Container/Presentational Pattern

Enforce separation of concerns by separating the view from the application logic


In React, one way to enforce separation of concerns

is by using the Container/Presentational pattern. With this pattern, we can separate the view from the application logic.


Let's say we want to create an application that fetches 6 dog images, and renders these images on the screen.

DogImages.js
DogImagesContainer.js
import React from "react";
export default function DogImages({ dogs }) {
return dogs.map((dog, i) => <img src={dog} key={i} alt="Dog" />);
}

Ideally, we want to enforce separation of concerns

by separating this process into two parts:

  1. Presentational Components: Components that care about how data is shown to the user. In this example, that's the rendering the list of dog images.
  2. Container Components: Components that care about what data is shown to the user. In this example, that's fetching the dog images.

Fetching the dog images deals with application logic, whereas displaying the images only deals with the view.


Presentational Component

A presentational component receives its data through props. Its primary function is to simply display the data it receives the way we want them to, including styles, without modifying that data.

Let's take a look at the example that displays the dog images. When rendering the dog images, we simply want to map over each dog image that was fetched from the API, and render those images. In order to do so, we can create a functional component that receives the data through props, and renders the data it received.

DogImages.js
DogImagesContainer.js
import React from "react";
export default function DogImages({ dogs }) {
return dogs.map((dog, i) => <img src={dog} key={i} alt="Dog" />);
}

The DogImages component is a presentational component. Presentational components are usually stateless: they do not contain their own React state, unless they need a state for UI purposes. The data they receive, is not altered by the presentational components themselves.

Presentational components receive their data from container components.


Container Components

The primary function of container components is to pass data to presentational components, which they contain. Container components themselves usually don't render any other components besides the presentational components that care about their data. Since they don't render anything themselves, they usually do not contain any styling either.

In our example, we want to pass dog images to the DogsImages presentational component. Before being able to do so, we need to fetch the images from an external API. We need to create a container component that fetches this data, and passes this data to the presentational component DogImages in order to display it on the screen.

DogImages.js
DogImagesContainer.js
import React from "react";
import DogImages from "./DogImages";
export default class DogImagesContainer extends React.Component {
constructor() {
super();
this.state = {
dogs: []
};
}
componentDidMount() {
fetch("https://dog.ceo/api/breed/labrador/images/random/6")
.then(res => res.json())
.then(({ message }) => this.setState({ dogs: message }));
}
render() {
return <DogImages dogs={this.state.dogs} />;
}
}

Combining these two components together makes it possible to separate handling application logic with the view.


Hooks

In many cases, the Container/Presentational pattern can be replaced with React Hooks. The introduction of Hooks made it easy for developers to add statefulness without needing a container component to provide that state.

Instead of having the data fetching logic in the DogImagesContainer component, we can create a custom hook that fetches the images, and returns the array of dogs.

export default function useDogImages() {
  const [dogs, setDogs] = useState([]);

  useEffect(() => {
    fetch("https://dog.ceo/api/breed/labrador/images/random/6")
      .then(res => res.json())
      .then(({ message }) => setDogs(message));
  }, []);

  return dogs;
}

By using this hook, we no longer need the wrapping DogImagesContainer container component to fetch the data, and send this to the presentational DogImages component. Instead, we can use this hook directly in our presentational DogImages component!

DogImages.js
useDogImages.js
import React from "react";
import useDogImages from "./useDogImages";
export default function DogImages() {
const dogs = useDogImages();
return dogs.map((dog, i) => <img src={dog} key={i} alt="Dog" />);
}

By using the useDogImages hook, we still separated the application logic from the view. We're simply using the returned data from the useDogImages hook, without modifying that data within the DogImages component.

Hooks make it easy to separate logic and view in a component, just like the Container/Presentational pattern. It saves us the extra layer that was necessary in order to wrap the presentational component within the container component.


Pros

There are many benefits to using the Container/Presentational pattern.

The Container/Presentational pattern encourages the separation of concerns

. Presentational components can be pure functions which are responsible for the UI, whereas container components are responsible for the state and data of the application. This makes it easy to enforce the separation of concerns
.

Presentational components are easily made reusable, as they simply display data without altering this data. We can reuse the presentational components throughout our application for different purposes.

Since presentational components don't alter the application logic, the appearance of presentational components can easily be altered by someone without knowledge of the codebase, for example a designer. If the presentational component was reused in many parts of the application, the change can be consistent throughout the app.

Testing presentational components is easy, as they are usually pure functions. We know what the components will render based on which data we pass, without having to mock a data store.


Cons

The Container/Presentational pattern makes it easy to separate application logic from rendering logic. However, Hooks make it possible to achieve the same result without having to use the Container/Presentational pattern, and without having to rewrite a stateless functional component into a class component.Note that today, we don't need to create class components to use state anymore.

Although we can still use the Container/Presentational pattern, even with React Hooks, this pattern can easily be an overkill in smaller sized application.


References