React rendering state

Angelos Chalaris · Jun 16, 2020 ·

React, Render

React rendering

Context API

React's Context API provides a way to pass data through the component tree without using props, but should not be used for state management as it requires manual updating. Any component inside a context's Provider can access the data in the context instance using a Consumer component or, for function components only, the useContext hook.

When a new reference is passed to a context Provider it will cause any connected components to update. React will look for any components consuming the context in the component tree and update them to reflect the change in the context's value. Passing a new object to a context Provider is essentially a new reference, as the context holds a single value (in this case an object).

Context optimization

By default, any update to a parent component that renders a context Provider will cause all of the child components to re-render regardless of changes in the context, due to React's rendering process. To avoid re-rendering child components when a parent changes, memoization can be used, which will cause React to skip the whole subtree of a skipped component.

When the context is updated, React additionally checks for components consuming the context down the subtree. This allows context-consuming components under a memoized parent that does not re-render to consume the updated context and render as necessary. After a context-consuming component re-renders, React will keep on recursively rendering its child components as usual.

Oftentimes, it's a good idea to memoize the component immediately under a context Provider. That way updates to the parent component will not cause a re-render for the whole subtree, but only the components that consume the context.


React-Redux provides bindings for Redux, a state container for JavaScript applications, and works a little differently from React's Context API. One of the key differences is that React-Redux only re-renders components that need to render, due to the fact that components subscribed to the Redux store read the latest store state, diff the values and force re-render only if the relevant data has changed, while React is not involved at all in the subscription callback process.

While this most likely means that fewer components will have to re-render compared to using a context, React-Redux always executes its mapStateToProps and useSelector functions for every connected component in the tree whenever the store state is updated. These calculations are usually less expensive than React's rendering, but if there are costly calculations performed or new references returned when they shouldn't, it might become problematic.

React-Redux optimization

React-Redux provides two ways of connecting to its store, performing the necessary work and returning the combined props:

  • connect (any component): Higher-order component (HOC) that wraps any given component
  • useSeletor (function components): Hook called inside function components

connect acts a lot like memoizing a React component (i.e. using React.PureComponent or React.memo()), updating the wrapped component only when the combined props have changed. This means that passing new references from the parent or the passed functions will still cause a re-render. Components wrapped with connect usually read smaller pieces of data from the store state, are less likely to re-render due to that and usually affect fewer components down their tree.

On the other hand, useSelector has no way of stopping a component from rendering when its parent component renders. When exclusively using useSelector, larger parts of the component tree will re-render due to Redux store updates than they would with connect, since there aren't other components using connect to prevent them from doing so. You can use React.memo() as necessary, to optimize this behavior by preventing unnecessary re-rendering.

Image credit: Mahdiar Mahmoodi on Unsplash

Recommended snippets

  • Take a deeper dive into React's rendering process and understand the basics behind the popular JavaScript framework.

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  • Testing Redux-connected components with React Testing Library is a very common scenario. Learn how to use this simple utility function to speed up your testing.