Forms II - validation

Validating forms can be done in different ways:

  • Validate an element as soon as you type, and immediately indicate any error
  • Validate the form on pressing submit

Validate an element

You can have all the elements and their validation in one giant component but it is usually better to create a dedicated component for this. A component like this should have the following:

  • render the element itself, this will give us more control over how the element is rendered
  • an element where you can output the validation error
  • a way to listen to changes and validate itself while the user types
  • a way to indicate to the form that it is no longer valid should a validation error occur

Render the element

With this one we mean that we need to create a component around our element. To do so is quite simple:

import React from 'react';

class Input extends React.Component {
 render() {
   return (
     <input { ...this.props} /> 
   );
 }
}

As you can see above we make the Input component render an input element tag. We also ensure that all properties set on the component make it to the underlying input by typing { ...this.props}. A more manual version of the last one would be to type:

<input title={this.props.title} value={this.props.value} ... >

Depending on how many attributes we want to send to the underlying input, it could be quite a lot of typing.

As we are now in control of how the input is rendered we can do all sorts of things like adding a div element, give it padding, margin, borders etc. Best part is we can reuse this component in a lot of places and all of our inputs will look nice and consistent.

Adding validation

Now we will see that it pays off to wrap our input element in a component. Adding validation to our element is as easy as:

  • add element placeholder where your error should be shown
  • add a function that validates the input value
  • validate on every value change, we need to add a callback to onChange

Render the error

Alter the render() method to the below:

render() {
  return (
    <InputContainer>
      {this.state.error &&
        <ErrorMessage>{this.state.error}</ErrorMessage>
      }
      <div>
        {this.props.desc}
      </div>
      <InnerInput value={this.state.data} onChange={this.handleChange} {...this.props} />
    </InputContainer>
  );
}

Here we are conditionally displaying the error message, assuming its on the state:

{this.state.error &&
  <ErrorMessage>{this.state.error}</ErrorMessage>
}

We are also hooking up a handleChange() method to onChange.

Adding validation function

Next step is adding our validation function:

const validate = (val, errMessage) => {
  const valid = /^[0-9]{2,3}$/.test(val);
  return valid ? '' : errMessage;
};

Our function above simply tests wether our input value matches a RegEx pattern and if so its valid, if not, then we return the error message.

Managing the state

So who is calling this function? Well the handleChange() method is, like so:

handleChange = (ev) => {
  const { errMessage } = this.props;

  const error = validate(ev.target.value, errMessage);
  this.setState({
    data: ev.target.value,
    error,
  });
}

We do two things here, firstly we call validate() to see if there was an error and secondly we set the state, which is our value and the error. If the error is an empty string then it is counted as falsy. So we can always safely set the error property and any error message would only be visible when it should be visible.

The full code for our component so far looks like this:

import React from 'react';
import styled from 'styled-components';
import PropTypes from 'prop-types';

const InnerInput = styled.input`
  font-size: 20px;
`;

const InputContainer = styled.div`
  padding: 20px;
  border: solid 1px grey;
`;

const ErrorMessage = styled.div`
  padding: 20px;
  border: red;
  background: pink;
  color: white;
`;

const validate = (val, errMessage) => {
  const valid = /^[0-9]{2,3}$/.test(val);
  return valid ? '' : errMessage;
};

class Input extends React.Component {
  static propTypes = {
    name: PropTypes.string,
    desc: PropTypes.string,
    errMessage: PropTypes.string,
  };

  state = {
    error: '',
    data: '',
  }

  handleChange = (ev) => {
    const { errMessage, name } = this.props;

    const error = validate(ev.target.value, errMessage);
    this.setState({
      data: ev.target.value,
      error,
    });
  }

  render() {
    return (
      <InputContainer>
        {this.state.error &&
          <ErrorMessage>{this.state.error}</ErrorMessage>
        }
        <div>
          {this.props.desc}
        </div>
        <InnerInput value={this.state.data} onChange={this.handleChange} {...this.props} />
      </InputContainer>
    );
  }
}

export default Input;

