• Gatsby
  • React
  • JavaScript
  • Material UI

Build a blog with GatsbyJs

November 28, 2020 • 10 min read

In this tutorial we will build a blog about different Holidays.

Overview

In this tutorial we will work together on using GatsbyJs to build a blog about different Holidays. This tutorial is intended to serve as an introduction to GatsbyJs, GraphQL, React, and Material UI. Before we can get started, here is what you will need installed on your machine.

Development Requirements.

Install the following requirements based on your Operating System.

Once you have Node and Git installed, we need to install gatsby-cli. The Gatsby Command Line Interface (CLI) allows us to run GatsbyJs commands for developing and creating new Gatsby sites.


Open a command prompt or terminal, depending on what OS you have, and run the following command.


1
npm install -g gatsby-cli

This will install the gatsby-cli package globally on your machine and make Gatsby commands available for development.

Getting Started

To get started with our blog, we will create our site by using a starter site called Awesome Material UI Starter. This starter site comes with the following features by default:

  • Material UI and Material UI Icons installed
  • TypeScript & Type Checking (We will not be using this at the moment)
  • React Helmet
  • Offline Functionality
  • Progressive Web App Functionality
  • Prettier formatting Functionality
  1. Open a terminal/command prompt and run the following command.
1
gatsby new holiday-blog https://github.com/Flavyoo/awesome-material-ui-starter

Gatsby new output in the terminal


This tells Gatsby to create a new project called holiday-blog from the starter site specified by the git repo url 😀. I'm calling it holiday-blog but you can call it anything you want.

  1. Now run the following command to change to the directory called holiday-blog. We will be running all our commands from this location.
1
cd holiday-blog
  1. Run the development server.
1
npm run local

This command will run the script in the package.json labeled local. This script in turn will run gatsby develop -H 0.0.0.0. The part after develop will make our blog available on a local network so you can access it on your mobile device. In all, by running this command, a development server that will run your site is started. Go to the url specified to view the site.


Npm run local ouput


You should now see the following site.


Awesome material UI starter site preview


Now that we have our starter site up and running, let's work on implementing the blog feature.

Implementing the Blog

To write the code for the blog, I will be using the VS Code editor, but you can use any code editor you prefer.


To style and develop the look and feel of our blog, we will be using the Material UI React Component Library.

Blog Features.

We are implementing a very simple blog, so the initial version will only have the following features.

  1. Rendering posts from data in markdown files located locally in our project folder.
  2. Routing to different blog posts.

Source Plugins

For our blog, we will be storing our blog posts in markdown files. In order to get the markdown data from local files in our file system, we need to utilize a Gatsby Plugin called gatsby-source-filesystem. We need to install the plugin, and then configure it so it knows where to look for our posts.

  1. Install the plugin to our node_modules directory.
1
npm install gatsby-source-filesystem
  1. Inside the holiday-blog directory, create a directory called content and inside that create another directory called blog-posts. The path should look like this:
1
/holiday-blog/content/blog-posts
  1. Configure the plugin in the gatsby-config.js file by adding the following code in the plugins array.
1
{
2
resolve: `gatsby-source-filesystem`,
3
options: {
4
name: `blogPosts`,
5
path: `${__dirname}/content/blog-posts`,
6
},
7
},

From the configuration object, you can see that the value of the path key matches the path we had previously created in step 2.

  1. Save your changes.

  2. Now we need to stop and restart the development server for the changes to take affect. Stop the development server by going in the terminal window running the site and pressing ctrl + c on your keyboard. Once the server has shut down, go ahead and start it up again like we initially did.


Testing the Source Plugin

To show this plugin is indeed looking for files in the correct location, create a file called test.md in the blog-posts directory. Now, open your browser and go to the following url:


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http://localhost:8001/___graphql

Past the following code in the GraphiQL editor.


1
query MyQuery {
2
allFile {
3
edges {
4
node {
5
name
6
}
7
}
8
}
9
}

If you run that query, you should see the following result.


1
{
2
"data": {
3
"allFile": {
4
"edges": [
5
{
6
"node": {
7
"name": "test"
8
}
9
}
10
]
11
}
12
},
13
"extensions": {}
14
}

Go ahead and delete test.md since we no longer need it.

Transformer Plugins.

