Go To Knowledge base React Vs React Native: Which Technology To Choose And Why
Knowledge base

React Vs React Native: Which Technology To Choose And Why

By: Luka Vučković
2 minute read
React Vs React Native Which Technology To Choose And Why

React is one of the most exciting technologies available for you to consider using for the next year ahead — here's why. As one of the most popular tools available to developers right now, Facebook's impressive framework has proven itself to be highly productive, extremely flexible, and capable of adding remarkable value to the development teams deploying it. Yet, to its many newcomers, the naming conventions around the technology can be difficult to follow. Choosing between React vs React Native vs ReactJS? How do you know which is the best tool for any given task?

Each of these React terms are often used interchangeably without any clear definition or explanation. While in some places, the substitution is justified and correct, the way others use it can be just plain wrong. As both mobile app and front-end web developers, we feel that it's our duty to set the record straight when it comes to technical jargon and framework specifics.

Here, we take a look under the hood at React, ReactJS, and React Native. Starting with what each project title means, looking at what they can do for your projects, and analyzing the key differences that make each worth choosing for your next mobile or web app.

React vs React Native — What's the Difference?

The first and most important thing to note is that React and ReactJS typically refer to the same technology. ReactJS is a JavaScript technology that allows developers to write component-based code using React's declarative library and development tools. Developers often refer to this library as simply React because it's quicker to say, shorter to write, and sounds a whole lot better on the ear.

Macro image Key differences between React and React Native

In comparison, React Native is a framework most often used for cross-platform mobile application development. React Native gets its name from taking JavaScript code and building platform-native components on each operating system it targets. To do this, an application bridge lies at the core of React Native, ensuring each application has a look and feel that matches user expectations on every device.

While both technologies have vastly different use cases in the minds of developers, there is a significant cross-over in their underlying technologies. The ReactJS library lies at the heart of the React Native framework.

As a result of the technical hierarchy between these two products, it's even possible to use them somewhat interchangeably. React Native can be used to create an entirely web-based application and ReactJS could, in theory, be used to create a hybrid mobile app based on JavaScript.

Using either technology outside of their intended use case without good reason will disregard many of the key advantages each tool brings to the table, however. Discarding the lightweight credentials of React or the cross-platform capabilities of React Native should be done only with extreme care, a lot of knowledge, and an abundance of caution.

Choosing the right technology for the right project is critical for mid to long-term success and a key part of what we do in the research, planning, and discovery phases of software development projects.

What is React?

First released in 2014, React is an open-source JavaScript library built by Facebook to create capable, modular, and performant web applications. Targeting the web front-end, React allows developers to build an application interface from blocks of code known as components.

Two of the most notable selling points of React amongst teams are its remarkable runtime performance and highly capable UI features. The library creates this advantage by deploying a virtual DOM (Document Object Model) to update the data structures of web pages faster than many more conventional frameworks.

The virtual DOM has proven to be a key advantage of the React library, but it's far from React's only selling point. Today, as one of the most popular web frameworks in use the technology has a community and ecosystem surrounding it that is virtually unmatched among other web frameworks. As a result, developers have an abundance of resources and assistance available on hand to troubleshoot projects and maintain forward momentum.

 

Macro image React is an open-source JavaScript library built by Facebook to create capable, modular, and performant web applications.

Advantages of React

What are the specific advantages of the React library that make it worth considering for a web development project?

  • The Virtual DOM provides sites with a significant performance upgrade and helpful technical abstraction. Updating a web page's DOM in response to changes on the page is time-consuming and complex. React's virtual DOM allows for small parts of the page to be refreshed as needed to reduce complexity and improve performance.
  • Modular components make code easier to maintain and reuse. Teams save a great deal of time by reducing the amount of code necessary and lowering overheads in development, testing, and future maintenance.
  • React allows developers to build exceptionally strong interfaces that adds significant value, interest, and user retention to any project. By combining custom components and built-in libraries, developers can build the UI they want their users to experience.
  • React brings the advantages of JavaScript with the capabilities of modernized tooling. By being built in JavaScript, React takes advantage of developer availability, remarkable resource availability, and language familiarity that other tools benefit from.

