Mastering Scroll Restoration in React with React Query Library

Anton Ioffe - March 1st 2024 - 10 minutes read

In the ever-evolving landscape of modern web development, crafting seamless user experiences is paramount. This comprehensive guide ventures into the nuanced world of scroll restoration within React applications, leveraging the powerful capabilities of the React Query library. From mastering fundamental configurations to tackling complex scenarios with advanced techniques, we'll navigate through the intricacies of enhancing user navigation by preserving scroll positions. Whether it's addressing the challenges of single-page applications or optimizing for dynamic content, prepare to enrich your toolkit as we explore effective strategies, sidestep common pitfalls, and elevate the art of scroll restoration to new heights. Join us on this journey to ensure your React projects boast not only functionality but also finesse, keeping users engaged and content exactly where they expect it.

Exploring the Basics of Scroll Restoration

Scroll restoration is a crucial aspect of enhancing the user experience in modern web applications. It revolves around maintaining the scroll position of a webpage when a user navigates away and then returns. This feature is particularly important in scenarios where users are engaged in lengthy content, such as articles, product listings, or social media feeds. Without scroll restoration, users would be forced back to the top of the page upon returning, leading to frustration and a disruption in their browsing flow. Ensuring the scroll position is preserved, therefore, is key to a seamless user journey across web resources.

However, implementing scroll restoration presents challenges, especially in single-page applications (SPAs), which are prevalent in the current web development landscape. SPAs dynamically load content without requiring a page refresh, complicating the management of scroll positions. Traditional approaches to scroll restoration often depend on the browser's default behavior, which is not designed with the dynamic nature of SPAs in mind. This discrepancy can lead to inconsistent user experiences, with scroll positions either not being preserved or not accurately reflecting the user's previous interactions.

React, a popular library for building user interfaces, is frequently used in the development of SPAs. Despite its strengths in creating dynamic and interactive web applications, React does not provide an out-of-the-box solution for scroll restoration. Developers must therefore seek external solutions to bridge this functionality gap, ensuring that user experience remains unaffected by the technological underpinnings of their applications.

Enter React Query, a powerful tool for managing asynchronous data fetching, caching, and state synchronization in React applications. While not exclusively designed for scroll restoration, React Query’s capabilities in handling data and state can be leveraged to implement effective scroll position management. Its focus on simplifying data fetching and state management aligns well with the needs of scroll restoration in SPAs, offering developers a pathway to maintaining user scroll positions across navigations.

By utilizing React Query, developers can address the challenges of scroll restoration in React-based SPAs, enhancing the user experience by seamlessly preserving scroll positions. This not only improves navigation within applications but also contributes to a more engaging and user-friendly web environment. React Query thus emerges as a valuable ally in the quest to solve the intricacies of scroll restoration, further underlining its role as a versatile tool in modern web development.

React Query Fundamentals and Configuration for Scroll Position Management

React Query operates on the foundation of queries and mutations, essential concepts for handling asynchronous data operations within React applications. Queries with React Query are used for fetching, caching, and synchronizing data, whereas mutations manage data alterations such as additions, deletions, or updates. Understanding these operations is critical when we employ React Query for managing scroll positions since fetching data dynamically can affect the scroll position on the page. Essential to this process is the caching mechanism of React Query, which efficiently retrieves data from the cache if it's available, thus minimizing unnecessary data fetching and improving the user experience by potentially stabilizing the scroll position.

To initiate React Query in a React project, one needs to configure the QueryClient and wrap the application's root component with the QueryClientProvider. This setup is the gateway for React Query's features within the application, enabling components to make use of hooks like useQuery and useMutation. For scroll position management, particular attention should be paid to the configuration options passed to the QueryClient. These options can significantly impact how scroll data should be cached or refetched, thus directly affecting the scroll experience.

When configuring React Query for scroll management, the staleTime and cacheTime settings are particularly noteworthy. staleTime determines the duration for which fetched data is considered fresh, and during this period, React Query won’t refetch the data, thus not triggering scroll position changes. On the other hand, cacheTime controls how long unused data remains in the cache. By tuning these parameters, developers can optimize the balance between data freshness and scroll stability, reducing layout shifts due to data refetching.

