Building a Better Web Experience with Web Components
Building a Better Web Experience with Web Components: Insights from My Professional Journey
Web components have taken the world of web development by storm, offering developers an efficient and modular way to build complex UIs for a wide range of applications. In my professional experience, I have worked on a large LitElement web component UI library, which is used by dozens of other applications. Developing on dozens of components with various themes, showcasing them to our users, and testing their compatibility across major browsers have given me unique insights into the power and challenges of working with web components. In this article, we'll explore the benefits of designing your own web components, discuss the challenges you might face, and share some insights on crafting a great API for your custom components.
The Power of Web Components
Web components are a collection of web platform APIs that allow developers to create reusable custom elements, encapsulating their functionality in a clean and easy-to-understand way. They enable the creation of a design system that can be shared across multiple applications, making UI logic reusable and providing a web-standard-first API design.
A popular public library that leverages web components is Ionic Components, which showcases the potential of this technology for building powerful and versatile user interfaces.
Navigating the Challenges of Web Components
Working with web components requires familiarity with their API, including lifecycle methods, shadow roots, and native web features such as properties, attributes, forms, HTML elements, browser support, and CSS custom properties. Utilizing a framework, such as LitElement with class syntax or Stencil with JSX, is highly recommended to streamline the development process.
Crafting an Effective API for Your Components
Designing APIs is rarely straightforward, but having an automated release pipeline with clear semantic versioning can help you focus on development. Interacting with your API consumers can be challenging, so providing excellent component and API documentation is crucial. An interactive coding environment integrated into the documentation can help users experiment with your components.
Your components should be showcased and interactive, either within the documentation or in a separate sandbox. While I personally used Storybook for this purpose, I cannot recommend it due to its buggy behavior and unwieldy API.
Technical support for your users is essential, so establish a reliable support pipeline from the outset. Keep in mind that testing and monitoring web components can be more complex than typical UI testing, warranting a separate discussion in a future blog article.
Web components offer a powerful and flexible approach to building complex, reusable UI elements for a wide array of applications. By understanding their potential benefits, navigating the challenges of development and testing, and designing an effective API, you can harness the power of web components to create a better web experience for users.