Home > Articles

How to Build Your First React App

Learn how to build a simple React app along with how to overcome some hurdles head-on and which hurdles you can skip over—for now.

Save 35% off the list price* of the related book or multi-format eBook (EPUB + MOBI + PDF) with discount code ARTICLE.
* See informit.com/terms

This chapter is from the book

Thanks to the previous chapter, you probably now know all about the backstory of React and how it helps even your most complex user interfaces sing. For all the awesomeness that React brings to the table, getting started with it (kind of like this sentence) is not the most straightforward. It has a steep learning curve filled with many small and big hurdles, as in Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1

Figure 2.1 Hurdles come in a variety of sizes. Some are big. Some are small.

In this chapter, we start at the very beginning and get our hands dirty by building a simple React app. You’ll encounter some of these hurdles head-on, and some of these hurdles you’ll skip over—for now. By the end of this chapter, not only will you have built something you can proudly show off to your friends and family, but you’ll have set yourself up nicely for diving deeper into all that React offers in future chapters.

Dealing with JSX

Before we start building our app, there’s an important point to cover first. React isn’t like many JavaScript libraries you might have used. It doesn’t get too happy when you simply refer to code you’ve written for it using a script tag. React is annoyingly special that way, and it has to do with how React apps are built.

As you know, your web apps (and everything else your browser displays) are made up of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (see Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2

Figure 2.2 Web apps are built in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

It doesn’t matter whether your web app was written using React or some other library, such as Angular, Knockout, or jQuery. The end result has to be some combination of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript; otherwise, your browser really won’t know what to do.

Now, here’s where the special nature of React comes in. Besides normal HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, the bulk of your React code will be written in JSX. As I mentioned in Chapter 1, “Introducing React,” JSX is a language that allows you to easily mix JavaScript and HTML-like tags to define user interface (UI) elements and their functionality. That sounds cool and all (and you’ll see JSX in action in just a few moments), but there’s a slight problem. Your browser has no idea what to do with JSX.

To build a web app using React, we need a way to convert our JSX into plain old JavaScript that your browser can understand (see Figure 2.3).

Figure 2.3

Figure 2.3 JSX needs to turn into something our browser understands.

If we don’t do this, our React app simply won’t work. That’s not cool. Fortunately, we have two solutions to this:

  1. Set up a development environment around Node and a handful of build-tools. In this environment, every time you perform a build, all of your JSX is automatically converted into JS and placed on disk for you to reference like any plain JavaScript file.

  2. Let your browser automatically convert JSX to JavaScript at runtime. You specify your JSX directly, just as you would any old piece of JavaScript, and your browser takes care of the rest.

Both of these solutions have a place in our world, but let’s talk about the impact of each.

The first solution, while a bit complicated and time-consuming at first, is the way modern web development is done these days. Besides compiling (transpiling, to be more accurate) your JSX to JS, this approach enables you to take advantage of modules, better build tools, and a bunch of other features that make building complex web apps somewhat manageable.

The second solution provides a quick and direct path in which you initially spend more time writing code and less time fiddling with your development environment. To use this solution, all you do is reference a script file. This script file takes care of turning the JSX into JS on page load, and your React app comes to life without you having to do anything special to your development environment.

For our introductory look at React, we are going to use the second solution. You might be wondering why we don’t always use the second solution. The reason is that your browser takes a performance hit each time it translates JSX into JS. That is totally acceptable when learning how to use React, but it is totally not acceptable when deploying your app for real-life use. Because of that lack of acceptability, we will revisit all of this later, to look at the first solution and how to set up your development environment after you’ve gotten your feet comfortably wet in React.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020