How to show in-app messages using Material-UI in a React web app

How to show in-app messages using Material-UI in a React web app
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How to show in-app messages using Material-UI in a React web app

Author: Kelly Burke


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In some situations, your web app needs to show an informational message to tell users whether an event was successful or not. For example, a “Success” message after a user clicks a button and successfully completes some action.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a simple component for informational, in-app messages with React and Material-UI. We’ll call it a Notifier component.

Here are the main sections of this tutorial:

  • Getting started
  • Notifier component
  • Import Notifier component to Index page
  • Testing

If you find this article useful, consider starring our Github repo and checking out our book where we cover this and many other topics in detail.

Getting started

For this tutorial, I’ve created a simple web app for you to follow. We’ll use code located in the tutorials/4-start folder of our builderbook repo.

If you don’t have time to run the app locally, I deployed this example app here.

To run the app locally:

  • Clone the builderbook repo to your local machine with:
git clone git@github.com:builderbook/builderbook.git
  • Inside the 4-start folder, run yarn or npm install to install all packages listed in package.json.
  • Run yarn dev to start the app.

Index page

On your browser, go to http://localhost:3000. This is our Index page, which has the / route. Next.js provides automatic routing for pages located in a /pages folder. The name of each page file becomes that page’s route.

Our Index page is a simple page component that renders a form, an input, and a button (more explanation below).

Here’s the code for our Index page at pages/index.js:

A few notes:

  • We could have defined this page as a stateless functional component, since it has no state, lifecycle hooks, or refs (read more about when to use stateless functional components versus React ES6 classes). You’ll see this Eslint warning: Component should be written as a pure function. However, the final Index page that we write in this tutorial will have ref. Hence, we wrote this initial Index page as a child of ES6 class using extends.
  • We imported Head from Next.js in order to customize the <Head> element of the page. Inside <Head>, we added a page <title> and<meta> description for proper indexing by search engine bots (good for SEO). The text inside <title> displays on your browser tab:
  • We used Material-UI’s TextField and Button components, which render into <input> and <button> HTML elements, respectively.
  • We wrapped our page with a withLayout higher-order component. Our app uses Next.js, and withLayout ensures that server-side rendering works properly for Material-UI inside our React-Next app. withLayout also adds our Header component (located at components/Header.js) to each page that withLayout wraps. Server-side rendering is not necessary for Material-UI or React, but it is a main feature of Next.js. We discussed server-side vs. client-side rendering in React apps in another tutorial.

We are done describing our initial Index page. Now let’s discuss the Notifier component that we will later import into the Index page to show informational messages to our web app users.

Notifier component

Let’s start by defining the Notifier component. We define Notifier as a React.Component instead of a stateless function, because Notifier will have state, one lifecycle method, and a few event handling functions.

For our informational messages, we will use Material-UI’s Snackbar. Check out examples of using Snackbar on the official Material-UI site.

Here’s a high-level outline of our Notifier component:

Create a Notifier.js file inside the /components folder of 4-start. Add the above high-level outline to this file. Below, we will replace the numbered comments with code.

1. We will use the open and message props of Material-UI’s Snackbar for the state of our Notifier. Check the full list of props for Snackbar.

Initially, our Notifier should be in a closed state with an empty string as a message. We define the Notifier's initial state as:

2. Now let’s write a function that updates the state of the Notifier component. The function will change the value of the open prop to true and set the value of the message prop to a non-empty string. Let’s call this function openSnackbar().

Before we can execute openSnackbar(), our Notifier component needs to be mounted in the DOM. Thus, we put the openSnackbar() function into a componentDidMount lifecycle method that executes right after the Notifier component mounts in the DOM.

In order to access the openSnackbar() function anywhere in our app, we have to set its value to another function that is available outside of the Notifier component. Hence, we write let openSnackbarFn above class Notifier extends React.Component.

Putting these pieces together:

Now let’s define the openSnackbar() function. This function will update the open and message properties of our Notifier’s state. Once the state is updated, the Notifier component will get re-rendered to show a message (open:true displays the Snackbar, and message:message sets the message).

Inside this.setState, we could have written message as message:message. Instead, we used ES6 shorthand syntax (enforced by Eslint) to make the code more concise.

3. When a user clicks outside of the Snackbar area, the Snackbar should close. The Snackbar prop onClose is responsible for this behavior. Let’s write a function called handleSnackbarClose() that sets open to false and message to an empty string.

4. Finally, let’s write code for our Notifier component to render the Snackbar component with all necessary props.

In addition to the message, onClose, and open props described above, we’ll add the following props to our Snackbar component:

  • anchorOrigin: specifies the Snackbar location
  • autoHideDuration: specifies the Snackbar duration in milliseconds
  • SnackbarContentProps: binds the Snackbar to an element inside the DOM that contains message; in our case, the element has the id snackbar-message-id, and the Snackbar will display text from this element.