Awesome! Using a Gatsby source plugin we are able to query data about files on our local file system. However, our blog will consist of data in our markdown files. This means we need to be able to query the data in the markdown files and make it available to our frontend code in format that works well with React. For example, once we write our blog posts in Markdown, we need a way to convert it to HTML in order to build our pages. To do this, we need to utilize a Gatsby Transform plugin.

Our First Post

Before we install and configure our plugin, let's write the mardown content for our first blog post. The first holiday we will write about is New Year's Day. In the blog-posts directory, go ahead and create a file called new-years-day.md. Copy the content below into it.


1
---
2
title: 'History of New Years'
3
date: '2020-11-28'
4
author: 'Awesome Developer'
5
---
6
7
# What is it?
8
9
**New Year's Day** is a very popular holiday celebrated by millions of people
10
around the world.
11
12
# Date Obversed
13
14
**New Year's Day** is oberseved on January 1st, on the first day of the year in the modern [Gregorian calendar](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorian_calendar) and the [Julian calendar](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_calendar).

You can learn more about the Markdown syntax by checking out this Github Guide. However, one thing I want to point out, because we will use it later, is that the following section is called the frontmatter.


1
---
2
title: 'History of New Years'
3
date: '2020-11-28'
4
author: 'Awesome Developer'
5
---

Now that we have our content, let's install the Transfrom plugin that will take our raw data of the post and transform it to a structure we can use in our code.

  1. Install the plugin
1
npm install gatsby-transformer-remark
  1. Add it to the gatsby-config.js file. Right now we don't need to configure this plugin with any options like before, so we can add just the plugin name to the plugins array in the config file. It should look something like this:
1
{
2
resolve: `gatsby-source-filesystem`,
3
options: {
4
name: `blogPosts`,
5
path: `${__dirname}/content/blog-posts`,
6
},
7
},
8
`gatsby-transformer-remark`,
  1. Restart the development server like we did before.

With this plugin installed, we can now query the data in our posts with GraphQL.


Post data query example


Nice 🎉! So far we are able to source data from our file system and transform the data in our markdown files into a format we can use in our code. We got all that just by installing two plugins 😃. The next step is to display a list of posts.

Rendering Posts with React

To get our posts to show up on the home page, we need to write our GraphQL query to fetch data in our post files and then loop through the result and render the content. In our home page, we will display the title, date, time to read, and a short excerpt for each post.


Centering our Posts

Before we write our query, we will structure the home page by using a Container component to center our content. In the index.tsx file change your imports to what we have below. This will organize the imports for the Material UI components, and then add Container as an import.


1
import { AppBar, Container, Toolbar, Typography } from '@material-ui/core'
2
import { Theme, createStyles, makeStyles } from '@material-ui/core/styles'
3
4
import React from 'react'
5
import SEO from '../components/SEO'

Now let's use the Container component to center our content horizontally. This component has a property, AKA, a prop in React terminalogy, that will set it's max width. By setting the max width we will prevent content in our blog list from expanding beyond a certain screen size. While we are it, let's also change the name of the default function exported in index.tsx to something more fitting.


Here is what that will look like.


1
export default function HomePage() {
2
3
const classes = useStyles()
4
5
return (
6
<div className={classes.root}>
7
<SEO title="Awesome Material UI Starter" />
8
<AppBar position="static">
9
<Toolbar>
10
<Typography variant="h6" className={classes.title}>
11
Awesome Material UI Starter
12
</Typography>
13
</Toolbar>
14
</AppBar>
15
<Container maxWidth="sm">
16
{' '}
17
18
<Typography variant="h3">Time to code...</Typography>
19
</Container>{' '}
20
21
</div>
22
)
23
}

Page centered using Container component


Page Query

Now we will write the GraphQL query to fetch our data for the post list. More specifically, we will be writing a page query. A page query is a type of query that provides data to page components in Gatsby. How do we know we are working with a page component? A simple answer is that any React component defined in a file located in the src/pages directory will be turned into a page that can be navigated to.


Testing Queries

Before we write our query, you can test out your queries by using the graphql editor running at this URL. http://localhost:8000/___graphql.


Updating the HomePage

Right now, the site title also does not match our blog. Let's fix this and the site description by changing the value in the gatsby-config.js file. By doing this, we can have our page query also provide the correct data for the site title.


1
// gatsby-config.js
2
module.exports = {
3
siteMetadata: {
4
title: `Holiday Blog`,
5
description: `A blog about different holidays.`,
6
author: `@awesome-developer`,
7
},
8
...
9
};

Restart your development server like before.


