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React Native: A Developer’s Perspective

Nena Vuckovic

Instead of focusing on a single OS, you can design an app that will work on nearly any device, regardless of your operating system. That’s precisely where React Native comes to light. Here, you will learn more about how React Native works and what makes it so special, as well as find answers to several other questions you might have. 

The popularity of mobile apps is ever-growing, and more and more traffic is generated from smartphones and tablets. As you know already, there are various operating systems you can focus on, the most popular being Android and iOS. But sticking to a single platform limits the number of users you can gather. 

What Is React Native?

React Native is an open-source mobile app framework. Facebook designed it in 2015, and it quickly gained popularity among developers. The most obvious reason is that you can develop an app using React Native for Android, iOS, UWP, and Web. The framework allows developers to use React, while at the same time allowing native platform capabilities. 

Over the years, React Native managed to gather a huge community and allow it to use a single language for developing an app for any platform.  

Mark Zuckerberg said that his biggest mistake was relying too much on HTML5 instead of native. 

Programming Language

As we already mentioned, the primary benefit of using a cross-platform framework is using a single programming language. Usually, each platform has its own set of rules, and you need to use Swift or Objective-C for iOS and Kotlin or Java for Android. But, thanks to React Native, there is no need to further complicate the process. You can cover it all with the language of your choice. 

React Native — JS

React Native follows nearly identical rules as React, which means that all you need to know is JavaScript. The only difference between the two is that React manipulates the DOM via the Virtual DOM. 

JavaScript is rather popular in the web community, and it allows everyone to use React Native in the development process. This popularity is the most appealing thing about JS, and it makes adopting the React Native framework easy.

Technical Architecture

Another important aspect you should consider is technical architecture. It is a layer that specifies and defines parameters, interfaces, and all protocols that product architecture and system architecture will use. 

It shows us a “bird’s view” of the whole process and framework. Also, it helps us make informed decisions that will fit our project. 

React Native — Flux

When it comes to React Native architecture, it is heavily based on JS runtime environment architecture. The JS Bridge allows individual components (client and service, for example) to communicate and work together. Each component has its own interface too. 

React Native operates using the Flux architecture used by Facebook. It is more of a pattern than a framework, and React Native uses JS Bridge as the way to communicate with native modules. 

Installation

The installation process is the next important thing you should consider. Before using any program, you will need to know a few details about installation. However, it should be fairly simple. The idea behind it is to enable inexperienced developers to start learning, and if there are too many complex steps you need to follow, it might discourage beginners before they even start. 

React Native — NPM

For installing React Native, you will need an NPM or Node Package Manager. If you already have experience with JS, installing React Native should be quite straightforward. However, if you are inexperienced, you might need to learn how to use the NPM. 

On the other hand, installing the NPM will take you a few seconds since it follows the good old “next-next” method. Once the NPM is installed on your PC, you can proceed to installing React Native. 

For Windows users

C:\\Users\Public>choco install -y nodejs. Install python2 openjdk8

For Mac users

We recommend installing Node and Watchman using Homebrew. Run the
following commands in a Terminal after installing Homebrew:

brew install node

brew install watchman

 

CocoaPods

CocoaPods is built with Ruby and it will be installable with the default Ruby available on macOS. You can use a Ruby Version manager, however we recommend that you use the standard Ruby available on macOS unless you know what you’re doing.

Using the default Ruby install will require you to use sudo when installing gems. (This is only an issue for the duration of the gem installation, though.)

sudo gem install cocoapods

Setup and Project Configuration

Now, we slowly begin with the tricky part. Setting up the machine so that you can use the new framework can take time. It also requires a lot of configuration of software installations. You might need to take a look at some documentation before you start. It is also important to set everything up based on the platform you’ll be using (or developing for). 

npx react-native init MyProject 

                  Welcome to React Native!
                  Learn once, write anywhere

√ Downloading template
√ Copying template
√ Processing template
√ Installing dependencies


  Run instructions for iOS:
  • cd “C:\Users\Public\MyProject” && npx react-native run-ios
    - or -
  • Open MyProject\ios\MyProject.xcodeproj in Xcode or run “xed -b ios”
  • Hit the Run button
 

  Run instructions for Android:
  • Have an Android emulator running (quickest way to get started),
    or a device connected.
  • cd “C:\Users\Public\MyProject” && npx react-native run-android
 

  Run instructions for Windows and macOS:
  • See https://aka.ms/ReactNative for the latest up-to-date instructions.

