Adding react to a ghost blog theme

webeleon profile image Webeleon ・4 min read

Last week a client come to me and ask for a custom npm package with a standardized react component he can use in his three sites. No issue, I build the thing and start the integration.

  • main website: ok
  • documentation site: ok
  • ghost blog: ... The problems start with the blog... Ghost blog theming is mainly editing handlebar files, zipping them, and uploading them to the blog.

First let's install

The company behind ghost blog provides a sass solution for blogging, this means you won't be able to find how to install a local version easily but it is indeed quite easy.

npm install ghost-cli@latest -g
# create a local copy and start
mkdir someLocalBlogFolder
cd someLocalBlogFolder
ghost install local
ghost start

You can now connect to http://localhost:2368/ghost/#/site and set up a user.

And voila, first step done. We have a local copy!
little voice: that's not what you had to do! none will pay for a local install!

Clone a Casper theme

Ok, to gain a little time we'll clone and edit the Casper theme which is the default ghost theme.

git clone git@github.com:TryGhost/Casper.git customCasper
cd customCasper

Create a navbar using Bulma

Let's install the basic libraries:

npm i -D react react-dom bulma

We will build our react app in a folder called react

mkdir react

Inside the react folder, we will create the react app entry point react/src/app.jsx.

import React from 'react';
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';

import './app.scss';
import { NavbarContainer } from "./containers/NavbarContainer.jsx";

const navbarDomContainer = document.querySelector('#navbar');
    (<NavbarContainer />),

add main sass styling file react/src/app.scss

Ok, technically we can just import bulma sass in the app.jsx file, but this way we will have an entry point to edit (if we want).

@charset "utf-8";

@import "bulma/bulma";

div#navbar {
    z-index: 10000

create the navbar component react/src/components/Navbar.jsx

I know this is just the basic Bulma navbar example, it does not include the js to handle the burger menu (it will be covered in another post)

import React from 'react';

export const Navbar = () => (
    <nav className="navbar" role="navigation" aria-label="main navigation">
        <div className="navbar-brand">
            <a className="navbar-item" href="https://bulma.io">
                <img src="https://bulma.io/images/bulma-logo.png" width="112" height="28" />

            <a role="button" className="navbar-burger burger" aria-label="menu" aria-expanded="false"
                <span aria-hidden="true"></span>
                <span aria-hidden="true"></span>
                <span aria-hidden="true"></span>

        <div id="navbarBasicExample" className="navbar-menu">
            <div className="navbar-start">
                <a className="navbar-item">

                <a className="navbar-item">

                <div className="navbar-item has-dropdown is-hoverable">
                    <a className="navbar-link">

                    <div className="navbar-dropdown">
                        <a className="navbar-item">
                        <a className="navbar-item">
                        <a className="navbar-item">
                        <hr className="navbar-divider" />
                        <a className="navbar-item">
                            Report an issue

            <div className="navbar-end">
                <div className="navbar-item">
                    <div className="buttons">
                        <a className="button is-primary">
                            <strong>Sign up</strong>
                        <a className="button is-light">
                            Log in

add an HTML tag with the id navbar in the main handlebar file default.hbs

{<!-- more in the file --}
<body class="{{body_class}}">
    <div class="site-wrapper">

        <div id="navbar"></div>    

        {{!-- All the main content gets inserted here, index.hbs, post.hbs, etc --}}

{<!-- ... more in the file --}

build system to bundle the react app

Install webpack tooling with all the loaders we will need.

npm i -D webpack webpack-cli @babel/core babel-loader @babel/preset-env @babel/preset-react node-sass style-loader css-loader sass-loader 

At the theme root, we need to add a webpack configuration webpack.config.js file just like this one:

const path = require('path');

module.exports = {
    entry: {
        main: "./react/src/app.jsx",
    module: {
        rules: [
                test: /\.jsx?$/,
                exclude: /(node_modules|bower_components)/,
                use: {
                    loader: 'babel-loader',
                    options: {
                        presets: ['@babel/env', '@babel/preset-react']
                test: /\.css$/,
                use: ["style-loader", "css-loader"],
                test: /\.scss$/,
                use: ["style-loader", "css-loader", "sass-loader"],
    output: {
        filename: "[name].bundle.js",
        path: path.resolve(__dirname, "assets/built"),

Cool, we can now bundle the react app using webpack.
little voice: but when i run npm run zip the react app is not built...

Ok then, we will need to install one last dependency.

npm i -D webpack-stream

Add a new webpack task in the file gulpfile.js and add the function to the build definition.

// ... more gulpfile ...
const webpackStream = require('webpack-stream');

// ... more gulpfile ...

function webpack(done) {
    ], handleError(done));

// ... more gulpfile ...
// add the 
const build = series(css, js, webpack);
// ... more gulpfile ...

Oh yeah! we can now build everything the "right way".

npm run zip

Wait a second... We wrote a react app, we built the app.
Oh damned, we forgot to load the bundle in the main template.
Let's add the bundle to the main template: default.hbs

{{<!-- more handlebar template, close to the end of the body --}}

    <script src="{{asset "built/main.bundle.js"}}"></script>

{{<!-- more handlebar template, close to the end of the body --}}

Let's rebuild and upload the built theme in the blog...

And voila, look at your blog and you have a bulma navbar.

Full sources in github

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Editor guide

so...following these steps, are you able to embed ghost theming, authoring and publishing within your react app? Our web developer was struggling with this and concluded that you couldn't adapt the themes without sending queries to Ghost's servers and receiving formatted html from them...


These steps will allow you (or your web developer) to add a react app in a Ghost blog theme.
It's just a navbar in this example, I did not have to fiddle with the article theming.
Documentation and articles on the subject are kind of scarce making it a bit of a difficult issue.

What exactly are you looking for? How much of react do you want to use in the theme?