Tutorial

Optimizing Server Requests with React Hooks

Published on July 28, 2023
Default avatar

By Joel Adewole

Optimizing Server Requests with React Hooks

Introduction

As a React developer, are you tired of struggling with poorly managed server requests? Look no further; React Hooks is a powerful feature of the React library that allows developers to use state and other React features in functional components and can help optimize your server requests and take your web application’s performance to the next level.

You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal about server requests? Why do they matter?” Well, let me tell you - server requests play a crucial role in determining the user experience. Poorly managed server requests can lead to slow load times, poor performance, and a frustrating user experience. React Hooks provides a way to manage server requests efficiently and in an organized manner, resulting in faster load times, improved performance, and a better user experience.

This tutorial will guide you on using React Hooks to improve server request performance, manage server requests more efficiently, and help you create more optimized web applications.

By the end of this tutorial, you will have a solid understanding of how to use React Hooks to optimize server requests and be able to implement these techniques in your projects to improve the performance and user experience of your web applications.

Prerequisites:

To follow along with this tutorial, you should have:

  • Understanding of JavaScript and setting up a React app from scratch.
  • Familiarity with React Hooks.
  • Knowledge of how to make server requests in JavaScript.
  • A working development environment.
  • A code editor.

Additionally, it would be beneficial to have some experience working with APIs and understanding RESTful principles.

If you’re new to optimizing server requests, don’t worry - this tutorial is tailored to developers of all experience levels. It may require some extra research and experimentation on your own if you’re not familiar with the concepts yet. But don’t fret; with a bit of patience and practice, you’ll be able to master the art of optimizing server requests in no time! So, let’s get started and enhance your React application’s performance.

Setting Up a New React Project

Setting up a new React project can be a daunting task for beginner developers, but with the help of the Create React App (CRA) tool, it has never been easier. CRA is a popular command line interface tool that automates the setup process for a new React project, providing a development environment optimized for building React applications. You can follow this tutorial to learn how to set up a React app from scratch.

TL;TR

To create a React project, you’ll need to have Node.js and npm installed on your computer. If you don’t already have them, you can download them from the official Node.js website. Once you have these tools installed, open your terminal or command prompt to the directory where you want the application to be created, use the following command to create a new React project:

  1. npx create-react-app digital-ocean-tutorial

If the application is successfully created, the following output would be displayed:

...
Success! Created digital-ocean-tutorial at your_file_path/digital-ocean-tutorial
Inside that directory, you can run several commands:

npm start
Starts the development server.

npm run build
Bundles the app into static files for production.

npm test
Starts the test runner.

npm run eject
Removes this tool and copies build dependencies, configuration files and scripts into the app directory. If you do this, you can’t go back!

We suggest that you begin by typing:

cd digital-ocean-tutorial
npm start

Happy hacking!

This will create a new directory with the same name as your project, containing all the necessary files for your new React project.

Once the setup process is complete, navigate to the new React project directory by running the following command:

  1. cd digital-ocean-tutorial

And then run the following command to start the development server:

  1. npm start

If everything is done right, the server should start running, and the following output would be displayed:

Compiled successfully!

You can now view digital-ocean-tutorial in the browser

http://localhost:3000

Note that the development build is not optimized.
To create a production build, use npm run build.

This will launch your new React project in your default web browser. You should now be able to see a “Welcome to React” message, which means that your project has been set up correctly and is ready for you to start building your next great application!

CRA default app screen

With CRA, you will be able to focus on writing code, without having to worry about setting up and configuring the development environment.

Now that you have your React project up and running, let’s look at various ways we can optimize server requests using React hooks.

Synchronize Components with the UseEffect Hook

The useEffect hook in React allows developers to synchronize a component with an external system, such as a server, by handling side effects, such as data fetching, in a way that is both efficient and easy to understand. One of the most common use cases for the useEffect hook is to make server requests and update the component state.

One way to use the useEffect hook for server requests is to call a function that performs the request inside the useEffect hook. The function should use the Fetch API or a library such as Axios to perform the request, and then update the component’s state with the response data using the setState hook.

Let’s look at an example of how to use the useEffect hook to fetch data from a JSON placeholder API and update the component’s state. Go to the app.js file, inside the src folder of your project, delete the default code, and replace it with the code snippet below:

/src/app.js

import React, { useEffect, useState } from 'react';

function MyComponent() {
  const [data, setData] = useState([]);
  useEffect(() => {
    async function fetchData() {
      const response = await fetch('https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/posts');
      const data = await response.json();
      setData(data);
    }
    fetchData();
  }, []);

  return (
    <div>
      {data.map((item) => (
        <div key={item.id}>
          <h2>- {item.title}</h2>
          <p>{item.body}</p>
        </div>
      ))}
    </div>
  );
}

export default MyComponent

In the example above, the useEffect hook is called with an empty dependency array, meaning it will only run on the initial render of the component. The component’s state is initialized with an empty array, and the fetchData function is called inside the useEffect hook to perform the server request and update the state with the response data.

If you refresh the browser or the app, you should be able to see the result of the request made in the code sample above, as shown in the image below:

Result of request made using useEffect

It’s important to note that unnecessary re-renders can cause performance issues, so it’s best practice to minimize the number of re-renders caused by the useEffect hook. One way to do this is to include only the props and state variables used by the hook in the dependency array.

