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When to use React.memo and React.useCallback for Performance Optimisation

Always profile before any optimisation. And ask yourself: does the increased performance worth increased complexity?


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Vladimir Vovk

3 months ago | 3 min read
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The Problem

Sometimes we can see that people tend to wrap every callback function into useCallback hook and use memo for every component in their app (even for really simple components like buttons).

And if you will ask why do they do that, the answer probably will be "to make the app faster". But is it really true?

Optimising Performance

Let's take a look at the official Optimising Performance React document:

Internally, React uses several clever techniques to minimise the number of costly DOM operations required to update the UI. For many applications, using React will lead to a fast user interface without doing much work to specifically optimise for performance.

Also, the common advice for performance optimisation is that we need to measure performance and understand the problem first before we start doing anything. Otherwise, we are doing Premature Optimisation which is an anti-pattern in software development.

Optimisation can reduce readability and add code that is used only to improve the performance. This may complicate programs or systems, making them harder to maintain and debug. As a result, optimisation or performance tuning is often performed at the end of the development stage.

React.memo

To decide whether React should update the DOM it will render a component (using Virtual DOM), compare the result with the previous render and if the render results are different then React will update the DOM.

By wrapping a component with memo React will render it the first time and memoize the result. And for the next render, if props will be the same, React will reuse the latest rendered result. So we can have a performance boost by reusing a memoized component and skipping a virtual DOM difference check (which is fast).

By default React.memo will only shallowly compare complex objects in the props object. If you want control over the comparison, you can also provide a custom comparison function as the second argument.

Also be aware that if a component wrapped in React.memo has a useState, useReducer or useContext hook in its implementation, it will still re-render when state or context change.

So, when it is a good idea to use React.memo?

  • A component renders the same result given the same props.
  • It re-renders often.
  • Props do not change much between renders.
  • A component should be complex enough to reason memo props equality check.

Remember to always profile before starting any optimisation.

Also measure the benefits of applying React.memo to be sure it speeds up your component.

Because the function object equals only to itself, always use React.useCallback hook to pass callbacks to memoized components.

When it is better to avoid React.memo?

  • A component is not heavy and renders with different props.
  • It is a class-based component (extend PureComponent and use shouldComponentUpdate instead).
  • You can not quantify the performance gains.

Imagine a simple to render component. There is no need to optimise it because it is already fast.

Or a component that usually renders with different props. In this case, memoization does not provide benefits. Because React does an extra job on every rendering: it compares whether the previous and next props are equal. And because they are almost always different React will need to re-render a component anyway. So instead of a speed boost, we will need extra time to compare props.

Also, be aware that memoization costs additional computer memory.

React.useCallback

According to the docs React.useCallback returns a memoized callback.

This is useful when passing callbacks to optimized child components that rely on reference equality to prevent unnecessary renders (e.g. shouldComponentUpdate).

So the React.useCallback hook solves the functions equality check problem (remember that the function object equals only to itself).

Given that, when it is good to use React.useCallback?

  • When we need to pass a function prop to a component wrapped with React.memo.
  • When a function is a dependency for a hook (e.g. useEffect(..., [function])).
  • When a function has an internal state (e.g. debounced or throttled callback).

Does it make sense to apply useCallback everywhere? No!

Because for light components, re-rendering does not create performance issues.

And keep in mind that even useCallback returns the same function object, still, the inline function, which is passed as a parameter, is re-created on every re-rendering.

By using useCallback we also increase our code complexity. And we have to keep the useCallback dependencies useCallback(..., deps) in sync with what we are using inside the memoized callback.

So it is recommended to use the exhaustive-deps rule as part of eslint-plugin-react-hooks package. It warns when dependencies are specified incorrectly and suggests a fix.

Conclusion

Always profile before any optimisation. And ask yourself: does the increased performance worth increased complexity?

Please post your thoughts in comments, press 💖 button and have a happy coding! 👻

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Vladimir Vovk

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Full-stack Developer

I am passionate about the web and mobile technologies, React Native, React, GraphQL, building beautiful user experiences, and making the world a better place. 🤓


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