How to Create a Router in JavaScript with TanStack Router

Anton Ioffe - March 16th 2024 - 10 minutes read

As the digital landscape continually evolves, finding efficient ways to navigate through the burgeoning complexity of web application development becomes paramount. Enter TanStack Router, a modern solution designed to revolutionize how we think about routing in JavaScript applications. This article will embark on a comprehensive journey, unraveling the distinctive aspects of TanStack Router from its inception to advanced implementation techniques. We'll dive into the nitty-gritty of setting up and configuring your first routes, explore the cutting-edge features for complex routing scenarios, touch upon performance optimization tricks such as lazy loading, and steer through common pitfalls to ensure your routing logic is both robust and scalable. Whether you're integrating TanStack Router into a new project or considering it as an alternative in an existing application, this exploration is tailored to elevate your routing strategy to the next level, prompting you to rethink the possibilities of modern web development.

Introduction to TanStack Router and Its Ecological Space

TanStack Router emerges in the JavaScript ecosystem as a groundbreaking solution for routing in web applications. Its core purpose is to tackle the limitations and challenges developers face with traditional routing systems by introducing a type-safe, modular, and highly intuitive routing mechanism. Unlike its predecessors, TanStack Router is designed from the ground up to accommodate the dynamic and complex needs of modern web application development, focusing on improving developer experience and application stability.

The distinctive design philosophy of TanStack Router centers around type safety and developer productivity. In the evolving landscape of web development, where applications grow in complexity, ensuring that routes are correctly defined and used becomes paramount. TanStack Router addresses this by ensuring a tight coupling between route definitions and their usage across the application, providing compile-time errors for undefined routes or parameters. This level of safety is a significant departure from traditional routing solutions, where such errors could go unnoticed until runtime.

Another aspect that sets TanStack Router apart is its support for 100% TypeScript, elevating it above many existing routing solutions that lack comprehensive type safety. This full TypeScript support ensures that developers can leverage powerful autocomplete features and static type checking, significantly reducing the risk of runtime errors caused by incorrect route usage or parameter types. This integration with TypeScript not only enhances code reliability but also streamlines the development process by making routes self-documenting and easier to refactor.

Furthermore, TanStack Router introduces innovative features such as route prefetching and file-based routing, aligning with modern web development practices. These features, combined with its suspense-first design, enable developers to create more responsive and user-friendly applications. The router's emphasis on coordinated data loading and single loading spinners for route transitions reflects a deep understanding of the user experience challenges in web application development.

In conclusion, TanStack Router's emergence is a response to the evolving requirements of web development, offering a solution that prioritizes type safety, developer efficiency, and enhanced user experience. By solving specific problems related to routing in web applications, it positions itself as a potent alternative to traditional routing solutions. Its ecological space within the JavaScript ecosystem is defined by its innovative design and features that cater to the needs of modern, complex web applications, marking a significant evolution in routing practices.

Setting Up and Configuring TanStack Router

To integrate TanStack Router into your project, begin by installing it through your preferred package manager. Execute the command npm install @tanstack/react-location for NPM users, or if you're using Yarn, run yarn add @tanstack/react-location. This installs the core package necessary to harness the router's capabilities within a Vite-React application, or any React project. It’s crucial to ensure that your project setup aligns with the router’s requirements, particularly if you're utilizing TypeScript to leverage type safety features provided by TanStack Router.

Once installation is complete, configuring TanStack Router starts with importing and declaring your routes. Define a routes object where keys represent the path and values correspond to the component that should render. For instance, const routes = [{ path: '/', element: <Home />}, { path: '/about', element: <About />}]. This structure is not only straightforward but encourages a modular design allowing for easily manageable route declarations, especially as your application grows in complexity.

The next step involves setting up the router instance and integrating it within your React application. Typically, this is done by wrapping your app's component tree with the router provider. You would import createBrowserRouter and RouterProvider from @tanstack/react-location, create a router instance using createBrowserRouter(routes), and then use this instance as a prop for RouterProvider that encapsulates your application or a specific part thereof that requires routing functionality. Here, best practices suggest keeping the router setup close to the application's entry point to ensure that routes are accessible throughout the entire application.

