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Setting up Apollo GraphQL in Next.js with Server Side Rendering.

angad777 profile image Angad Gupta ・8 min read

Single page applications are a popular way of architecting modern front end applications. However, the biggest downside to client side rendering is poor SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). In this article, we'll look at setting up a react app using Next.js, a react framework and server render the initial pages with remote data from a GraphQL API.

Prerequisites

  • Node.js β‰₯ 12.16.2 (LTS)
  • React
  • Next.js
  • GraphQL
  • Apollo Client
  • Yarn Package Manager

Why SEO ?

Now you may be asking why SEO's important? Well... if you're building out a dashboard or an application that is just going to be used inside your intranet, Server rendering react and SEO may not be high in your product backlog. Moreover, if your organisation is in the e-commerce space, than SEO is a key player. SEO ensures your products listing or product pages get indexed and ranked high by Google and other search engine providers. This indirectly results in more organic views from potential buyers, which can greatly affect how much revenue your company generates online. πŸ˜‰

Application Setup

Scaffolding a new Next.js app

Let's get started by creating a new folder and initialising a package.json with the default flags. I'm using yarn here, but it's also possible to install and run everything using npm.

mkdir react-graphql-ssr
yarn init -y

Sweet! Now that we have a new project initialised, it's time to add some dependencies. Lets install next, react and react-dom . Open up your favourite terminal and run the following command :

yarn add next react react-dom

Your package.json should now look like this :

{
    "name": "react-graphql-ssr",
    "version": "1.0.0",
    "main": "index.js",
    "license": "MIT",
    "author": "Angad Gupta",
    "dependencies": {
        "next": "^9.3.5",
        "react": "^16.13.1",
        "react-dom": "^16.13.1"
    }
}

Let's add a few script to make the application run. Good news similar to create-react-app, Next.js abstracts away the web-pack config and by default provides 3 scripts to help you get started with development and focus on your product rather than the underlying web-pack configuration.

  • dev script with hot code reload and goodies
  • build script to package your your application for production
  • start script to run your application in production.
"scripts": {
  "dev": "next",
  "build": "next build",
  "start": "next start"
}

Your package.json should now look like this :

{
    "name": "react-graphql-ssr",
    "version": "1.0.0",
    "main": "index.js",
    "license": "MIT",
    "author": "Angad Gupta",
    "scripts": {
        "dev": "next",
        "build": "next build",
        "start": "next start"
    },
    "dependencies": {
        "next": "^9.3.5",
        "react": "^16.13.1",
        "react-dom": "^16.13.1"
    }
}

Phew.... now that you have your application setup locally, let's create a pages directory and add a new page called index.js . P.S you can extend this setup and make modification to web-pack, babel and also add Typescript if you like, however not required for the scope of this tutorial.

Create pages directory

mkdir pages
cd pages
touch index.js

Create a React component

Add a new react component for index.js

import React from 'react';

const IndexPage = () => {
    return (
        <>
            <h3>Setting up Apollo GraphQL in Next.js with Server Side Rendering</h3>
        </>
    );
};

export default IndexPage;

You should now be able to run the project using yarn dev from your terminal and view your the index page running on http://localhost:3000 with hot code reloading. The page will should show a heading "Setting up Apollo GraphQL in Next.js with Server Side Rendering"

Add GraphQL

Add GraphQl dependencies to the project

yarn add graphql graphql-tag

Add Apollo Client

Add Apollo client dependencies to the project

yarn add @apollo/react-hooks @apollo/react-ssr apollo-cache-inmemory apollo-client apollo-link-http isomorphic-unfetch prop-types

Setup Apollo Client

To get Apollo client to work well, in the root project folder, create a libs folder and add an apollo.js file.

mkdir libs
cd libs
touch apollo.js

Add the following code to the apollo.js file :

import React from 'react';
import App from 'next/app';
import Head from 'next/head';
import { ApolloProvider } from '@apollo/react-hooks';
import createApolloClient from '../apolloClient';

// On the client, we store the Apollo Client in the following variable.
// This prevents the client from reinitializing between page transitions.
let globalApolloClient = null;

/**
 * Installs the Apollo Client on NextPageContext
 * or NextAppContext. Useful if you want to use apolloClient
 * inside getStaticProps, getStaticPaths or getServerSideProps
 * @param {NextPageContext | NextAppContext} ctx
 */
export const initOnContext = (ctx) => {
    const inAppContext = Boolean(ctx.ctx);

