These last months have been pretty intense here at Frontity.
Back in March we decided to discontinue the development of our mobile theme for WordPress publishers (also known as Frontity PRO) to place all our focus on Frontity.org: an open source framework to build WordPress themes with React.
While we await the release, let's make a brief recap of what Frontity is and some of the features you can expect to see in the framework.
Update: Frontity v1 is now live! Read about the release here.
Frontity is a free and open source framework to build WordPress sites based on React JS.
In order to build a WordPress theme with React there are a lot of things that developers need to learn and configure: bundling, transpiling, routing, server rendering, retrieving data from WordPress, managing state, or managing css, among many others.
Next.js and GatbsyJS are two great React frameworks that can work with WordPress but none of them is exclusively focused on this CMS. Therefore, there's still some complex configuration and additional tooling left to the developer.
Frontity is an opinionated React framework focused on WordPress which aims to make everything simpler, even for those developers who are less familiar with React:
Focused on WordPress: each part of the framework has been simplified and optimized to be used with WordPress.
Opinionated framework: developers don't need to figure out what tools to use for things like css or state management.
This all means that everything is ready so you can jump in and create a new amazing WordPress theme using React right away.
Frontity can also be explained as an alternative rendering engine for WordPress.
In the past, the only way to get HTML out of WordPress was to use its PHP rendering engine.
When the REST API was merged into core in WordPress 4.7, developers were no longer limited to the PHP rendering engine. They could retrieve their WordPress content and use it wherever they want, which opened a new world of possibilities.
One of those possibilities is to create WordPress themes using React. That's where Frontity comes into play.
As of April (2019), WordPress powers over 33% of the web. Its market share has been growing over the last years and it shows no signs of slowing down.
With the shift to Gutenberg as well as the rise of headless CMS approaches, the WordPress community has started considering React for their projects. Beside this, modern libraries like React are growing popularity and becoming essential to rich user experiences.
If WordPress is great and React too, why not combine the two? Especially if you want to build a CMS-powered site with modern web development tools.
With Frontity you still use your WordPress dashboard to edit and manage your content in exactly the same way that you are accustomed to. As you make changes content is automatically updated in your Frontity site, just as it is when using a traditional WordPress theme.
Frontity apps require a Node.js server to run on. This runs in tandem with the WordPress site which is now relegated to providing content to the frontend that is based on Frontity.
Frontity requests content from the WordPress REST-API and uses it to generate the final HTML that is displayed in the browser.
Frontity is also capable of generating AMP pages using the same React code and CSS.
Why a different Node.js server?
Frontity is prepared to be hosted either in a regular Node.js server or in serverless services. That makes it super cheap and infinitely scalable.
These are some of the features of Frontity:
Everything is already wired up: React, Webpack, Babel, SSR, Routing, CSS-in-JS, WP REST API, TypeScript, Linting, Testing…
Frontity sends an HTML that is ready to start navigating the site, so the initial load feels almost instant. No extra assets or round trips are necessary.
Once React has loaded, our router prefetches other routes and data automatically. Users never have to wait when they navigate inside the app.
Frontity is optimized to get the maximum score in Lighthouse, including performance, SEO and accessibility. Theme developers start with 100 and they just need to maintain it while they add features to their theme.
The Frontity server is so small it suits perfectly the serverless requirements. That means infinite scaling for the front-end. Frontity is also prepared to scale horizontally in any Node server.
There are already some Frontity extensions in our roadmap that will be available soon: Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, AdSense, OneSignal Push Notifications, Disqus, etc.
Apart from extensions, there are other interface tools specifically created for Frontity: context routing, swipe navigation, infinite scrolling, html-to-react, gutenberg-to-react...
Frontity themes can also use any of the 80.000 React packages currently available in NPM.
Frontity responds with a fully populated HTML file generated with React. This reduces the time required for the first contentful paint and ensures that the SEO is not harmed.
The content is retrieved using the WordPress REST API. Once React is loaded in the browser, it takes control of the page and does its magic.
Frontity uses webpack to split the code and send the minimum code required for the app to work. Also allows developers to dynamically load components with the help of loadable-components.
We’re open sourcing the internal framework we've been using to power big WordPress news sites during the last 2 years. Used by million readers, Frontity is proven and ideal for building engaging frontend experiences.
Themes made with Frontity are able to render an AMP compatible version with the same React code and CSS used for the HTML version.
Our themes work with the WordPress manifest to get full PWA compatibility out of the box. They also work offline without any extra configuration via service workers.
Frontity is in a sense similar to Gatsby, but there are some key differences:
- 100% focused on WordPress: this means the number of concepts that you as a developer need to learn are minimal. No complex configuration is necessary to get started, and the queries to the APIs that deliver the content are pre-configured for the things that developers most frequently need.
- Rendered dynamically: the HTML does not have to be rebuilt each time the content is edited or new content is published. Our preferred approach is SPR, although there are other ways to configure it.
- Extensible like WordPress: themes and extensions can be activated and deactivated without code changes.
- There is no need to learn GraphQL or the REST API. The data is available to you using Frontity's built in State Manager.
- Frontity can output HTML suitable for Google AMP with exactly the same React codebase.
I hope this post gives you a better understanding of what Frontity is and how it works.
If you still have any questions or just want to share your thoughts, feel free to join our community forum. One of our goals is to build a community of people interested in WordPress and React. We'd love to meet you and learn how Frontity can help your project(s).
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Originally published at frontity.org/blog.