«

Logging analytics events in a testable way with React and Redux

One of my main responsibilites at TotallyMoney was to take care of the in-house analytics/event logging framework. Like lots of companies, understanding what users do and how they interact with a product is to get good insight on. In this regard, people reinvent the logging wheel with various krimskrams attached, me being no exception. What I want to show in this post is how to integrate an event logging framework into a React/Redux application in a way that’s scaleable and testable. Unit testable logging is important when the rest of the business relies heavily on the events and the data in them like many companies do.

tl;dr: pass your logger to React’s context to make logging from deeply nested components much easier.

In this article, I’m assuming you’ve got an existing React/Redux application, and want to integrate some kind of event logging library into it.

The logging library

Let’s make a fake logging library that looks like this:

// lib/logger.js

class Logger {
	constructor() {
		this.socket = new WebSocket(
			'wss://events.example.com'
		)
	}

	send(eventName, eventData = {}) {
		this.socket.send({
			eventName,
			payload: eventData,
		})
	}
}

export default new Logger()

This could be anything, even something like Google Analytics or Firebase. How you log events and to where doesn’t really matter as the logging code will be contained inside an action creator.

Redux – Action creator

Action creators in Redux can have side effects like making API calls or, in our case, logging something. We’ll create a simple action creator like this:

// actions/logger.js

import logger from '../lib/logger'

export const LOG_EVENT = 'LOG_EVENT'

export function logEvent(name, data = {}) {
	logger.send(name, data)

	return {
		type: LOG_EVENT,
		name,
		data,
	}
}

❶ Define a default empty object, so we don’t have to worry about handling undefined or null values.

❷ Returning something from this action creator isn’t strictly necessary for just logging events using the logger, but if you want to record those events in your Redux store, you need to return an action for the reducers to respond to.

We now have an action creator that, when called, will log an event over our pretend websocket-based logging library. Let’s hook it up to a button in React.

Integration with React (the bad way)

The simplest and perhaps obvious way is to pass down an event handler to the elment you want to log an event from. React encourages this pattern for handling other events, so why not logs? When an event is fired, your code would handle that in the top level Redux-connected page component. We could pepper Redux’ connect() through our component tree, but that makes testing harder, which is the opposite of what we want to do. It also tightly couples our app to Redux instead of dealing with plain old Javascript objects.

This following example is for a login page where we want to log an event when the submit button is clicked. Here, logging that event isn’t too bad because we already have a click handler for the submit button. But what if we had a different component with no other props? In this case, we’d have to write a handleClick function in the top level component, and pass an onClick prop all the way through the component tree. This is noisy, boilerplate-y and error prone. In the next section, I’ll show a better way of doing this.

// pages/Login.jsx

import React, { PureComponent } from 'react'

import { logEvent } from '../actions/logger'

const SubmitButton = ({ onClick, children }) => (
	<button
		className="btn btn--submit"
		onClick={onClick}
	>
		{children}
	</button>
)

const LoginForm = ({ onSubmit, onChange }) => (
	<form>
		<input
			onChange={onChange}
			type="text"
			name="email"
		/>

		<input
			onChange={onChange}
			type="password"
			name="password"
		/>

		<SubmitButton onClick={onSubmit}>
			Log in
		</SubmitButton>
	</form>
)

class LoginPage extends PureComponent {
	handleChange(e) {
		...
	}

	handleSubmit() {
		const { dispatch } = this.props

		dispatch(logEvent('loginSubmit'))
		dispatch(login())
	}

	render() {
		return (
			<main>
				<header>...</header>

				<LoginForm
					onChange={this.handleChange}
					onSubmit={this.handleSubmit}
				/>
			</main>
		)
	}
}

export default connect(state => state)(LoginPage)

Integration with React (the good better way)

A better way to handle this logging is to use React’s context functionality. Context should be used sparingly and its caveats like coupling global state, but in this case it can help us create a far cleaner logging implementation. First, we need to make a context provider that will make the logger available to all child components in our app:

// components/LoggerProvider.jsx

import React, { PureComponent } from 'react'

import { logEvent } from '../actions/logger'

class LoggerProvider extends PureComponent {
	static childContextTypes = {
		logEvent: PropTypes.func,
	}

	getChildContext = () => {
		return {
			logEvent: (eventName, eventData) => this.props.store.dispatch(logEvent(eventName, eventData)),
		}
	}

	// Pass through children verbatim
	render = () => this.props.children
}

export default connect(() => {})(LoggerProvider)

Here we:

❶ Define childContextTypes to allow child components to ask for logEvent using their contextTypes property.