Drawbacks of React

Of course, as with any technology solution, there are drawbacks to React you should consider as an engineering trade-off before deploying the technology for your next project. These include:

  • React has a rapid pace of development. Even within the rapidly changing world of application frameworks, React is a technology evolving faster than most. Developers who don't use the library daily can feel as if there's a large volume of new features to keep up with.
  • React’s rich array of rendering tools require care and consideration when designing a site with strong SEO credentials. Features such as client-side rendering can boost performance at the high cost of SEO performance. Developers are required to strategise and plan right from day one to ensure the finished site can rank well.

What is React Native?

Released 2 years after React, React Native is an open-source framework that brings the advantages and benefits of the React library to mobile platforms.

The biggest advantage React native brings is in allowing developers to build mobile applications using JavaScript components. Instead of making changes to the Virtual DOM, React Native passes React code through an in-built JavaScript interpreter to communicate with the underlying target platform through an application bridge.

 

Macro image React Native is an open-source framework that brings the advantages and benefits of the React library to mobile platforms.

Despite leaning on a JavaScript interpreter and application bridge to communicate with the target system, React Native boasts near-native application performance in benchmark tests and real-world use. Additionally, and often more important than outright performance, the platform also has some remarkable design credentials well worth mentioning.

React Native applications benefit from a look and feel that is entirely consistent with what users would expect of any native application on the same device. For developers, the ability to write code that will apply to both iOS and Android can reduce development time and improve consistency, branding, and user retention.

Much like React itself, React Native has come to dominate its own niche as the most popular cross-platform development tool last year.

Advantages of React Native

For many teams, React Native has become the default choice in creating mobile apps for both Android and iOS. Some of the key advantages that React Native can deliver to teams include:

  • Cross-platform performance that can reduce time-to-market in real-world development scenarios. The opportunity to reduce the amount of code, time, and resources necessary to create and deploy a functional application to an audience is too good to pass up.
  • A component-based structure applied to a new kind of development. React Native takes the web-based approach to development by utilizing highly reusable components for a better application architecture.
  • React Native includes remarkable development tools to improve production capabilities. Features such as hot reload, web-based tools, and modernized concurrency capabilities create the opportunity for developers to do more to create robust, reliable, and capable mobile applications.
  • The framework benefits from a community and ecosystem of similar size to the one that supports ReactJS. Since the framework’s release in 2015, React Native has grown to be the most popular tool currently available for mobile application development. As a result of this popularity, there is an abundance of resources and support for developers to lean on.

Drawbacks of React Native

Some things for teams to keep in mind when considering React Native should include:

  • The technology is still comparatively new in software terms. Similar to ReactJS, React Native is a project that is constantly being developed and improved. New features, best practices, and available tools are always changing from one month to the next. Developers have a lot to do simply to keep up with the best way to develop React Native applications.
  • While React Native achieves near-native performance for its applications, it can’t quite match native development on outright speed beyond the UI. For applications where outright computational performance outweighs UI/UX considerations a native approach might be better suited to the task.

Key Differences between React vs React Native

When it comes to defining clear and identifiable differences between React Native and React, there are a handful of technical components we can point to that split the two technologies.

Animation

React uses CSS to create animated components in the browser. In comparison, React Native has an animated API to provide on-screen animations.

UI Components

ReactJS apps render HTML on the server or client side to display components. React Native uses JSX to render UI components for its apps.

Rendering

ReactJS changes the virtual DOM to manipulate browser code. React Native implements changes through platform-specific native APIs

Styles

ReactJS makes use of CSS to style its pages while React Native uses StyleSheet exclusively.

Project Scale

ReactJS is an independent library that provides front-end tools for developers. React Native, in comparison, is a complete application framework to implement native applications.

React Native vs React for your next project?

The best solution for your next project depends entirely on the size, type, scale, and future plans. As we've looked at here, each of these two highly capable technologies operates best within their intended use case.

When it comes to creating dynamic, responsive, and highly performant web UIs then there are few tools as capable or as dependable as ReactJS. To build mobile applications that look, feel, and perform at the standards that users expect, React Native is one of the best available technology to reach a cross-platform audience.

Vega IT has some of the industry's leading front-end web developers and mobile app engineers available today to help you find the solution that works best to meet your users on their own terms.

Luka Vučković

Partner & Software Developer

Software engineer with an entrepreneurial mindset. Passionate about UI and UX with an extensive experience in HealthTech, Cyber Security and Marketing.

More posts:

Smashing Conference, Freiburg 2014
Vega IT Mentorship programs - Slađana Miljanović & Sezana Filipović
A two-day workshop with Harry Roberts