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2.4.0 • Public • Published


A simple but feature rich starter boilerplate for creating your own universal app. It built on the top of Node.js, Express, React, Redux and React Router v4. Includes all the hot stuff and modern web development tools such as Webpack 3, Babel, PostCSS, React Hot Loader 3 and Redux Devtools Extension. See section “Features” for more other awesome features you can expect.

I will improve the starter boilerplate continuously and keep all of the technologies on trend. Welcome to join me if you want. Hope you guys love it 😉

👻 I'm curious what this starter boilerplate helps you guys do anything? Please feel free to tell me, let's make some sharing between us.

Build Status dependencies Status devDependencies Status Coverage Status MIT licensed

Real Case Study

  • BECK Friends is an international deliver service, which is built base on this starter boilerplate. Congrats for successful migrating to React.


Really cool starter boilerplate with the most popular technologies:

  • Universal rendering with async data fetching.
  • React as the view.
  • React Router v4 as the router.
  • Redux's futuristic Flux implementation.
  • Express server.
  • Webpack 3 for bundling and "Tree-Shaking" support.
  • Babel for ES6 and ES7 transpiling.
  • React Hot Loader 3 to tweak React components in real time.
  • nodemon to monitor for any changes in your node.js application and automatically restart the server.
  • axios for universal data fetching/rehydration on the client.
  • redux-thunk as the middleware to deal with asynchronous action.
  • react-router-redux to keep your router in sync with Redux state.
  • react-helmet to manage title, meta, styles and scripts tags on both server and client.
  • webpack-isomorphic-tools to allow require() work for statics both on client and server.
  • Webpack Dev Middleware serves the files emitted from webpack over the Express server.
  • Webpack Hot Middleware allows you to add hot reloading into the Express server.
  • morgan the HTTP request logger for server side debugging.
  • Redux Devtools Extension for next generation developer experience.
  • Flow as the static type checker for javascript.
  • ESLint to maintain a consistent javascript code style (Airbnb's code style).
  • StyleLint to maintain a consistent css/scss code style.
  • CSS and SASS support with PostCSS for advanced transformations (e.g. autoprefixer). CSS modules enabled.
  • Image (with image-webpack-loader for optimizing) and Font support.
  • Split vendor's libraries from client bundle.
  • No other view engines, just javascript based HTML rendering component.
  • Shared app config between development and production.
  • 404 error page and redirect handling.
  • Integrate Jest with enzyme as the solution for writing unit tests with code coverage support.
  • Yarn as the package manager.

Who's the starter for?

This starter is for those who with basic knowledge of React and have the need for building a server-sdie app. In other words, it's not for newbie. If you're new to React or you don't need a server-sdie rendering app, I'd recommand you to give create-react-app a try.


Getting Started

1. You can start by clone the repository on your local machine by running:

git clone
cd react-cool-starter

2. Install all of the dependencies:

yarn install

3. Start to run it:

yarn start:production    # Building bundle and running production server 

Now the app should be running at http://localhost:8080/

NPM Script Commands

I use better-npm-run to manage the scripts in a better way, which also provides the compatibility of cross-platform. All of the scripts are listed as following:

yarn <script> Description
start Run your app on the development server at localhost:3000. HMR will be enabled.
start:production Bundles the app to ./build and run it on the production server at localhost:8080.
start:prod Run your app on the production server only at localhost:8080.
build Remove the previous client and server bundled stuff and bundle them to ./build.
build:client Remove the previous client bundled stuff and bundle it to ./build/public/assets.
build:server Remove the previous server bundled stuff and bundle it to ./build.
lint Lint all .js and .scss files.
lint:js Lint all .js files.
lint:style Lint all .scss files.
flow Run type checking for .js files.
test Run testing once (with code coverage reports).
test:watch Run testing on every test file change.
clean:all Remove the client/server bundled stuff and the coverage report.
clean:client Remove the ./build/public/assets folder to clean the client bundled stuff.
clean:server Remove the server bundled stuff from the ./build folder.
clean:test Remove the ./coverage folder to clean the code coverage report.

App Structure

Here is the structure of the app, which serve as generally accepted guidelines and patterns for building scalable apps.

