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Dev Log: Why I started learning React

March 30, 2019Will Leffert

I've been pretty sick recently, and this is the first weekend I've felt back to normal. However, in my downtime, while I had the capability to focus, I've been studying React (and Node.js). This is why I started learning React (and why I waited so long to do so).

First: React, like any technology on the web, is one of many tools, and it isn't always the right tool for the job.

Previously, I felt that it was more niche, and not exceptionally useful to me, when it started growing in popularity.

I wasn't a "web app" developer. In fact, my initial focus as a designer/developer was on the older, tried & true methods. Server-side code (utilizing PHP/MySQL) worked great, and did exactly what was needed without excess bloat, or strain on the client visiting the product.

Then there was jQuery.

I avoided Javascript for years; I only utilized it in very limited scenarios because, frankly, relying on it wasn't a guarantee for accessibility or search visibility. Eventually, however, I had to finally use it..

Begrudgingly, I started to love jQuery. It simplified development so much, and had minimal negative impact on user experience or accessibility by the time I brought it into my development toolset.

React was much the same way; why create the additional overhead when I could do everything I needed with PHP, MySQL, and now jQuery?

Because the web is evolving.

We're seeing more and more solutions being presented with Single Page Apps, and developers have shown that you can do some amazing stuff in React that is actually more efficient than my previous methodology.

Utilizing Javascript is now well beyond commonplace, and its users are prepared for it. React is much the same way, and we're finding that more and more people are expecting experiences that are crafted most effectively utilizing React, Angular, Vue, and more.

I'm not a luddite, nor averse to change. I do, however, prefer to wait for a technology to be fully proven before embracing it.


Because I've got limited time, and my work requires reliability first. If I spent all my free time learning the latest, greatest, buzzing-est technology, I'd be hard pressed to actually get any work done on what I use on a daily basis.

So, what's my first React project? Well, we've already talked about Where Does It Hurt?, but I'm actually building a resume system for my private web/graphic design work that I've done at Quincy Media. I'll utilize React with a simple JSON file for the data at launch, but eventually it will utilize an API built in PHP/MySQL..

..And maybe, at some point, I'll refactor that into a full CMS system utilizing Node.js and MongoDB. The only reason I'm not jumping on that bandwagon just yet is because.. Well.. Hosting that can get costly!