Now, update the code in src/pages/index.tsx to have the following code.


1
import { Container, Typography } from '@material-ui/core'
2
import { Theme, createStyles, makeStyles } from '@material-ui/core/styles'
3
4
import React from 'react'
5
import SEO from '../components/SEO'
6
import { graphql } from 'gatsby'
7
8
const useStyles = makeStyles((theme: Theme) =>
9
createStyles({
10
root: {
11
flexGrow: 1,
12
},
13
container: {
14
marginTop: 50,
15
},
16
blogTitle: {
17
fontWeight: theme.typography.fontWeightBold,
18
},
19
postList: {
20
marginTop: 50,
21
},
22
post: {
23
marginBottom: 50,
24
},
25
postTitle: {
26
fontWeight: theme.typography.fontWeightBold,
27
},
28
excerpt: {
29
marginTop: 20,
30
},
31
})
32
)
33
34
export default function HomePage({ data }) {
35
const classes = useStyles()
36
const title = data.site.siteMetadata.title
37
const description = data.site.siteMetadata.description
38
39
return (
40
<div className={classes.root}>
41
<SEO title={data.site.siteMetadata.title} description={description} />
42
<Container maxWidth="sm" className={classes.container}>
43
<Typography variant="h2" component="h1" className={classes.blogTitle}>
44
{title}
45
</Typography>
46
<Typography>{description}</Typography>
47
<div className={classes.postList}>
48
{data.allMarkdownRemark.edges.map(({ node }) => (
49
<div key={node.id} className={classes.post}>
50
<Typography variant="h5" className={classes.postTitle}>
51
{node.frontmatter.title}
52
</Typography>
53
<Typography variant="subtitle2">
54
{`${node.frontmatter.date} - ⏰ ${node.timeToRead} min read`}
55
</Typography>
56
<Typography className={classes.excerpt}>
57
{node.excerpt}
58
</Typography>
59
</div>
60
))}
61
</div>
62
</Container>
63
</div>
64
)
65
}
66
67
export const query = graphql`
68
query {
69
site {
70
siteMetadata {
71
description
72
title
73
}
74
}
75
allMarkdownRemark {
76
totalCount
77
edges {
78
node {
79
id
80
timeToRead
81
frontmatter {
82
date(formatString: "DD MMMM, YYYY")
83
title
84
}
85
excerpt
86
}
87
}
88
}
89
}
90
`

Here is what your blog should look like at this point. I added two more markdown files with content to show the list of posts. Feel free to do the same.


Post list page


We added a lot of new code, so let's go through what was added starting with the page query.


Adding the Query

In line 69, we have created a GraphQL query which allows us to get just the data we want, nothing less, and nothing more.

  1. To get this working, we first had to import the graphql tag function from gatsby as you can see in the import section of the code snippet.
  2. We export the query variable (can be named anything) that contains the query string for our data, which Gatsby will take out and parse during build.
  3. In our HomePage component, a prop called data is passed to it. This data prop is an object that contains the result of our query in the same shape we requested it in. Gatsby will provide this automatically to the page component.

Using our data

In the code, we reference the values we need just like we would when referencing keys in JavaScript objects. In our code, we reference the data we want by following the hierarchy of the nested keys and objects in the data object.

Styling

To give our blog the look it has, we have to add styling with css. However, we are not using typical css, we are using css-in-js, which we can do by using Material UI's styling api.


Let's break it down.

  1. First we call a function called makeStyles with a callback function as the parameter.
  2. This callback function for makeStyles takes a theme object as a parameter and returns an object with keys that are css selectors and each key has an object that contains the css properties we want to change. Here is an example from our styling above.
1
blogTitle: {
2
fontWeight: theme.typography.fontWeightBold
3
},
4
5
// blogTitle will be turned into a css class selector
6
// fontWeight is the css property we are changing.
  1. makeStyles will then return a special function in called a React Hook. These type of functions have to start with the prefix use, so in thise case we are calling it useStyles.
  2. To access our class names from the styles we created, we just call useStyles which will return an object containing our class names. To provide set the class names for our elements and components, we just have to reference the key in the classes object.

Rendering our data

The post data we want to render is stored in data.allMarkdownRemark.edges which is an array. To access and render the data, we call the map function. This function takes a callback function that will process each node of data in the edges array. The way we process it in this example is by generating a div element for each post node that renders Typography components with our data.

