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`why-did-you-update` is your new best friend

Try as you might to make your components as performant as possible — and no, that doesn't mean making all your components PureComponents — it's quite possible you missed a few spots. Why not accept a helping hand from your new friend, why-did-you-update?

why-did-you-update is a small library that you wrap over React while you're developing that lets you know when a component has re-rendered uselessly.

Setting it up

You install it with NPM:

npm install --save why-did-you-update

...or Yarn, if you prefer:

yarn add why-did-you-update

Then, in your code, you call it on your React library:

import React from 'react';
const { whyDidYouUpdate } = require('why-did-you-update');

But be careful! You don't want to ship this into production, so you'll need to tell you're in development mode one way or another, and only enable it as necessary:

import React from 'react';
if (process.env.NODE_ENV !== 'production') {
const { whyDidYouUpdate } = require('why-did-you-update');

With these few lines of code, your React is all wired up for why-did-you-update to let you know in your browser's console whenever a component can potentially be optimized.

Reading the output

  1. Do something in your app to trigger a change;
  2. Observe a river of components flowing in your browser's console;
  3. Go through the five stages of grief in quick succession.

Confronting your less than ideal job of ensuring your components don't re-render all over the place can feel both terrifying and liberating, but mostly the latter: it ultimately gives you a chance to squeeze out more performance out of your app! (That's what I always tell myself.)

Here are some of the things why-did-you-update lets you know about about your components that have re-rendered

Even though none of their props or state changed

Value is the same (equal by reference). Avoidable re-render!

When props or state as a whole stays the same, meaning the new reference points to the same object as teh old one, but the component still re-renders, consider using a PureComponent if appropriate.

When their props / state changed, but not really

Value did not change. Avoidable re-render!

Something in the props or state has changed its reference, although on a deep rather than shallow compare, it turns out it still contains the same data.

Numbers, strings and the such will always be equal themselves:

1 === 1; // true
'foo' === 'foo'; // true
null === null; // true
undefined === undefined; // true

Others may have the "same" value but a different reference, in particular objects and arrays:

[] === []; // false
{ name: 'Dan' } === { name: 'Dan' }; // false

In the case of objects, see whether it makes sense to spread out the object to individual props rather than passing it as a single prop.

The library helpfully points out which of the properties are deep-equal but now shallow-equal.

When the only thing that changed are functions

Changes are in functions only. Possibly avoidable re-render?

Functions are another thing that may trip up our performance enhancements. Since there are legitimate reasons for passing a new function to a component, the suggestion is phrased with a question mark. But most of the time, new functions are accidental and can be fixed.

First off, make sure you're not bind-ing a function in place:

<Component onClick={this.handleClick.bind(this)} />

...and in the more general sense look for ways to cache the reference to that function, if it does not fundamentally change between renders.

What it can't tell you

While why-did-you-update already offers you a lot to work with, it has some caveats:

Changes in props or state that don't have an effect on the DOM output

Another thing that the library can't identify yet is when the component re-renders due to a change in the props or state, but the component's DOM stays the same.

It might be a sign you're putting things in props or state that you actually don't need for rendering the component. If that's the case, you can prune them out or store them in a different place.