Sunday 29 October 2017

Stack Evolution part 2

Referring back to my go-to stack from part 1 of this series:
Javascript JQuery, Moment.js, etc
"Presentation" JSON/AJAX HTML/LESS
Controllers Play (Reactive, Async)
Services Play - RESTful API calls Mondrian
Persistence MongoDB (via ReactiveMongo)

I am simply delighted with the performance, scalability, maintainability and reliability of the entire stack from the Controllers layer down - i.e. Scala, Play and Mongo. (Incidentally, I've been running these apps on Heroku with MongoDB provided by MLab, and they have been similarly excellent). So that will not be changing any time soon.

What is no longer tenable is the mixture of HTML (including form submissions), LESS and per-page Javascript. At the top of the table, (i.e. front-end technologies), there is just too much awesomeness happening in this space to ignore. To me, React.js is the current culmination of the best thinking in the front-end world. The way every concept is the most reduced-down thing that could work (as opposed to the competition's kitchen-sink approach) really makes it a pleasure to learn and use.

Currently I'm absolutely loving Create-React-App as a brilliant bootstrapper that continues to add value even once you're up and running. It's got finely-honed and sensible defaults for things like Webpack, is upgradeable in-place, is beautifully documented and is almost psychic in always offering good suggestions or output as to what it's just done, or what can be done next. I currently have no plans to "eject" Create-React-App from any of the front-end projects I'm working on - it's just too useful to keep around.

Into this mix I've also added React Cosmos - this is a "component showcase" system that allows a super-rapid way to see all of the possible "states" of a given React component. The React props that a component needs are specified in fixture files, and Cosmos supplies a nice web UI to browse around and check that changes made to a component are working well and looking good in all of its potential states. It works excellently with the hot-reloading facilities of Create-React-App and really helps nail down component interfaces.

Another element I'm using to try and keep front-end complexity in check is Styled Components. Go have a read of their Github page for the full run-down but basically, I can get the best of both worlds with global CSS used where appropriate, keeping it DRY, together with individual components that won't mess with each other. It also massively helps in stopping the "mental CSS selector" problems during refactoring as observed by Ryan Florence. Extremely cool.

So to summarise, here's my 2017-and-beyond software stack:

Javascript React.js (with Cosmos)
"Presentation" JSON/AJAX JSX/CSS/Styled Components
Controllers Play (Reactive, Async)
Services Play - RESTful API calls Mondrian
Persistence MongoDB (via ReactiveMongo)

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