Get Native with React Native: Embrace the Future of Hybrid App Development
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Get Native with React Native: Embrace the Future of Hybrid App Development

Mobile Apps are seeing an exponential growth as mobile devices of diverse features and sizes on the highly popular Android and iOS platforms are flooding the world markets. Developing and maintaining Apps efficiently is a complicated exercise in the volatile environment of multiple operating systems coupled with their frequent software updates and fixes. It is critical to choose the right application development framework so that you can stay in step with significant periodic updates.

React Native is an exciting development that has relieved the developers from the rigors of developing hybrid or cross-platform development by leveraging their existing JavaScript expertise and sharing code efficiently across multiple platforms. React Native exquisitely balances user experience and application quality. So, what are the contours of the React Native App development framework? How does it revolutionize the App development process? We, at NIIT Technologies are excited to share what we have learnt from our extensive experience of deploying React Native for several clients.

What is React Native?

React Native is an open source cross-platform mobile application development framework that has evolved from React – a JavaScript code library for web development by Facebook and Instagram. The key principle of React Native is that APIs are run in a JavaScript VM while the App User Interface (UI) uses the native mobile OS building blocks. Any platform-specific libraries can be used in React Native code using a bridge. Hence, React Native achieves superior App performance while retaining the look and feel of the native mobile platform based on its native rendering of the UI.

Since React Native is now released to open source community, it can extend beyond Android and iOS to other major mobile platforms in future.

How Does React Native Score Over Other Hybrid App Platforms?

React Native achieves its three-pronged focus of DOM (Document Object Model) abstraction, simplified programming capability and superior App performance through features that enable agile development supported by algorithms and tools that lead to optimum performance.

Faster Dev Cycles: React Native strives to provide the best possible developer experience by reducing the time needed for seeing the effect of any code changes. It achieves this through features such as Instant Code Updates and Hot Reloading. Instant Code Updates obviate the need for recompiling code by loading your App’s JavaScript code instantly. Hot Reloading works by refreshing only the changed files while retaining the state of the App so that any paused activity can be resumed instantaneously.

Diff Algorithm and Flexbox: Since the UI is declaratively rendered based on state, React Native uses a Diffing algorithm that sends the minimum number of changes necessary over the bridge to the native platform. This happens in a background thread keeping the UI thread-free. Though it is not supported even by native platform SDKs, it is the default feature in React Native.

On the other hand, Flexbox for Layout adjusts the views automatically based on device size without any manual declaration or sizing at development time. The by-product of this feature is concise code that is easy to follow and maintain. A new device size can be supported without any code modification.

Avoid Bottlenecks by Following these Best Practices

Using a right choice of components, conducting frequent code reviews and adopting the following best practices, ensure that any bottlenecks are identified early. They make the App development process much smoother despite the complexities posed by frequent releases, multiple platforms and diverse device range.

Basic App Development Practices

  • Run the profiler early in your code to catch any performance and leakage issues
  • Incorporate instruments during the initial stages to find issues early
  • Run the profiler always in ‘Device’ instead of on a ‘Chrome Simulator’
  • Run the performance test on the oldest supported device
  • Run the profiler in release mode instead of in debug mode to assess and experience performance more accurately

Render Cycles: Speed up render cycles by maintaining appropriate default settings so that DOM is updated or view is re-rendered only when absolutely needed

Animation API: The available stock animations like screen transitions perform better than custom animations provided by third party libraries. Custom animations tend to slow down performance while draining the battery as well.

Navigation: Though there are many choices for implementing ‘Navigation’ in your App, they should be chosen to minimize latency in the final implementation and any adverse impact on UX. We have found that react-native-navigation (Native implementation), react-navigation (JavaScript implementation) and react-native-router-flux (JavaScript implementation) provide the best UX.

Frequent Releases: As React Native evolves fast, the libraries are constantly updated. Developers need to make sure that their Apps are updated as well in step with the latest version of React Native and its libraries.

React Native is the Future

React Native is an efficient framework for application development on both mobile and web. In case of mobile App development, the ability to share code and business logic across platforms saves overall effort and cost of development and maintenance. React Native holds the promise of being the future of hybrid App development because of its cross-platform capability, allowance for Apps to render natively, superior technology and extensive third-party plug-in compatibility. There has been incredible progress in the past few years with React Native becoming the hybrid mobile App development platform of choice for JavaScript users. Support for it will no doubt continue to grow in the years to come. If you like to know a more in-depth review of our experience with React Native, please see here.

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