Pure React

Let's start by writing pure React. No compile step. No JSX. No Babel. No Webpack or Parcel. Just some JavaScript on a page.

Let's start your project. Create your project directory. I'm going to call mine adopt-me since we're going to be building a pet adoption app throughout this course. Create an index.html and put it into a src/ directory inside of your project folder. In index.html put:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">

  <meta charset="UTF-8">
  <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
  <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="ie=edge">
  <link rel="stylesheet" href="./style.css">
  <title>Adopt Me</title>

  <div id="root">not rendered</div>
  <script src="https://unpkg.com/react@16.8.4/umd/react.development.js"></script>
  <script src="https://unpkg.com/react-dom@16.8.4/umd/react-dom.development.js"></script>
    // Your code is going to go here


Now open this file in your browser. On Mac, hit ⌘ (command) + O in your favorite browser, and on Windows and Linux hit CTRL + O to open the Open prompt. Navigate to wherever you saved the file and open it. You should see a line of text saying "not rendered".

  • Pretty standard HTML5 document. If this is confusing, I teach another course called Intro to Web Dev that can help you out.
  • We're adding a root div. We'll render our React app here in a sec. It doesn't have to be called root, just a common practice.
  • We have two script tags.

    • The first is the React library. This library is the interface of how to interact with React; all the methods (except one) will be via this library. It contains no way of rendering itself though; it's just the API.
    • The second library is the rendering layer. Since we're rendering to the browser, we're using React DOM. There are other React libraries like React Native, React 360 (formerly React VR), A-Frame React, React Blessed, and others. You need both script tags. The order is not important.
  • The last script tag is where we're going to put our code. You don't typically do this but I wanted to start as simple as possible. This script tag must come after the other two.
  • You'll need to grab the CSS file (I wrote it so you don't have to.) Download it here and put it in your src directory.

In the last script tag, put the following.

const App = () => {
  return React.createElement(
    React.createElement("h1", {}, "Adopt Me!")

ReactDOM.render(React.createElement(App), document.getElementById("root"));

This is about the simplest React app you can build.

  • The first thing we do is make our own component, App. React is all about making components. And then taking those components and making more components out of those.
  • There are two types of components, function components and class components. This is a function component. We'll see class components shortly.
  • A function component must return markup (which is what React.createElement generates.)
  • These component render functions have to be fast. This function is going to be called a lot. It's a hot code path.
  • Inside of the render function, you cannot modify any sort of state. Put in functional terms, this function must be pure. You don't know how or when the function will be called so it can't modify any ambient state.
  • React.createElement creates one instance of some component. If you pass it a string, it will create a DOM tag with that as the string. We used h1 and div, those tags are output to the DOM. If we put x-some-custom-element, it'll output that (so web components are possible too.)
  • The second empty object (you can put null too) is attributes we're passing to the tag or component. Whatever we put in this will be output to the element (like id or style.)
  • ReactDOM.render is what takes our rendered App component and puts in the DOM (in our case we're putting it in the root element.)
  • Notice we're using React.createElement with App as a parameter to ReactDOM.render. We need an instance of App to render out. App is a class of components and we need to render one instance of a class. That's what React.createElement does: it makes an instance of a class.

Now that we've done that, let's separate this out from a script tag on the DOM to its own script file (best practice.) Make a new file in your src directory called App.js and cut and paste your code into it.

Modify your code so it looks like:

const Pet = () => {
  return React.createElement("div", {}, [
    React.createElement("h1", {}, "Luna"),
    React.createElement("h2", {}, "Dog"),
    React.createElement("h2", {}, "Havanese")

const App = () => {
  return React.createElement("div", {}, [
    React.createElement("h1", {}, "Adopt Me!"),

ReactDOM.render(React.createElement(App), document.getElementById("root"));
  • To make an element have multiple children, just pass it an array of elements.
  • We created a second new component, the Pet component. This component represents one pet. When you have distinct ideas represented as markup, that's a good idea to separate that it into a component like we did here.
  • Since we have a new Pet component, we can use it multiple times! We just use multiple calls to React.createElement.
  • In createElement, the last two parameters are optional. Since Pet has no props or children (it could, we just didn't make it use them yet) we can just leave them off.
  • If you're seeing console warnings about keys, ignore it for now.

Okay so we can have multiple pets but it's not a useful component yet since not all pets will be Havanese dogs named Luna (even though I have a Havanese dog named Luna.) Let's make it a bit more complicated.

const Pet = props => {
  return React.createElement("div", {}, [
    React.createElement("h1", {}, props.name),
    React.createElement("h2", {}, props.animal),
    React.createElement("h2", {}, props.breed)

const App = () => {
  return React.createElement("div", {}, [
    React.createElement("h1", {}, "Adopt Me!"),
    React.createElement(Pet, {
      name: "Luna",
      animal: "Dog",
      breed: "Havanese"
    React.createElement(Pet, {
      name: "Pepper",
      animal: "Bird",
      breed: "Cockatiel"
    React.createElement(Pet, { name: "Doink", animal: "Cat", breed: "Mix" })

ReactDOM.render(React.createElement(App), document.getElementById("root"));

Now we have a more flexible component that accepts props from its parent. Props are variables that a parent (App) passes to its children (the instances of Pet.) Now each one can be different! Now that is far more useful than it was since this Pet component can represent not just Luna, but any Pet. This is the power of React! We can make multiple, re-usable components. We can then use these components to build larger components, which in turn make up yet-larger components. This is how React apps are made!


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