├── build                             # Webpack bundled files will be placed into it
│   └── public                        # The Express server static path
│       └── favicon.ico               # Favicon is placed in the same path with the main HTML page       
├── src                               # App source code
│   ├── config                        # App configuration settings
│   │   ├── default.js                # Default settings
│   │   ├── index.js                  # Configuration entry point
│   │   └── prod.js                   # Production settings (overrides the default settings)
│   ├── components                    # Reusable components (including scss/testing files)
│   ├── containers                    # Container components (including assets/action/reducer/scss/testing files)
│   ├── utils                         # App-wide utils (e.g. HTML component)
│   ├── redux                         # Redux related configuration scripts
│   │   ├── reducers.js               # The root reducer (registry and injection)
│   │   └── store.js                  # Configure and instrument Redux store   
│   ├── theme                         # App-wide style and vendor CSS framework
│   ├── types                         # Flow types for actions, reducers and more
│   ├── client.js                     # App bootstrap and rendering (webpack entry)
│   ├── routes.js                     # Routes configuration for both client and server side
│   └── server.js                     # Express server (with webpack dev/hot middlewares)                  
├── tools                             # Project related configurations (testing/build etc.)
│   ├── flow                          # Flow types, interface, module aliasing definitions
│   ├── openBrowser                   # Utility for opening Google Chrome
│   ├── jest                          # Jest CSS modules and assets mocks settings
│   ├── webpack                       # Webpack configuration settings
│   │   ├── config.js                 # Configuration for CSS modules, vendor registering
│   │   ├── webpack.client.babel.js   # Webpack configuration for client
│   │   ├── webpack.server.babel.js   # Webpack configuration for server
│   │   └── WIT.config.js             # Webpack Isomorphic Tools configuration file        
└── index.js                          # App entry point

Server Side Security and Performance

Concerning to the security and performance for Express in production, I already setup some middlewares for you:

  • helmet - Helps secure Express server with various HTTP headers.
  • hpp - Express middleware to protect against HTTP Parameter Pollution attacks.
  • compression - Gzip compression support for speeding up Express server responses.

Note: It's just a basic protected mechanism for your app, you can see the security best practices for more advanced configuration.

Setup Redux DevTools Extension

The Redux Devtools Extension let us wire up our Redux app to a time-traveling debugger. It's enabled in development only. You can follow the installation guide to use it:

For Chrome

For Firefox

For Electron

For other browsers and non-browser environment


Stateless Functional Components

React 0.14 introduced a simpler way to define components called stateless functional components. These components are written in plain javascript functions. In the starter boilerplate I use it wherever possible.

Adding Routes

This starter use React Router v4 library to manage our routes. You can setup your routes in ./src/routes.js. For example:

import MyRouteComponent from './containers/MyRouteComponent';
// ...
export default [
    // Define your route path
    path: '/myPath',
    // If the route matches the location.pathname exactly or not (used for index route usually)
    exact: true,
    // Add your route component here
    component: MyRouteComponent,
    // ...
  // Setup other routes...

Data Fetching from Server-side

Just write Redux actions and stores as normal (read the Redux guide if you are new). The starter using axios as the data fetcher, it's quite simple and easy to use. If the action creator is asynchronous then it will return a Promise (or a Promise.all) in the inner function.

Register the action(s) in ./src/routes.js, which have to be called from server-sdie:

// ...
export default [
    // ...
    loadData: (dispatch) => Promise.all([
      // Register your server-side call action(s) here
  // ...

The action(s) will be dispatched through ./src/server.js on server-side:

// ...
app.get('*', (req, res) => {
  // ...
  // Here's the method for loading data on server-side
  const loadBranchData = () => {
    const promises = [];
    routes.some((route) => {
      const match = matchPath(req.url, route);
      // $FlowFixMe: the params of pre-load actions are dynamic
      if (match && route.loadData) promises.push(route.loadData(store.dispatch, match.params));
      return match;
    return Promise.all(promises);
  // ...
// ...

On client-side, don't forget to invoke the action(s) in componentDidMount. This ensures that if the component is reached on the client, then the same actions will be invoked. It's up to the action(s) to figure out if fetches for data need to be made or not:

componentDidMount() {
  // Invoke your redux action(s) for client rendering

Managing Title, Meta, Styles and Scripts

The parent App.js defines the base title and meta in a <Helmet {} /> component. Any sub-component can override/add properties (supports meta, link, script, style tags and html attributes). See the react-helmet documents for more info.

App config

You can store app settings under ./src/config. By default the default.js will be loaded. If the process.env.NODE_ENV matches to production, the prod.js will be used instead, and it inherits the data info from default.js.

You can access the correct config with:

import config from './config';


The starter supports CSS, SASS and CSS modules is enabled by default. I use PostCSS plugin to parse CSS and add autoprefixer to your stylesheet. You can access your stylesheet with two ways.

With CSS modules:

import styles from './styles.scss';
// ...
render() {
  return (
    <div className={styles.myClass}>   // The className matches one of CSS classes in your SCSS file
      <Helmet title="Home" />

Without CSS modules (you need to turn off CSS modules from ./tools/webpack/config.js):

import './styles.scss';
// ...
render() {
  return (
    <div className="myClass">    // Use the CSS class as normal
      <Helmet title="Home" />

By the way, if you want to use your based style or a vendor CSS framework, just import it through the ./src/containers/App/index.js file, for example:

import '../../theme/normalize.css';   // Import a vendor stylesheet here
import styles from './styles.scss';   // Import your based stylesheet here
export default routes => {
  // ...

