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    Your first NextJS app – CodeWithSwiz

    CodeWithSwiz is a twice-a-week live series. Like a podcast with video and fun hacking. Focused on experiments. Join live Wednesdays and Sundays

    In this episode we tried NextJS, a React webapp framework, and built a small app. You can see it live at swiz-cms.vercel.app.

    The ultimate goal for this app is to help folks create markdown articles. Copypasta is fine, but I always forget to change the title, write a description, add categories, and create a social card.

    In 55min we went from "Never tried NextJS before" to a working app with a design system, forms, static rendering, and talking to an AWS Lambda to make cards. Not bad.

    The end result
    The end result

    Initial setup

    npx create-next-app swiz-cms

    That creates a plain ol' NextJS app. You get pleasant default styling, support for file-based routing, and server-side-rendering/generation out of the box.

    Means you can add a new page by creating a file in pages/file.js. Anything in there becomes a page.

    You get support for building APIs out of the box via pages/api, but we didn't try that on this stream. Next time πŸ˜‰

    Wish you got MDX support out of the box. Makes for a better experience writing landing pages, product descriptions, and other content-heavy materials.

    I'm sure there's a plugin for that πŸ€”

    Adding a design system

    I like to use theme-ui as a base for my design systems. Comes with flexible theming support and a great set of default components.

    yarn add theme-ui @theme-ui/presets

    Installs theme-ui and default presets with configured themes.

    In NextJS, you add a root <ThemeProvider> in the _app.js file. Lets you wrap the component tree and gives you access to theming anywhere in your app.

    // pages/_app.js
    import { ThemeProvider } from "theme-ui"
    import theme from "../styles/theme"
    function MyApp({ Component, pageProps }) {
      return (
        <ThemeProvider theme={theme}>
          <Component {...pageProps} />

    We created a custom theme in styles/theme.js that extends from the deep preset. Because deep's colors looked pretty :)

    // styles/theme.js
    import { deep } from "@theme-ui/presets"
    export default {
      sizes: {
        container: 1024,

    Custom container size means we can center our app with <Container> ... </Container>. Might need to add more sizes to make it responsive.

    Yes, theme-ui has support for that 🀘

    Creating a form

    Forms are notoriously difficult and that's why we used my new favorite form library, react-hook-form. It's great.

    // components/FrontmatterForm.js
    import { useForm } from "react-hook-form"
    import { Label, Input, Textarea, Button } from "theme-ui"
    export const FrontmatterForm = ({ onSubmit }) => {
      const { register, handleSubmit } = useForm()
      return (
        <form onSubmit={handleSubmit(onSubmit)}>
          <Input name="title" ref={register} />
          <Textarea name="description" ref={register} />
          <Button type="submit" bg="secondary">

    Our form is simple – title and description – and react-hook-form made it even simpler. ref={register} sets up state management machinery, theme-ui default components make it pretty.

    When you hit submit, the onSubmit callback gets values in a dictionary.

    We put them in a useState inside the main page.

    // pages/index.js
    export default function Home() {
        const [frontmatter, setFrontmatter] = useState(null);
        return (
                    <h1>Swiz CMS is where articles are born</h1>
                    <p>Use this to setup your copypasta for a new article</p>
                    <FrontmatterForm onSubmit={setFrontmatter} />
                    <Box sx={{ p: 4 }}>
                        {frontmatter ? <SocialCardImage {...frontmatter} /> : null}
                        {frontmatter ? <Frontmatter {...frontmatter} /> : null}

    FrontmatterForm returns data when it's ready, sets state, and re-renders the page. That shows 2 new result components.

    Talking to a serverless function on AWS Lambda

    We used react-query for talking to a server. An AWS Lambda running my screenshot machinery in this case.

    // components/SocialCardImage.js
    import { useQuery } from "react-query"
    import { Image, Spinner } from "theme-ui"
    async function fetchSocialCard(key, title) {
      const res = await fetch(
      return res.json()
    export const SocialCardImage = ({ title }) => {
      const cardQuery = useQuery(["social-card", title], fetchSocialCard)
      if (cardQuery.isLoading) {
        return <Spinner />
      return <Image src={cardQuery.data.url} />

    React Query is like Apollo Client, but for REST. It's fantastic.

    You give your query a name, define a fetch function that returns data, and library handles the rest. Deals with caching, deduping, refetching, and coordination between different components making the same request.

    Proper article on React Query coming soon.

    Verdict on NextJS



    Published on September 1st, 2020 in CodeWithSwiz, Livecoding, Technical

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    Who am I and who do I help? I'm Swizec Teller and I turn coders into engineers with "Raw and honest from the heart!" writing. No bullshit. Real insights into the career and skills of a modern software engineer.

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