How to use Hotwire Turbo Streams effectively?

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How to use Hotwire Turbo Streams effectively?

Redirects vs Turbo Streams.

Have you ever wondered which approach to take?

Should you always redirect? Or should you always use Turbo Streams?

Take a look at the following functionality. It moves tasks between tables representing states in a Kanban board.

demo of kanban example

The two approaches that can be used to implement this functionality are the Redirect approach and the Turbo Streams approach.

Let’s take a look at the redirect approach first.

For developers, it is easy, testable, and last but not least, productive. These are solid advantages that make it very tempting to use. And I don’t think it’s a bad idea to use it in some cases. I’ll say even more, with latest Rails, it looks like a good starter. Also, what I really like is this little detail that my colleague Tomek noticed. If you stopped at Server Side Rendering few years ago and didn’t join the SPA hype, all you need to do now is update your Rails application and you’d get nice UX improvements without any (or much) additional effort.

The problem

The kanban endpoint is the one that renders the tables. This is the endpoint that the flow is redirected to after the task is moved from one table to another. The problem starts when the kanban endpoint slows down.

Why would it slow down? 🤔

Well… why wouldn’t it? 😛

It may not be true for all pages in in our applications, but functionality tends to pile up and grow. Little features get added here and there. It turns out that for this one particular page, it is important to include it. Live goes on, and we wake up with the page loading a lot of data and taking a lot of time to render.

Then, when the redirect happens after a successful operation that should be quick and short, the server has to perform all the queries and retrieve all the data that would be needed to to render the entire page. The user experience is bad. And it could be better!

What is desired from the user’s perspective is to simply move the row from one table to another and change the state.

If you find yourself in this situation, it is a perfect moment to use Turbo Streams instead.

What are the other aspects between two that are worth noticing?

In addition to the performance, there are other aspects that are worth noting.

Amount of the data sent over the wire

With the redirect approach, the entire page is sent over the wire. This is not a big deal for some pages, but as I mentioned in the mentioned in the beginning, pages have a tendency to grow in functionality, data, complexity, etc. If you notice that you’re sending too much data over the wire, it’s a good time to take a look and and consider using Turbo Streams.

Maintaining the scroll position (if you don’t use morph)

If you haven’t upgraded to the latest version of Turbo, you won’t have access to the Morph feature. Therefore, whenever you perform an operation similar to what happened in our little gif, the page would scroll to the top. This may not be visible to your users, but if it is, it could be solved by using Turbo Streams.

Explicitness and control

Some of us just want to control exactly how the server responds. Then the Turbo Streams approach is the way to go.


Personally, I prefer the Turbo Streams approach for the applications I work with. But that mostly has to do with the fact that that these are legacy applications. For the greenfield, I would consider the redirect approach. Here it is, I wrote it 😉.

I also like how the developer happiness is mentioned when it comes to the redirect approach, and generally the direction of Turbo and Rails.

For me, the biggest boost to developer happiness is that I don’t have to use JavaScript to make my application interactive 😂.

I mean, besides some Stimulus here and there. It’s a great win!

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