React and Node.js: A Combination for Development

React and Node.js logos

Using different frameworks to create frontend and backend parts is not peculiar to programming. Anyway, does it make the engineering process more efficient if these instruments are based on the same programming language? For instance, React.js and Node.js are both based on JavaScript and can be used in combination for full-stack development.

A statistic showing most used web frameworks among developers worldwide, as of 2022: Node.js 47.12%, React.js 42.62%
Most used web frameworks among developers worldwide, as of 2022 (graphic by Statista)

In this context, the core difference between React.js and Node.js is their purpose: one is used for client-side development, whereas another is used for server-side development. Both are leaders of the most used web frameworks among developers list. Next, we’ll explain their specific features and discuss the types of projects in which you can use their combination.

Node.js explained

Node.js features: open-source, cross-platform, asynchronous, non-blocking I/O, event-driven
Concepts describing Node.js

Supported by: Node.js Foundation

Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform runtime environment operating on the V8 JavaScript engine that executes code outside a browser. It is based on asynchronous event-driven programming with non-blocking input-output (I/O). Since 2009, it came a long way from being used in web development to being applied to every aspect of software creation. Let’s further explore concepts describing Node.js.

  • Cross-platform. It operates on Linux, OSX, and Windows.
  • Runtime environment. Node is not a programming language but more of a software executing programs or applications written in JavaScript.
  • Asynchronous. Node.js can run tasks simultaneously. If there is a task requiring time, Node passes it off to a background worker thread, which then deals with the operation. Once a long-time-running operation is completed, the single thread works with its results.
  • Event-driven. Most of its core modules are built around event-driven architecture. Whenever a new request hits the server, the server emits a named event that causes corresponding functions to be called. Simply put, the event-driven architecture allows web products to efficiently respond to user actions.
  • Non-blocking I/O. Its libraries are created with non-blocking paradigms. It means you don’t have to wait until one operation finishes to proceed to further execution.

When to use Node.js?

Node was designed to create network applications. It suits for building real-time chats and tools, IoT, and streaming apps.

Pros and cons of using Node.js

As we said earlier, Node.js uses asynchronous transmission. Therefore, the program can have many ongoing operations that terminate whenever they’re completed, while the processor is free to perform other tasks. In terms of performance, it means that the runtime environment is good for creating network-intensive apps which require serving many clients simultaneously.

Cross-platform development is easier with Node as well. Thanks to its modules, you don’t need to recompile the code for every platform, just bundle app components as executable files for different operating systems.

Speaking of the cons, this technology experiences frequent API changes causing issues in maintenance. To avoid breaking the code, a developer working with Node should keep an eye on recent updates. Another disadvantage is a lack of library support resulting in difficulties with finding a library to complete a particular task. And keep in mind that Node.js is not suitable for heavy computational tasks.

Find other articles on web development with Node.js in Stories and articles

React.js explained

React.js features: open-source, declarative UI, flexibility, better performance, reusable components
Concepts describing React.js

Supported by: Meta Platforms Inc.

It is an open-source and component-based frontend library for creating user interfaces (UI) that uses a declarative paradigm. Let’s explain the underlined core features of React.js.

  • Component-based frontend library. React.js is neither a framework nor a programming language; it is a library that stores basic components commonly utilized for building interfaces. To answer the question if React.js is backend or frontend, the latter is the answer.
  • Declarative paradigm. It modifies a UI with virtual DOM whenever an update is needed and simply adjusts to your data changes. From the user’s perspective, it looks like the same screen with slightly different elements, e.g. a changing number of likes on Instagram.

When to use React.js?

The library is used to create interfaces for web applications, apps driven by iOS and Android, canvas applications, TV apps, and simple desktop apps.

Pros and cons of using React

React is a popular library, and there are many ready-to-use solutions available, which reduce development time. And you can create your own reusable components to quickly make a UI. The technology has enough flexibility for scaling and adding new features, which makes it suitable for MVPs.

The only disadvantage of React is that it’s not very convenient for SEO as it is based on JavaScript. However, SEO doesn’t always play a great role. For instance, at Ronas IT, we utilized it to build interfaces for the UK Retreats travel web app offering stays across the UK by subscription. Because the app had closed access, no arguments were preventing us from using React.js in that case.

Three screens of UK Retreats web application
Screens of the UK Retreats web app

Combination of both

Most frequently, Node.js and React are put together in the discussion of full-stack programming, implying they are used for backend and frontend development. How do they exactly operate in a combination?

Node.js and React for single-page web app development

The combination of these technologies is perfectly suitable for single-page applications. The reason is rapid loading. Server-side rendering with Node.js provides execution of the code without the use of a browser. Since asynchronous operations are held on the server, it takes one request to deliver the update.

Web apps with real-time data

By combining React with Node.js, you can get a free data exchange between client and server. Imagine working with your email opened in a tab. You get a notification on a new email as soon as it’s sent without having to update your page. For services relying on real-time data streaming, the combination is a perfect one.

Logos of the MERN stack
Illustration of the MERN stack: MongoDB, Express, React, Node

Robust web apps

The most efficient way to build a robust web app is to use a stack including Node.js and React.js which is abbreviated as MERN: MongoDB, Express and you name the last letters. The first is a NoSQL document-oriented database, the second is a Node.js framework simplifying APIs and helping in adding new features. By using them together, you can make robust web applications with a large amount of interactivity built into the frontend.

Reasons for full-stack web app development

We’ve listed the ways to apply the combination. However, let’s give some other reasons why one should use React.js with Node.js rather than other technologies.

Benefits of using a combination of React.js and Node.js
Benefits of combining Node and React
  • Single programming language. You can hire a web developer who knows just JavaScript language instead of searching for more people to develop backend and frontend parts with different frameworks.
  • Great performance. Node.js is a truly resilient web server. Once you decide to scale your app and have to deal with a lot of traffic, the runtime environment will save time spent on I/O and CPU problems.
  • Library instead of a framework. Some may argue that using a framework gets you started quickly. But the difference lies in the approach, a library gives tools to build an interface the way you want it to be, whereas a framework makes a developer follow the assumptions of what is better. As they say, frameworks are opinionated.

To know more about our approaches to creating interfaces, go to Design.

Questions left

We’ve provided you with a brief overview of React, Node, and their combination. The following is some additional info you might find useful.

What is the difference between the use of React.js and React Native?

Even though these two terms sound similar, they mean different things. As we’ve mentioned, React.js is a library based on JavaScript allowing you to create web interfaces, whereas React Native is a framework for creating native mobile apps by using only a JavaScript codebase. They share the same logic and code. Therefore, React.js can power React Native development.

Speaking of Node.js, what is the difference between an environment and a framework?

A runtime environment executes commands and doesn’t guide you in the engineering process. It is designed to write, compile, and run the code. Whereas, a framework is a set of libraries that provides you with predictable outcomes. For example, Express is a framework that has a set of features you can run on a Node.js runtime environment to create scalable network applications.

What was the original purpose of introducing React?

Why did Facebook build another library when there were so many of them? At first, they used a client-side imperative model to manage the view, which led to cascading updates in case of any slight change in the code. One update caused another, and soon it became harder to handle the updates. Facebook realized it would be much easier to have templates to cope with changes. And that’s how they came up with the declarative model of React rather than the imperative one.

Should you have any questions left or want to start building your own web product with us, find out more on the Service page or go to Custom software solutions to know about development services.

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