Vue.js versus React: the (self-)documentation angle

October 22nd, 2017

Vue.js versus React: the (self-)documentation angle

So, lately I've been experimenting a tad with React and Vue.js. I've first tried React, then jumped to Vue, then went back to React, spent sometime there, and last week decided to return once more to Vue.

... Yeah, making up my mind isn't exactly my strongest suit. But anyway. In an effort to compare apples to apples, I've decided to pick a small application I've written in React, and convert it into Vue to see a direct equivalence between the two. The application, if you are curious, is a mix of a Dancer REST server leveraging the ORM magic of DBIx::Class that reads the sqlite database created by KMyMoney, and the React web application feeding from it and rendering pretty reports. Why I would create a full-stack application to generate bank reports because I found the ones produced natively to be lacking pizzazz is a fair question, but one that won't be addressed here.

So, after I did that conversion, what is the main verdict? In a nutshell: it's pretty much a choice between chocolate and strawberry ice creams -- there are differences, but both are more than likely to make you happy.

However, I found that the more I use them, the more Vue has an edge for producing slightly cleaner, sane code.

Piece of evidence #1: separation of concerns

One of the selling points of React is that "It's only JavaScript!". It's true, and to be fair it's very appealing. There is a reason why I kept using Mason for my Perl projects for a long time; why learn and use a template syntax that is purposefully gimpy when we can instead call on a well-known, Turing-complete warhorse?

As it turns out, with great powers come messy eating. When one can, one tends to inject blobs of code in the template code. It's fast, it's handy, it... doesn't make for easy reading.

Which is where Vue's Single Component Files shine. Through the years I've seen my share of frameworks and template systems, but I have to say that Vue is the one that makes the separation of concerns not only feel natural, but also easy. With its SCFs that keep the template and code close by, yet segregated, I find myself first prototyping the component with static HTML, then progressively replace the chunks that need to be dynamic. When Storybook is used, that can make for wicked tight iterative work.

Here's the React version of one of the components. Not horrendous by any standard.

But the template itself is kinda buried deep in the file.

Code in the middle of the template is meh.

And those iterations really get clunky fast.

Contrast with the vue component.

The template is upfront and center, giving emphasis on what the component is about rather than how it's being operated behind the curtain.

Formatting is addressed by filters, which are more visually distinct.

And yeah, that's a list iteration that is softer on the eye.

Piece of evidence #2: Ifs and Loops

Something else that doesn't make for easy ready is how React deals with ifs and iterations over lists. Is the idiomatic way to deal with those clever? Yes, very. Do somebody at ease with JavaScript likely to have a problem understanding what is going on? Not really. Will it requires of them to pause each time and parse how things are implemented to what is implemented? I think so. It's not a huge thing, but that's what makes the difference between code that is not hard to read, and code that is easy to read.

Let's be honest. Do you prefer this?

... or that?

How sharply are you tilting your head to grok this?

Versus that?

Piece of evidence #3: Shadows of self-documentation

Something else that I very much appreciate about Vue is the way the components are declared as a simple object. Just by looking at it, one can have a pretty good idea what are the component's characteristics.

For example, this component accepts all those props...

... uses (or might use) those components within its template...

... uses this filter...

... and has one function that munges prop to get a derived value.

Got it.

In fact, those component objects are so descriptive... could be almost tempted to write code that gathers that information for all the components an app use...

... and feed them to a meta-app...

... that grooms them into self-generated documentation.

Yes, one could almost be tempted to do that. But that'd be silly.

Also look like this:

introspected documentation


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