Understanding Dynamic imports, Lazy and Suspense using React Hooks

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An exciting journey

It has been an exciting journey so far with the #2articles1week challenge from HashNode. So much of learning from reading the great articles coming out of it. I believe, all the writers taking part in it, are the Real Winners.

I am proudly at the 4th week(last week) of the challenge and here goes my 9th article as part of it. Hope you enjoy reading it.

What are we going to learn today?

If you are new to the web development, you are probably learning about the code modularity, components, bundling etc. If you are a veteran, you are mostly doing it already. These are few key aspects we should learn and reflect on, irrespective of the library or framework we use for web development.

In this article, I am going to explain the advantages of knowing few techniques from react to do better with,

  • Code Bundling and Splitting.
  • Loading the code dynamically on demand(a-la-carte vs platter meal).
  • Gain on application performance, first load etc.
  • Build the flexibility of plug and play.

We are going to learn about, Dynamic import of react components, usage of React.Lazy and Suspense. You really do not need any prior experiences to follow this article. However having very basic understanding of react will be an advantage.

Shape, Color and Size

Let us build an app to get us some shapes, colors and sizes on button clicks. Here is a screen-shot that shows the three different states of the app when the respective buttons are clicked.

demo.png

Do you want to play with the app now? Not a problem.

The components

Let me introduce three simple components here, ShapeDemo, ColorDemo and SizeDemo shows some random shapes, colors and sizes respectively. I am using Feather icons to create them.

ShapeDemo Component

import React from 'react';
import { Square, Triangle, Circle, Box, Heart, Hexagon } from 'react-feather';

const ShapeDemo = () => {
    return(
        <>
            <h1>Shape Demo</h1>
            <div className="demo">
                <Square color="black" size={128} /> { ' '}
                <Triangle color="black" size={128} /> { ' '}
                <Circle color="black" size={128} /> { ' '}
                <Box color="black" size={128} /> { ' '}
                <Heart color="black" size={128} /> { ' '}
                <Hexagon color="black" size={128} /> { ' '}
            </div>
        </>
    )
};

export default ShapeDemo;

ColorDemo Component

import React from 'react';
import { Circle } from 'react-feather';

const ColorDemo = () => {
    const colorMap = ['#A63578', 'teal', '#000000', 'orange', 'red',
        'green', 'blue', 'purple', 'yellow'];
    return(
        <>
            <h1>Color Demo</h1>
            <div className="demo">
                {
                    colorMap.map((color, index) => (
                        <Circle 
                              color={color} 
                              fill={color} 
                              key={index} 
                              size={128} /> 
                    ))
                }
            </div>
        </>
    )
};

export default ColorDemo;

SizeDemo Component


import React from 'react';
import { Circle } from 'react-feather';

const SizeDemo = () => {
    const sizeMap = ['16', '32', '48', '64', '96', '128', '144'];

    return(
        <>
            <h1>Size Demo</h1>
            <div className="demo">
                {
                    sizeMap.map((size, index) => (
                        <Circle 
                              color="black" 
                              fill="black" 
                              key={index} 
                              size={size} /> 
                    ))
                }
            </div>
        </>
    )
};

export default SizeDemo;

These are simple react components that we are going to import and render with the respective button clicks.

Explicit Import and Eager Loading

One certain way we can go about it is, we import all the three components into the main component(say, App) and achieve the aimed functionalities.

  • First the imports
     import ShapeDemo from './demo/shape-demo';
     import ColorDemo from './demo/color-demo';
     import SizeDemo from './demo/size-demo';
    
  • Manage a state to show respective demo type.
     const [demo, setDemo] = useState();
    
  • Lay out the buttons
     <Button onClick={() => selectDemo('shape')}>Shape Demo</Button>
     <Button onClick={() => selectDemo('color')}>Color Demo</Button>
     <Button onClick={() => selectDemo('size')}>Size Demo</Button>
    
     const selectDemo = type => {
        setDemo(type);
     }
    
  • Finally, render the components based on the selected types
     <div className="demo-ground">
          { demo === 'shape' && <ShapeDemo /> }
          { demo === 'color' && <ColorDemo /> }
          { demo === 'size' && <SizeDemo /> }
     </div>
    
    The complete source file can be seen from here.

This approach works well and we get the desired outcome. So, where is the problem?

Here are the problems:

  • What if, I want add two more demos to it, i.e, VolumeDemo and MeasuringDemo? We have to change the code in App.js file to import both the components. Also we need to have couple more conditions in render like,

      { demo === 'volume' && <VolumeDemo /> }
      { demo === 'measuring' && <MeasuringDemo /> }
    

    This is not so cool. To keep this code so open for change for every requirement addition is not smart enough.

  • We are importing all these demo components explicitly as in we are loading them eagerly all at once.

    Eager loading loads one or more resources as soon as the code is executed. It also involves pre-loading of related entities(components) referenced by a resource.

    Now wait, this is more problematic. More the app code grows, the bundle grows and that means, the initial loading time of the app will grow proportionally. Can't I just load the code needed in the beginning and load the rest on demand? Yes, that's where the Dynamic Import and Lazy Loading comes into picture. We will discuss that in a while.

