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Astro: How Good Is the New JavaScript Framework?

Astro: How Good Is the New JavaScript Framework?

Astro, a brand new JS multi-page software framework has been gaining an increasing number of traction inside the net dev neighborhood these previous couple of months. Making content-focused web sites quicker by default is the framework’s predominant goal, and I needed to seek out out if it lived as much as its mission (spoiler – it did!).  I at all times get pleasure from exploring one thing new, particularly when it might probably educate me find out how to construct higher apps, so it was time to offer it a strive!

Under are a few of my findings as I took a while going via the tutorial, studying the documentation, and taking part in round with its options.

Earlier than diving into my expertise growing with Astro, I’ll begin by speaking about a number of high-level subjects to introduce it additional.

MPA Framework

Initially, Astro is a Multi-Web page Utility web site framework. 

What does that imply precisely? It implies that Astro renders net pages on the server, in order you navigate via a web site, you'll frequently get these pages despatched over the wire. That is helpful for content-focused websites as a result of they don’t require interactivity in all places. Don’t fear although, Astro can lazy load client-side JavaScript with its Island Structure, which I’ll dive into extra beneath.

MPAs are totally different than Single-Web page Functions as a result of the server renders a lot of the HTML pages. For SPAs, the HTML is rendered regionally by the framework or library. React is a SPA library that renders HTML based mostly on the digital dom illustration of the particular dom, figuring out what and when issues needs to be rendered. 

Need to know extra about React? Take a look at our React Documentary to be taught extra concerning the controversial early days.
9 Dangerous React Habits to Kick out of your Life.

What Makes Astro Distinctive?

Astro markets itself as distinctive as a result of it makes use of JavaScript for each its server and runtime language. I personally do get pleasure from this developer expertise, as a result of context switching as a fullstack dev could be robust when a number of languages are used.

The framework additionally permits you to Carry Your Personal Tech (BYOT). It’s completely no drawback should you favor having a easy weblog that solely makes use of vanilla JS and CSS, however if you wish to carry extra bells and whistles to the occasion, you'll be able to. It’s simple with the Astro CLI so as to add React, Vue (Watch Vue.js: The Documentary), and different integrations!

Lastly, I need to point out one of many predominant promoting factors for Astro. It ships much less JavaScript! That is how they meet their “quick by default” promise.

Island Structure

Island Structure’s invention is credited to Etsy’s frontend Architect Katie Sylor-Miller

In the event you consider your software as each static and dynamic areas, then you'll be able to think about how Island structure works. In the event you used my weblog residence web page for example:


A number of items of interactivity require JavaScript, whereas every thing else is static. 

The concept of islands is that the static items of the UI (pictures, textual content, and many others) could be server rendered and delivered with out JavaScript, and also you specify the part islands that do require JavaScript for interactivity. By specifying their precedence, you may make positive the crucial interactivity hundreds first, whereas secondary gadgets can load whereas the person browses.

For me, the high-priority islands could be my ‘Learn Extra' buttons, tags, and navigation, since I’d need customers to have the ability to load full weblog posts instantly, seek for a particular tag, or view different pages of the positioning. A medium precedence could be my lightbulb button on the prime, which lets customers swap between darkish or mild mode. 

By splitting up my UI between static and interactive, I can render quick and cargo the interactive JS as wanted.

When to make use of it?

Usually talking, devs select Single-Web page Functions to be used circumstances that require a considerable amount of interactivity and logic on the shopper. Gmail or Google Calendar are nice examples. These extremely advanced net functions require JavaScript for the perfect person expertise. Evaluating Gmail to my weblog at www.kalebmckelvey.com and you may simply see why I can use an MPA framework in comparison with the interactive necessities of google’s well-known e mail shopper.

Content material-focused web sites with smaller quantities of shopper interactions are an awesome match for MPAs as a result of we will lazy load within the components we'd like JavaScript for. This implies quicker render time from the server-rendered pages, with incremental JavaScript additions as wanted utilizing the island structure.

My expertise with Astro is restricted to studying via the docs, attempting out the tutorial, and including a number of additional bells and whistles to it. I needed to get an total really feel for the brand new framework, take a look at out if I’d use it for my weblog re-vamp, and have the ability to write about it. Hopefully, it helps you determine whether or not or not it’s best for you!

Developer Docs

To start out issues off with a bang, the Astro developer docs are an absolute masterpiece. They're well-organized, well-written, and straightforward to navigate (together with looking) – undoubtedly an enormous fan!

Having a ‘Begin Right here' part, a tutorial part, which then results in the fundamentals, ideas, and person guides for finishing sure duties felt like I used to be advancing one step at a time. With their main area of interest being content-focused web sites, they cowl subjects round utilizing a CMS, authoring content material, and utilizing integrations for widespread issues like RSS feeds or picture optimizations.

Properly carried out Astro!

