Restoring Scroll Position in JavaScript SPAs Using TanStack Router

Anton Ioffe - March 18th 2024 - 9 minutes read

In the dynamic world of JavaScript Single Page Applications (SPAs), mastering the art of seamless navigation is paramount for developers aiming to provide an exceptional user experience. Our journey today delves deep into the intricacies of restoring scroll position across different views using the innovative TanStack Router. We'll navigate through the maze of techniques ranging from basic to advanced, uncover the common pitfalls waiting to trap the unwary, and emerge with elegant solutions that not only solve but elevate the browsing experience. Prepare to transform scroll restoration from a mere necessity into an impressive tool in your development arsenal, as we reveal strategies, optimizations, and creative approaches that will set your applications apart in the competitive landscape of modern web development.

Understanding Scroll Behavior in SPAs and TanStack Router Introduction

Scroll behavior in Single Page Applications (SPAs) brings about unique challenges, particularly when it comes to maintaining the scroll position as a user navigates between pages. Traditionally, server-rendered web pages would automatically manage scroll positions thanks to the browser's default behavior, ensuring a seamless user experience when moving back and forth between pages. However, as modern web development has shifted towards SPAs, which dynamically render content on the client side without full page reloads, this automatic scroll position restoration feature has been lost. This creates an often overlooked but critical user experience issue, where users are not returned to their previous scroll position upon navigating backward, leading to frustration and disorientation.

The absence of automatic scroll restoration in SPAs presents a significant challenge for developers looking to create smooth and intuitive navigation experiences. Since SPAs do not perform full page reloads, the browser does not inherently remember or restore the scroll position. This means that developers need to manually implement scroll restoration to ensure users can continue from where they left off, particularly important in lengthy pages or endless scroll scenarios. Without addressing this issue, the user experience can be significantly dampened, affecting the overall perception and effectiveness of the web application.

TanStack Router emerges as a contemporary solution designed to enhance routing in JavaScript applications, offering a sophisticated set of capabilities including advanced state management, efficient route handling, and critically, support for managing scroll behavior. Its architecture acknowledges the intrinsic challenges SPAs face, including scroll position management, and provides hooks and utilities to manage these effectively. This positions TanStack Router as a potent tool for developers aiming to streamline navigation logic and improve user experience within their applications.

Understanding the foundational concepts regarding scroll behavior management within TanStack Router begins with recognizing the importance of maintaining user experience continuity. The library's design is rooted in addressing modern web development challenges, emphasizing the significance of restoring users to their previous scroll positions as a key element of SPA navigation. By integrating these capabilities, TanStack Router not only facilitates more efficient route management but also significantly enhances the navigational experience, making it more intuitive and user-friendly.

Scroll Restoration Techniques in TanStack Router

One effective technique for scroll restoration with TanStack Router involves manually saving and then restoring the scroll position as the user navigates through the application. This method requires a bit of JavaScript to dynamically capture the scroll position before a route change and then apply it when the user navigates back. Here's a simplified implementation:

// Save scroll position before route changes
window.onbeforeunload = function() {
    sessionStorage.setItem('scrollPosition', window.scrollY);

// Restore scroll position on route enter
window.onload = function() {
    if (sessionStorage.getItem('scrollPosition')) {
        window.scrollTo(0, sessionStorage.getItem('scrollPosition'));

This approach's primary advantage is its simplicity and control, allowing developers to implement custom logic according to the application's needs.

Another approach leverages TanStack Router's built-in functionality alongside session storage to automate scroll position saving and restoration. This method capitalizes on TanStack Router's capability to manage application state through navigation events, integrating scroll position restoration seamlessly without manual event handling. The code snippet below demonstrates a basic setup:

import { useLocation } from 'tanstack-router-dom';

function App(){
    const location = useLocation();

    useEffect(() => {
        const savedPosition = sessionStorage.getItem(location.key) || [0, 0];

        return () => {
            sessionStorage.setItem(location.key, JSON.stringify([window.scrollX, window.scrollY]));
    }, [location]);

This method improves upon manual restoration by integrating with the router's navigation lifecycle, providing a cleaner and more robust solution.

However, there are limitations to these methods. The manual approach requires developers to handle all edge cases, which can result in verbose and complex code for applications with intricate navigation patterns. Meanwhile, the built-in functionality method relies heavily on session storage, which might not be feasible for all use cases due to storage limitations and privacy concerns.

