React vs React Native: Which is the right choice for you?

Web Development

App Development

React Native

A developer with headphones on working at a desk. There's a whiteboard with notes on it in the background
A developer with headphones on working at a desk. There's a whiteboard with notes on it in the background
A developer with headphones on working at a desk. There's a whiteboard with notes on it in the background

React is a JavaScript framework used by development teams to produce web apps and front-end elements, while React Native is a cross-platform framework designed to help developers build apps for mobile devices which function like ‘native’ apps (those built for that framework, for example, like an app built for iOS using Swift.)

Despite hundreds of searches for ‘React vs React Native’ in Google every month, the comparison is a redundant question. There is no ‘winner’ - they are designed to accomplish a different task.

So in terms of the ‘vs.’ that people search for, the only question that really matters is this:

What are you trying to achieve, and what framework is the right one to help you achieve it?

In this article, we’ll explore the differences, similarities and what you can expect from working with React and React Native.

Understanding React Js: Its History & Why We Use It

React was developed by Facebook to allow them to use JavaScript to enable more interactivity on what was traditionally a fairly static page format. Facebook then released it as open-source software, which allowed other developers to begin using it and expanding on it.

Because Facebook backs the framework, it is extremely well supported and well documented - making it easy for any team that has JavaScript knowledge to pick up and begin working with.

React is a declarative language - developers can tell it what outcomes they want and the framework can interpret this. This makes it far more responsive and faster than imperative frameworks such as jQuery. For our clients, that means we can get a project off the ground and ‘live’ far faster - and we can leverage an existing community of support wherever needed to stay abreast of any security issues or bugs.

React’s support by Facebook and popularity throughout the world cannot be overstated: it is this support that enables it to have a huge library of documentation, strict tests and a community that can help solve problems, fast.

What is React Native?

React Native is a logical next step from React. If a developer can write code in React, it will take them very little time to learn React Native - with most devs able to get to work straight away. The framework allows a team to create native functionality, which means experiences that feel like they’re built for Android or iOS, with a similar approach to React.

Using React Native for app development means a development team’s time is better optimised - they only need to learn one language and can stay up to date with React Native’s constantly updated library and community.

The alternative is to learn the languages required to code native applications, which takes a significant amount of time compared to getting a development team who already knows React into a React Native project in less than two weeks.

How both React and React Native can streamline your project

If a team codes front-end projects in one language and then learn a second language to code apps, such as Xamarin, they are essentially doubling up work for themselves. React and React Native synergise so well because they are so complementary - if a team understands React, they can dive into React Native projects quickly without re-training.

In short, a JavaScript developer can quickly learn both React and React Native - which, from a client perspective, means you have more flexibility in terms of manpower on your project, with more members of the team able to contribute.

The frameworks also help ensure that anyone who works on your product or project obeys the rules set by the framework, cutting down on ‘code smells’ and other issues that can crop up if teams code outside of frameworks, including technical debt.

Perhaps most crucially of all is the ability for both React and React Native to cut down on repetition through the use of community assets. A development team doesn’t have to build your project literally from scratch, they can instead use community code for simple actions such as counters, calculations, commands etc. This means your project can get off the ground and into the market faster, but it’s still fully customisable.

The negatives are minor, but worth mentioning:

React is a fairly ‘heavy’ library - meaning it can add to a page load time as the browser fetches the page information to display on your computer or device. If you were looking for an extremely simple site with little to no interactive elements, then React or any other framework wouldn’t be a good choice.

But you’re here, on KOMODO’s site, so your project is probably not at all that simple. Instead, you’re likely planning to ask us to build something that is interactive, works well for users and is safe and secure - as well as easily maintained and updated when needed.

For that, React and React Native development present the best opportunity for our team to get the job done efficiently, and for you to get a project that is built with systems that are well-documented, well-supported and well understood - making for a more future-proof project.

So really, there’s no “React vs React Native” question to be answered. They’re both simply tools that help developers create great digital experiences - one for the web and another for mobile.

Got an idea? Let us know.

Discover how Komodo Digital can turn your concept into reality. Contact us today to explore the possibilities and unleash the potential of your idea.

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