ReactJS Higher-Order Components (HOC): Basics & Use Cases

Anton Ioffe - September 4th 2023 - 13 minutes read

Grasping ReactJS Higher-Order Components: An In-depth Look

Understanding ReactJS and its components is crucial, but to truly unleash its power, we must dig deeper into its higher-level concepts. One such concept is React's Higher-Order Components (HOCs). This section will provide an insightful glimpse into the world of HOCs, exploring its intricacies and practical application.

ReactJS Higher-Order Components, or HOCs, are advanced techniques for reusing component logic. Think of it as a JavaScript function. Simply put, it is a pattern that is derived from React’s compositional nature. The subsequent sections will shed more light on their method of operation, when to use them, and potential use cases.

Now, let's delve into the inner workings of HOCs and unveil their practicality and fundamental role in modern ReactJS development.

The Nitty-Gritty of HOCs

At the core of the matter, HOCs are essentially functions. More specifically, they are functions that take in a component and return a new component with additional properties or behaviour. The conventional naming strategy for HOCs is withX, where X corresponds to the added behaviour. Consider an example for better visual comprehension:

function withExtraPropAdded(Component) {
    const componentWithExtraProp = (props) => {
        return <Component {...props} extraProp='someValue' />
    return componentWithExtraProp;

Note that the naming convention is to insert 'with' before the behaviour added by the HOC. In this code, a new extraProp is added to the passed in component. The initial component remains unaltered; a new one is rendered with the added properties.

When to Use HOCs

HOCs are most useful when you want to reuse a component's logic or modify its behaviour. They shine in situations that call for dry (Do Not Repeat Yourself) code.

Here are some situations where HOCs can drastically enhance your code:

  1. Manipulating Props: HOCs can add, modify, or remove props on the original component.
  2. Code Abstraction and Reuse: Put commonly used logic in a HOC and reuse it across components.
  3. State Abstraction and Manipulation: HOCs can create components that manage their own state.
  4. LifeCycle Hooks Injection: You can leverage HOCs to inject lifecycle hooks into functional components.

In conclusion, HOCs carry the potential to bring performance, modularity, and readability improvements to your ReactJS code. They keep your code DRY and offer an abstracted way to manipulate component behaviour and state.

Consider this: How can you leverage HOCs in your current project? Can you spot any repeating patterns? Are there components sharing similar lifecycles or using shared state in the same way? Now think about this: How could implementing HOCs improve code reusability in your current project? Remember, great developers constantly reflect on their coding practices. Also, consider a common mistake: Forgetting to pass through all the original component's props to the new component. In the end, coding is as much an art, as it is a science.

In the next sections, we'll dive into specific use cases and common mistakes when dealing with HOCs. Stay tuned!

Breaking Down Higher-Order Components in ReactJS

Higher-Order Components, or HOCs, are a significant part of ReactJS. They are a powerful tool, promoting code reuse and modularity. An HOC is a function that takes one component and returns another component, but with additional functionalities or props. They are called "higher-order" because they fit the concept of higher-order functions in JavaScript - operations that operate on other functions, either by taking them as arguments or by returning them.

Here is a simple HOC implementation using ES6 syntax:

const withExtraPropAdded = (Component) => {
    // This function gets the original Component
    return function extraPropsHOC(props) {
        // And returns a new anonymous component that wraps the original one
        return <Component {...props} extraProp="Some value" />;

As you can see, the base functionality of a HOC is quite straightforward. It is a function that wraps a component and returns a new component with expanded features. In the above example, we have added an extraProp to the original component.

The primary distinguishing factor between HOCs and regular components is how they are used. While regular React components usually describe UI (views), HOCs are without a distinct UI of their own. They carry and manipulate business logic to enhance a given component. In that sense, HOCs are more akin to decorators – they add or override behaviours.

However, it's essential to note that HOCs are not component classes. Consequently, they should not be rendered as such. The mistake many developers make is misunderstanding an HOC as a component. This misconception often leads to incorrect use of props, such as passing props which the HOC itself doesn't use but merely passes down to the wrapped component.