A comparative analysis suggests that while the manual approach offers more control, it potentially increases complexity and maintenance overhead. On the other hand, leveraging TanStack Router's built-in capabilities and session storage presents a more streamlined, albeit somewhat constrained, solution. The choice between these methods depends on specific application requirements, developer expertise, and user expectations.

Regardless of the chosen method, it's essential to test scroll restoration across different browsers and devices to ensure a consistent user experience. Notably, attention should be given to handling navigation to new content that loads asynchronously, as it may require additional logic to delay scroll restoration until the new content is fully rendered.

Optimizing Scroll Restoration for Performance and Memory Efficiency

Optimizing scroll restoration for performance and memory efficiency demands a strategic approach to event handling and resource management. A common method to enhance performance is the implementation of debouncing on scroll events. Since scroll events can fire at a rapid rate, indiscriminate handling of each event can lead to significant performance bottlenecks. By employing a debounced scroll listener, we effectively minimize the frequency of event processing, ensuring that scroll position calculations and storage are executed less frequently, thus reducing the computational overhead and improving the responsiveness of the application.

Lazy loading content that is off-screen can further augment scroll restoration performance. This technique prioritizes resources for content within the viewport, deferring the loading of off-screen elements until they are likely to be needed. Not only does this reduce the initial load time and memory footprint, but it also ensures that during scroll restoration, the browser has to re-render a smaller amount of content, thereby expediting the process and conservatively using memory.

Efficient use of browser storage mechanisms is essential for minimizing the overhead associated with scroll restoration. Instead of naively storing large amounts of scroll data, one should judiciously save only the necessary information, such as the scroll positions of key elements or checkpoints within the application. This can be complemented by storing a minimal representation of the application's state, sufficient to restore the user's context without overwhelming storage limits or incurring excessive read/write cycles.

Advanced optimizations may also include techniques to minimize reflows and repaints during the scroll restoration process. By carefully managing DOM updates and avoiding synchronous layout queries, one can prevent unnecessary layout calculations and page re-rendering. For instance, restoring the scroll position before triggering visibility changes in off-screen content can lead to a smoother transition and prevents the browser from performing redundant layout recalculations.

function restoreScrollPosition(pos) {
    requestAnimationFrame(() => {
        window.scrollTo({top: pos, behavior: 'smooth'});
        // Triggering visibility after scroll restoration
        // can potentially reduce layout recalculations

This code snippet illustrates a method of restoring scroll position in a way that mitigates the potential for triggering reflows and repaints, contributing to a more fluid user experience. The use of requestAnimationFrame schedules the scroll action at an optimal time, reducing jank and ensuring that the transition appears seamless to the user. Through these concerted efforts in debouncing events, lazy loading content, optimizing storage use, and minimizing reflows and repaints, we can achieve a significant improvement in scroll restoration's performance and memory efficiency.

Common Pitfalls in Scroll Restoration and How to Avoid Them

One common flaw in implementing scroll restoration within single-page applications (SPAs) utilizing TanStack Router is the mishandling of dynamic content. As content gets dynamically loaded, the saved scroll position may not correspond to the fully loaded page state, leading users to a different part of the page than expected. To circumvent this, developers need to ensure scroll restoration actions are only triggered after the completion of all asynchronous content loading. A practical solution involves using promises or asynchronous functions to wait for content to be fully loaded before restoring the scroll position.

async function restoreScrollPosition() {
    await contentLoadPromise(); // Ensures content is loaded
    window.scrollTo(savedPosition.x, savedPosition.y);

Another pitfall includes not persisting scroll positions across browser sessions, which can lead to poor user experience especially in ecommerce scenarios where users may return to a product listing after viewing a product. This can be addressed by storing scroll positions in the session storage and retrieving them upon session restore.

window.onbeforeunload = function() {
    sessionStorage.setItem('scrollPosition', JSON.stringify({x: window.scrollX, y: window.scrollY}));

window.onload = function() {
    const savedPosition = JSON.parse(sessionStorage.getItem('scrollPosition'));
    if (savedPosition) {
        window.scrollTo(savedPosition.x, savedPosition.y);

Ensuring accessibility during scroll restoration is also paramount. Developers might overlook this, especially when implementing custom scroll behaviors. For instance, when restoring the scroll position, it's essential to set focus on the content that was previously in view, allowing keyboard users and those using assistive technologies to continue seamlessly from where they left off. Adding tabindex="-1" to elements dynamically loaded can make them focusable programatically without affecting the tab order.

