custom element names must include a hyphen for recognition by the HTML parser.

Styling and UI Kits

When building components, the user interface (UI) plays a significant role. Creating visually appealing, engaging, and user-friendly components from scratch can be laborious and time-consuming. React faces challenges in this regard as it lacks scoped styling, necessitating the reliance on external modules.

React boasts a robust ecosystem with numerous UI libraries and frameworks, surpassing what web components offer in terms of options. Here are some notable UI kits for React:

  • Material-UI: Implementing Google’s Material Design system, it provides a wide array of UI components, styles, themes, layouts, and icons.
  • React Bootstrap: Replacing the Bootstrap JavaScript, it offers various components, theming support, and a growing development community.
  • Semantic UI React: Integrating with Semantic UI, it provides custom components and sub-components for flexibility in customization.

For those opting to create custom styling for atomic components without relying on UI kits, styled-components or Sass-like CSS pre-processors can be employed.

Styling with Web Components

Web components facilitate the incorporation of isolated style sheets for each custom element through the shadow DOM concept. While the web components API may seem complex due to its low-level, fully-featured nature, libraries like Lit simplify productive web component creation and CSS definition. Additionally, pre-developed web components can be readily utilized.

  • Material Web Components: A web component adaptation of Material-UI, currently in development.
  • Bootstrap in Web Components: While some modules enable Bootstrap integration with web components, they may not offer as extensive features as react-bootstrap.
  • Elix: An open collection of web components for common UI patterns, allowing customization and new element creation.

Enhancing Accessibility

Accessibility is a crucial aspect of web development, ensuring that websites are usable by everyone. Both React and web components can support accessibility.

React facilitates accessibility by allowing the utilization of standard HTML techniques, including the aria-* attributes in JSX. Although React introduces an additional div for wrapping elements, this can be mitigated with React fragments (<></>). Managing keyboard-only usage is also feasible through programmatically setting focus and using tools like react-aria for accessibility in React UI kits.

Web components inherit accessibility features by extending native HTML elements, ensuring their accessibility. Even elements within a shadow DOM remain accessible to screen readers.

Will Web Components Replace React?

From a developer’s standpoint, web components offer reusable components similar to React, but their objectives differ significantly. Web components provide a lower-level API for custom HTML element creation, lacking the fully-featured, app-developer-focused features of React.

In the past, developers resorted to using divs for rendering remote widgets and HTML strings as content templates in vanilla JavaScript apps. Web components natively resolved these issues by enabling the creation of reusable HTML elements directly in the DOM tree using HTML templates.

React, on the other hand, strives to deliver a productive, declarative development approach for highly dynamic component-based UIs. While web components and React share the goal of reusability, their native web components technology doesn’t directly compete with or replace React. However, the growth of web component-based libraries may impact React’s popularity.

For instance, web components exhibit superior speed and memory efficiency in certain benchmarks due to their native browser support. Yet, creating web components using the standard API can be complex, whereas libraries like Lit simplify the process, offering a React-like approach.

Conclusion

React and web components are distinct technologies designed to address different challenges. React provides a comprehensive set of APIs for crafting component-based UIs, whereas web components offer a native browser standard for creating reusable custom HTML elements. As a result, direct comparison isn’t feasible, and the choice between the two depends on specific project requirements and goals.

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