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How I built a blogging platform like Medium with Next.js and Firebase

Manu Arora / March 27, 2020

10 min read––– views

I recently took a course on Next.js with Firebase by Fireship.io to essentially learn how to Integrate Next.js with Firebase services like Firestore, Storage, Real Time Database and Authentication. I learned quite a few things about how to beautifully extract features of Next.js like Server-Side Rendering and Incremental Static Regeneration and integrate them in a blogging platform, wherever they are most suitable.

The features of DevMedium are:

Server-Side rendered content on the go 🚀
Image upload with Firebase storage 📸
Create / Read / Update / Delete posts ✍🏻
Custom Username creation 🙆🏻‍♂️
Signin with Google 🤙🏻
Incremental Static Regeneration, Static Site Generation 🦾
Like other posts you love, Unlike if not ❤️
Write posts in Markdown with Live Preview, Render in HTML 🌿

Application Breakdown

The complete source code of the application can be found in my Github Repo - DevMedium

The application is divided into various categories, where each category serves its own purpose.

  • /pages/* contains all the routes which are being served.
  • /components/* contains all the reusable components which we import into our pages directory.
  • /lib/* contains all the library methods and helper functions. For example, we keep custom Hooks, Firebase related things here.
  • /styles/* contains all the styling related stuff.
  • /public/* contains all the public facing data, like logos, client side JS etc.

Essentially, the application flow looks like this:

  • A user comes, registers on the application.
  • After successful registration, the user is redirected to the username screen, where they can generate a unique username.
  • After successful username creation, they are redirected to the home page, where they can create posts.
  • They can go to the homepage and see all the posts written by all the users.
  • They can heart a post they like, or unheart it.
  • On the admin page, A user can see their created posts.
  • They can perform Create / Read / Update / Delete operations, all in real time.
  • They can edit their content live in markdown, click on preview to get a real time preview of the blog they are about to publish.
  • A user can decide to publish or unpublish a blog.

Lets move over to each step and discover the various approaches and caveats there are:

Authentication

For signing in, Google Signin is used which comes bundled with Firebase Authentication. It is an excellent way to add authentication to our FUll-stack applications because it requires minimum configuration. Initialize your application with firebase auth and use it as follows:

/lib/firebase.js
import "firebase/auth";

// code...


export const auth = firebase.auth();

/pages/enter.js
import { auth, firestore, googleAuthProvider } from "../lib/firebase";
// code...

function SignInButton() {
  const signInWithGoogle = async () => {
    await auth.signInWithPopup(googleAuthProvider);
  };
  return (
    <button className="btn-google" onClick={signInWithGoogle}>
      <img src={`/google.png`} /> Sign in with Google
    </button>
  );
}

Now, we need to store the information in our firebase firestore. For that we create two fields, users and usernames which have two-way mapping. This is a simple way of authenticating a user with Firebase.

Username creation

Firebase does not come with a custom username or unique username fields, so we create it by ourselves from scratch. The username creation for in itself is very complex and requires some other packages as well (for simplicity, we'll use lodash.debounce). The overview is as follows:

  • The user signs in -> redirected to the username creation form (If they don't already have a username).
  • When the user starts typing for a name, we use a technique called debounce. That is we wait for the user to stop typing (we can specify the waiting time) and then perform a read on the database to check if the username already exists in the username collection. This way, we minimize the number of read operations on the firestore database.
  • We batch.set() if the user decides to choose a username. Which means if the username is available, we commit the data in both users collection and usernames collection. Te batch.set() function allows to either set both the values at the same time, or both fail at the same time.
pages/enter.js
// username creation form
// Hit the database for username match after each debounced change
// useCallback is required for DEBOUNCE - lodash package function to work

  const checkUsername = useCallback(
    debounce(async (username) => {
      if (username.length >= 3) {
        const ref = firestore.doc(`usernames/${username}`);
        const { exists } = await ref.get();
        console.log("Firestore read executed!");
        setIsValid(!exists);
        setLoading(false);
      }
    }, 500),
    []
  );
 // rest of the code
  return (
    !username && (
      <section>
        <h3>Choose Username</h3>
        <form onSubmit={onSubmit}>
          <input
            name="username"
            placeholder="username"
            value={formValue}
            onChange={onChange}
          />
          <UsernameMessage
            username={formValue}
            isValid={isValid}
            loading={loading}
          />
          <button type="submit" className="btn-green" disabled={!isValid}>
            Choose
          </button>

        </form>
      </section>
    )
  );

Homepage

The Homepage contains a Navbar with Links to various pages. On the Homepage, We first set the LIMIT value to whatever number of posts we want to show on the page. We use complete Server-Side Rendering here since the data can change more often on this particular page. We then query the firebase firestore for the LIMIT (lets say 10) number of posts and fetch more data when Load More button is clicked. This is an optimization technique since we donot want to show all the posts at once. If we do, it'll be lots of read operations for a single user and will take more time.

Once the user clicks on load more, we can generate another set of 10 posts using firebase methods and render it on the client in real-time.

/index.js
// Max post to query per page
const LIMIT = 5;

export async function getServerSideProps(context) {
  const postsQuery = firestore
    .collectionGroup("posts")
    .where("published", "==", true)
    .orderBy("createdAt", "desc")
    .limit(LIMIT);

  const posts = (await postsQuery.get()).docs.map(postToJSON);

  return {
    props: {
      posts,
    },
  };
}


//  Code...

