Gateway to React: The React.dev Story

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A behind the scenes look at the design and development of the all-new React docs at react.dev. The new react.dev launched this year introducing new methodologies like challenges and interactive sandboxes and subtle inclusivity features, like "international tone" and culturally agnostic examples. Not only have the new docs changed how people learn React, they've inspired how we think about developer education as a community. In this talk, you will learn how the React team and some ambitious community members made the "React docs rock" for a generation of front end developers and how these new patterns and established techniques can be applied in your favorite projects.

Rachel Nabors
Rachel Nabors
32 min
13 Nov, 2023

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Video Summary and Transcription

The Talk discusses the journey of improving React and React Native documentation, including the addition of interactive code sandboxes and visual content. The focus was on creating a more accessible and engaging learning experience for developers. The Talk also emphasizes the importance of building a human API through well-designed documentation. It provides tips for building effective documentation sites and highlights the benefits of contributing to open source projects. The potential impact of AI on React development is mentioned, with the recognition that human engineers are still essential.

1. Introduction and Background

Short description:

I was up late last night ensuring that all these slides were in dark mode just for the planetarium. I want to make sure you can drink your coffee and your lattes in darkness and quiet. I've done a lot of things in my long career, including being an award-winning cartoonist and the cheerleader for the web animations API. Now I'm leading developer education at Clerk. How many of y'all use Clerk? How many of you use react.dev? I used to work on animations and built cool stuff. I love to travel the world teaching people to code and make neat interactive things.

I was up late last night ensuring that all these slides were in dark mode just for the planetarium. You're welcome. I want to make sure you can drink your coffee and your lattes in darkness and quiet. I know it's too early for this. It's too early. But I got you. I got you.

Anyway, hey there. I've done a lot of things in my long career, including you may not know this, way back in the day I was an award-winning cartoonist and I used to be like the cheerleader for the web animations API which is only just now launching things in Chrome. And now I'm of course leading developer education at Clerk. I love teaching people. I can't see you so we're going to have to do this by cheers. I'm going to get you into this today. I'm setting a number here. How many of y'all use Clerk? Give me a cheer if you use Clerk. That's pretty good. That's pretty good. How many of you use react.dev? I can hear that. Actually I'm getting actual numbers out of this. 50% for react.dev. I can hear that. Okay. Cool. Boop boop.

Now, before all this I used to work on as I mentioned the animations. I built cool stuff like this. That's not too bright. You're going to be fine for the rest of these slides. Now we fully calibrated the audience we can proceed. And I love to travel the world teaching people to code and make really neat interactive things.

2. React Education and Career Journey

Short description:

In 2018, I got into Vue because of its warm and inviting community. Learning React was challenging, especially with setting up webpack and dealing with dependency issues. However, I realized that most high-paying jobs required React skills, even for experienced individuals. I joined the React team in London in 2019 with the goal of democratizing React education. During the pandemic, I worked on building new React docs. Now, let's dive into the details.

And of course, in 2018, I really got into Vue, because the community felt so warm and inviting. And Sara Drasner was making great educational materials leading their docs charge. And at that time I had tried to learn React a couple of times, and it just didn't stick. I'd get a course and tell me if this was you at one point. You'd get the course, and you'd sit down, and you'd spend like two hours trying to go through setting up webpack. And then you'd have all these dependency issues, and it was really discouraging. And you'd be lucky if you made it to the end of it, and even luckier if you remembered what you learned. I heard this over and over from other folks.

But when I was looking for a job, I noticed that most six figure salaries required you to learn React. They weren't for Vue, they weren't for Ember, they weren't for the things that I saw the women in my coding community gravitating towards. They were for React. It was a barricade that you had to cross to get into that kind of a role. But this was interesting, because even for – oh, yeah, I think we're having one of the first – there we go – technical difficulties of the day. All right. Even for experienced people, like with computer science degrees, they would say things like, oh, you know, I still have trouble understanding React from the information available to me. I know this because I interviewed them extensively. And I was thinking to myself, well, if React were as easy to learn as Vue and it felt as nice a place to be as that community, more people like me could get six-figure salaries, amassed intergenerational wealth, change the world, change the – that sounds like a really nice lever I could push. Now, can I get paid to do that, is the next question.

So I joined the React team in London in 2019, as a developer advocate, documentation engineer, hybrid. By the way, pro tip, if you're ever going into big tech, do not take hybrid roles, that's a startup thing, big tech tends to have these career ladders and they're hybrid. Somebody is eventually going to come over to you like the eye of Sauron and be like, you have to pick one of these roles, and you'll be like, OK, I did not sign up for that one. Just pro tip, big tech likes to have clearly defined roles. Anyway, I did decide to join specifically with this one goal in my mind, to democratize React education for the world. I know, that sounds really self aggrandizing when I say it out loud. I had good intentions. My friends were like, why are you joining? And I was like, because I want to change the world in a good way. So I spent the pandemic building new React docs with the awesome React team and community. I don't know how you spent yours, but it was kind of cozy core. And yeah, so we're going to talk about that today. But, when I arrived at Meta, they said, great, you're here.

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