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Use the Full Power of React Icons for Great User Experience

React Icons have been instrumental in streamlining the process of integrating icons and developing React applications. As React applications became more and more widespread, the need for a solution to managing icons across the React ecosystem became apparent. Libraries such as react-font awesome and react-icons have emerged, gaining popularity because of their ease of use and comprehensive icon sets.

With the evolving React landscape, designers and developers craved more versatility and customizability for their icons. This shift gave birth to libraries that would provide icons as React components, with a hefty side of SVG, thanks to its data-lightness and user flexibility. SVG icons provided increased resolution independence and a plethora of options for dynamic manipulation, including CSS and theming, making for a performance and flexibility win.

This article extensively explores various techniques, customization options, and other advanced features of React icons.

Understanding React icons: Overview

React Icons is an open-source library that simplifies icon integration in React projects by offering customizable components for various icon libraries. It’s free, allowing for easy incorporation without commercial licensing restrictions. Its advanced configuration allows developers to customize the needed icons to meet unique project needs.

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Types of React Icons

React Icons supports a wide range of icon libraries, each library with its own sets of icons. Here are some popular types of icons:

  • Font Awesome Icons

  • Material Design Icons

  • Feather Icons

  • React Bootstrap Icons

  • Custom SVG Icons

Font Awesome Icons

It is a popular icon library with a wide range of icons. They come in two styles: regular and solid. Their sizes and colors are customizable.

Usage:

   import { FaCoffee } from 'react-icons/fa';

   const MyComponent = () => {
     return (
       <div>
         <p>Enjoy a cup of <FaCoffee />!</p>
       </div>
     );
   };
   export default MyComponent;

Material Design Icons

Material UI icon, a popular design system created by Google, provides a wide library of icons for React applications. Below is an example that uses a Material Design Icon:

// MyComponent.js

import AlarmIcon from '@material-ui/icons/Alarm';
const MyComponent = () => {
  return (
    <div>
      <h1>Welcome to My App</h1>
      <p>Enjoy a cup of Coffee <AlarmIcon /> for a timely reminder!</p>
    </div>
  );
};

export default MyComponent;

Feather Icons

It is an open-source icon collection designed for simplicity, consistency, and ease of use. It is lightweight and supports customization.

import { Twitter, Facebook, GitHub } from 'react-feather';

   const SocialIcons = () => {
  return (
    <div>
      <Twitter size={32} color="#1DA1F2" />
      <Facebook size={32} color="#1877F2" />
      <GitHub size={32} color="#333" />
    </div>
  );
};

export default SocialIcons;

React Bootstrap Icons

React Bootstrap icons have over 1500+ icons in a single collection. It has less compatibility and infinite scalability. It is imported into React as SVG.

import { HouseDoor } from 'react-bootstrap-icons';
const BootstrapIconsExample = () => {
  return (
    <div>
        <HouseDoor size={32} color="green" />
      </div>
  );
};
export default BootstrapIconsExample;

Custom SVG Icons

React allows the use of custom SVG icons giving developers flexibility to include their icons. The integrations and other features will be discussed subsequently.

Reasons for choosing React icons

  • React Icons is an easy-to-use, versatile, and customizable icon library that provides the most popular icons in one library. The flexibility of these icons ensures they easily match the icons in the overall design and theme of your application.

  • React Icons simplifies the integration of icons in your React applications. Implementing icons as React components ensures seamless integration and customization.

  • React Icons primarily uses SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) for displaying icons. Since SVGs are vector graphics, they scale without losing quality, making them suitable for various screen sizes and resolutions.

To learn a bit more about using React Icons, check out this tutorial video below:

Advanced Customization Techniques

Advanced customization techniques of React icons involve going beyond basic usage to tailor the behavior, styling, and integration of icons to specific project needs.

