How to write and test a custom React hook.

Jan 23, 2021☕ 2 min read

You might be familiar with React hooks, but maybe you don't know that you can implement your own hooks to build reusable logic on top of hooks.

What is a (custom) React hook?

React hooks are still somewhat new, from February 2019. In web development years that's like a decade, though, and probably another 278 libraries have been launched since then. They allow you to write functional components (instead of classes) and still use state and other lifecycle methods.

As I mentioned before, you can write a custom hook in your application if you want a modular piece of logic that uses hooks as well.

How can we use them?

In this particular case, I wanted a deep comparison hook. Funnily enough, I based my code on this fragment I found, by user sandiiarov in GitHub. I cleaned the code a bit, and it ended up being identical to this other piece of code I found by Kent C. Dodds.

The code is the following:

// existing hooks we want to use here
import { useRef, useEffect } from 'react';
// deep comparison utility by lodash
import isEqual from 'lodash.isequal';

// we're using memoization on an array of dependencies
// (like useEffect does), to perform a deep comparison
// and update them if their values changed.
export function useDeepCompareMemoize(dependencies) {
  const ref = useRef();

  if (!isEqual(dependencies, ref.current)) {
    ref.current = dependencies;

  return ref.current;

// we export the hook as a reinterpretation of useEffect
// but evaluating the dependencies using our custom hook.
export default function useDeepCompareEffect(callback, dependencies) {
  useEffect(callback, useDeepCompareMemoize(dependencies));

How can we test a custom hook?

The tricky part about testing a custom hook, like in other cases, is that we need to emulate the behavior of a react hook, without rendering the application (as we run the tests from the CLI).

Luckily, React testing library has a great set of testing utilities for React hooks. One of their use cases is precisely if "You're writing a library with one or more custom hooks that are not directly tied to a component", which fits our utility function.

We can use it to implement a test that mocks a callback function that will be called everytime the dependencies array changes:

import { renderHook } from '@testing-library/react-hooks';

it('should trigger callback only on dependencies change', () => {
  // we're creating a fake callback function to check wether or not
  // it's been called.
  const callback = jest.fn();
  // we create a fake array of dependencies.
  let dependencies = [{ a: 1 }];
  // we'll use RTL's renderHook to return a result and a rerender method
  const { result, rerender } = renderHook(() =>
    useDeepCompareEffect(callback, dependencies)

  // dependencies didn't change
  rerender({ callback, dependencies });

  dependencies = [{ a: 2 }];
  // dependencies did change, triggering useEffect
  rerender({ callback, dependencies });

  // we check here that we called our custom fake callback twice so far

Here is the code for the utility, and this is the tests file.

Do you know of a better way to implement and try custom React hooks? Do you have any further questions about this short article? Feel free to reach me on Twitter!

Hope you enjoyed this article, see you on the next one ✌🏻