React Holiday

Day 20: Components: What do they know? Do they know things?? Let's Find out!

Smart vs. Dumb components is a dichotomy that has dominated the React conversation as long as React has existed.

Here’s the nut: Some components know things. Some don’t.

Knowing components

Yesterday’s Pokemon app only has knowing components. They know the id and how to change that id. They know when, where, and how to fetch new data.

They know things.

Unknowing components

Unknowing components operate on props alone. If the component works strictly with props, it’s an unknowing component.

const Unknowing = props => (
  <div>Hi {}! I didn't know you until now.</div>

Extracting unknowing components

Yesterday’s Pokemon is all tangled. It knows how to fetch and how to present.

We can untangle it by splitting Pokemon into two components.

FetchPokemon (knowing) keeps the smarts required to fetch a Pokemon then gives what it knows to Pokemon (unknowing) through props.

class FetchPokemon extends React.Component {
  state = { character: null }
  componentDidMount() { ... }
  componentWillReceiveProps(nextProps) { ... }

  render() { return <Pokemon character={this.state.character} />) }

Pokemon (unknowing) has no smarts and only renders what it’s given.

const Pokemon = props =>

Why though?


This pattern alone is useless—strictly cosmetic. But—when paired with render props—it’s how you do separation of concerns in React.

Tinker with it

Use the workspace below and explore knowing and unknowing components.

  • Reconstruct the coupled version of Pokemon.
  • Separate Pokemon and FetchPokemon again. Practice makes perfect.
  • See the render prop opportunity? Take it.