Accessing scroll positions directly without considering asynchronous routing can lead to jittery or incorrect scroll restoration, as the final DOM state might not be ready. This can be mitigated by utilizing TanStack Router's hooks, which allow for more precise control over when scroll restoration occurs in relation to route transitions. Leveraging these hooks ensures scroll position is restored only when the new route's component is mounted and stable.

useEffect(() => {
    const savedPosition = JSON.parse(sessionStorage.getItem('scrollPosition'));
    if(savedPosition) {
        window.scrollTo(savedPosition.x, savedPosition.y);
    return () => sessionStorage.removeItem('scrollPosition');
}, [location.key]); // Reacts to location changes

Lastly, the inefficient management of scroll events contributes to performance bottlenecks, especially on devices with limited resources. Throttling or debouncing scroll events can help mitigate this problem. Implement wisdom when choosing between these two, as throttling provides real-time scroll position updates at a controlled rate, while debouncing updates only after the scroll event has concluded, which might not always be the desired effect.

window.addEventListener('scroll', debounce(() => {
    sessionStorage.setItem('scrollPosition', JSON.stringify({x: window.scrollX, y: window.scrollY}));
}, 100));

Innovative Approaches to Enhance User Experience with Scroll Restoration

Moving beyond the basics, implementing smooth scrolling effects can significantly elevate the user experience during scroll restoration in Single Page Applications (SPAs) using TanStack Router. Smooth scrolling can be achieved by intercepting the default scroll behavior and implementing a gradual transition to the target position. For instance, instead of instantly jumping to the saved scroll position, the application can animate the scroll action, providing a seamless experience. This can be done by utilizing the window.scrollTo method with the {behavior: 'smooth'} option in conjunction with saved scroll positions.

function restoreSmoothScroll(savedPosition) {
    top: savedPosition,
    behavior: 'smooth'

In addition to smooth scrolling, customizing scroll restoration based on the user's browsing history or predicted behavior offers an advanced level of personalization. By analyzing the user's navigation patterns, developers can predict the most likely desired scroll position upon return to a page. For example, if analytics indicate users frequently return to the top of a list after visiting a specific type of content, the application can automatically adjust the scroll position accordingly, rather than restoring it to the last position.

Integrating scroll restoration with animation libraries opens the door to more creative interactions. Upon navigating back to a previous page, developers can use animation libraries to not only restore the scroll position but also animate elements into view based on their position within the viewport. This can make the page feel more dynamic and engaging. Below is an example using the animate.css library to fade elements in as they enter the viewport during scroll restoration.

function animateElementsOnScroll(entries) {
  entries.forEach(entry => {
    if (entry.isIntersecting) {'animate__animated', 'animate__fadeIn');

let observer = new IntersectionObserver(animateElementsOnScroll);
document.querySelectorAll('.product').forEach(el => observer.observe(el));

Encouraging developers to think of scroll restoration not just as a functional necessity but as an opportunity to impress and engage users calls for a shift in mindset. By considering how scroll interactions can contribute to the overall narrative of the user journey, developers can create unforgettable experiences that resonate deeply with their audience. For example, using scroll behavior to trigger story-telling elements or interactive experiences can significantly enhance user engagement and content immersion.

Each of these approaches requires careful consideration of performance implications and accessibility concerns. Ensuring that enhanced scroll interactions do not detract from the overall site performance or accessibility is crucial. Employing techniques like lazy loading, asynchronous animation triggering, and ensuring that custom scroll behaviors are accessible to keyboard and screen reader users, are essential best practices in the implementation of innovative scroll restoration strategies.


In this article, the author dives into the intricacies of restoring scroll position in JavaScript SPAs using TanStack Router. They explore various techniques, such as manually saving and restoring scroll position, leveraging TanStack Router's built-in functionality, and optimizing scroll restoration for performance. The article also highlights common pitfalls and provides innovative approaches to enhance the user experience. The key takeaway is that scroll restoration is crucial for seamless navigation in SPAs, and developers need to carefully consider performance, accessibility, and user preferences when implementing scroll restoration. A challenging task for the reader could be to implement a smooth scrolling effect during scroll restoration in their own application, using the provided code snippet as a starting point.

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