Instead, treat HOCs as pure JavaScript functions, independent of React. The only connection with React comes with their arguments and returned values - they accept React components and also return React components. Adopting this perspective makes their usage and implementation simpler and more versatile while avoiding pitfall design patterns like the misuse of props.

Now that we've discussed the theory let's dive deeper into practical applications of HOCs, exploring their implementation, usage, and benefits in your ReactJS applications.

Practical Applications of Higher-Order Components

Using Higher-Order Components (HOCs) in modern web development provides a software design pattern that is reusable, modular, and efficient. Let's delve into some practical examples where we use them in ReactJS, with a focus on the use of hooks, and then we will foresee the imminent discussion about the pros and cons associated with the use of HOCs.

HOCs in Functional Components

One of the primary uses of HOCs is wrapping a functional component with additional functionality. Let's take a simple example of a 'ClickCounter' component that increments a count each time it is clicked. We can encapsulate the counter logic in a HOC and reuse it in other components.

Consider the following HOC:

function withCounter(WrappedComponent) {
    return function (props) {
        const [count, setCount] = useState(0);

        const incrementCount = () => {
            setCount(count + 1);

        return <WrappedComponent count={count} incrementCount={incrementCount} {...props} />;

We can now create our ClickCounter component:

const ClickCounter = (props) => {
    return (
        <button onClick={props.incrementCount}>
            Clicked {props.count} times

export default withCounter(ClickCounter);

Interaction with Hooks

Hooks unleash the power of reusing stateful logic in functional components without changing their hierarchy. But how does this relate to HOCs? Essentially, we can use hooks within our HOC to add state or lifecycle methods to the wrapped component.

In the above example, we used the useState hook in our HOC, withCounter, to provide a count state and a method to increment it. This state and function are then passed as props to the WrappedComponent.

However, be aware that using hooks in a HOC might lead to encapsulation issues, as the HOC cannot get access to the component’s state and lifecycle from within itself.

Wrapping Elements and Unexpected Props

Showing, hiding, or modifying the behavior of certain parts of your application based on some logic is a common requirement. This is where HOCs become truly practical.

Let's consider a basic HOC that adds a class to the wrapped component based on a certain prop:

function withClass(WrappedComponent, className) {
    return props => (
        <div className={className}>
            <WrappedComponent {...props} />

export default withClass;

This seems neat, but there is a gotcha. Wrapping elements might introduce unwanted behavior and obscure the relationship between components. In this case, you might end up passing unexpected props down. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you correctly merge and pass down the props to the wrapped component.

In the next section, we'll discuss the potential benefits and drawbacks to using HOCs, touching on the performance, memory, complexity, reusability, and readability of your code.

Analyzing the Advantages and Disadvantages of Higher-Order Components

Beloved tools in the React world, Higher-Order Components (HOCs) come with their set of advantages making them a go-to for many developers. However, every rose has its thorns - they also carry some drawbacks that can lead to casualties like render hijacking and prop collisions. Before diving into the depths of these issues, let's enumerate a few wins for HOCs.

The Pros

  1. Modularity: HOCs follow the principle of composition, making them incredibly modular. Code can be neatly divided into HOCs and reused whenever needed.
function withLogger(Component) {
    return class extends React.Component {
        componentDidMount() {
            console.log('Component has mounted');

        render() {
            return <Component {...this.props} />;
  1. Reusability: As shown in the example above, the withLogger HOC can be used across different components, increasing the reusability of the code.

  2. Readability: Separating concerns and keeping components clean enhances the readability of the code. HOCs allow for just that.

Moving on from the benefits, it's important to delve into troubles with HOCs.

The Cons

  1. Render Hijacking: One of the most powerful, and potentially problematic, features of HOCs is their ability to modify the rendering of the wrapped component. This is referred to as 'Render Hijacking'. It may lead to inconsistent render outputs.

