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Frontity Framework

Frontity, a React framework to create WordPress sites

r_martinezduque profile image Reyes Martínez Updated on ・6 min read

These last months have been pretty intense here at Frontity.

Back in March we decided to discontinue the development of our mobile theme for WordPress publishers (also known as Frontity PRO) to place all our focus on Frontity.org: an open source framework to build WordPress themes with React.

While we await the release, let's make a brief recap of what Frontity is and some of the features you can expect to see in the framework.

Update: Frontity v1 is now live! Read about the release here.

Frontity, a React framework to create WordPress themes

Frontity is a free and open source framework to build WordPress sites based on React JS.

In order to build a WordPress theme with React there are a lot of things that developers need to learn and configure: bundling, transpiling, routing, server rendering, retrieving data from WordPress, managing state, or managing css, among many others.

Next.js and GatbsyJS are two great React frameworks that can work with WordPress but none of them is exclusively focused on this CMS. Therefore, there's still some complex configuration and additional tooling left to the developer.

Frontity is an opinionated React framework focused on WordPress which aims to make everything simpler, even for those developers who are less familiar with React:

  • Focused on WordPress: each part of the framework has been simplified and optimized to be used with WordPress.

  • Opinionated framework: developers don't need to figure out what tools to use for things like css or state management.

This all means that everything is ready so you can jump in and create a new amazing WordPress theme using React right away.

An alternative rendering engine for WordPress

Frontity can also be explained as an alternative rendering engine for WordPress.

In the past, the only way to get HTML out of WordPress was to use its PHP rendering engine.

When the REST API was merged into core in WordPress 4.7, developers were no longer limited to the PHP rendering engine. They could retrieve their WordPress content and use it wherever they want, which opened a new world of possibilities.

One of those possibilities is to create WordPress themes using React. That's where Frontity comes into play.

Why WordPress and React?

As of April (2019), WordPress powers over 33% of the web. Its market share has been growing over the last years and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Usage of content management systems

With the shift to Gutenberg as well as the rise of headless CMS approaches, the WordPress community has started considering React for their projects. Beside this, modern libraries like React are growing popularity and becoming essential to rich user experiences.

If WordPress is great and React too, why not combine the two? Especially if you want to build a CMS-powered site with modern web development tools.

We believe this JavaScript-based approach is already accelerating things in the WordPress ecosystem. There's no better time to start getting familiar with it.

How does Frontity work?

With Frontity you still use your WordPress dashboard to edit and manage your content in exactly the same way that you are accustomed to. As you make changes content is automatically updated in your Frontity site, just as it is when using a traditional WordPress theme.

Frontity apps require a Node.js server to run on. This runs in tandem with the WordPress site which is now relegated to providing content to the frontend that is based on Frontity.

Frontity requests content from the WordPress REST-API and uses it to generate the final HTML that is displayed in the browser.

Frontity is also capable of generating AMP pages using the same React code and CSS.

How Frontity works

Why a different Node.js server?

React is a JavaScript library. In order to generate HTML for site visitors or for Google AMP, the server needs to be able to run JavaScript as well.

Frontity is prepared to be hosted either in a regular Node.js server or in serverless services. That makes it super cheap and infinitely scalable.

Frontity features

These are some of the features of Frontity:

Zero setup development

Everything is already wired up: React, Webpack, Babel, SSR, Routing, CSS-in-JS, WP REST API, TypeScript, Linting, Testing…

Lightning-fast loading

Frontity sends an HTML that is ready to start navigating the site, so the initial load feels almost instant. No extra assets or round trips are necessary.

This HTML is fully functional and navigable without Javascript. Once React loads, it takes control of the app. Users don’t notice any change, it is 100% transparent.

Instant in-app navigation

Once React has loaded, our router prefetches other routes and data automatically. Users never have to wait when they navigate inside the app.

Best Lighthouse score

Frontity is optimized to get the maximum score in Lighthouse, including performance, SEO and accessibility. Theme developers start with 100 and they just need to maintain it while they add features to their theme.

Serverless and horizontal scaling

The Frontity server is so small it suits perfectly the serverless requirements. That means infinite scaling for the front-end. Frontity is also prepared to scale horizontally in any Node server.

Extensible (via Frontity extensions and NPM packages)

There are already some Frontity extensions in our roadmap that will be available soon: Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, AdSense, OneSignal Push Notifications, Disqus, etc.

Apart from extensions, there are other interface tools specifically created for Frontity: context routing, swipe navigation, infinite scrolling, html-to-react, gutenberg-to-react...

Frontity themes can also use any of the 80.000 React packages currently available in NPM.

Server Side Rendering

Frontity responds with a fully populated HTML file generated with React. This reduces the time required for the first contentful paint and ensures that the SEO is not harmed.

The content is retrieved using the WordPress REST API. Once React is loaded in the browser, it takes control of the page and does its magic.

Code Splitting

Frontity uses webpack to split the code and send the minimum code required for the app to work. Also allows developers to dynamically load components with the help of loadable-components.

Battle-tested

We’re open sourcing the internal framework we've been using to power big WordPress news sites during the last 2 years. Used by million readers, Frontity is proven and ideal for building engaging frontend experiences.

Google AMP support (in our roadmap)

Themes made with Frontity are able to render an AMP compatible version with the same React code and CSS used for the HTML version.

PWA and offline support (in our roadmap)

Our themes work with the WordPress manifest to get full PWA compatibility out of the box. They also work offline without any extra configuration via service workers.

