neil / berg

Emanuel Röhss

July 27, 2019

Emanuel Röhss is an LA-based artist and was seeking a new design with high performance for his image-heavy online portfolio.

Given Gatsby's image optimization features, plugin ecosystem for sourcing 3rd party APIs, built-in GraphQL interface, and ability to seamlessly deploy continuously on Netlify, it was an easy call to go with this framework for Emanuel's site.

Airtable as a Headless CMS

Airtable is a cloud-based database product allowing users to create custom relational tables and access its content via APIs. The free-tier option allows for 1,200 records and 2GB in the database, plenty for a personal project (even with dozens of large-sized images). The developer experience for Airtable is wonderful. It's easy to get a new database created, organized, and made accessible to your site. The following sections will cover all of these topics, and make sure you checkout the YouTube video below for additional knowledge.

Jason and Giovanni's Airtable + Gatsby tutorial. 10/10 recommend.

Database Schema

In the Portfolio database (or "base" in Airtable lingo), three tables are created that have links to each other:

  1. Projects
  2. Images
  3. Videos

Each record in the Project base has the following fields:

  • project title (string)
  • project order (integer)
  • slug (string)
  • cover photo (attached jpeg/png)
  • press release (attached PDF)
  • Images (linked records from Images base)
  • Videos (linked records from Videos base)

Each record in the Images base has the following fields:

  • project (linked to a specified record in Projects base)
  • image order (integer)
  • attachment (attached jpeg/png)
  • image title (string)
  • image year (string)
  • image view (string)
  • image location (string)
  • image materials (string)
  • image dimensions (string)

The same schema exists for records in the Videos base, only with video order, video title, etc., as field names.

Connecting Airtable to Gatsby

Each base comes with a built-in API from Airtable along with custom documentation on how to access and query data from a given base. Authentication is token-based, using a BASE_ID and API_KEY. With those values in hand, we can install a Gatsby plugin called gatsby-source-airtable that will enable GraphQL queries on the data in our Airtable bases.

The gatsby-source-filesystem plugin is also required for the Airtable sourcing to work when attachments are one of the fields in a table. Finally, we'll include the Sharp image-processing plugins for sleek blur-up and lazy-loading effects.

npm install --save gatsby-source-filesystem

npm install --save gatsby-source-airtable

npm install --save gatsby-transformer-sharp gatsby-plugin-sharp

The dotenv package is also installed so that the Airtable tokens can be stored in a .env file instead of directly in visible code.

npm install dotenv

Once all the packages are installed, the tables can be configured in the gatsby-config.js file:

gatsby-config.js

require('dotenv').config()

module.exports = {
  plugins: [
    `gatsby-transformer-sharp`,
    `gatsby-plugin-sharp`,
    {
      resolve: `gatsby-source-filesystem`,
      options: {
        name: `assets`,
        path: `${__dirname}/src/assets`
      },
    },
    {
      resolve: `gatsby-source-airtable`,
      options: {
        apiKey: process.env.AIRTABLE_API_KEY,
        tables: [
          {
            baseId: process.env.AIRTABLE_BASE_ID,
            tableName: "Images",
            mapping: {attachment: `fileNode`},
          },
          {
            baseId: process.env.AIRTABLE_BASE_ID,
            tableName: "Videos",
            mapping: {attachment: `fileNode`},
          },
          {
            baseId: process.env.AIRTABLE_BASE_ID,
            tableName: "Projects",
            tableLinks: ["Images", "Videos"]
            mapping: {attachment: `fileNode`},
          },
 
        ]
      }
    }
  ]
}

Connecting each table to Gatsby requires its baseId (same for all tables in a given base), the tableName, and when using attachments, a specification that a node for each of these attached files should be created with the column name fileNode, which will then be used in Gatsby's Sharp image plugin (discussed in depth later on). Since the Images and Videos tables are linked to Projects, we also need to specifiy that information in the array value to the tableLinks property for the Projects table.

GraphQL Queries on Airtable Data

There are two primary queries of data from Airtable in this site:

  1. The landing page that displays a title and cover photo for each project

    • Pulling project titles and cover photos from the Projects table
  2. Specific project pages that include a gallery of images/videos for that project

    • Pulling linked images and videos from a specified project in the Project's table

The landing page query occurs in src/pages/index.js and uses the built-in graphql function from Gatsby. Exporting a graphql query in a Gatsby page component automatically inserts the result of the query as a data prop into the component.

Building the GraphQL query is easiest through the GraphiQL Explorer feature, accesible at http://localhost:8000/___graphql. One way to tap into the Projects table is by querying all tables in the base, filtering for "Projects", and sorting the projects in ascending order. Once inside the Projects table, we then traverse the nodes in that graph (i.e., each project) to retrieve corresponding cover photos, titles, press releases, and slugs.