Handling errors properly when making server requests is also important to avoid breaking the component. Error handling can be done by adding a try-catch block inside the fetchData function, and using the setError hook to update the component’s state with an error message. This way, the app can display the error message to the user if something goes wrong.

By following best practices, you can make server requests in a React component with confidence, and create a better user experience.

Optimizing Server Request Performance with the useMemo Hook

The useMemo hook in React is a performance optimization tool that allows developers to memoize data by storing the result of computation so that it is reusable without having to repeat the process. This can be particularly useful when working with server requests, as it can help avoid unnecessary re-renders and improve the component’s performance.

One way to use the useMemo hook in a server request context is to memoize the data returned from the server and use it to update the component’s state. This can be done by calling the useMemo hook inside the useEffect hook and passing the server data as the first argument, and a dependency array as the second argument. The dependency array should include any props or state variables used to calculate the memoized data.

To try this method using the useMemo hook to memoize data from a JSON placeholder API and update the component’s state, replace the code in app.js to the code snippet below:

/src/app.js

import { useEffect, useState, useMemo } from 'react';

function MyComponent({ postId }) {
  const [data, setData] = useState({});
  useEffect(() => {
    async function fetchData() {
      const response = await fetch(`https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/posts/${postId}`);
      const data = await response.json();
      setData(data);
    }
    fetchData();
  }, [postId]);

  const title = useMemo(() => data.title, [data]);

  return (
    <div>
      <h2>{title}</h2>
    </div>
  );
}

export default MyComponent

In the example above, the useEffect hook is called with postId as the dependency array, meaning it will run whenever the postId prop changes. The component’s state initializes with an empty object then the fetchData function is called inside the useEffect hook to perform the server request and update the state with the response data. Inside the component, we use the useMemo hook to memoize the title by passing data.title as the first argument and [data] as the second argument so that whenever data changes, the title updates.

Below is the result of the request in the code sample above:

Result of request made using useMemo

Note that useMemo is not always necessary and should only be used when the component depends on some props or state that might change frequently and the calculation is expensive. Using useMemo inappropriately can lead to memory leaks and other performance issues.

Managing Server Request State with the useReducer Hook

The useReducer hook in React is similar to the useState hook but allows for more complex and predictable state management. Instead of updating the state directly, useReducer allows you to dispatch actions that describe the state update and a reducer function that updates the state based on the dispatch action.

One benefit of using the useReducer hook for server request management is the better separation of concerns. Instead of having the logic for handling server requests scattered throughout the component, it can be encapsulated in the reducer function, making the component’s code easier to understand and maintain.

To try this method using the useReducer hook to memoize data from a JSON placeholder API and update the component’s state, replace the code in app.js to the code snippet below:

/src/app.js

import { useReducer } from 'react';

const initialState = { data: [], loading: false, error: '' };
const reducer = (state, action) => {
  switch (action.type) {
    case 'FETCH_DATA_REQUEST':
      return { ...state, loading: true };
    case 'FETCH_DATA_SUCCESS':
      return { ...state, data: action.payload, loading: false };
    case 'FETCH_DATA_FAILURE':
      return { ...state, error: action.payload, loading: false };
    default:
      return state;
  }
};

function MyComponent() {
  const [state, dispatch] = useReducer(reducer, initialState);

  const fetchData = async () => {
    dispatch({ type: 'FETCH_DATA_REQUEST' });
    try {
      const response = await fetch('https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/posts');
      const data = await response.json();
      dispatch({ type: 'FETCH_DATA_SUCCESS', payload: data });
    } catch (error) {
      dispatch({ type: 'FETCH_DATA_FAILURE', payload: error.message });
    }
  };

  return (
    <div>
      {state.loading ? (
        <p>Loading...</p>
      ) : state.error ? (
        <p>{state.error}</p>
      ) :
        <div>
          {state.data.map((item) => (
            <div key={item.id}>
              <h2>{item.title}</h2>
              <p>{item.body}</p>
            </div>
          ))}
        </div>
      )}
      <button onClick={fetchData}>Fetch Data</button>
    </div>
  );
}

export default MyComponent

In the code snippet presented, the useReducer hook is invoked with the reducer function and the initial state passed as arguments. The component’s state is initialized with an empty array as the data, a loading variable set to false, and an empty error message variable. When the “Fetch Data” button is clicked, the fetchData function is executed, which dispatches actions in response to the request status, which can be either a success or failure.

Below is the result of the request made in the code sample above:

Result of request made using useReducer

Furthermore, the useReducer hook allows for more efficient management of complex states. By utilizing actions and reducers to update the state, it becomes simpler to handle the impact of various actions on different parts of the state, making it easier to add new features and troubleshoot issues within the application.

You can find the source code of a working application that use the methods discussed above in this GitHub repository.

Conclusion

In summary, this tutorial has covered the basics of optimizing server requests with React Hooks. React Hooks is a powerful feature of the React library that allows developers to use state and other React features in functional components. With the useEffect, useMemo and useReducer hooks, you can easily manage and optimize server requests, resulting in faster load times, improved performance, and a better user experience for your users. You can improve performance and user experience in your web applications by following the techniques demonstrated in this tutorial.

Now, it’s your turn to try out these techniques in your projects. As a next step, you can explore more advanced topics like pagination and caching. Remember, React Hooks is an ever-evolving technology, so keep up with the latest updates and best practices to continue to optimize your server requests.

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About the authors
Default avatar
Joel Adewole

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