3 Ways to Optimize Your Development Workflow When Working with React & Node

Find out how to optimize your development workflow when running Create React App and a Node server at the same time.

If you’ve ever worked on a project with multiple package.json files, you might know the pain of juggling multiple terminal tabs, remembering which commands start up which server, or handling CORS errors. 

Luckily, there are a few tools available to us that can alleviate some of these headaches. In this post, we’ll go over three things you can do to optimize your development workflow when working on a project with a React front end (specifically, Create React App) and Node back end.

Setting the scene#

Let's say we're working in a monorepo with two package.json files — one is in a client directory for a React front end powered by Create React App, and one is in the root of the repo for a Node back end that exposes an API that our React app uses. Our React app runs on localhost:3000 and our Node app runs on localhost:8888. Both apps are started using npm start

The directory structure looks something like this:

Since we have two package.json files, this means that to have our front end and back end up and running we need to make sure we've run npm install and npm start in both the root directory and the client directory. Let’s take a look at how we can streamline this.


1. Run two servers concurrently#

One improvement we can make to our development workflow is adding a build tool to run multiple npm commands at the same time to save us the hassle of running npm start in multiple terminal tabs. To do this, we can add an npm package called Concurrently to the root of our project.

At the root of our project, we’ll install it as a dev dependency.

Then in our root package.json scripts, we’ll update our start script to use Concurrently.

Now, we have three npm scripts. npm run server starts up our Node app, npm run client runs npm start in the client directory to start up our React app, and npm start runs both npm run server and npm run client at the same time. Here’s what it should look like now when running npm start in the root of our directory.

2. Install front end and back end dependencies with one npm install#

Another aspect of our workflow we can improve is dependency installation. Currently, we need to manually run npm install for each package.json file we have when setting up the project. Instead of going through that hassle, we can add a postinstall script to our root package.json to automatically run npm install in the client directory after installation has finished in the root directory.

Now, when we install our monorepo, all we need to do to get up and running is run npm install then npm start at the root of the project. No need to cd into any other directories to run other commands.

3. Proxy API requests from the back end#

As we mentioned above, our Node back end exposes API endpoints that are used by our React app. Let’s say our Node app has a /refresh_token endpoint. Out of the box, if we tried to send a GET request to http://localhost:8888/refresh_token from our React app on http://localhost:3000, we would run into CORS issues.

CORS stands for Cross-Origin Resource Sharing. Usually, when you encounter CORS errors, it's because you are trying to access resources from another domain (i.e. http://localhost:3000 and http://localhost:8888), and the domain you're requesting resources from is not permitted.

To tell the development server to proxy any unknown requests to our API server in development, we can set up a proxy in our React app's package.json file. In client/package.json, we’ll add a proxy for http://localhost:8888 (where our Node app runs).

Now, if we restart the server and set up a request to our Node app's /refresh_token endpoint (without the http://localhost:8888) using fetch(), the CORS error should be resolved.


Next Steps#

The next time you work on a monorepo project like this, try out these three tips to streamline your development workflow!

Coming Soon!#

Be sure to check out our new course being released soon, Build a Spotify Connected App, where we apply these concepts to build a real-world, full stack web app!