<PostFeed posts={posts} />

{!loading && !postsEnd && (
<button className="" onClick={getMorePosts}>
    Load More
</button>
)}
<Loader show={loading} />

 const getMorePosts = async () => {
    const last = posts[posts.length - 1];

    const cursor =
      typeof last.createdAt === "number"
        ? fromMillis(last.createdAt)
        : last.createdAt;

    const query = firestore
      .collectionGroup("posts")
      .where("published", "==", true)
      .orderBy("createdAt", "desc")
      .startAfter(cursor)
      .limit(LIMIT);

    const newPosts = (await query.get()).docs.map((doc) => doc.data());

  };

Admin page - Posts creation and Management page

Here, A user, which is logged in, can see their created posts (published and unpublished) and create new posts. While the CRUD of managed posts are easy to understand, the creation of a post is interesting here. We use Loadsh - kebabcase package to safely create a slug for the post title that we create. We then store the posts in a Sub - Collection called posts in usernames collection. Instead of creating a root level posts collection, we created a nested subcollection inside of usernames collection which will have ID as the slug of the post.

The posts collection has various fields associated with it like createdAt, updatedAt, title, slug etcetera.

Once a post is created, The user is redirected to the post edit page where the user can set the post to published: boolean values and upload images, write content, preview it and more.

The Image Upload feature takes help of Firebase Storage to store images in Storage bucket.

Components/ImageUploader.js
import { auth, storage, STATE_CHANGED } from "@lib/firebase";

// code ...

  const uploadFile = async (e) => {
    // Get the file
    const file = Array.from(e.target.files)[0];
    const extension = file.type.split("/")[1];

    // Makes reference to the storage bucket location
    const ref = storage.ref(
      `uploads/${auth.currentUser.uid}/${Date.now()}.${extension}`
    );
    setUploading(true);

    // Starts the upload
    const task = ref.put(file);

    // Listen to updates to upload task
    task.on(STATE_CHANGED, (snapshot) => {
      const pct = (
        (snapshot.bytesTransferred / snapshot.totalBytes) *
        100
      ).toFixed(0);
      setProgress(pct);
    });

    // Get downloadURL AFTER task resolves (Note: this is not a native Promise)
    task
      .then((d) => ref.getDownloadURL())
      .then((url) => {
        setDownloadURL(url);
        setUploading(false);
      });

Once the user clicks on the image upload, the Loading spinner comes, and we show a % Upload field. This field is generated with the help of task and STATE_CHANGED listeners provided by Firebase.

Routes

All the routes are nexted under the pages folder.

  • /index.js - Landing page, Render all the posts here with Like Counter feature and Load more feature.
  • enter.js - A Login page, with Three components, 'SignIn', 'SignOut' and 'UserForm' which are rendered based on the Auth State of the user.
  • /[username]/index.js - User Profile page, Here the user can see all the posts from him along with the username. This route is public, Anyone can see any user with their posts.
  • /[username]/[slug].js - A Single post page, here the user can see the post in detail (The actual blog post).
  • /admin/index.js - This is the Admin's psot page. See all your Published and unpublished posts. Also you create a new post here.
  • /admin/[slug].js - Here you perform CRUD on whatever you post you want to, The slug is the unique identifier for the post you want to perfom CRUD on.

Additionally, firestore rules are deployed to make sure the database remains secure and is only accessed in a way we want.

Important Decisions on SSR, ISR and SSG

While developing the application, It is really important to keep in mind which strategy you want to use and how do you plan on using it. For example, The index page, i.e. the home page is dynamic in nature, that means the content on the page can change pretty often and we want to see the latest content there for that scenario, we use getServerSideProps , i.e. Server-Side Rendering so that we get the most up to date page there.

For the edit-post page or the posts page, we use something called Incremental Static Regeneration, which means that we fetch the data after some time limit periodically. On the posts page, we fetch the data every 100ms and see if it has changed. If it is not changed, we stick to the static version of the page. If it does infact change, we get the latest post from the server and cache it.

/[username]/[slug].js
export async function getStaticProps({ params }) {
  const { username, slug } = params;
  const userDoc = await getUserWithUsername(username);

  let post;
  let path;

  if (userDoc) {
    const postRef = userDoc.ref.collection("posts").doc(slug);
    post = postToJSON(await postRef.get());

    path = postRef.path;
  }

  return {
    props: { post, path },
    revalidate: 100,
  };
}

Here, the revalidate option is responsible for fetching the data periodically.

Apart from that, all the other components which do not even require any data, can be generated as static HTML and rendered on the page.

Miscellaneous

  • The HeartCounter in itself is a component which is related to a Post and a User both. A Post can have Many hearts so it is a one-to-many relationship.
  • The Metatags component is a reusable piece of component which can be used on every page to generate metatags for that page for every social media network or search engine bots.
  • We have a custom 404 page which is rendered when a page is not found.
  • We have a AuthCheck component which checks the Auth on every level of the tree. useContext() and createContext() is used for managing state (particularly Auth State) in the entire application.

That was a basic overview of the entire application.

If you liked it, make sure you ⭐️ the GitHub Repo 🔥

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