In terms of structuring route configurations for scalability, encapsulate route definitions within separate files or modules, especially for larger applications with numerous routes. This approach not only enhances readability but also facilitates easier maintenance and testing. You can categorize routes by their nature or the domain they belong to, thereby following a modular structure that complements the overall application architecture.

A common pitfall to avoid during setup is neglecting to handle routes' dynamic segments or parameters appropriately. Ensure that dynamic paths are correctly defined, for example by using /users/:userId to denote a dynamic userId. Neglecting to define dynamic segments correctly can lead to runtime issues where certain routes fail to match or render incorrect components. Additionally, ensure that the application's state management logic correctly interacts with route changes, preserving application state across navigation or providing necessary redirects when required.

Advanced Routing Features and Techniques

TanStack Router empowers developers with the ability to craft nested routes, facilitating the creation of complex application structures where child routes inherit and extend the layout of their parent routes. This structure is particularly useful for applications that require different layouts or several layers of navigation. For instance, an application could have a main layout for public pages and another for authenticated users. Here's how nested routes can be implemented:

const routes = [
    path: '/',
    element: <AppLayout />,
    children: [
      { index: true, element: <Home /> },
      { path: 'dashboard', element: <DashboardLayout />,
        children: [
          { index: true, element: <DashboardIndex /> },
          { path: 'settings', element: <Settings /> }

Dynamic route parameters are another advanced feature of TanStack Router, allowing developers to create routes that adapt based on the URL parameters passed to them. This is crucial for user profiles, editing pages, or any scenario where the content is determined by a unique identifier. Dynamic parameters are straightforward to set up but provide powerful flexibility in handling data-driven routes:

const routes = [
  { path: 'profile/:userId', element: <UserProfile /> }

Route guards are essential for managing access to routes based on authentication or authorization criteria. TanStack Router handles this elegantly by leveraging the power of React components to conditionally render routes based on the application's state or user permissions. A common implementation pattern involves wrapping the guarded route's element with a component that checks for the necessary condition:

function ProtectedRoute({ children }) {
  const auth = useAuth();
  return auth.user ? children : <Navigate to="/login" />;

const routes = [
    path: '/dashboard',
    element: <ProtectedRoute><Dashboard /></ProtectedRoute>

This pattern not only simplifies the process of protecting routes but also integrates seamlessly with React's compositional nature, making it a powerful technique for controlling access to different parts of your application based on user state.

To further enhance the flexibility and modularity of routing, TanStack Router also enables developers to dynamically load routes. This technique can drastically improve application performance by splitting the codebase into smaller chunks and loading them only when required. Developers can define a route that asynchronously loads a component upon access:

const routes = [
    path: '/report',
    element: React.lazy(() => import('./components/Report'))

Using these advanced routing features and techniques, developers can build highly modular, efficient, and secure web applications. Each of these features plays a crucial role in managing the complexity of modern web applications, offering a workflow that is both powerful and developer-friendly. As web development grows increasingly dynamic, mastering these advanced routing capabilities becomes pivotal in creating sophisticated and user-centric applications.

Performance Optimization and Lazy Loading

Leveraging TanStack Router in your web applications extends beyond type safety and intuitive API; it also offers powerful capabilities for performance optimization. Particularly through route-based code splitting and lazy loading, developers can significantly improve their application's load times and overall user experience. By dynamically loading only the necessary chunks at runtime, applications become much faster and more efficient, reducing the initial load time which is critical for maintaining user engagement.