Configuring React Icons

Configuring React Icons involves customizing its behavior through the icon prop. To configure icon props, target the following:

  • size

  • color

Icon Size and Scaling

Configuring the size props allows you to overwrite the default size with a value of your choice. Implementing responsive sizing for icons based on the device or screen size ensures the icon scales relative to the viewport. Consider the following example:

// the iconSize is adjusted based on the window.innerWidth property.
import { useEffect, useState } from "react";
import { FaCoffee } from "react-icons/fa";

const MyComponent = () => {
  const [iconSize, setIconSize] = useState(40);

  useEffect(() => {
    const handleResize = () => {
      setIconSize(window.innerWidth > 650 ? 40 : 30);
    };

    window.addEventListener("resize", handleResize);

    return () => {
      window.removeEventListener("resize", handleResize);
    };
  }, []);

  return (
    <div>
      <FaCoffee size={iconSize} />
    </div>
  );
};

export default MyComponent;

The illustration above shows the icon dynamically changing size in response to changes in viewport width.

Icon Color

React Icon provides color props to dynamically change the color of an icon. It offers versatile color customization options, enabling you to personalize the icons in multiple ways. This approach is illustrated in the example below:

import { FaCoffee } from "react-icons/fa";

const App = () => {
  return (
    <div
      style={{
        display: "flex",
        justifyContent: "center",
        alignItems: "center",
        height: "100vh",
      }}
    >
      <FaCoffee color="red" size={40} />
    </div>
  );
};

export default App;

In the illustration above, you can see that setting a color prop with a red value changes the default from a black to a red color

Custom Styling of React Icons

React Icons allows you to customize the icons in the React app to match your project’s style and themes. Icon styles and sizes can be changed using CSS or inline style. Here are a few ways to style React Icons:

  • Using IconContext component

  • Using inline styling

  • Using className prop

Using IconContext component:

The IconContext streamlines the styling of multiple icons placed side-by-side. It provides a Provider component to wrap the necessary icons and assign an object with unique keys (provided by react-icons) and value pairs to the Provider value attribute.

import { IconContext } from 'react-icons';
import { FaBeer } from 'react-icons/fa';
function LargeIcon() {
  return (
    <IconContext.Provider
      value={{ color: 'green', size: '35px' }}
    >
      <div>
        <FaBeer />
      </div>
    </IconContext.Provider>
  );
}

Using Inline styling

This approach involves applying styles directly to the JSX code using the style attribute. Inline styling allows you to customize the appearance of an icon from within the component without depending on an external stylesheet:

import { FaFacebookF } from 'react-icons/fa';

const style = { color: "white", fontSize: "1.5em" };

function MyComponent() {
  return (
    <FaFacebookF style={style} />
  );
}

Using className prop

Icons in React can be custom-styled using CSS. This is achieved by assigning classes to icons through the className prop, allowing precise targeting and application of styles to customize the appearance of the icon. We can utilize external stylesheets or CSS-In-JS libraries to style icons.

import { FaCoffee } from 'react-icons/fa';
import AlarmIcon from '@material-ui/icons/Alarm';
import './myComponent.css';

const MyComponent = () => {
  return (
    <div className="app-container">
      <p className="icon-text">
        Enjoy a cup of <FaCoffee className="coffee-icon" /> while setting your 
        <AlarmIcon className="alarm-icon" /> for a timely reminder!
      </p>
    </div>
  );
};

export default MyComponent;
/* myComponent.css */

.coffee-icon {
  color: #A52A2A;
  margin-right: 8px;
}

.alarm-icon {
  color: #007BFF;
  margin-right: 8px;
}

Creating custom react icons

Custom icons can be created with design tools like Figma or Adobe Illustrator. Once created, they can be exported as SVG files and imported either as a React Icon component or as JSX code in your React application. Consider the following usage examples:

// create an HeartIcon.js

const HeartIcon = ({ color, size }) => {
  return (
    <svg
      xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg"
      viewBox="0 0 24 24"
      width={size}
      height={size}
      fill={color}
    >
      <path d="M12 21.35l-1.45-1.32C5.4 15.36 2 12.28 2 8.5 2 5.42 4.42 3 7.5 3c1.74 0 3.41.81 4.5 2.09C16.09 3.81 17.76 3 19.5 3 22.58 3 25 5.42 25 8.5c0 3.78-3.4 6.86-8.55 11.54L12 21.35z" />
    </svg>
  );
};

export default HeartIcon;
// App.js
import React from 'react';
import HeartIcon from './HeartIcon';

const App = () => {
  return (
    <div>
      <HeartIcon color="red" size={24} />
    </div>
  );
};

export default App;
A heart-shaped icon

Using React-SVG instead of fonts

Earlier, most websites showcased icons using images, but images were tedious to manage. Font Awesome revolutionized web typography, providing a more user-friendly approach to incorporating icons into websites. For a while, font icons emerged as the preferred solution due to their scalability without compromising quality. Since the browser treats font icons as text, their sizes, and colors are easily customizable with CSS. However, recent technological advancements revealed certain limitations associated with traditional font icons. This realization prompted a transition towards adopting SVGSVG addresses most of the shortcomings inherent in font icons, offering an improved solution for enhancing user experience.

Recent improvements in browser support for SVG have increased its popularity, enabling developers to embrace it for icons. Being vector-based graphics, SVG has better resolution than font icons and other image formats. SVG offers more flexibility for dynamic customization, easy integration, accessibility, and animation, making it more suited as icons than fonts. The React-SVG library ensures we can fully explore the capabilities of SVG in React apps. The illustration below shows a collection of free animated open-source SVG icons for React.js, evidence of what’s achievable with React SVG:

Justification

Using React-SVG in place of icon fonts can be justified for the following reasons:

  • Easy Scalability: Since SVGs are vector graphics, they scale without losing quality. This is very useful for any graphical element that needs to be resized, including logos and icons.

  • Maintainability: Easy to add, replace, delete icons, and update file imports in the project compared to a font that is difficult to regenerate.

  • Customization: SVGs are highly customizable through CSS, allowing you to change their colors, sizes, and other properties easily. This level of control can be more intricate than what’s achievable with fonts.

  • Accessibility: Web fonts and SVGs can be made accessible, however, SVGs frequently offer greater flexibility in terms of the content’s semantics and structure, making accessibility alternatives more favorable.

  • Performance: In some situations, particularly when working with intricate graphics, SVGs may perform better. They can be loaded and optimized more quickly than web fonts, which could have extra costs.

  • Interactivity: SVGs may be animated and have events, which makes them appropriate for dynamic and interesting user interfaces. The interactivity of fonts is limited because they are mainly used for text.

Utilizing a Web font-based approach

The web font-based approach in React involves using icon fonts, such as those provided by libraries like FontAwesome. Icon fonts are sets of symbols or glyphs that can be displayed as icons in web applications.

import '@fortawesome/fontawesome-free/css/all.min.css';

const FontBasedIcons = () => {
  return (
    <div>
      <i className="fas fa-heart"></i>
      <i className="fas fa-star"></i>
      {/* Add more FontAwesome icons as needed */}
    </div>
  );
};

export default FontBasedIcons;

Transitioning to React SVG

Transitioning to SVG in React involves using inline SVG elements or importing SVG files as React components. This approach offers a scalable and maintainable way to work with vector-based graphics in a React app, especially in scenarios where dynamic modifications to the SVG elements are required.