Key differences with GatsbyJS

Frontity is in a sense similar to Gatsby, but there are some key differences:

  • 100% focused on WordPress: this means the number of concepts that you as a developer need to learn are minimal. No complex configuration is necessary to get started, and the queries to the APIs that deliver the content are pre-configured for the things that developers most frequently need.
  • Opinionated: Frontity has its own state manager and it uses Emotion for the CSS. Thanks to that developers do not need to learn the complexities of such technologies as Redux. At the same time it powers a very flexible extensibility pattern, more similar to that of WordPress itself, rather than that of other JavaScript frameworks.
  • Rendered dynamically: the HTML does not have to be rebuilt each time the content is edited or new content is published. Our preferred approach is SPR, although there are other ways to configure it.
  • Extensible like WordPress: themes and extensions can be activated and deactivated without code changes.

In addition:

  • There is no need to learn GraphQL or the REST API. The data is available to you using Frontity's built in State Manager.
  • Frontity can output HTML suitable for Google AMP with exactly the same React codebase.

Wrapping up

I hope this post gives you a better understanding of what Frontity is and how it works.

If you still have any questions or just want to share your thoughts, feel free to join our community forum. One of our goals is to build a community of people interested in WordPress and React. We'd love to meet you and learn how Frontity can help your project(s).

To keep up with all things Frontity, subscribe to our newsletter here.

Originally published at frontity.org/blog.

Posted on by:

r_martinezduque profile

Reyes Martínez

@r_martinezduque

Content and Communications at Frontity. When away-from-computer, I enjoy reading, traveling and photography.

Frontity Framework

Frontity is a free and open source framework for building amazing websites using WordPress and React.

Discussion

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This sounds incredible I can’t wait.

 

Thank you! I'm glad to hear that. It would be great to get your feedback once we launch the beta :)

 

Hey! Did you have the chance to try Frontity out? We'd love to hear your thoughts and know if we can be of any help :)

 

Just signed up for the notify email list :)

I'd love to try this out as I was trying to build a Gatsby frontend (as no batteries are included) as my current WordPress page is slow.

 

Thanks Sung! That looks very cool!

I'd love to hear more about the challenges you've faced using WordPress as a headless CMS. If you could share your thoughts or experience in our community forum that would be really helpful :)

 

I've posted on the forum regarding the challenges here :)

Our framework aims to make building sites with WordPress and React easier and this kind of feedback is always useful to improve. Thank you for sharing it with us!

Let us know how it goes when you have the chance to try out the beta :)

 

This is pretty cool! I have a semi-styled localhost version of another site up in less than an hour. Quick question, is there any way to pull in ACF fields via the normal WP RESTFUL API? github.com/airesvsg/acf-to-rest-api/ <-- The ACF fields ouput in JSON, directly after the content and meta info. I tried post.acf.field_title and a couple other ways of accessing that data, but no luck. Thanks!

 

Hi! Thanks for reaching out! Although this topic of our forum addresses other issue, I think this answer can help you: community.frontity.org/t/acf-optio....

If it doesn't, please let me know and we'll be happy to look into it. Thanks :)

 

Thenk you Reyes, this is EXACTLY what I was looking for!

Glad it helped! Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions or would like to share what you're building. We'd love to learn about your experience 😊

 

Hi! I'm trying it out and I have two questions: Are there themes available already for it? And can I still use Gutenberg blocks and display them on the front?

 

Hi Virginia! Right now, we have two starter themes which allow you to get your site running on Frontity easily: mars.frontity.org/ and twentynineteen.frontity.org/. They can be customized to fit your needs.

Regarding your second question: yes, I think you could still use Gutenberg blocks. However, we are thinking about releasing a @frontity/gutenberg npm package to make sure everything works fine. What this package does is to put the CSS that Gutenberg injects into PHP themes.

If you run into any issues or need a hand, feel free to ask in our forum: community.frontity.org/. We'll be happy to help! :)

 

Thanks for the reply, I have tried both themes by now, and I have started experimenting myself with adding stylesheets that have the CSS for the gutenberg blocks, looking forward to see that new theme.

That sounds great, Virginia! We've opened a new topic in our forum about the Gutenberg support: community.frontity.org/t/gutenberg.... Any feedback or thoughts that you'd like to share with us if you investigate further would really valuable!

 

Hi Virginia!

Did you manage to get Frontity working? We would love to hear more about your experience and know if we can be of any help :)

 

I am very new in both the technologies (React & Wordpress) but planning a huge content community website with frontity, will I be able to use wordpress multisite and all its related plughins If I choose frontity?
I am also planning to use mongo db (For users and other business logic data) and S3 storage (for storing images & videos).
Do you think it will make sense to use all of them together?

 

Hi! Thanks for reaching out :)

I'm not sure about the WordPress multisite, but if the REST API is the same, it should work. Would you mind to share your questions along with the URL of the multisite on our forum (community.frontity.org/) so the dev team can take a look at it? I'm pretty sure they'll give you a better answer than me and advice on the best approach :) We'd love to help out!

 

Thank you so much for your reply, I will surely ask this on your forum after preparing some more information and will try to be more specific while asking on your forum :)

Sounds great, we look forward to hearing from you :)

 

Frontity helped us to build a super slick website! It makes it very easy to set up, build and maintain a headless WordPress site. Just sharing our case study here - awsm.in/frontity-case-study/

 

Thanks for sharing this, Aravind! 🙂

 

From my personal experience:
I have been working with WordPress for a very long time, there were different dynozres in my combat practice;): WP + AngularJs, WP + Vue.js, and it was React time, I also, like other guys, paid attention to GatsbyJs. And purely by chance, I joined the Frontity development team as a tester.

Frankly, I really like the circle of people who create this framework. Yes, much remains to be done, but the pace and persistence with which they do it gives every reason to expect the best.

Well done, we look forward to the release and are ready to support you with claps of hands and harsh criticism.

 

Thank you for your kind words and your continued support Anatoliy! We are happy to have you in our community! 🤗