Using Ant Design as our primary react.js UI framework

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I want to talk about a UI framework we have been using at Nomad Interactive for quite some time now on our react.js applications. We have been separating front-end and back-end parts of our apps for many years and for front-end solutions, we have experimented with angular, vue, and some simpler alternatives but eventually we ended up in react.js world and have been exclusively working with react.js on both web, mobile and desktop products we are creating.

And obviously, we are in need of a powerful, rich UI framework to not bog down on basic stuff like form handling, UI elements for user input, or data representations like data tables, charts… And until the frameworks like angular, react, we have used Twitter bootstrap for years and probably used many different versions of the same thing over and over again…

With React, it’s been more stable for us to pick a solution on, let’s say date, time entries on the forms that we use and support the libraries we love. And in the last year and a half, we have started using Ant Design as our primary UI framework which is built on top of bootstrap. Ant Design framework is built by Alibaba team obviously to empower Alibaba products which may not be at the ant design level when you use alibaba.com or its other network sites, but I’m sure at some point they will be at that level. Regardless, the framework has huge designer, developer talent behind it. Occasionally you see just Chinese parts in the documentation but don’t make that scare you, there is also a huge English-speaking developer community behind it as well.

https://ant.design/

Ant Design is super react.js friendly and everything is very well simplified and streamlined for developers to only worry about the data flow on the app from the back-end APIs through the presenter/controller controllers/classes. We use redux extensively for that.

Eventually, in most cases, we want the same clean and simple representations of UI widgets/elements in a consistent manner. So we find Ant Design’s default state as well as its customization features through simple SCSS or even inherited from package.json through webpack build, which makes things much more atomic designed and configured on our applications.

Ant Design has a huge library of components and well-designed and flexible scaffolding for your layouts.

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We benefited so much as far as the consistency of the application layouts we build and common language between our designer and our developer to stick with ant component’s general interactions and obviously layout and other details. Not that we are not customizing ant components, it’s just much easier for our designer to work with since it’s well designed and documented and it’s also easier for our developers to customize it for the same reasons.

Here is the official documentation starting with basics: https://ant.design/docs/react/introduce. You can also dive into the components library and start playing with some of its more complex examples in the demonstration embedded in the documentation.

3 ways of redirections in react-router

Drive Around The Mountain by pine  watt
by pine watt

We use “react-router” which is a general underlying routing package. And with it, we use react-router-dom which manages routing on web applications together with react-router package.

react-router-dom essentially is a layer on top of the browser’s history API. It tracks URL changes in the browser and maps to a router where it’s defined in a single place on our web apps. Generally named as router or routes.js.

The rest of the app, both programmatically (javascript) or the HTML links uses to root path addresses to request navigation in the router. The rest is handled by react-router.

3 Types of Navigation Requests in React JS Web Applications

1) Links – Replacements of <a> tags in reactjs web apps

We use a special “Link” component from the react-router-dom library that wraps simple links with javascript event handlers and maps directly to react-router where it’s handled as URL change without page refresh.

To use Link component, first import it from react-router-dom package: 

import { Link } from 'react-router-dom'

and to use the component:

<Link to="/">...text, button or other elements....</Link>

Keep in mind that <a> tags are still functional but may have complications on the react-router-dom package to capture if the link is internal. Or external so it’s captured properly by react-router-dom.

2) Redirections as Component in “render” methods

This method is not a good practice in my opinion but it’s a quick solution and in some cases where of your page component is directly resulting a redirection all together which will need to be unmounted/destructed and the application has to navigate to another page component. Like unauthorized access, login page, error page redirection…

Simply import and use the “Redirect” component from the react-router-dom package. Here is a scenario in your component render method that your page is resulting in unauthorized access:

if (!authorized) {
    return <Redirect to="/login" />
}

3) Programmatical redirect from javascript

This is probably the most common scenario where a redirect needed when certain user interaction synchronously or asynchronously results in the redirect. Like clicking a button that calls the API and results in the redirect when it successfully resolves. 

This case is unfortunately not very straightforward. In order to access history API, you need to configure it as a prop to all components from the router. For this, there has to be a shared history instance of the browser. So at the highest level when we define our router using react-router and react-router-dom package wrappers. We need to create and pass the history instance that will enable the “history” prop in the components so we can push new changes or request navigation to previous steps (going back). We will use the “history” package to create a browser history instance.

For the first time set up, after installing the history package from npm, in your app container. Import “createBrowserHistory” method from the history package. Then call it to create an instance of browser history.

import { createBrowserHistory } from 'history'
const history = createBrowserHistory()

After that, where you define redux Provider, before your root “router” definition, wrap your root router component with BrowserRouter (which you may already have for the react-router-dom package), pass the history instance to your BrowserRouter component as a prop:

<Provider store={store}>
    <BrowserRouter history={history}>
        <Route path="/:filter?" component={App} />
    </BrowserRouter>
</Provider>

You’re ready to start manipulating browser history from your components.

In your components, whenever you need to programmatically redirect, deconstruct (or directly use) “history” object from props of the component. Then, to redirect to a new address:

const { history } = this.props
history.push('/dashboard')

This will initiate react-router-dom to listen to the history instance and resolve the route and re-render the whole app container with the component assigned to the route requested.

Some of these methods feel unnatural but sometimes all we need. Good to know different approaches to initiate dom, native or redux routers in different platforms. The approach above is focused on a web-based application but the same/most approaches can be applied to react-native applications as well.