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Julien Bras
Julien Bras

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at

Add an Admin Panel to an existing Express API / React frontend


Here is a quick personal review of JS solution for generating an Admin Panel today (April 2020). The goal is to add an admin panel to an existing Express API backend + React frontend.

I want to have something comparable to the Django Admin as a reference.

It must manage:

  • some kind of authentication
  • some kind of file management, ideally with S3 hosting as the backend is running on Heroku
  • I am OK to add modules to my existing Express application, or change completely the backend.


Just an admin-panel to add on Express app. There is no easy way to add a file upload feature (this can help). But it is a great tool to not modify to much my existing solution.

This tool is more a Content Management System than a Framework. It define itself as a headless CMS. I can find some Drupal inspiration inside the tool:

  • tool to manage different Content-Type (entities)
  • plugin system to add authentication (lots of providers supported)
  • support a classic database or MongoDB
  • obviously there is an admin panel to manage the entities
  • you can manage files, and it can be handled by default on various providers including S3 (good !)
  • it provide out of the box a REST api, and you can also activate a GraphQL api easily.

It is a very fast way to create a headless backend. But as it rely a lot on plugins, you may not find exactly the feature you need. For example there no Internationalization plugin yet to manage multiple language.


This is a framework. No admin interface.

  • entities are service (very easy to add a new service !)
  • handle different backend including Mongo
  • no admin webapp backend but there is a react-admin plugin ! react-admin is a solution to add an admin panel directly in a react application
  • react-admin is not easy to implement !
  • nothing for file upload out of the box


This is a hosted version of Parse server. Parse use to be a tool provided by Facebook, but it now an open-source tool here. It seems we cannot consume data as raw RESTapi but rather with a dedicated SDK.


Provide lots of stuff out of the box

  • API to consume the data
  • Authentication with multiple providers
  • Admin Panel (yes it is mandatory for my little selection !)
  • File management


This is a React library that can generate an admin panel. It rely on existing REST or GraphQL API , with a a DataProvider object that explain how to communicate with the API. It is needed to write the DataProvider if your API does not stick exactly with an already available DataProvider. In my case the Simple REST was not compatible directly.



I was pushing hard on AdminBro but I wasn't able to handle a clean and fast solution for one of my entities that is linked to a file. The file management seems not obvious for me ! AdminBro is not hard to install and setup but it require customization to fit exactly with your existing Express application. My main issue was this file management point.

Feathers is a nice idea, but it require a start from scratch regarding the backend, and the react-admin solution was not so magic.

About Back4app it is the first time I was dealing with the Parse system. I was worried to need to implement a specific Parse Client API inside my frontend to use it. The goal was not to rebuild completly the frontend application.

Finally I decided to give a try with and check if it fit my collaborators ! I know it is not perfect but it is very fast to setup and deploy.

Update 2020-04-22

Finally I have decided to use the react-admin project in the frontend part:

  • It does not need to replace my existing Express API. It save me some time.
  • It is more all-in-one place for all my users. Both end-users and admin-users can consume the same url, same application. It is globally easier.
  • It seems pretty intimidating to create a custom DataProvider for my existing API but the documentation of the project is accessible and I have managed to setup mine in a couple of hours.

Let me know in comment what is your favorite admin-panel solution, and why you need one !

Top comments (2)

thenextuchiha profile image
Farzan Pira

Hi there!
Can you please update the link to the DataProvider's code? It seems it's been replaced. Would love to see that for reference! Thanks!

julbrs profile image
Julien Bras

You're right, thanks !

I have updated the link. BTW I have changed the backend and using a Firebase backend right now on HEAD, so I am not using anymore a custom dataprovider on my prod.

Have a nice day!