Remix – Web Standards Are Cool Again

Remix – Web Standards Are Cool Again

I know what you’re thinking: “Not another Javascript framework ūüôą”. That’s how I felt when I first learned about¬†Remix¬†– the latest open-source, fullstack, web development framework to hit the¬†npm¬†registry.

But, I have to say, after spending some time with it…

There’s something special about Remix.

Throughout my time with the framework, I found myself falling more and more in love. It feels like the creators behind React Router have really struck gold with this latest project. As a fullstack developer, I feel like it solves so many of the problems I’ve experienced with modern web development.

I love React, but…

I think the Reactification of the web has caused more problems than the library was originally built to solve. In fact, I don’t know if we can just call it a¬†library¬†anymore. It’s a framework that has never wanted to be. And because of that lack of intentionality, a lot of jank gets polyfilled into the¬†framework¬†of React through its “ecosystem” of third party libraries.

Basic things like routing, app state management, and data fetching – things that are tightly integrated with old-school web frameworks like Rails, Flask, or Laravel – don’t come for free with¬†create-react-app. And a lot of these tools break fundamental behaviors of the web in favor of “simplicity” which really just means working well with React’s UI rendering patterns – which can sometimes be anything but simple.

I’ll admit though that it took me a while to realize just how backwards “modern” web development is. Building web applications with React causes developers to perform anti-patterns that scaffold their code with ways of working¬†around¬†the web instead of with it. The next time you write¬†e.preventDefault()¬†in an¬†onSubmit¬†handler, you’ll see what I mean.

But I overlooked these problems for years because I was blinded by how good of an experience React is when it comes to actually building interactive web pages. So, when Remix’s homepage opened with,

Focused on web fundamentals and modern UX, you’re simply going to build better websites.

I was intrigued.

So, what is Remix?

There’s a moment in a promotional talk where Ryan Florence, one of the Remix co-founders, is asked this exact question. He answers by saying,

I saw this tweet where someone said, “Remix looks like Javascript for boomers”…I feel like that sums it up pretty well.

Ryan Florence

It’s a hilarious one-liner, but don’t get the wrong impression – he doesn’t mean that Remix is a framework stuck in the past. What Florence is saying is that Remix is a framework designed as an ode to the web in a way that maybe only more senior developers will understand at first glance.

Remix couples web fundamentals like the client/server model, HTTP caching, and native HTML forms with modern UI tools like dynamic page refreshing, nested routing, and React to create a truly remarkable way for developers to create fast, interactive, and portable user experiences.

You can read all about what makes Remix different on their philosophy page. Right now, I want to take you through some of the features that really stood out to me.

Let’s talk about server-side rendering (SSR).

When I started at Simple Thread, I was shocked at how many of our applications are still built with SSR frameworks like Rails or Django. I seriously thought to myself, “Pshh, these senior developers are so stuck in their ways – they aren’t even embracing modern¬†web tools”.

Because as any developer who started their career in the last 5 years will tell you, SSR is¬†just not cool anymore. The cool thing is shipping all of your source code in a big ol’ Javascript bundle attached to a single HTML page.¬†That’s¬†the future.

ūüėģ‚Äćūüí®¬† *sigh*. Oh how naive I was.

However, the Remix team, just like our team at ST, knows that SSR isn’t a dinosaur – it’s a shark¬†ūü¶ą¬† – and Remix brings back the client/server model in a big way. That means no more skeleton UI, loading spinners, code-splitting, static rebuilds, or poor SEO performance. Just blazing fast sites that fetch and send what the user requested when they requested it.

But that doesn’t mean we’re back to dealing with full page reloads or that we have to give up our instantaneous feeling interactions. This is still a React-based framework at the end of the day, and Remix uses the things React is best at to provide a few key progressive enhancements: nested routes, form handling, and error boundaries.

Routing in Remix.

Routes are the standout primitive in Remix Рno surprise coming from the team behind React Router. At their core, Routes are modules that handle loading, mutating, and rendering data in your application Рall from a single file. You can think of a Route as the view and the controller in an MVC framework. The basic workflow is that Routes export three core functions: loader, action, and a React functional component.

The¬†loader¬†is the¬†GET¬†endpoint for the route which fetches the data needed for the exported component which can be accessed through the¬†useLoaderData¬†hook. The¬†action¬†is the¬†POST endpoint of the route which can be used to update data from a form and/or send data back to the component to transform its state (i.e. an autocomplete search). It’s a really clean and intuitive way of writing web features that easily turns any Javascript developer into a fullstack developer.