  2. Prop Collisions: As HOCs inject props into components, there's a possibility the injected prop could overwrite a prop passed to the wrapped component, causing 'Prop Collisions'.

function withState(Component) {
    return class extends React.Component {
        state = { toggle: false }

        render() {
            // 'toggle' prop is overwritten here
            return <Component {...this.props} {...this.state} />;
  1. Re-rendering: HOCs create new components and wrap them around the original component. If a HOC is created inside a render method, it generates a new component every time the parent renders. This causes the unmounting and re-mounting of the component and its state, leading to unwanted behaviours and performance dips.
// Avoid this
render() {
    const WithStateComponent = withState(MyComponent);  
    return <WithStateComponent />;
  1. Misuse of Props: If not handled properly, props could serve as a silent bug, especially with duplicated or unwanted prop names sneaking their way through to the decorated components.

Given these potential pitfalls, you might consider alternatives to HOCs, such as Render Props or even the relatively new kid on the block, React Hooks.

To summarize, while HOCs are powerful and provide a solid pattern for abstracting component logic, they are not without caveats. Avoiding common HOC mistakes and being wary of the render hijacking and prop collisions could conserve your codebase from unexpected bugs and performance issues.

Exploring Alternatives to Higher-Order Components

One common misconception that has been making the rounds in the developer community is that Hooks in React can completely replace Higher-Order Components (HOCs). This claim, however, doesn't hold its ground when thoroughly examined. Before delving deeper into the topic, consider Hooks and render props, which are often effective alternatives to HOCs but serve different objectives. While Hooks certainly offer a more direct API for sharing stateful logic between components, they aren't necessarily better or worse than HOCs - just different.

Hooks and render props indeed simplify certain design patterns, yet it's essential to remember that not all use cases demanding HOCs can be addressed with Hooks or render props.

Let us delve more into these alternatives and their usage scenarios.

React Hooks

In many cases where you would use an HOC, you can often refactor to use custom Hooks. This won't always be the case, especially where lifecycle methods are concerned, but Hooks do provide a cleaner approach in most cases.

Consider an HOC used to fetch data from an API:

// Defining a Higher-Order Component
const withData = URL => WrappedComponent =>
  class extends React.Component {
    // Initial state
    state = { data: null }

    // Fetching the data when the component mounts
    componentDidMount() {
      fetch(URL).then(response => response.json())
        .then(data => this.setState({ data }));

    render() {
      // Rendering the wrapped component with the fetched data
      return <WrappedComponent data={} {...this.props} />;

This could be refactored using the useEffect Hook:

// Defining a custom Hook
const useData = URL => {
  // Set the initial state
  const [data, setData] = useState(null);

  // Using useEffect Hook to fetch the data
  useEffect(() => {
    fetch(URL).then(response => response.json()).then(data => setData(data));
  }, [URL]);

  // Returning the fetched data
  return data;

By refactoring to a custom Hook, we eliminate the need to wrap our component in an HOC. Nevertheless, the componentDidMount lifecycle method usage in the HOC version can only be partially replicated with the useEffect Hook - an important distinction to remember.

Render Props

Render props in React are a pattern for sharing code between components using props whose values are functions. Render props can often replace HOCs, but they may make your components less encapsulated than using HOCs, and you may deliver performance considerations.

For instance, you might share a data-fetching concern with a render prop as below:

// Defining a component using render props 
class Fetch extends React.Component {
  // Initial state
  state = { data: null }

  // Fetching the data when the component mounts
  componentDidMount() {
    fetch(this.props.URL).then(response => response.json())
      .then(data => this.setState({ data }));

  // Rendering the component passing the fetched data
  render() {
    return this.props.render(;

A common mistake with render props, similar to Hooks, includes overuse and deeply nested structures of callbacks leading to decreased readability and performance issues.

Seasoned developers can attest that both Hooks and render props can fill similar roles to HOCs; however, inaccurately implemented Hooks can pave the way to subtle and complex bugs.

A common pitfall with Hooks is not including all requisite dependencies in the dependency array. This can cause out-of-sync effects and stale closures. It’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons of each approach in relation to the problem at hand. Spend the necessary time to learn these patterns thoroughly and use them wisely!