    // We consider installing `withApollo({ ssr: true })` on global App level
    // as antipattern since it disables project wide Automatic Static Optimization.
    if (process.env.NODE_ENV === 'development') {
        if (inAppContext) {
            console.warn(
                'Warning: You have opted-out of Automatic Static Optimization due to `withApollo` in `pages/_app`.\n' +
                    'Read more: https://err.sh/next.js/opt-out-auto-static-optimization\n'
            );
        }
    }

    // Initialize ApolloClient if not already done
    const apolloClient =
        ctx.apolloClient ||
        initApolloClient(ctx.apolloState || {}, inAppContext ? ctx.ctx : ctx);

    // We send the Apollo Client as a prop to the component to avoid calling initApollo() twice in the server.
    // Otherwise, the component would have to call initApollo() again but this
    // time without the context. Once that happens, the following code will make sure we send
    // the prop as `null` to the browser.
    apolloClient.toJSON = () => null;

    // Add apolloClient to NextPageContext & NextAppContext.
    // This allows us to consume the apolloClient inside our
    // custom `getInitialProps({ apolloClient })`.
    ctx.apolloClient = apolloClient;
    if (inAppContext) {
        ctx.ctx.apolloClient = apolloClient;
    }

    return ctx;
};

/**
 * Always creates a new apollo client on the server
 * Creates or reuses apollo client in the browser.
 * @param  {NormalizedCacheObject} initialState
 * @param  {NextPageContext} ctx
 */
const initApolloClient = (initialState, ctx) => {
    // Make sure to create a new client for every server-side request so that data
    // isn't shared between connections (which would be bad)
    if (typeof window === 'undefined') {
        return createApolloClient(initialState, ctx);
    }

    // Reuse client on the client-side
    if (!globalApolloClient) {
        globalApolloClient = createApolloClient(initialState, ctx);
    }

    return globalApolloClient;
};

/**
 * Creates a withApollo HOC
 * that provides the apolloContext
 * to a next.js Page or AppTree.
 * @param  {Object} withApolloOptions
 * @param  {Boolean} [withApolloOptions.ssr=false]
 * @returns {(PageComponent: ReactNode) => ReactNode}
 */
export const withApollo = ({ ssr = false } = {}) => (PageComponent) => {
    const WithApollo = ({ apolloClient, apolloState, ...pageProps }) => {
        let client;
        if (apolloClient) {
            // Happens on: getDataFromTree & next.js ssr
            client = apolloClient;
        } else {
            // Happens on: next.js csr
            client = initApolloClient(apolloState, undefined);
        }

        return (
            <ApolloProvider client={client}>
                <PageComponent {...pageProps} />
            </ApolloProvider>
        );
    };

    // Set the correct displayName in development
    if (process.env.NODE_ENV !== 'production') {
        const displayName =
            PageComponent.displayName || PageComponent.name || 'Component';
        WithApollo.displayName = `withApollo(${displayName})`;
    }

    if (ssr || PageComponent.getInitialProps) {
        WithApollo.getInitialProps = async (ctx) => {
            const inAppContext = Boolean(ctx.ctx);
            const { apolloClient } = initOnContext(ctx);

            // Run wrapped getInitialProps methods
            let pageProps = {};
            if (PageComponent.getInitialProps) {
                pageProps = await PageComponent.getInitialProps(ctx);
            } else if (inAppContext) {
                pageProps = await App.getInitialProps(ctx);
            }

            // Only on the server:
            if (typeof window === 'undefined') {
                const { AppTree } = ctx;
                // When redirecting, the response is finished.
                // No point in continuing to render
                if (ctx.res && ctx.res.finished) {
                    return pageProps;
                }

                // Only if dataFromTree is enabled
                if (ssr && AppTree) {
                    try {
                        // Import `@apollo/react-ssr` dynamically.
                        // We don't want to have this in our client bundle.
                        const { getDataFromTree } = await import('@apollo/react-ssr');

                        // Since AppComponents and PageComponents have different context types
                        // we need to modify their props a little.
                        let props;
                        if (inAppContext) {
                            props = { ...pageProps, apolloClient };
                        } else {
                            props = { pageProps: { ...pageProps, apolloClient } };
                        }

                        // Take the Next.js AppTree, determine which queries are needed to render,
                        // and fetch them. This method can be pretty slow since it renders
                        // your entire AppTree once for every query. Check out apollo fragments
                        // if you want to reduce the number of rerenders.
                        // https://www.apollographql.com/docs/react/data/fragments/
                        await getDataFromTree(<AppTree {...props} />);
                    } catch (error) {
                        // Prevent Apollo Client GraphQL errors from crashing SSR.
                        // Handle them in components via the data.error prop:
                        // https://www.apollographql.com/docs/react/api/react-apollo.html#graphql-query-data-error
                        console.error('Error while running `getDataFromTree`', error);
                    }