Linking to Blog Posts

At this point we have created our home page and it has all our blogs listed for our readers. The next step is to link each post in our home page to a page that has all the contents of the blog post. This will make our blog much more interesting!


We have learned we can have new pages created by placing them in the src/pages directory, but to do this for every blog post will be a lot of manual work and pretty tedious. What we need to do, is generate our pages programmatically. We want a way for Gatsby to know we added a new markdown file and automatically create the blog post page for us and then link to that page.


One way to generate a link to our blog post page, is to create a slug. A slug is the unique identifying part of the url that identifies a resource being served. By creating a slug, we will be able to have unique link to each blog post. In this case, we will create our slugs from the names of our markdown files and then go on to create our pages.


In order to create a page for each blog post, we need to implement two Gatsby API methods, onCreateNode and createPages. We do this by exporting a function with the name of the API method in gatsby-node.js.


This file is not available by default, so go ahead and create a file called gatsby-node.js in the root of your project folder.


Implementing onCreateNode

Add the following code to the file, then stop restart the development server.


1
exports.onCreateNode = ({ node, getNode, actions }) => {
2
const { createNodeField } = actions
3
4
if (node.internal.type === 'MarkdownRemark') {
5
createNodeField({
6
node,
7
name: `slug`,
8
value: `/blog/${getNode(node.parent).name}/`,
9
})
10
}
11
}

Our implementation of the onCreateNode is adding a new field called slug to nodes of type MarkdownRemark. We want to add the slug field to MarkdownRemark nodes because this is the type of node created by gatsby-transformer-remark for each markdown file we have in our project. For each node we create, we are also adding the slug value.


How are we getting the slug value? The slug value is created from the name of the markdown file which we access by looking at the parent File node, which has the data, such as the file name, about files in our file system.


If you console log the result of creating the slug, you should see the path in the console after stopping and restarting the development server.


1
exports.onCreateNode = ({ node, getNode, actions }) => {
2
const { createNodeField } = actions
3
4
if (node.internal.type === 'MarkdownRemark') {
5
console.log(`/blog/${getNode(node.parent).name}/`)
6
createNodeField({
7
node,
8
name: `slug`,
9
value: `/blog/${getNode(node.parent).name}/`,
10
})
11
}
12
}

Make sure to remove the console.log statement once you no longer need it.


Implementing createPages

The next step in this process is to implement the createPages API method to programmatically create pages for our blog posts. In order to create our pages, we need to query the data with GraphQL and map the result to each page. The other component of this process that we need to do, is to implement a template component for reach page we create. This way, the pages will always have similar look and feel.


First, let's go head and create an initial template. In the src directory create a new directory called templates and add a file called BlogPost.jsx in there. Add the following code to it. This will render a Container with a max width set to small screens, and a div containing the text Blog Post Template.


1
import { Container } from '@material-ui/core'
2
import React from 'react'
3
4
export default function BlogPost() {
5
return (
6
<Container maxWidth="sm">
7
<div>Blog Post Template</div>
8
</Container>
9
)
10
}

Now, let's implement the createPages method to utilize our template. Copy the following into the gatsby-node.js file.


1
exports.createPages = async ({ graphql, actions }) => {
2
const result = await graphql(`
3
query {
4
allMarkdownRemark {
5
edges {
6
node {
7
fields {
8
slug
9
}
10
}
11
}
12
}
13
}
14
`)
15
16
result.data.allMarkdownRemark.edges.forEach(({ node }) => {
17
actions.createPage({
18
path: node.fields.slug,
19
component: require.resolve(`./src/templates/BlogPost.jsx`),
20
context: {
21
slug: node.fields.slug,
22
},
23
})
24
})
25
}

If you stop and restart the server and got to a random url like http://localhost:8001/rahss, you should see a list of page routes that are available on the site including the ones just created.


404 page routes


Just like we wrote a query for the index page to fetch data for our posts lists, this time we will write and export a query in the BlogPost.jsx file to fetch data for a post by the value of the slug. GraphQL queries can accept parameters. Therefore we will pass the slug as a parameter to get data for a markdown node with the given slug. Putting it together, our template now looks like this.