Implementing lazy loading with TanStack Router involves using dynamic imports in your route configuration. Dynamic imports allow for splitting your application code into manageable chunks that are only loaded when required. This is incredibly useful for large applications with numerous routes and components. To apply code splitting, each route's component is imported dynamically, ensuring that users only download the code necessary for rendering the views they interact with.

const routes = [
  { path: '/', element: React.lazy(() => import('./HomePage')) },
  { path: '/about', element: React.lazy(() => import('./AboutPage')) },
  { path: '/contact', element: React.lazy(() => import('./ContactPage')) },

In the example above, using React.lazy for component imports within routes ensures that these components are loaded only when the corresponding route is activated. This delay in loading can significantly enhance performance, especially in applications with heavy components. However, developers must handle loading states explicitly to provide feedback to users when components are being fetched. This often involves integrating React's <Suspense> component at strategic points in your application to display loading indicators or fallback UI.

import React, { Suspense } from 'react';
import { Routes, Route } from 'tanstack-router';

const App = () => (
  <Suspense fallback={<div>Loading...</div>}>
      {/* Routes Configuration */}

Moreover, TanStack Router's support for route prefetching takes performance optimization a notch higher. Prefetching allows the router to eagerly load resources for other routes when the app anticipates future navigation, based on user interaction hints like link hovering. This makes transitions between pages almost seamless and significantly enhances the perceived speed of web applications.

In conclusion, optimizing web application performance through TanStack Router involves thoughtful implementation of lazy loading and code splitting techniques. By structuring your routes to dynamically load components, you make substantial gains in load time reductions. Combined with a smart prefetching strategy, user experience is greatly improved as most heavy lifting is done behind the scenes, making the application faster and more responsive. Therefore, employing these strategies effectively can lead to a more performant application, a crucial factor in achieving broader user engagement and satisfaction.

Common Mistakes and Best Practices

One common mistake developers often make when using TanStack Router involves the improper handling of dynamic route parameters, particularly failing to validate or incorrectly casting these parameters. This can lead to unintended application behavior or security vulnerabilities. For instance, assuming all parameters are strings without validation can break your application if numeric operations are performed on them. The correct approach is to always validate and parse route parameters according to their expected types before using them in your application logic. Using TypeScript with TanStack Router enhances this process by enforcing type safety, but careful manual validation is still crucial for dynamic parameters.

Another oversight is the underutilization of the router's capabilities to manage state and replace traditional state management solutions for certain use cases. While it's not a one-size-fits-all solution, leveraging the router's state management for UI-specific state can simplify the architecture. Developers should assess whether the router's state capabilities are sufficient for their current needs, avoiding the complexity and overhead of additional state management libraries. This does not only reduce boilerplate but also harnesses the router's efficiency in managing UI states based on the navigation history.

Additionally, neglecting the use of nested routes is a missed opportunity for creating more modular and understandable code structures. Nested routes allow for a hierarchy that matches the UI component structure, promoting better organization and reusability. A flat route configuration might seem simpler for small applications, but as the application grows, nested routes can significantly ease the maintenance burden. It’s important to leverage nested routes to encapsulate routing logic relevant to specific parts of the application, thereby improving modularity and scalability.

The lack of error handling for route transitions is a common pitfall. Developers sometimes assume that navigation will succeed without considering scenarios where a route may fail due to data loading issues or unauthorized access. Implementing comprehensive error handling mechanisms during navigation and route loading phases enhances the application’s resilience and provides a better user experience. Properly handling these errors can mean redirecting to a fallback route, displaying an informative error message, or even retrying the navigation after fulfilling certain conditions.

Thought-provoking questions include: How might the application's architecture change if we rely more heavily on the router's state management capabilities? Could this lead to a simpler or more complex state management paradigm? Additionally, how does the decision between using flat versus nested routes impact the scalability and maintainability of the codebase? And finally, how can we establish a balance between leveraging the router for state management while ensuring that the application remains flexible and maintainable in the face of evolving requirements? These questions encourage developers to critically examine their routing architecture, contemplating the balance between utilizing TanStack Router's features and maintaining a clear, scalable application structure.


In this article, we explore TanStack Router, a modern and innovative solution for routing in JavaScript applications. The article covers the unique features of TanStack Router, such as its focus on type safety, support for TypeScript, and advanced routing techniques like nested routes and route guards. It also explores performance optimization techniques like lazy loading and code splitting. The key takeaway is that TanStack Router offers a powerful and efficient routing solution that significantly improves developer experience and application performance. The challenging task for the reader is to critically examine their routing architecture and consider how to leverage TanStack Router's features while maintaining a clear and scalable application structure.

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