                    // getDataFromTree does not call componentWillUnmount
                    // head side effect therefore need to be cleared manually
                    Head.rewind();
                }
            }

            return {
                ...pageProps,
                // Extract query data from the Apollo store
                apolloState: apolloClient.cache.extract(),
                // Provide the client for ssr. As soon as this payload
                // gets JSON.stringified it will remove itself.
                apolloClient: ctx.apolloClient,
            };
        };
    }

    return WithApollo;
};

Great! We're almost there, now let's initialise an Apollo client that will link to a GraphQL Server or Gateway. In the root folder, create a new file called apolloClient.js

touch apolloClient.js

Add add the following code to apolloClient.js file :

import { ApolloClient } from 'apollo-client';
import { InMemoryCache } from 'apollo-cache-inmemory';
import { HttpLink } from 'apollo-link-http';
import fetch from 'isomorphic-unfetch';

export default function createApolloClient(initialState, ctx) {
    // The `ctx` (NextPageContext) will only be present on the server.
    // use it to extract auth headers (ctx.req) or similar.
    return new ApolloClient({
        ssrMode: Boolean(ctx),
        link: new HttpLink({
            uri: 'https://rickandmortyapi.com/graphql', // Server URL (must be absolute)
            credentials: 'same-origin', // Additional fetch() options like `credentials` or `headers`
            fetch,
        }),
        cache: new InMemoryCache().restore(initialState),
    });
}

For the purposes of this tutorial, we'll be consuming a free to use Rick and Morty GraphQL API which returns all the characters and their details.

Write a query to fetch all characters from the Rick and Morty GraphQL API

Create a folder called gql and create a new file called allCharacters.js.
Add the following query to the allCharacters.js file.

mkdir gql
cd gql
touch allCharacters.js
import gql from 'graphql-tag';

export const ALL_CHARACTERS = gql`
    query allCharacters {
        characters {
            results {
                id
                name
            }
        }
    }
`;

The file imports gql from a node module we previously installed called graphql-tag. The gql template literal tag can be used to concisely write a GraphQL query that is parsed into a standard GraphQL AST. It is the recommended method for passing queries to the Apollo Client.

Call the GraphQL API using our index page

Lets add a few more imports to our index page.

import { withApollo } from '../libs/apollo';
import { useQuery } from '@apollo/react-hooks';
import { ALL_CHARACTERS } from '../gql/allCharacters';

We're importing our apollo setup from the libs folder we just setup.

Using the useQuery hook from the apollo react-hooks library and parsing in our custom query we wrote in allCharacters.js file

import React from 'react';
import { withApollo } from '../libs/apollo';
import { useQuery } from '@apollo/react-hooks';
import { ALL_CHARACTERS } from '../gql/allCharacters';

const IndexPage = () => {
    const { loading, error, data } = useQuery(ALL_CHARACTERS);
    if (error) return <h1>Error</h1>;
    if (loading) return <h1>Loading...</h1>;

    return (
        <>
            <h1>
                <h3>Setting up Apollo GraphQL in Next.js with Server Side Rendering</h3>
            </h1>
            <div>
                {data.characters.results.map((data) => (
                    <ul key={data.id}>
                        <li>{data.name}</li>
                    </ul>
                ))}
            </div>
        </>
    );
};

export default withApollo({ ssr: true })(IndexPage);

The Apollo useQuery hook receives 3 objects. loading, error and data which manages the API call and sets State on data if there were no errors.

Once the data is returned without any errors, we can map over the data using the native javascript map function and create an unordered list with Character names as the list items.

{
    data.characters.results.map((data) => (
        <ul key={data.id}>
            <li>{data.name}</li>
        </ul>
    ));
}

We're now exporting the IndexPage with the ssr flag set as true, this under the hood server renders the page and sends the final rendered version to client with remote data.

Testing the page contents

Let's test if the page contents are available when we view the page source. Right click on the index page in chrome and click on View Page Source. The characters details should be part of pages markup.

You can also, set the ssr flag to false when exporting the page and test. Moreover, depending on your internet speed, you may see the Loading... text (indicating the loading state) and then finally the fetched remote data.

When inspecting and viewing page source with ssr flag set to false, you'll notice the character data being returned is no longer part of our markup as its now client rendered.