1
import { Container, Link, Typography } from '@material-ui/core'
2
import { Link as GatsbyLink, graphql } from 'gatsby'
3
import { Theme, createStyles, makeStyles } from '@material-ui/core/styles'
4
5
import React from 'react'
6
7
const useStyles = makeStyles((theme: Theme) =>
8
createStyles({
9
blogTitle: {
10
fontWeight: theme.typography.fontWeightBold,
11
},
12
})
13
)
14
15
export default function BlogPost({ data }) {
16
const classes = useStyles()
17
const post = data.markdownRemark
18
19
return (
20
<Container maxWidth="md">
21
<Link component={GatsbyLink} to="/">
22
Home
23
</Link>
24
<Typography variant="h3" component="h1" className={classes.blogTitle}>
25
{post.frontmatter.title}
26
</Typography>
27
<div dangerouslySetInnerHTML={{ __html: post.html }} />
28
</Container>
29
)
30
}
31
32
export const query = graphql`
33
query($slug: String!) {
34
markdownRemark(fields: { slug: { eq: $slug } }) {
35
html
36
frontmatter {
37
title
38
}
39
}
40
}
41
`

One thing I want to call out is the use of the Link component from Gatsby. This component useful for internal linking between our pages since it will make page loads very fast by prefetching the required resources.


The last thing left to do, is to link the posts in the home page to their respective blog post page. To do this, we need to update our query to fetch the slug and use this slug to create our link. Here is what that looks like.


1
import { Container, Typography } from '@material-ui/core'
2
import { Link, graphql } from 'gatsby'
3
import { Theme, createStyles, makeStyles } from '@material-ui/core/styles'
4
5
import React from 'react'
6
import SEO from '../components/SEO'
7
8
const useStyles = makeStyles((theme: Theme) =>
9
createStyles({
10
root: {
11
flexGrow: 1,
12
},
13
container: {
14
marginTop: 50,
15
},
16
blogTitle: {
17
fontWeight: theme.typography.fontWeightBold,
18
},
19
postList: {
20
marginTop: 50,
21
},
22
post: {
23
marginBottom: 50,
24
},
25
postTitle: {
26
fontWeight: theme.typography.fontWeightBold,
27
},
28
excerpt: {
29
marginTop: 20,
30
},
31
})
32
)
33
34
export default function HomePage({ data }) {
35
const classes = useStyles()
36
const title = data.site.siteMetadata.title
37
const description = data.site.siteMetadata.description
38
39
return (
40
<div className={classes.root}>
41
<SEO title={data.site.siteMetadata.title} description={description} />
42
<Container maxWidth="sm" className={classes.container}>
43
<Typography variant="h2" component="h1" className={classes.blogTitle}>
44
{title}
45
</Typography>
46
<Typography>{description}</Typography>
47
<div className={classes.postList}>
48
{data.allMarkdownRemark.edges.map(({ node }) => (
49
<div key={node.id} className={classes.post}>
50
<Typography
51
variant="h5"
52
className={classes.postTitle}
53
component={Link}
54
to={node.fields.slug}
55
>
56
{' '}
57
58
{node.frontmatter.title}
59
</Typography>
60
<Typography variant="subtitle2">
61
{`${node.frontmatter.date} - ⏰ ${node.timeToRead} min read`}
62
</Typography>
63
<Typography className={classes.excerpt}>
64
{node.excerpt}
65
</Typography>
66
</div>
67
))}
68
</div>
69
</Container>
70
</div>
71
)
72
}
73
74
export const query = graphql`
75
query {
76
site {
77
siteMetadata {
78
description
79
title
80
}
81
}
82
allMarkdownRemark {
83
totalCount
84
edges {
85
node {
86
id
87
fields {
88
slug
89
}
90
timeToRead
91
frontmatter {
92
date(formatString: "DD MMMM, YYYY")
93
title
94
}
95
excerpt
96
}
97
}
98
}
99
}
100
`

MVP of the home page


Conclusion.

Congratulations 🎉🎉🎉!! At this point you should have a working blog. Now I recommend taking a break and then coming back to review some of the code you added to your project to help it stick.


Now that we have the MVP, the next step is to work on improving the look and feel, adding support for other features, and deploying it.


If you want to create a Tech Blog, there are plugins for rendering code, syntax highlighting, and much more available on the plugin page.


I hope this post was useful and got you curious about Gatsby, Material UI, and React.

Challenge.

As a challenge, see if you can utilize a Plugin to add images to your blog posts, and use GraphQL to order your posts in the home page by date. I will be making future posts on these features, so make sure to be on the lookout for the content.