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3 Things You Should Know about Memoization in React

Memoization is a well-known optimization technique and React also provides three memoization methods to improve application performance. This article outlines the top 3 things every developer should be aware of, before using these methods in React projects.


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Eyuel Berga Woldemichael

4 months ago | 2 min read
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Memoization is a technique of caching the results of a computationally expensive function. In React we can use this technique to avoid unnecessary re-renders and expensive recomputations. React provides three methods for this:

  • memo: a higher-order component used for memoizing components.
  • useMemo: hook for memoizing a value which is expensive to compute
  • useCallback: similar to useMemo, used for memoizing a callback function. 

Even though memoization is great for improving performance, if used inappropriately it can have the opposite effect. Let's look at the top three things you should be mindful of before using these methods in your react projects. 

1. Memoization is meant for performance optimization 

Unless you encounter performance issues in your application, it is probably not a good idea to use any of the memoization methods. Your code should work without memoization(however slow it may be). As a rule of thumb, you should consider optimizing after implementing your components. 

If you notice performance issues, the React DevTools can help in finding performance bottlenecks. But also keep in mind that all performance issues can't be solved with memoization. So it is best to always check if there is any improvement gained from it.

Also, be wary of premature optimization, so you don't waste time optimizing without the need for it. Most operations in JavaScript are optimized and overall the React framework is very performant. So, in most cases, further optimization might not be needed.  

2. Memoization has performance overheads

Performance optimizations mostly come with some trade-offs. This is especially true with memoization. By caching previous results, we are using more memory in turn for better speed. So, you should always consider if the cost of memoization is worth it. This depends on the use case, but it is worth noting that there can be an extra overhead to its use if performance improvements are not substantial.

3. React doesn't always guarantee memoization

On the React docs if you see the section on useMemo it reads:

You may rely on useMemo as a performance optimization, not as a semantic guarantee

If you also look at React.memo in the docs you will find this:

This method only exists as a performance optimization. Do not rely on it to “prevent” a render, as this can lead to bugs.

React will cache results for as long as possible, but in some cases, it may also choose to invalidate the cache. So, there is no guarantee that the memoized value has not been discarded. This means you can't rely on React to always memoize values for you. To avoid introducing bugs to your application, always use memoization methods to optimize performance and nothing more.

Conclusion

I hope you now have all the information you need to use memoization in React responsibly. Please do share your comments and suggestions, and thank you for reading.

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Eyuel Berga Woldemichael

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I am a Software Developer currently based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I am passionate about Web and Mobile Development.


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