 

React Native Project

While you can use the project starting guide, the main problem is that it assumes you already have sufficient knowledge about app development for iOS and Android. However, if that is not the case, you might encounter some issues along the way. There is not enough info on the command line, and you might need to start earlier than the guide suggests. 

The documentation on their website dives straight into making a new project. So, if you are ready, the process will be fairly simple. 

UI Component and Development API

Cross-platform mobile app development sounds like a lot of fun. However, there are still some key things you need to worry about. One of them is support for the native component. The primary idea is to allow users to feel like they are using a native app. What’s the difference, you might ask? A perfect example is using Facebook via their native app compared to accessing it via your browser. While it might seem similar at first glance, there are enough core differences between the two. 

React Native — Components

The core framework provides only device access APIs and UI rendering. If you want to access other native modules, you will have to rely on various third-party libraries. That might seem like a major flaw for the framework, but you can find nearly anything you need in other libraries, and it will allow you to design the app you want. However, many developers dislike the idea of having so few components at their disposal. 

Developer Productivity

It is essential to make sure that the framework you’re using allows you to be productive and creative. Now, that doesn’t mean that there should be bright colors everywhere. Instead, you are looking for ways to make you do your job faster and more efficiently. It is also important for you to focus on the development process without any distractions.

React Native

If you have experience in application development, more precisely with JavaScript, you will find it easy to work in React Native. One of the most appealing features is Hot Reload that will save you a lot of time in the process. Live Reload refreshes the entire app regardless of the change you made. On the other hand, Hot Reload updates only parts that were changed. Needless to say, it is a significant difference, and it will make testing in the UI significantly easier. 

Moreover, you can use any IDE or text editor you want. That is something that any developer will adore. 

Community Support

You probably heard about the joke that programming is mostly Googling for errors that appear in the process. While there is so much more to it, having the possibility to reach out to the community can be a difference between a working app and time wasted. 

React Native

As we already mentioned, React Native saw the light of day in 2015, and it quickly became one of the most popular frameworks. There are numerous developers online, and there are occasional conferences and meetups across the world. There is a high chance that there is a conference near you. Both React Native and JS have strong communities that will be able to help you every step of the process. 

Testing Support

One of the easiest ways to get feedback on your code is to write a test. Every mature technology has its own testing framework, and it will allow you to create unit tests, UI, integration, or any other part of the app. 

By default, you can use testing tools like Jest if you are interested in snapshot testing, but there is no official support for UI. However, we already mentioned that there are many third-party tools and components you can use, and you can always try them out. Both Appium and Detox are great tools to help you test React Native applications, even though they don’t have official support from the company. 

Build & Release Automation Support

Once your app is ready, you will want to have it available in the store. Whether you are an Android or iOS developer, you will want your app to appear in the App Store or Google Play. But the process can be quite tedious and rather challenging. And since we are talking about cross-platform development, it means double the trouble. 

React Native doesn’t offer automated steps you can take to release your app, but you can do it manually from Xcode. As you can guess already, even though there is no official support from the company, that doesn’t mean that the process is impossible. 

Once again, React Native has to rely on the third-party tools and using Fastlane will allow you to release your mobile app. While the solution is not ideal, and while it would be a lot better if React Native offered an official automatization process, it is still better than nothing, and it will help you achieve your goal. 

DevOps and CI/CD Support

To avoid releasing a code riddled with bugs, it is essential to get continuous feedback. To help with it, we offer continuous integration (CI) and continuous deployment (CD). While React Native does not offer CD/CI, you can still find a way to set it up. 

Nevercode is a company that focuses on continuous integration and delivery for mobile apps, and it will help you integrate it into the process. It is a top-rated CI/CD tool, and it’s undoubtedly one of the favorites among developers. 

Conclusion

As with any other app or framework, there are pros and cons. The most appealing factor is that React Native apps can work on nearly any platform, and you won’t need to develop the app for each individual operating system. 

Of course, we should mention that React Native works on JS, which is one of the most beloved programming languages. If you have experience with JS, the React Native app structure won’t prove to be a challenge for you. 

While the framework doesn’t offer many components and APIs, you can find nearly anything via third-party libraries. Over the years, React Native app development became one of the best practices among developers and the safest way to ensure you get a perfect product that works flawlessly regardless of the platform. 

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We can build on your idea and provide solutions to take your business to the next level.
Please fill in this form to start the process.