Another configuration aspect relevant to scroll management is the refetchOnWindowFocus setting. This setting controls whether React Query should refetch the data when the user navigates back to the application window. While ensuring data freshness, this could inadvertently lead to scroll position changes, especially in applications where data fetching impacts layout dimensions. Disabling or carefully managing this behavior is crucial in maintaining a consistent scroll position.

Furthermore, leveraging React Query's background updating features allows for data to be updated without interrupting the user's scroll position. By fetching new data in the background and updating the cache without re-rendering components unnecessarily, we can ensure that the user experience remains smooth. This strategy, coupled with a thoughtful caching strategy, enables developers to create seamless, distraction-free scrolling experiences, even in highly dynamic applications where data changes frequently.

Implementing Scroll Restoration with React Query

To implement scroll restoration using React Query, the first step involves capturing the scroll position of the user before navigation occurs. This is essential for remembering the exact location and can be achieved by listening to route changes in your React application. A practical approach is to use a global state or a context to store the scroll positions keyed by the route paths. Here is an example of how you might capture and store the scroll position:

const [scrollPositions, setScrollPositions] = useState({});

useEffect(() => {
  const handleRouteChange = () => {
    const path = window.location.pathname;
      [path]: window.pageYOffset
  window.addEventListener('popstate', handleRouteChange);
  return () => window.removeEventListener('popstate', handleRouteChange);
}, [scrollPositions]);

After capturing the scroll position, the next step is to leverage React Query's caching mechanism to store these positions. Since React Query is excellent for managing asynchronous data alongside its states, caching the scroll position becomes a natural extension of its capabilities. Utilizing the queryCache provided by React Query, you can seamlessly integrate the scroll positions into React Query’s caching strategies, ensuring they are kept alive as needed and accessible throughout the app's lifecycle.

import { queryCache } from 'react-query';

// Function to save scroll position to React Query's cache
function saveScrollPosition(key, position) {
  queryCache.setQueryData(['scroll-position', key], position);

Restoring the scroll position is the third step, which is triggered upon user navigation. This requires a tactful approach to ensure a smooth user experience. Programmatically scrolling the user to their previous position can be facilitated by accessing the cached scroll positions during or immediately after route transitions. Typically, this is best done within a useEffect hook or similar lifecycle methods if class components are used:

useEffect(() => {
  const path = window.location.pathname;
  const savedPosition = queryCache.getQueryData(['scroll-position', path]);
  if (savedPosition) {
    window.scrollTo(0, savedPosition);
}, []);

Handling edge cases is paramount for a robust implementation. This includes addressing scenarios where the content might not be fully loaded when attempting to restore the scroll position. To circumvent this, it might be necessary to introduce slight delays or rely on element existence checks before performing the scroll action. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure compatibility across different browsers and devices, particularly in how they handle scroll positions and events, by perhaps incorporating polyfills or feature detections where applicable.

In summary, by capturing the scroll position before navigation, storing these positions using React Query's caching mechanisms, and programmatically restoring the position upon user navigation, developers can offer an enhanced navigation experience. Handling edge cases diligently and ensuring broad compatibility further solidify the implementation, making scroll restoration a seamless part of interacting with your React application.

Common Mistakes and Best Practices in Scroll Restoration

One common mistake when implementing scroll restoration in React applications, especially with infinite scrolling features, is neglecting asynchronous data loading states. Developers often attempt to restore the scroll position without considering if the data required to render the scrolled content is already fetched and available. This oversight leads to a scenario where the application scrolls to a position that does not yet contain any content, resulting in a confusing user experience. The correct approach involves ensuring that the scroll restoration logic is only executed once the necessary data is fully loaded. This can be achieved by utilizing React Query's isLoading state to check if data fetching is complete before restoring the scroll position.

// Incorrect
useEffect(() => {
    window.scrollTo(0, sessionStorage.getItem('scrollPosition'));
}, []);

// Correct
const { isLoading } = useQuery('todos', fetchTodos)

useEffect(() => {
        window.scrollTo(0, sessionStorage.getItem('scrollPosition'));
}, [isLoading]);

Another frequent oversight is not accounting for dynamic content that alters the height of the page, thus changing the scroll position context. For example, images and other media that load asynchronously can significantly shift the document's scroll position after the initial restoration. The remedy is to implement a scroll restoration mechanism that adapts to content changes. One effective method is to use the useEffect hook to monitor changes in the page's length or specific elements' loading state and adjust the scroll position accordingly.