Constructing a Weblog Tutorial

Certainly one of my favourite components of studying Astro was the attractive tutorial expertise.

The tutorial tracker as you progress was such a small addition that made the tutorial really feel linked and intentional:


I appreciated how they went via widespread ideas that customers of the framework will want for his or her web site, and it goes from very fundamental to a number of the extra superior subjects. I felt so excited and pumped to make use of Astro as soon as the tutorial completed!

Code Fences and Writing Elements

When creating Astro Elements, the framework must separate the JavaScript (part script) vs the HTML (part template). Code fences are used to take action.

You possibly can see that Astro has an identical syntax to JSX, the place we will use JS inside the HTML and part template for dynamic UI. As you undergo the tutorial on their web site, it's also possible to pull information from inside. Right here’s an instance of pulling the posts inside the publish listing: 

`const allPosts = await Astro.glob('../posts/*.md');`

There are different examples of find out how to construct a part, however total it appears one thing like this!



// Element Script contained in the code fences

Import X from ‘../parts/x.astro’

Const favoriteAnimals = [‘lion’, ‘zebra’, ‘cheetah’, ‘elephant’, ‘panda bear’, ‘polar bear’];


<!-- Element Template -->

<h1>Animals are all world wide</h1>

<!-- Use props and different variables from the part script: -->

<p>My favourite animal, the {Astro.props.favoriteAnimalName} lives in {Astro.props.favoriteAnimalLocation}</p>

<h1>A few of my favourite animals are</h1>

<!-- Combine HTML and JS -->


  {favoriteAnimals.map((animal) => <li>{animal}</li>)}




Styling in Astro is simple. You should utilize localized model tags for every part or import world CSS out of your predominant CSS recordsdata. Since Astro robotically scopes model tags within the Astro parts, you don’t have to fret about utilizing particular selectors. Additional, you'll be able to add SCSS, Much less, or Tailwind if that’s your choice. Lastly, you'll be able to usher in exterior CSS sources.

Right here’s an instance of kinds in a part:



  h2 {

colour: pink;

weight: 500;




Initially, seeing the model tags does really feel odd since that jogs my memory of including kinds straight into an HTML file, nevertheless it grew to become a pleasant contact the longer I used it.

Consumer Directives

Consumer directives instruct the place within the software JavaScript is hydrated. By default, there isn't any interactivity, so there’s no hydration. I see these as the primary character within the Island Structure.

There are a number of totally different directives you should use to inform Astro what wants hydrated, and at what precedence – verify them out right here

It’s slick which you could hydrate JS solely when a component is seen, what a pleasant contact!


Astro provides you the choice of including options via integrations, akin to organising React or Tailwind. They make it simple to run a command line command, replace some config, and you're off to the races. These remind me of Gatsby Plugins, which had comparable targets – additive components of an internet site that you could possibly embody if wanted, re-using abstractions for widespread weblog options.

As of at present, there are various totally different integrations obtainable for Astro, and you may even create your individual. I didn’t do this and might’t inform you the method there. Total they provide customizations that assist you to construct your websites quicker.

For me, the mixing system (just like plugins with Gatsby) is my greatest hesitancy for going all in on the Astro framework. They make upgrading fairly the duty, as a result of not solely do it is advisable repair any breaking modifications for the foundational framework, it additionally requires going via the integrations and determining what must be up to date for each as nicely. Moreover, maintainers of the integrations could transfer on to different initiatives, so chances are you'll be caught eradicating or contributing your self as a substitute.

My council right here could be to make use of the least quantity of integrations you want, however this in fact is simpler mentioned than carried out when constructing a brand new web site.

Fetching Knowledge

Knowledge fetching with the worldwide `fetch()` perform or with GraphQL wasn’t coated within the tutorial. There's a part on how to do that with Astro, nevertheless it wasn’t one thing I checked out but.

They've a full part devoted to it within the docs, which makes use of a top-level `await` to load the information within the script. For information that must be loaded a number of instances on the shopper, this does seem like it requires a bit extra work to handle, so it could be one thing to discover in additional element if that’s a use case you’re supporting.

Be taught Methods to Create Infrastructure for Knowledge Science Initiatives.

Taking a number of hours to get conversant in Astro was nicely price it. I actually loved getting a really feel for the framework, understanding a bit about the way it works, and studying the way it matches into the net dev ecosystem. 

The framework leans into sending much less JavaScript by default and makes creating performant websites with the Island Structure simple. Solely time will inform how nicely Astro is adopted; from my expertise, I definitely give kudos to Astro for making it a breeze to be taught. 

For content-focused websites with out the necessity for JavaScript in all places, Astro gives an easy-to-learn, robust developer expertise, and UI framework/library agnostic strategy to constructing out one thing wonderful. Total, I’m very impressed and may have it as a prime contender as I look to rebuild my portfolio this winter.

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