For the better development experience, don't forget to include those files in the ./src/utils/Html.js, for example:

// ...
    _.keys(assets.styles).length === 0 ?
        dangerouslySetInnerHTML={{ __html:
          // Include the vendor CSS framework and your own style here
          require('../theme/normalize.css')._style +
          require('../containers/App/styles.scss')._style +
          // Other styles...
      : null
// ...

Image and Font

It's super easy to render the image and font both on client and server, the usage would be like below.

Using image:

// Require an image
<img src={require('./assets/logo.svg')} alt="Logo" role="presentation" />

Using font-awesome:

// With CSS modules
import styles from './styles.scss';
// ...
return (
    <div><i className={styles.iconUser}></i> Welly</div>
// Without CSS modules
import './font-awesome.css';
// ...
return (
    <div><i className="fa fa-user"></i> Welly</div>

For using CSS modules, you have to set the proper font path in your scss/sass file:

@import "../node_modules/font-awesome/scss/font-awesome";
.icon-user {
  @extend .fa;
  @extend .fa-user;

Boost App Performance by Shallow Compare

If your React component's render() function renders the same result given the same props and state, you can use React.PureComponent for a performance boost.

React.PureComponent is exactly like React.Component but implements shouldComponentUpdate() with a shallow prop and state comparison. See the Optimizing Performance topic for more info.

How we implemented the optimizing:

import React, { PureComponent } from 'react';
// ...
class Home extends PureComponent {  // Use PureComponent instead of Component
  // ...

Type Checking by Flow

Flow, a static type checker for javascript. It adds static typing to javascript to improve developer productivity and code quality. In particular, static typing offers benefits like early error checking, which helps you avoid certain kinds of runtime failures, and code intelligence, which aids code maintenance, navigation, transformation, and optimization.

Flow’s static analysis makes building web apps with React safe by tracking the types of props and state. Flow understands which props are required and also supports default props.

I love to write React, Redux with Flow, I know it's not easy to learn at the beginning. But trust me, it's worth to learn. There're some useful instructions that I can give you as below:

  • If you are new to Flow, five simple examples can get you started writing Flow programs.

  • Learn how to use Flow with React Component's props and state, you can learn from here.

  • Here's an example, which shows you the overall concept of integrating Flow with Redux.

Moreover, often you will want to use third-party libraries. For these circumstances, Flow supports the concept of a "libdef" ("Library Definition") which allows you to describe the interface and types of the library separate from the library and without needing to add types to or change the library itself. You can write a libdef file yourself if you need to or use flow-typed, which is a repository of third-party library interface definitions for use with Flow.

Note: If you don't want to use Flow, just remove the /* @flow */ comment and related typing definitions from each javascript file.

JavaScript and Style Lint

JavaScript lint and style lint are included into webpack compiling for runtime checking. If you don't want them be activated during developing, you can turn off those from ./tools/webpack/config.js and do the manually checking by yarn lint.

Unit Tests

The starter use Jest as the testing engine. It runs in a Node environment, so you won't have access to the DOM. In addition, Jest support the feature of snapsot testing, which is very powerful for testing React component. Give it a try, you'll be impressed.

I also use enzyme as the testing utility for React, which makes it easier to assert, manipulate, and traverse your React Components' output. The unit tests focus on three parts as below:

  • React Components
  • Actions
  • Reducers

By the way, Jest built-in code coverage reports, the report files are generated in ./coverage folder. You can configure ./package.json to define which files that you want to cover. For example:

  // ...

  "jest": {
    "collectCoverageFrom": [
      "src/containers/**/*.js",   // Define the files, which want to be covered
      "!src/**/__tests__"         // The files will be ignored by code coverage
    // Other configurations

  // ...

You can also use istanbul's ignore hints to specify specific lines of code in a javascript file to skip code coverage.


  • If you get the the following message during developing, try to run yarn build:client to create the necessary webpack-assets.json file for enable related assets (e.g. javascript, styles, image etc.) working on universal rendering.

webpack-isomorphic-tools (waiting for the first webpack build to finish)

  • If you encounter the checksum error like following, try to restart the server to solve the it. (it's a react universal issue, which usually occurs due to the non-synchronized rendering result between client and server)

React attempted to use reuse markup in a container but the checksum was invalid. This generally means that you are using server rendering and the markup generated on the server was not what the client was expecting. React injected new markup to compensate which works but you have lost many of the benefits of server rendering. Instead, figure out why the markup being generated is different on the client or server.

  • If you run the starter through a cloud computing service such as AWS EC2 instance etc. and you encounter an UnhandledPromiseRejectionWarning like this issue. It might caused by the "openBrowser" tool. You can solve the issue like following.

In the ./package.json script:

// ...

"start:prod": {
  "command": "node ./index.js",
  "env": {
    "NODE_PATH": "./src",
    "NODE_ENV": "production",
    "PORT": 8080,
    "BROWSER": "none"   // Add this node variable to turn off the open browser util

// ...


npm i react-cool-starter

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