Failing to cache the latest scroll position before navigation results in inaccurate restoration when the user returns to the previous page. Best practice entails capturing and updating the scroll position continuously or right before the user navigates away from a page. With React Query, developers can leverage the queryCache.setQueryData method to store scroll positions associated with specific data queries, ensuring a precise scroll restoration process when navigating back.

// Incorrect way of handling navigation without updating the scroll position
window.onbeforeunload = function() {
    sessionStorage.setItem('scrollPosition', window.scrollY);

// Best practice with React Query
useEffect(() => {
    const handleRouteChange = () => {
        queryCache.setQueryData(['scrollPosition'], window.scrollY);

    window.addEventListener('beforeunload', handleRouteChange);

    return () => window.removeEventListener('beforeunload', handleRouteChange);
}, []);

Lastly, developers often neglect to test scroll restoration across different browsing environments, leading to inconsistencies in user experience. Since browser behaviors can vary, especially in handling scroll events and positions, it’s crucial to verify the implementation's functionality in major browsers and devices. Additionally, considering accessibility and ensuring that custom scroll restoration does not negatively impact keyboard navigability or assistive technologies is essential for a universally positive user experience. Adopting these best practices and being mindful of common pitfalls will lead to more reliable and user-friendly scroll restoration in React applications using the React Query library.

Advanced Techniques and Considerations for Scroll Restoration in Complex Scenarios

In the realm of complex web applications, particularly those featuring nested scrolling containers, infinite scrolling, and dynamically loading content, scroll restoration poses unique challenges. These scenarios demand advanced techniques beyond basic scroll tracking and restoration. React Query, equipped with query observers and custom hooks, offers a robust solution to effectively manage scroll positions, even in these intricate setups. Query observers can monitor the scroll position of nested containers, synchronizing them with user interactions, while custom hooks facilitate the rehydration of scroll positions for dynamically loaded content, ensuring a seamless user experience.

Implementing scroll restoration in applications with infinite scrolling requires a nuanced approach to manage user expectations and application performance. With React Query, developers can leverage the fetchNextPage method to preemptively load content just before the user reaches the end of the page, thus minimizing the perceived loading times. To accurately restore scroll positions in such scenarios, it’s crucial to combine React Query’s caching capabilities with a mechanism to record the user's scroll position, ensuring that upon navigation, users return to the exact point where they left off, even in an endlessly scrolling feed.

For applications with dynamically loading content, React Query’s advanced caching and refetching options become invaluable. Utilizing these features, an application can efficiently cache previously loaded content and its scroll position, reducing the need for unnecessary refetches. This not only enhances performance but also ensures that the application can dynamically adjust to content changes without losing the user’s scroll position. Developers can implement custom hooks to fine-tune the balance between fetching new content and preserving scroll positions, adapting to the changing heights of dynamically loaded content.

However, managing scroll positions with React Query in complex scenarios also begs consideration of performance implications and user experience. Excessive tracking and restoration of scroll positions, especially in applications with heavy data and nested scrolling, can introduce performance bottlenecks. It becomes essential to employ optimization techniques, such as debouncing scroll events and selectively restoring scroll positions for visible content only. This minimizes the computational load without compromising the fluidity of the user experience.

Addressing these challenges effectively, developers can craft applications that not only load data efficiently but also respect the user's navigational context by preserving scroll positions. React Query's tools for managing asynchronous data and state offer a foundation upon which advanced, performant scroll restoration solutions can be built. Balancing the technical aspects with a keen eye on enriching the user experience, developers can overcome common hurdles in scroll restoration, ensuring applications remain responsive and intuitive, even in the face of complex data-loading patterns and interactions.


This comprehensive article explores the intricacies of scroll restoration in React applications using the React Query library. It covers the basics of scroll restoration, the fundamentals of React Query, and provides implementation techniques for managing scroll positions. The article highlights common mistakes and best practices, as well as advanced techniques for complex scenarios. The key takeaway from the article is the importance of seamless scroll restoration in enhancing the user experience. The challenging technical task for the reader is to optimize scroll restoration in a React application with dynamically loading content, ensuring smooth scrolling and minimal performance impact.

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