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Review: Complete React Developer

Ethan Glover

The Update

In the 2021 update, Zero To Mastery seemingly took a stance against React Hooks. The coverage of hooks was lackluster and the appended videos were full of excuses as to why they weren't making the updates to properly include them. So I took it off of my recommended list. As of 2022, it's coming back on. Not just because of using a hooks first approach, but because the course has been properly modernized with 65% of the course being rerecorded. This isn't one or two footnote videos, it's all brand new with the latest approaches and knowledge.

The courses first small project does start by teaching classes but quickly rewrites it to hooks in following videos. Yihua argues that it's important to learn classes first. I would maybe argue that native web components should be learned first which typically use lifecycle methods. But that's a minor, unimportant argument. The point is hooks are the standard way of working with React today, they have been for a long enough time that any company you join will likely be using them over class components. Any new projects should absolutely be using them.

The Good

I am overall very impressed with this course. It's great for people who already know web development and want to get into React. Starting with React Context and converting into Redux is a smart choice. Redux is becoming increasingly unimportant as the years go by. Whether it's new, better state management tools, cache invalidation, or just regular context, there are plenty of better alternatives out there. But regardless, unlike the fast switch the industry made from classes to hooks, Redux has remained a sticky thorn in the side of the ecosystem. And that makes it still worth learning.

The course also gives a general overview and introduction to GraphQL and how Apollo Client can be used as a state management tool to replace a lot of what Redux does. I love the coverage of the popular alternatives rather than the opinionated insistence this course once had on classes and Redux. The ecosystem of React is much bigger now than when this course was first created and I'm happy to see Yihua making the updates that are needed to keep it relevant.

The Bad

There is one detail that really annoyed me in the coverage of hooks, however. Yihua explains the useEffect hook dependency array as allowing you to choose when it's function fires. This is wrong. Very wrong. Badly wrong. It will cause very confusing errors for you in the future wrong. This is one of the primary reasons I've put Kent C. Dodds' very expensive course on the recommended list. Because it has a far better understanding of how React works than other courses. To make this correction in the shortest manner possible, the useEffect dependency array tells React what is affected by the function. You should never “choose” what goes in that array, only place the correct dependencies. The Kent C. Dodds course covers this in greater detail.

Yihua also makes heavy use of SASS and Styled Components in this course. To me these tools are very bad abstractions. Styled Components had some importance before React supported CSS modules. But today, they just make CSS more complex than it is. They don't allow you to do anything “advanced” or cut down on the amount you have to write. Quite the opposite. They introduce a layer that makes CSS more difficult to manage, especially at large scale. I would say to never use these tools, but if you must DO NOT learn them first. By learning these first you are handicapping your knowledge of how CSS actually works and how much simpler it is to do the exact same thing.

The Verdict

This 2022 update is impressive enough to me that I want to take the course again in full, rebuilding the app as they did and following along as if it were my first time seeing it. Yihua is great presenter, the course covers an incredible amount of topics. Pouring it into one small project and another large one without breaking up the context of what its teaching.

I won't complain too much about the usage of SASS and Styled Components. While they may be useless, I wouldn't recommend this course to people totally new to development. Meaning, if you're taking this course, you should have the knowledge to form your own educated opinion about these things.

The coverage of useEffect is very unfortunate. But, while I wouldn't consider this course for beginner developers, I would consider it for beginner React developers. The large project built in this course is a great first project. But this course is by no means everything you need to know. The basic (and incorrect) explanation of useEffect is dangerous, but it won't cause issues in this app, and can be corrected in more advanced courses.

So because of the quality of presentation, the coverage of many different modern approaches to state management, and a very impressive turnaround on the update, I give Yihua Zhang's Complete React Developer a 5 out of 5.