Questions to ponder:

  1. Have you encountered a scenario where Hooks can't replace an HOC?
  2. How can we mitigate the risks of "callback hell" with render props?
  3. Can you think of a situation where HOCs are a more suitable solution compared to Hooks or render props?
  4. How have you managed the dependencies in the dependency array to avoid bugs while using Hooks?

Diving Deeper: Advanced Higher-Order Components Usage

As we navigate deeper into the labyrinth of Higher-Order Components (HOCs), it's crucial to illuminate two of the foremost intricate and effacious facets of complex HOC usage: Global state management and render hijacking. We'll traverse through these powerful use cases, discussing common pitfalls and ideal practices for those ready to maximize the potential of HOCs in their applications.

Global State Management with HOCs

Managing state, especially at a global scale, can be a daunting task. However, HOCs offer a robust and elegant solution to this challenge. Let's take a peek at how HOCs can play a key role:

const withGlobalState = (Component) => {
  // Fetches global state object
  const globalState = getGlobalState();

  return (props) => {
    return <Component {...props} state={globalState} />

In this example, withGlobalState is a HOC that injects the app's global state as a state prop into whichever component it wraps. This approach abstracts state management away from individual components, fostering readability, modularity, and reusability.

Conversely, utilizing HOCs for global state management amplifies complexity. As application size grows, it becomes harder to trace where the state prop is coming from. An overreliance on passing down props can also lead to “prop drilling”, which diminishes maintainability.

Render Hijacking with HOCs

Render hijacking entails changing the rendering of the wrapped component via HOC. This powerful method can be used to introduce behavior changes depending on certain conditions:

const withLoading = (Component) => {
  return (props) => {
    return props.isLoading ? <div>Loading...</div> : <Component {...props} />

In the above example, if the isLoading prop is true, the HOC returns a loading component instead of the original one. This hijacking isn't limited to conditionally rendering different components; it can also modify props, manipulate state, and encapsulate CSS class names.

Render hijacking expands the possibilities of dynamic rendering, but it also increases complexity and affects readability. Developers need to tread carefully and document hijacking behavior meticulously to avoid spaghetti code.

Errors in complex HOC tasks usually stem from misunderstanding of the context, incorrect passing of props, or unwanted side effects. With HOCs, the saying "with great power comes great responsibility" rings especially true.

Looking back, we've taken a deep dive into the holistic employment of HOCs in modern web development. Reflect on how these advanced HOC use cases can fit into your own coding practices. What problems could HOCs solve in your current projects?

As we conclude this exploration of HOCs, consider this challenge: Could you build a HOC to abstract API calls, providing data as a prop to any component which might need it? How would you handle potential errors and loading states with this HOC?

In summary, despite the complexity and potential pitfalls, HOCs solidify their place as a highly potent tool in the ReactJS toolkit, enabling developers to write cleaner, more abstracted, and reusable code.

Revisiting ReactJS Higher-Order Component Journey

In conclusion, understanding and effectively utilising ReactJS Higher-Order Components can alter the way we approach building React applications. They offer a strong technique for code reuse and abstraction, which in turn can lead to cleaner codebase and reduced debugging time. The concept is flexible, adaptable to various scenarios, and scales well with the complexity of your application.

Adopting the HOC pattern isn't a drastic change; it's more of a conscious optimize in the approach to designing components. You might not need to use HOCs in every project but knowing when and how they can be applied will prove valuable.

Now that we've delved into the core concepts, use cases, and dissected various examples of HOC, it's time for some hands-on application. Perhaps you have a personal project where you'd like to implement a HOC, or an existing stateful class component that's ripe for conversion to a functional component using Hooks. Either way, turning theory into practical implementation is a highly effective step in truly understanding and mastering HOCs in ReactJS.

Remember, practice and experience will refine your understanding of HOCs, and truly reveal when they should be utilized. It's the combination of practical knowledge and a keen sense for code organization that paves the path towards becoming a proficient ReactJS developer. Happy Coding!

Don't Get Left Behind:
The Top 5 Career-Ending Mistakes Software Developers Make
FREE Cheat Sheet for Software Developers