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Performance Optimization in React Context

April 28, 2020

Translated into: 简体中文

A lot of people use React context as some kinds of build-in redux. Jack is one of them. Jack combined all global state to get a big object to get a ‘single source of data’ and put it into a provider. Then he went to a child component, call useContext and pick properties from the context. Everything seems worked fine until one day he found the app is too slow to use.

A Bad Example

Consider the following code, it may be the worst practice of React context.

const Ctx = React.createContext();

const SideMenu = () => {
  const { setHideSideMenu, hideSideMenu } = useContext(Ctx);
  return (
    <aside>
      <Menu hide={hideSideMenu} />
      <button onClick={() => setHideSideMenu(x => !x)}>toggle</button>
    </aside>
  );
};

const UserDashBoard = () => {
  const { user, setUser } = useContext(Ctx);
  React.useEffect(() => {
    fetchUser().then((data) => setUser(data.user));
  }, []);
  
  return <User username={user} />
};


const App = () => {
  const [user, setUser] = React.useState('');
  const [hideSideMenu, setHideSideMenu] = React.useState(false);
  const [clock, setClock] = React.useState(Date.now());

  React.useEffect(() => {
    const interval = setInterval(() => {
      setClock(Date.now())
    }, 1000)
    return () => {
      clearInterval(interval);
    }
  }, []);
  
  return (
    <Ctx.Provider value={{
      user,
      setUser,
      hideSideMenu,
      setHideSideMenu,
    }}>
      <Clock time={clock} />
      <SideMenu />
      <UserDashBoard />
    </Ctx.Provider>
  );
}

Control the Update of Context Value

The first problem here is that the context’s consumer will be notified with a new value every second.

The clock state will cause an update of the App component, make a new value of Ctx.Provider will be created. (If you don’t understand this, maybe my previous post can help you).

So if you need to use an object or array as the value of context, use useMemo or useReducer to avoid unnecessary creations.

const App = () => {
  const [user, setUser] = React.useState('');
  const [hideSideMenu, setHideSideMenu] = React.useState(false);

  const ctx = React.useMemo(() => ({
    user,
    setUser,
    hideSideMenu,
    setHideSideMenu,
  }), [user, hideSideMenu]);

  ...

  return <Ctx.Provider value={ctx}>...</Ctx.Provider>;
}

Memo Your Selector

Child components maybe only use some part of the value of the context. However, the value has always been updated as a whole. If it is high cost for your component to rerender, memorize your selector of the value is a good choice.

For example, if we want to memo selector of SideMenu component, we have two options:

  1. Split the component into two and memo the inner component.
const SideMenuInner = React.memo(({ setHideSideMenu, hideSideMenu }) => {
  return (
    <aside>
      <Menu hide={hideSideMenu} />
      <button onClick={() => setHideSideMenu(x => !x)}>toggle</button>
    </aside>
  );
});

const SideMenu = () => {
  const { setHideSideMenu, hideSideMenu } = React.useContext(Ctx);
  return (
    <SideMenuInner
      setHideSideMenu={setHideSideMenu}
      hideSideMenu={hideSideMenu} />
  );
};

We can abstract a HOC to do this:

const ConsumeWithSelector = (Component, context, selector) => {
  const ctx = selector(React.useContext(context));
  return React.memo(props => <Component {{ ...props, ...ctx }} />);
}
  1. Use the useMemo method in your component.
const SideMenu = () => {
  const { setHideSideMenu, hideSideMenu } = useContext(Ctx);
  return React.useMemo(() => (
    <aside>
      <Menu hide={hideSideMenu} />
      <button onClick={() => setHideSideMenu(x => !x)}>toggle</button>
    </aside>
  ), [hideSideMenu, setHideSideMenu]);
};

Split Context

When using context in React we should not try to build a ‘single store tree’. It really makes the app hard to optimise. For most cases, contexts can be split into different pieces by their duties.

For example, in our case, we may split the context into HideSideMenuCtx and UserCtx, or even HideSideMenuState, HideSideMenuSetter, UserState and UserSetter.

const App = () => {
  const [user, setUser] = React.useState('');

  ...

  return (
    <UserState.Provider value={user}>
      <UserSetter.Provider value={setUser}>
        ...
      </UserSetter.Provider>
    </UserState.Provider>
  );
}

However, split contexts into too many pieces may make our app hard to maintain. There is no silver bullet in this. We should make our choice depending on our situation. However, at least we need to know the expected behavior according to the strategies we choose.


Saul Mirone

Personal blog by Saul Mirone. Kiss the demons out of my dreams.