Avoid premature optimization in API calls

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By premature optimization in API calls we mean fetching information we do not need yet. In simple terms, preparing for something which we do not require. For example, in our application we are not fetching all the task details in the Dashboard component and storing it in a global state so that the information can be reused in the application without making more API calls.

One could argue that fetching the task details inside the Show component is not required as we are already fetching the list of tasks and displaying them in a table. Clicking on a task inside the table routes the application to Show component. We could have passed the task details to history.push during routing and accessed them inside the Show component.

In the previous chapter we added a new feature to add comments for a task and display them in the Show component. If we were to pass the task information using history API and access it inside the Show component, then it would require us to fetch all the task details inside the Dashboard component itself including the comments for each task and other details which we do not even need while displaying the list of tasks in Dashboard. So that we can pass these details during routing and access them inside the Show component.

Now you must be able to guess why we didn't do so. It's not a good practice to fetch unnecessary information beforehand as it only increases the size of the response. We would have needed to fetch the entire task information for each task. Hence it is better to make an extra API call inside the Show component for fetching all the relevant information.

Another reason why we shouldn't fetch data beforehand is that the data can change in the database after it has been fetched. If we pre-fetch the data then we will end up with stale data in this case.

Consider another scenario where an unauthenticated user can view the task title but other details should only be visible once the user logs in. In such a case as well it is not wise to fetch the entire task information and save it in state and once the user logs in then show the entire task information.

Even if you don't show the sensitive information in your app and save it in state, an unauthenticated user can still view that information in the API response in the network tab of your developer console.

Hence you should only fetch the relevant data(i.e. only the data which is required to build your UI) in the API call.

Sending back response data from create or update actions

After creating or updating a record, developers often send back the record information. This should be avoided as we are trying to maintain a separation of responsibility.

In Rails, the create and update actions of a controller are used to create and update records respectively and the show action responds back with the record data. If there is a need to access a record after it has been created or updated then a separate API should be called which will call the relevant show action in your server side and provide the required data.

Avoid the premature optimization mindset

Now if you are thinking along the path that making one more extra API call is costly, then you are thinking of prematurely optimizing. Premature optimization is often not necessary at the early stages of an application we don't have enough data points to accurately suffice the need for optimizing a particular logic. We can only gather these data points once actual customers start using our application. The first and foremost aim should be to write clean code and have separation of concerns. This will make it easier to refactor code in future for optimization purposes too.