React Essentials: What I Wish I Knew When Starting Out

April 25, 2023

React has become a popular JavaScript library for building modern, interactive web applications. If you are planning to learn React, congratulations! You are about to embark on a journey that will give you the skills to create dynamic, reusable UI components. However, as a beginner, there are certain things I wish I had known before I started learning React. In this post, I will share some of those insights and hopefully help you avoid some common pitfalls.

The Files Folder

One of the first things you’ll notice when starting a new React project is the files folder. It can be intimidating at first, but understanding the purpose of each file can make things a lot easier. The app.js or index.js file is typically the entry point of your application. It’s where you’ll import and render your main component. The index.html file is where you’ll add the root element where your React app will be rendered. The public folder contains static files like images or fonts that your application might need. Understanding the role of each file will help you navigate your project more efficiently.


One of the most important concepts in React is components. Components are reusable UI elements that can be composed together to build complex interfaces. There are two types of components in React: functional and class components. Functional components are simpler and easier to test, while class components have additional features like state and lifecycle methods. When building your React application, it’s important to break it down into smaller, reusable components. This makes your code easier to understand, maintain, and test.


Styling React components can be tricky, especially if you’re used to writing plain CSS. One way to style your components is by using inline styles. However, this can make your code messy and harder to maintain. Another option is to use CSS Modules or styled components. These libraries allow you to write CSS that’s scoped to a specific component, making it easier to manage and reuse. As a beginner, I wish I had known about these options sooner.

Props, States, and Hooks

Props, states, and hooks are fundamental concepts in React. Props are used to pass data down to child components. States are used to manage a component’s internal data and update the UI accordingly. Hooks are functions that allow you to add state and other React features to functional components. Understanding how these concepts work will give you the ability to create more complex and dynamic components. If I could go back in time, I would go straight to the React docs and study a lot before my first create-react-app!

Learning React can be challenging, but it’s also a rewarding experience. As a beginner, it’s important to understand the basics before diving into more complex topics. Understanding the files folder, styling options, and fundamental concepts like props, states, and hooks will give you a solid foundation to build upon. With practice and persistence, you’ll be able to create amazing, interactive web applications with React. Good luck on your journey!

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