Benefits

You can choose to client render or server side render on a per page basis based on your business requirements. For constantly changing data e.g. dashboards, client side rendering is preferable, however for marketing pages that don't change frequently and don't have remote - data blocking requirements, pre-rendering or static generated pages can be published ahead of time and cached on a global CDN like Cloud-front by AWS.

Going to production

Before you can take a setup such as this to production, ensure to optimise your page SEO using next/head package, which exposes html elements such as title and head. Work with your team and add meaningful information thats relavant to your business.

Extending this..

Feel free to extend this tutorial by adding more functionality, add your favourite UI styling library or play around with nested queries or GraphQL arguments. You can clone and fork this repository here via GitHub .

Posted on by:

angad777 profile

Angad Gupta

@angad777

Software Engineer / Software Architect

Discussion

pic
Editor guide
 

I was able to extend this out a bit with getStaticProps and getStaticPaths:

export async function getStaticPaths(ctx) {
  const client = await apolloClient(ctx)
  const response = await client.query({
    query: ALL_CHARACTER_IDS
  })

  const { count } = response.data.characters.info;

  const ids = [...Array(count).keys()];

  const paths = ids.map(id => ({
    params: { id: `${id + 1}` },
  }))

  return { paths, fallback: true }
}

export async function getStaticProps({ params }, ctx) {
  const client = await apolloClient(ctx)
  const response = await client.query({
    query: GET_CHARACTER,
    variables: {id: `${params.id}`}
  })

  const { character } = response.data;

  return { props: {
    character,
    loading: response.loading,
    error: !response.error ? null : response.error
    }
  }

Build time takes a bit but otherwise nice.

 

Thanks, that was useful!

 

Hey Angad, this looks good but doesn't work with the getServerSideProps in newer version of Next.

To support that, It was required to split that apollo clinet HOC into two parts, one for provider and for one srr, as now. I have implemented that here. Will love to see suggestions and improvement tips on it.

Another option is to auto define the static prop on each PageComponent which does the SSR data extraction and then export that from each page.

 

Hey Naman,

Thanks mate - I'll have a look at your repo and implementation now.

I believe there may be even more changes when Apollo v3 comes out of beta.

Cheers

 

Hi, does it actually server render? My apollo cache seems empty after this setup, like described in the old issue from react-apollo-hooks: github.com/trojanowski/react-apoll...
So the page will be rendered in loading mode systematically with this approach.

For instance, what apolloClient.cache.extract() displays on your app?

 

Yeah I don't think this is actually doing server side rendering, I tried github.com/adamsoffer/next-apollo-... instead and it worked

 

So how would you use this with the api? export it the same way? I was able to do the dynamic routes pretty easy I also styled up the application as well but going the API route has been damn near impossible. github.com/MuddyBootsCode/tailswin...

 

Hey Michael.

I see you have dynamic routing implemented in your repo. Is this still an issue for you ? I'd happy to take a look and point you in the right direction. Let me know.

Some docs here for you reference : nextjs.org/docs/routing/dynamic-ro...

Thanks

 

Cheers Angad. Yep found that and was able to get it working. Now what I'm trying to do is get this to work with getStaticProps. I'm finding a lot of different implementations but this seems to be the most promising github.com/zeit/next.js/discussion... though it's not completely working for me and seems like it might be a bit over complicated at the moment. However, it does look like there's a lot of headway getting made quickly.

 

I am facing an issue with Next.js v.9.4.4: "Error: Circular structure in "getInitialProps" result"
This is due to apolloClient being passed in getInitialProperties: the comment stating that: "As soon as this payload gets JSON.stringified it will remove itself." does not seems true anymore, or I missed something. Did you face that issue too?

 

Hey Angad,
Great post, but is there a reason why this implementation seems quite a lot more complicated than the with apollo example on the NextJS repo (Found Here)?

The example in the above link simply creates an Apollo Client, passes this into the ApolloProvider which wraps the _app.js file and then uses getStaticProps inside of the pages which need it (index.js for example).

How come this example uses a fairly substantial apollo.js file?

 

Thanks a lot..! this post help me to finally get the graphql stuff.. gracias!!!

 

Welcome Miguelangel, I'm glad the post was helpful.

 

Thanks for the example.
I have a simple question I can't figure out. How do I set up a [id].js page so that I can use the id to make a query ?

 

Welcome Terje, You can setup dynamic routing using this : nextjs.org/docs/routing/dynamic-ro...

 

Thanks a lot coleague, run to first!!, u know any project to create mutations?