Here is the render() method of our Notifier component:

In the <span> element, we could have written message={this.state.message}, but instead we wrote dangerouslySetInnerHTML={{ __html: this.state.message }} . This allows us to add HTML code to the Snackbar’s message prop. For instance, you may want to show a hyperlink to users. Read more about using dangerouslySetInnerHTML in React.

After putting the code from steps 1–4 together, here’s our final Notifier component:

Important note: notice how we exported our openSnackbar() function in addition to Notifier component. We will import both openSnackbar() and Notifier into our Index page.

Import Notifier component to Index page

Let’s go back to our Index page, where we will import our Notifier component and openSnackbar() function.

Without triggering the openSnackbar() function, our Notifier component will always stay in its initial closed state with an empty string as a message. We need to execute openSnackbar() after a user submits the form by clicking the button on our Index page. Let’s define a showNotifier() function that does exactly that.

showNotifier Function

We will call showNotifier() inside the <form> element. We’ll make showNotifier() execute when a user enters a number on the form and clicks the “Submit” button.

Here’s the current <form> on our Index page:

Let’s make two modifications:

1. To call showNotifier() when the form is submitted, we use JavaScript’s onsubmit Event:

2. A user will enter a number inside TextField. In order for our showNotifier() function to access the value of TextField, we add React’s ref attribute to TextField.

There are two ways to get the value of TextField: with this.state and with ref. We chose ref, since this.state is more concise. Here’s an explanation of writing with this.state, and here’s more info about using ref in React.

Now let’s define the showNotifier() function. Here’s the high-level outline for showNotifier():

Below, we’ll write code for each of the three comments above.

  1. We define answer as:

This line of code says that IF answerInput exists (meaning the <input> element is added to the DOM), THEN answer equals the value of answerInput, which is accessed with answerInput.value.

IF answerInput does not exist, THEN the entire condition in parentheses is false and answer equals null.

2. If a user does not enter an answer on our form but clicks the “Submit” button, we will show this message: Empty field. Enter a number.

3. If a user enters 4 and clicks the “Submit” button, then our openSnackbar() function will run and show this message: Correct answer!. Otherwise, it will show Incorrect answer.

We use parseInt(answer, 10) to parse answer, which is a string, and return an integer. The parameter 10 specifies that the integer is in decimal format.

Let’s put together the code from steps 1–3 above for our showNotifier function. We’ll place the code right under the line class Index extends React.Component:

You’ll notice that we added a line event.preventDefault();. This will prevent our <form> element from its default behavior of sending form data to a server.

Now we have all the code for our final Index page:

Testing

Let’s test that our Notifier works as expected. Run the app locally with yarn dev and navigate to http://localhost:3000. If you aren’t running the app, go to the one I deployed: https://notifier.builderbook.org.

First, click “Submit” without adding anything in the text field.

Next, add the number 4 and click “Submit”.

Now add any other number and click “Submit”.

Remember that we wrote code to close the Snackbar when a user clicks away from it (we wrote a handleSnackbarClose() function and passed it to the onClose prop of the Snackbar). After seeing the Snackbar, click anywhere besides the Snackbar itself on your screen. The Snackbar should close immediately.

A nice feature of Material-UI is mobile optimization. We don’t have to write extra code for our informational message to look good on mobile devices. See for yourself by going to Chrome’s DevTools and changing the view from desktop to mobile. Our message appears across the top of the screen:

Woohoo! You’ve successfully added an informational, in-app message to a React web app! Your final code should match the code in the tutorials/4-end folder of our builderbook repo.

Customize Notifier component

Now that you have a working Notifier component, let’s see how we can modify the UX by changing props of Material-UI’s SnackBar component. Here’s the full list of props you can use.

First, let’s change the duration of the Snackbar. Insider your Notifier component, find the autoHideDuration prop. Change its value from 3000 to 1000 and compare. You’ll see that at 1000, the Snackbar closes more quickly.

Second, let’s change the position of the Snackbar. Find the anchorOrigin prop and change its values from top and right to bottom and left, respectively. Check where the Snackbar appears now:

Finally, let’s make the Snackbar message include a hyperlink. Recall that we added dangerouslySetInnerHTML={{ __html: this.state.message }} to our message prop in the Snackbar so that we can write HTML inside of it.

Change the code for our Correct answer! and Incorrect answer. messages like this:

Now users will see the messages below. Notice the dark blue hyperlinks for text inside the <a> tags.

If you’re learning how to build web apps with JavaScript, check out our Github repo and our book, where we cover this and many other topics in detail.

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If you’d like to read our book but are unable to afford it, email us at team@builderbook.org.


How to show in-app messages using Material-UI in a React web app was originally published in freeCodeCamp on Medium.