Here is a quick demonstration that, with eager loading we do not load anything on demand. Observe that, since all loaded(resource fetched) at the first load of the app, each of the button clicks do not load anything. No on demand loading(or fetching of the resources).

eager.gif

Dynamic Import and Lazy Loading

As we have seen the problem with explicit import and eager loading, we need something to help us with the bundle size and initial load to a limit. React introduces the concept of Code Splitting which can help us in splitting the bundle generated by the tools like Webpack, Rollup etc.

Here is a quote from react doc on code splitting:

Code-splitting your app can help you “lazy-load” just the things that are currently needed by the user, which can dramatically improve the performance of your app. While you haven’t reduced the overall amount of code in your app, you’ve avoided loading code that the user may never need, and reduced the amount of code needed during the initial load.

Now we will be changing the code of our app such that, we can take advantages of this concept fully.

Dynamic imports and React.Lazy

In this version of the app, we will be fetching the demo component information from a store(say, json file, a db table etc) and import them dynamically. Here is a simple json file that, describes the meta data information like, component id, display name and the file name(or the component name).

{
    "data": [
        {
            "id": "shape",
            "name": "Shape Demo",
            "file": "shape-demo"
        },
        {
            "id": "color",
            "name": "Color Demo",
            "file": "color-demo"
        },
        {
            "id": "size",
            "name": "Size Demo",
            "file": "size-demo"
    ]
}

We will remove all the explicit imports done before,

code_diff.png

Add the code for dynamic imports,

const importDemo = file =>
  lazy(() =>
    import(`./demo/${file}`)
      .catch(() => console.log('Error in importing'))
);

Few things are going on here,

  • We have a function called, importDemo which takes a file as an argument. This file argument represents the selected demo based on the button clicked.
  • Next the lazy(or React.lazy) function lets us render a dynamic import as a regular component. As you see, we are now importing the component placed under the demo folder dynamically.

React.lazy takes a function that must call a dynamic import(). This must return a Promise which resolves to a module with a default export containing a React component.

So Before:

  import ShapeDemo from './demo/shape-demo';

After:

 const ShapeDemo = React.lazy(() => import('./ShapeDemo'));

This will automatically load the bundle containing the ShapeDemo when this component is first rendered.

Handling the button clicks

Remember the demo meta data json? It has all the details of the demo components? We have imported it as,

import * as meta from './meta/demo-data.json';

The buttons can be setup by iterating through the meta information,

mataDemoData.map((demoData, index) => (
     <React.Fragment key = {index}>
          <Button 
              variant="outline-info" 
              onClick={() => selectDemo(demoData.file)}>{demoData.name}
          </Button> {' '}
    </React.Fragment>
     ))

The selectDemo() function filters out the other demo and select the one based on the respective button click,

const selectDemo = file => {
    const filtered = mataDemoData.filter(elem => {
      return elem.file === file;
    });
    loadDemo(filtered);
}

The loadDemo() method does the trick by invoking importDemo() method(one that uses lazy for dynamic import) we explained above.

async function loadDemo(filtered) {
    const promise =
      filtered.map(async demo => {
        const Demo = await importDemo(demo.file);
        return <Demo key={demo.id} />;
      });

    Promise.all(promise).then(setSelectedDemo);
  }

Did you notice that? We now import the demo dynamically and we do not care to change this code a bit if there is a new demo requirement added in future.

Suspense

Alright, so we are good with the dynamic imports and the lazy loading so far. How about rendering it? Let us welcome, Suspense. A lazy component can be rendered inside a Suspense component. It allows us to show some fallback content (such as a loading indicator) while we’re waiting for the lazy component to load.

<div className="demo-ground">
  <React.Suspense fallback='Loading demo, hang on...'>
     {selectedDemo}
  </React.Suspense>
</div>

With that, we have now solved multiple problems:

  • No more tight coupling with the components imported and rendered. The demo components are now pluggable.
  • The bundle is now broken down into chunks and gets loaded only when it is required. See the changed behavior below. Notice, the chunks are getting loaded(resource fetched) only when the respective buttons are clicked. Also a loading indicator with the fallback appears until the component loads. lazy.gif

Conclusion

I admit, it was a long one. But if you have made it so far, it is a huge accomplishment for me as the author of this article. I just want to say,

thaks.gif


If it was useful to you, please Like/Share so that, it reaches others as well. To get e-mail notification on my latest posts, please subscribe to my blog by hitting the Subscribe button at the top of the page. You can also follow me on twitter @tapasadhikary.

Bolaji Ayodeji's photo

Really insightful article, will share this!

Diana Hernández Soler's photo

Loved it! So nicely explained. I wanted to do some tests with the new features like SupenseList and useTransition, although it is still unstable, cause' it seems super powerful. Have you tried it? Thanks for this, really, so helpfull.

Tapas Adhikary's photo

Wow, Thanks Diana Hernández Soler! Appreciate.

features like SupenseList and useTransition

Yes, I have read through. Want to do some more hand-on and plan an article on it.

Victoria Lo's photo

Loved it. Bookmarked it. Will re-read over the weekend :)