Telling the form

Usually when you put input elements in a form you want to be able to tell the form that one or more invalid inputs exist and you want the stop the form from being submitted. To do so we need send a message to our form every time a value changes and if there is a validation error, the form will know. To accomplish that we need to do the following:

  • add a notify input property, this will be a function we can call as soon as we validated the latest change
  • call the notify function

We there update our handleChange() method to now make a call to the notify() function that we pass in, like so:

 handleChange = (ev) => {
  const { errMessage, name, notify } = this.props;

  const error = validate(ev.target.value, errMessage);
  notify(name, error === '');
  this.setState({
    data: ev.target.value,
    error,
  });
}

notify() is called with two params, name and wether it is valid.

Setting up the form

Ok great, we have a way to communicate errors back to the form, what about the form itself, what does it need to do for this to work? It needs the following:

  • a method that it can hook up the notify property
  • determine what to do if one or more elements are invalid, like for example disable the submit button

We decide on creating a dedicated component for our form as well:

import React from 'react';
import styled from 'styled-components';
import Input from './Input';

const FormContainer = styled.form`
  border: solid 2px;
  padding: 20px;
`;

class Form extends React.Component {
  state = {
    isValid: true,
  }

  notify = (name, isValid) => {

  }

  render() {
    return (
      <FormContainer>
        <div>
          <Input 
            errMessage="Must contain 2-3 digits" 
            desc="2-3 characters" 
            name="first-name" 
            notify={this.notify} 
            title="I am a custom inbox" />
        </div>
        <button>Submit</button>
      </FormContainer>
    );
  }
}

export default Form;

At this point we have hooked up our notify input property to a method on our component called notify(), like so:

<Input
  errMessage="Must contain 2-3 digits" 
  desc="2-3 characters"
  name="first-name"
  notify={this.notify}
  title="I am a custom inbox" 
/>

As you can see our notify() method doesn't do much yet, but it will:

notify = (name, isValid) => {}

So what do we need to accomplish with a call to notify() ? The first thing we need to accomplish is telling the form that one of your inputs is invalid. The other is to set the whole form as invalid. Based on that we define our notify() code as the following:

notify = (name, isValid) => {
  this.setState({
    [name]: isValid,
  }, () => {
    this.setState({
      isValid: this.validForm(),
    });
  });
}

We see above that we after having updated our state for our input element we set the state for isValid and call the method validForm() to determine its value. The reason for setting the isValid state like this is that setState() doesn't happen straight away so it is only in the callback that we can guarantee that it's state has been updated.

isValid is the property we will use in the markup to determine wether our form is valid. Let's define the method validForm() next:

validForm = () => {
  const keys = Object.keys(this.state);
  for (let i = 0; i < keys.length; i++) {
    if (keys[i] === 'isValid') { continue; }

    if (!this.state[keys[i]]) {
      return false;
    }
  }

  return true;
}

Above we are looping through our state and is looking for wether one of the input elements are invalid. We skip isValid as that is not an element state.

Determine form state

We have now set everything up to make it easy to indicate wether the form can be submitted or not. We can handle that in two ways:

  • disabling the submit button
  • let the user press the submit button but stop the submit from going through

If we do the first variant we only need to change the markup to the following:

render() {
  return (
    <FormContainer onSubmit={this.handleSubmit}>
      <div>
        <Input
          errMessage="Must contain 2-3 digits"
          desc="2-3 characters"
          name="first-name"
          notify={this.notify}
          title="I am a custom inbox"
        />
      </div>
      <button disabled={!this.state.isValid}>Submit</button>
    </FormContainer>
  );
}

Let's zoom in on the interesting bit:

<button disabled={!this.state.isValid}>Submit</button>

We read from our isValid property and we are to disable our button when we want.

The other version of stopping the submit from going through involves us adding some logic to the method handleSubmit():

handleSubmit = (ev) => {
  ev.preventDefault();

  if (!this.state.isValid) {
    console.log('form is NOT valid');
  } else {
    console.log('valid form')
  }
}

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