When it comes to actually routing these routes (oh boy), at a high level the framework borrows a similar file-based routing technique employed by competitors like Nextjs. However, the team behind React Router has brought a fresh take on nested routing to Remix deeply inspired by their previous library.

Remix’s nested routes are more like child routes in React Router. That means that a Route doesn’t have to represent an entire¬†page¬†in your application. Instead, Routes can represent parts of a page layout. The diagram on¬†their homepage¬†explains the concept better than words can.

Essentially, parent Routes can contain an¬†<Outlet />¬†component that will trigger the rendering of a Route tree. Child Routes whose location matches the browser’s location will be injected into the page at its parent’s¬†<Outlet />. Those child Routes can still have their own¬†loader¬†and¬†action functions which means that the componentization we’ve grown to love in frontend development can now blur into backend development – super cool.

There’s one feature of Routes though that I absolutely love and is often overlooked.

Route based error handling with ErrorBoundary.

Along with exporting a traditional React functional component from a Route, developers can also export two other functional components: ErrorBoundary and CatchBoundary. These components are incredibly powerful because they automatically get rendered in place of your main component if the loader or action functions return response statuses with 500 or 404 respectively.

That’s awesome in itself, but combined with nested routing, that means that if a part of the page layout returns an error, it¬†only effects that part of the page. The rest of your layout is still fully interactive. That’s¬†powerful¬†in terms of UX during failure states.

But that’s not all. Did I also mention Remix allows you to…

Ditch your form library.

Unlike other frameworks like Nextjs that focus solely on helping developers retrieve data, Remix helps developers¬†mutate¬†data in their applications as well. They do this by leveraging good ol’ HTML forms.

Remix comes with a¬†<Form>¬†component that acts as a wrapper for the traditional HTML¬†<form>¬†element. When a user submits a form in Remix, the Route¬†action¬†that form belongs to is called, and all of the data on the page is automatically reloaded. It’s super slick.

The coolest thing though is that¬†<Form>‘s API is identical to plain HTML forms. Which means that your form in Remix still works even without any Javascript on the page.

Actually, it’s important to mention that…

Most Remix features work without any client Javascript.

That’s right – because of this hyper focus on leveraging web fundamentals, Remix sites with Javascript disabled are still functional – they just don’t benefit from the features that leverage progressive enhancement.

I could go on.

There’s so much more to talk about with Remix like performance, portability, and how it compares to fullstack frameworks like Nextjs, Redwood, and even Rails. If you’d like to see articles on those topics or anything else Remix related, please leave us a comment down below.

For now, I’ll conclude with this.

I’ve fallen in love with Remix.

Remix is the first Javascript framework I’ve used that truly understands what it means to be a fullstack developer. Remix puts conventions where it’s convenient, and enables configuration everywhere else.

The Routes system, although complicated to understand at first, enables developers to build features cleanly in a single file. It couples the developer experience with the user experience and unites backend and frontend developers. The fact that apps built with Remix can basically run anywhere means that Remix easily integrates with the rest of your stack and makes your code incredibly portable.

But more than that, the team at Remix has said they wanted to build a web framework where developers, “spend more time reading the MDN docs than the Remix docs”. They are so passionate and committed to web fundamentals that the following quote from their website I think is truly the best argument for using Remix on your next project:

“Learn Remix, Accidentally Learn The Web”

Thanks so much for reading. If you like this article, please share it on Twitter and mention us @simple_thread.

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Comments (14)

  1. I’m not a professional but I’m always looking for the best technologies to create something new.
    I’m going to check out Remix!

    1. Thanks for reading Marco! If you’re just starting your career in the web – I think Remix is a great place to start learning. You only have to learn one language for both the server and the client, they’re tightly integrated and colocated, and the API is really easy to pick up.

    1. That’s a great question! A lot of the problems server-components were designed to solve don’t exist in a Remix app – but I’m sure once server-components comes out Remix will be able to leverage them to increase speed. What server-components won’t do that Remix does is handle data mutation as well as fetching – so that would still be an outstanding issue. Exciting stuff though! Thanks for reading!

  2. I am sorry, but Vue comes with tightly coupled routing and state management solutions together. And it is not an old-school framework.

    Lol.

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