How React Component Lifecycle Methods Work?

How React Component Lifecycle Methods Work?

React, with its component-centric architecture, has become a pivotal force in the world of web development. As we build our React applications, understanding the life cycle of these components ensures we harness the power and performance of the library. In this piece, we'll demystify the React component lifecycle methods, diving deep into how they influence the birth, growth, and death of our components.

1. Introduction

React is a JavaScript library for building user interfaces. It revolves around the idea of breaking down the UI into reusable chunks called "components." As components go through different stages—being created, updating their content, and eventually getting destroyed—React provides specific "lifecycle methods" that let developers hook into these stages to control the behavior and performance of the component.

2. Basics of a React Component

Before we dive into lifecycle methods, it's essential to understand the fundamental building blocks of a React component: their types (Functional and Class) and the concepts of state and props.

Functional vs Class Components

React components can be broadly categorized into Functional and Class components.

Functional Components are just plain JavaScript functions that accept props as an argument and return React elements. With the introduction of Hooks in React 16.8, functional components can now encapsulate state and side effects, which was initially exclusive to class components.

Class Components, on the other hand, are ES6 classes that extend React.Component. They can hold and manage local state, handle side effects, and more importantly for our discussion, use lifecycle methods. It's essential to note that lifecycle methods are exclusive to class components.

State and Props

In React, components are rendered and re-rendered based on the data they represent. Two core data sources drive this:

  1. State: Represents data that might change over time. It's local to the component and can be initialized, read, and modified throughout the component's lifecycle.
  2. Props: Short for "properties", props are a way of passing data from parent to child components. They are read-only and ensure data flows in a single direction.

3. Lifecycle Categories

React's lifecycle methods can be categorized into three main phases: Mounting, Updating, and Unmounting.


This is the phase when our component is being created and inserted into the DOM. It's like the birth of our component, setting the stage for its presence in the user interface.


Any time a component's state or props change, it potentially re-renders, entering the updating phase. It's where the component adapts and reflects the changes.

4. Mounting Lifecycle Methods

Now, let's dive deeper into the specific lifecycle methods associated with the mounting phase.


The constructor in a class component is where you set up the initial state and bind event handlers. It's called before the component is mounted.

class MyComponent extends React.Component { constructor(props) { super(props); this.state = { count: 0 }; } }

static getDerivedStateFromProps()

This static method allows the component to update its state based on changes in props. It's used sparingly and can make components harder to think about.

class MyComponent extends React.Component { static getDerivedStateFromProps(nextProps, prevState) { if (nextProps.value !== prevState.value) { return { value: nextProps.value }; } return null; } }


The render method is the heart of every class component. It returns the JSX, which gets transformed into actual DOM elements.

class MyComponent extends React.Component { render() { return <h1>Hello, codedamn!</h1>; } }


After our component's initial render, componentDidMount gets called. It's the best place for initialization that requires DOM nodes or to kick off network requests.

class MyComponent extends React.Component { componentDidMount() { fetch('') .then(response => response.json()) .then(data => this.setState({ data })); } }

Understanding these lifecycle methods is crucial for building efficient React applications. By harnessing the power of these methods, developers can fine-tune the behavior and performance of their components at each stage of their existence. For more detailed information, always refer to the official React documentation.

5. Updating Lifecycle Methods


Purpose and when to use: shouldComponentUpdate() is a lifecycle method called before the rendering process starts, giving a developer the ability to control whether a component should re-render in response to a state or props change. Typically, you'd use it to optimize performance by preventing unnecessary renders.

Code snippet to prevent unnecessary renders:

shouldComponentUpdate(nextProps, nextState) { // Only update if the data has changed return !==; }


Purpose and common use-cases: This lifecycle method is invoked right before the most recently rendered output is committed to the DOM, allowing you to capture some information (a snapshot) from the DOM. It's often used in tandem with componentDidUpdate(), especially when dealing with preserving user scroll positions during list updates.

Code snippet showcasing capturing info before the DOM update:

getSnapshotBeforeUpdate(prevProps, prevState) { if (prevProps.listLength < this.props.listLength) { const list = document.getElementById('list'); return list.scrollHeight - list.scrollTop; } return null; }


Purpose and when to use: This method is called immediately after updating an instance. You'd typically use this method to perform DOM operations or network requests based on previous and current state/props.

Code snippet showcasing DOM interaction post-update:

componentDidUpdate(prevProps, prevState, snapshot) { if (snapshot !== null) { const list = document.getElementById('list'); list.scrollTop = list.scrollHeight - snapshot; } }

6. Unmounting Lifecycle Method


Purpose and when to use: This method is called immediately before a component is unmounted and destroyed. It's the perfect spot for cleanup operations, like clearing timers, cancelling network requests, or cleaning up subscriptions.

Code snippet showcasing cleanup tasks:

componentWillUnmount() { clearInterval(this.timerID); }

7. Rarely Used Lifecycle Methods

static getDerivedStateFromError()

This static method is called after an error has been thrown by a descendant component. It's used to render a fallback UI after an error has occurred, and it returns an object to update state, or null to indicate no state update is needed.


This method is also used for error handling in components. It provides a way to catch JavaScript errors anywhere in a component's child tree, log those errors, and display a fallback UI.

8. Transition from Class to Hooks

Introduction to Hooks

Hooks introduced in React 16.8 allow you to use state and other React features without writing a class. They represent a major shift from class components to functional components and help simplify the React API, making it more accessible and intuitive.

useState and useEffect

With hooks, the useState and useEffect functions effectively replace most of the lifecycle methods we've discussed. For instance, useEffect can mimic the behavior of componentDidMount, componentDidUpdate, and componentWillUnmount combined.

const [count, setCount] = useState(0); useEffect(() => { document.title = `You clicked ${count} times`; return () => { // Cleanup tasks, equivalent to componentWillUnmount }; });

9. Best Practices

Avoiding Heavy Computations

Always strive to keep lifecycle methods lightweight to avoid blocking the main thread. For heavy computations, consider using web workers or offload them to backend services.

Handling Memory Leaks

Ensure that any side effects initialized in lifecycle methods, such as event listeners or subscriptions, are cleaned up in componentWillUnmount to prevent memory leaks.

Judicious Use of Lifecycle Methods

Avoid putting unrelated logic into lifecycle methods. Stick to their intended use-cases to ensure the maintainability and readability of your components.

10. Conclusion

Understanding and properly utilizing lifecycle methods is essential for creating efficient and robust React applications. As React continues to evolve, so do the tools and methodologies associated with it. We encourage you to experiment, learn, and adapt to these changes to become a proficient React developer.

11. Additional Resources

Official React Documentation

You can dive deeper into React lifecycle methods and their intricacies by visiting the Official React Documentation.

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