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Ways to define components

Status: outdated

This article needs a rewrite. At the time, function components did not have many of the features available to class components. In the meantime, the useState and useEffect hooks were introduced, and React.memo() is equivalent to React.PureComponent.

All React components do one thing: based on some input that they get via props they return a piece of UI in the form of an element tree. Data that goes in gets baked into something you see on your screen.

A component can be:

Plain functions take the set of props as their only parameter and return an element tree:

const Button = props => <button>{props.label}</button>;

Classes that extend React.Component have their render() method called to return an element tree. They read the current props from the class instance's this.props property:

class Button extends React.Component {
render() {
return <button>{this.props.label}</button>;

In terms of performance, we need to be mindful of how React decides to re-render components:

(Under the hood, React.PureComponent is just React.Component with a predefined shouldComponentUpdate method that does a shallow comparison of the props and state to decide whether the component needs to be re-rendered.)

With that in mind:

Use plain functions for simple components that are not used extensively; just because they're stateless, it doesn't mean they're pure components, or that you benefit from the performance enhancements of React.PureComponent.

(In the future, React may implement optimizations for functional components to address this.)

Extend React.PureComponent when your component depends on simple props, and has a simple state, and you need better performance.

Extend React.Component in all other cases. Consider implementing a shouldComponentUpdate method to avoid re-rendering each time the props or state changes.

Note that when using PureComponent or shouldComponentUpdate you'll benefit from using immutable objects.

See also this response from Stack Overflow and be aware of some caveats around React.PureComponent.