❷ Make the definition of logEvent. In this case, it’s a function that will be called like context.logEvent('foo', { bar: 'true '}) which matches the Redux action signature written earlier.

❸ Don’t need any state from the store, so we can just return an empty object.

This component won’t work without a Redux store. We can add that by wrapping it in a Provider component from react-redux. An example application might look like this:

// index.jsx

import React from 'react'

import { Provider } from 'react-redux'

const App = ({ store }) => (
	<Provider store={store}>
		<LoggerProvider>
			{ /* Insert your router or page container component here */ }
		</LoggerProvider>
	</Provider>
)

Make sure LoggerProvider is a child of Provider. If it’s the other way round, you won’t be able to access the store. Now let’s modify the <SubmitButton /> component we want to log events from to give it access to context:

// components/LoginButton.jsx

import PropTypes from 'prop-types'

const SubmitButton = ({ onClick, children }, { logEvent }) => (
	<button
		className="btn btn--submit"
		onClick={onClick}
	>
		{children}
	</button>
)

SubmitButton.contextTypes = {
	logEvent: PropTypes.func,
}

export default SubmitButton

❶ Stateless functional components access context through the second argument of the function declaration.

❷ React requires you to explicitly mark which pieces of the context you want using Component.contextTypes. In this case, just logEvent which is a function. If you don’t add this, logEvent will be undefined!

Assuming your app uses LoggerProvider somewhere near the top of its component tree, you should now be able to call context.logEvent which will dispatch a Redux action with the functionality provided by LoggerProvider. This should work wherever this component is in the component tree.

Testing with Mocha and Enzyme

Easy testability is a very useful side-effect of using the context method. You could add spies and assertions around a Redux store, but this then requires you to store logged events in your store which you might not want to do (e.g. with third party logging libraries). It also leads to a much more complex test harness involving Redux and a <Provider>.

I’m using Mocha, Enzyme, Chai and Sinon for this article, but this technique should be applicable to most test environments.

Using context in a component comes with the caveat that a context obejct must be present in Enzyme unit tests. This can get a little frustrating and introduces some obtuse errors if one is not aware of the context requirement. However I think the benefits outweigh these extra steps. Context can easily be passed into components, making it extremely simple to pass spies and catch logging calls.

It’s not strictly necessary, but I’m going to use sinon-chai to make error messages a bit clearer.

Here’s our test:

// test/components/SubmitButton.spec.js

import SubmitButton from '../components/SubmitButton'

describe("<SubmitButton />", () => {
	it("Calls the onClick event when clicked", () => {
		const clickSpy = spy()

		const button = shallow(<SubmitButton onClick={clickSpy}>Submit</SubmitButton>, { context: { logEvent: () => {} } })

		button.simulate('click')

		expect(clickSpy).to.have.been.calledOnce
	})

	it("Logs an event when clicked", () => {
		const logSpy = spy()

		const button = shallow(<SubmitButton onClick={() => {}}>Submit</SubmitButton>, { context: { logEvent: logSpy } })

		button.simulate('click')

		expect(logSpy).to.have.been.calledWith('loginSubmit', { foo: 'bar', baz: 'quux' })
	})
})

We’ve got two tests here:

  1. Calls the onClick event when clicked. Checks to make sure onSubmit() is called when the button is clicked. This isn’t relevant to event log testing, it just shows another Enzyme test being used.

  2. Logs an event when clicked. Checks that logEvent was called, and with the correct arguments. .calledWith('loginSubmit', { foo: 'bar', baz: 'quux' }) should be replaced with whatever shape of event you’re logging. In this example, it’s hardcoded to ('loginSubmit', { foo: 'bar', baz: 'quux' }).

If you’ve set everything up right, you should see something like this:

  <SubmitButton />
    ✓ Calls the onClick event when clicked
    ✓ Logs an event when clicked


  2 passing (2ms

Hooray!

Conclusion

React’s context can be pretty powerful when used sparingly. Here, I’ve presented an approach to event collection that makes logging from deeply nested React nodes easier, simpler and more testable. However, I think it’s important to take multiple approaches to event logging depending on where the event needs to be fired from. If you can do it without using context, do that! You lose some ability to test using a spy in your tests, but it makes component testing simpler with less configuration by not requiring a fake context. If you can log an event inside another action creator, that’s the best way to go if possible. If not, using a context provider leads to a more scalable approach for larger apps with deeply nested component trees.

Share Comment on Twitter