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shadcn/ui Review

Paradigm

Traditional UI Libraries

  • Pro: Good out of the box design.
  • Con: Hard to customize because style is coupled to components.

Headless UI Primitives

  • Pro: Flexibility in customization.
  • Con: Extra work to theme and style.

The shadcn way

  • shadcn is not a library you import into your code.
  • Components are copied and pasted into your codebase.
  • Provides sensible styling on top of Radix UI primitives and other libraries.
  • A CLI tool to quickly copy and paste the components you need into your codebase.
  • A starting point to build your own component library

Pros

Pro 1

  • Customizations are easy.
  • Why? Because code is copied and pasted into your source code.

Pro 2

  • Minimal "lock in" to the library.
  • How? Easy to replace underlying dependencies. (facade pattern).
  • Example: Can change the underlying calendar dependency in the future.

Pro 3

  • The theme is controlled by a global.css file instead of proprietary theme object.
  • If you know CSS, then it's easy to change up the theme without looking at documentation.

Pro 4

  • Less gotchas integrating with TailwindCSS than some other UI libraries

Cons

Con 1

  • Updates might be hard to do.
  • Update multiple dependencies instead of one.

Con 2

  • Code base gets "cluttered" with extra files.
    • /components/ui/*
    • components.json
    • tailwind.config.ts
    • package.json
    • utils.ts

Con 3

  • Takes a bit more setup than other UI libraries.
  • Have to run the add command or manually copy and paste things.

Tips

Tip 1

  • Use CSS Variables.
  • Why? Easy to change global styles, color accents, etc in the future.

Tip 2

  • Use CSS variables for custom fonts.
  • Why? Same reason. Easy to change font in the future.

Tip 3

  • Declare new color accents in global.css and tailwind.config.ts.
  • Remember to declare both a base and dark style.
  • Use the bg-variantname and text-variantname-foreground convention.

When to use?

  • If you want sensible default styling on top of Radix UI primitives.
  • If you want the increased flexibility to change things down the road.

When to not use?

  • If you prefer the aesthetic of another "Traditional UI" library.
  • If you are ok having less control over the styles and underlying dependencies.
  • If you are ok being locked in to a UI library.