Inline SVG in React

const InlineSVGExample = () => {
  return (
    <svg width={100} height={100} xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg">
      <circle cx={50} cy={50} r={40} stroke="black" strokeWidth={3} fill="red" />
    </svg>
  );
};

export default InlineSVGExample;

Using SVG as a React component

This approach allows the management of SVG files separately, making it easier to update and maintain them. Depending on the project requirements, you may need to install an SVG loader

<!-- logo.svg -->
<svg width="100" height="100" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg">
  <rect width="100%" height="100%" fill="#00F" />
  <circle cx="50" cy="50" r="40" fill="#FF0" />
</svg>
import { ReactComponent as Logo } from './logo.svg';

const SVGComponentExample = () => {
  return (
    <div>
      <Logo />
    </div>
  );
};

export default SVGComponentExample;
An SVG displaying a blue box with a yellow circle at its center.

Comparing React-SVG and icon font

icon font vs svg icon

To effectively compare React SVG and fonts, you have to consider various factors related to their usage, performance, customization, and accessibility. The following table explores the differences between React SVG and fonts:

React SVGFonts
It is crisp at any size (resolution-independent).It can lose quality when scaled up.
It offers better options for accessibility.It requires proper alternative text but might have limited semantic information compared to SVG.
It is easily customizable and animatable.It has limited customization options.
It reduces the need for HTTP requests when inline or imported directly.It requires additional HTTP requests for font files.
It allows for more efficient bundling and reduced file sizes, which improves performance.It is generally lightweight and efficient, however, unused icons may lead to heavy file sizes when completely loaded.

Application of React icons

React Icons can applied to a variety of use cases in a React application, including:

  • Navigation component: React icons can be utilized in different sections, links, or actions within navigation bars, hence, it plays a crucial role in enabling users to easily identify the purpose of the different pieces of the navigation component.

  • Buttons and Control icons: These icons are embedded into buttons and other interactive elements, visually conveying their functionalities.

  • Toggle and switch components: Icons are commonly used in accordion or toggle components to signify the expand/collapse action.

  • Form field components: Icons in form elements enhance the user experience by providing visual feedback or indicating field purpose, like an email icon next to an email field.

  • Data visualization: React icons can be utilized to represent a variety of data points or categories in a data visualization component.

Implementing accessibility best practices in React icons

Ensuring accessibility of React icons is crucial for enhancing the user experience of a React application. Every icon needs to be made accessible to impaired users. Icons should have aria-label to describe their purpose. For example, a thumbs-up icon should have an aria-label or label tag with a value like “Like post”. Consider the following guidelines for accessibility best practices in React Icons:

  • Use semantic markup: Whenever possible, choose appropriate HTML elements with better semantic meaning when using icons.

  • Provide ARIA Attributes: Utilize ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) attributes to enhance the accessibility of interactive elements. By including descriptive text using the aria-label attribute, we can provide context for screen reader users.

  • Provide Text Alternatives (Alt Text): When adding decorative icons that don’t convey any meaningful information to the HTML <img> element, it is safe not to include an alternative text. Nevertheless, it is recommended practice to provide an alternative text when employing informative icons on your webpage.

  • Keyboard navigation: Ensure that icons embedded in interactive elements are focusable and accessible using the keyboard.

  • Ensure Sufficient Color Contrast: Choose colors with sufficient contrast to make icons distinguishable for users with visual impairment.

  • Test with Screen Readers: Test your applications with screen readers to know if the context of the icon is clear to users who rely on assistive technology.

  • Consider Animated Icons Carefully: Limit your animations or use the preferred motion to create accessible animations.

Final Thoughts

Icons play a crucial role in web development, enhancing visual appeal and user experience. React Icons have emerged as a valuable solution, offering a comprehensive set of tools to elevate the look and functionality of our applications. The wide variety of the icons available, coupled with the ability to fully control their appearance, showcases the versatility of React Icons. By adhering to best practices, we can ensure they make a significant impact on visual appeal, performance, and overall user experience.

Moreover, as the React ecosystem evolves, one can anticipate further innovations and enhancements within the realm of React Icons.

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Further Reading

If you enjoyed this article on React Icons, consider reading the following articles to bolster your understanding of React concepts:

Ofili Chukwuemeka Timothy

Ofili Chukwuemeka Timothy