/src/pages/index.js

import React from 'react';
import { Link, graphql } from 'gatsby';
import Img from 'gatsby-image';
import styled from 'styled-components';

import Layout from '../components/layout';
import SEO from '../components/seo';

export const query = graphql`
  {
    allAirtable(
      sort: { order: ASC, fields: data___project_order }
      filter: { table: { eq: "Projects" } }
    ) {
      nodes {
        data {
          cover_photo {
            localFiles {
              childImageSharp {
                fluid(maxWidth: 800) {
                  ...GatsbyImageSharpFluid_withWebp
                }
              }
            }
          }
          project_title
          press_release {
            filename
            id
            url
          }
          slug
        }
        recordId
      }
    }
  }
`;

const IndexPage = ({ data }) => {
  // JSX for Index page
}

export default IndexPage;

Note how attached images are queried using ImageSharp nodes from the Sharp image processing library. We specify that each cover_photo, which is available on the localFiles node, is a fluid image that is responsive to its container up to a width of 800px and will blur-up to focus using Webp.

Since the contents of this query are injected into the component as a data prop, we can destructure that prop out and then access its nested properties in the JSX.

/src/pages/index.js

import React from 'react'
import { Link, graphql } from 'gatsby'
import Img from 'gatsby-image'
import styled from 'styled-components

import Layout from '../components/layout'
import SEO from '../components/seo'

export const query = graphql`
  // GraphQL query from above
`;

const IndexPage = ({ data }) => {
  const renderCoverPhotoList = data.allAirtable.nodes.map(node => (
    <li className="project-item" key={node.recordId}>
      <Link className="project-item__link" to={`/${node.data.slug}`}>
        <h2 className="project-item__title">{node.data.project_title}</h2>
        <Img
          alt={node.data.project_title}
          fluid={node.data.cover_photo.localFiles[0].childImageSharp.fluid}
        />
      </Link>
    </li>
  ))
  return (
    <Layout>
      <SEO title="Home" />
      <ProjectWrapper>
        <ul className="project-list">{renderCoverPhotoList}</ul>
      </ProjectWrapper>
    </Layout>
  )
}

const ProjectWrapper = styled.div`
  // CSS for the project wrapper
`
export default IndexPage;

The GraphQL query mimics the object structure of the response, making it very easy to know how to extract a given property. Also note how the Gatsby Image component, <Img />, is created by passing it an alt attribute equal to the cover photo's title and fluid attribute equal to the fluid property of that cover photo.

The end result is a landing page with a list of project title's and cover photos:

Landing page demo

Project titles and blurred-up cover photos sourced from Airtable via GraphQL!

Programmatically Creating Pages in Gatsby

Gatsby Node API

As referenced in the previous section, there's a second major query of data that happens in this site - the query used to generate individual project pages when a user clicks on any cover image on the landing page. This query and the process of creating new project pages requires the Gatsby Node API, which can be utilized in the gatsby-node.js file.

The key to this process is createPages in the Gatsby Node API. This method tells plugins to add pages based on sourced nodes from Airtable (or any other data source). The two-step process is:

  1. Source nodes from Airtable, where nodes are each project

    • Use the graphql method made available from the createPages API to grab the nodes
  2. Map nodes to unique pages based on their slug and by providing a component template for all the content of that page

    • Use the actions method - an object containing functions - also made available from the createPages API to translate each node to a page

gatsby-node.js

const path = require('path');

exports.createPages = async ({ actions, graphql }) => {

  // 1. Query project nodes from Airtable
  // Make sure to grab the slug, which is necessary
  // for the second step of defining a path
  const { data } = await graphql(`
    {
      allAirtable(
        filter: { table: { eq: "Projects" } }
        sort: { order: ASC, fields: data___project_order }
      ) {
        nodes {
          data {
            slug
            project_title
            press_release {
              url
            }
          }
        }
      }
    }
  `)

  // Extract the nodes and rename as projects
  const projects = data.allAirtable.nodes;

  // 2. Map each project to a new page
  projects.forEach((project, index) => {

    // Create next and previous propertyies that will be
    // passed along to each page for next/prev navigation
    const previous = index === projects.length - 1 ? null : projects[index + 1].data
    const next = index === 0 ? null : projects[index - 1].data

    // Create new pages by defining a path and component template
    // Share other properties via the context object
    actions.createPage({
      path: project.data.slug,
      component: path.resolve(`./src/templates/project-template.js`),
      context: {
        slug: project.data.slug,
        projectTitle: project.data.project_title,
        pressRelease: project.data.press_release[0].url,
        previous,
        next,
      },
    })
  })
}

Page Template Component

The second major query of data in this site occurs in /src/templates/project-template.js, which is trigged by a specific slug variable passed to the GraphQL query in the component template via the context object in createPage in gatsby-node.js. Content across the tables is filtered for where the slug field name equals the value of the slug variable passed to it. This allows us to retrieve just the images and videos for a given project on their unique pages.

/src/templates/project-template.js

import React from 'react'
import { graphql, Link } from 'gatsby'

// Filter by project slug variable
export const query = graphql`
  query($slug: String!) {
    allAirtable(filter: { data: { slug: { eq: $slug } } }) {
      nodes {
        data {
          Images {
            data {
              dimensions
              view
              image_title
              location
              materials
              year(formatString: "YYYY")
              attachment {
                localFiles {
                  childImageSharp {
                    fluid(maxWidth: 960) {
                      ...GatsbyImageSharpFluid_withWebp
                      aspectRatio
                    }
                  }
                }
              }
            }
            id
          }
          Videos {
            data {
              attachment {
                localFiles {
                  url
                }
              }
              video_title
              year(formatString: "YYYY")
              materials
              length
              dimensions
            }
          }
        }
      }
    }
  }
`

const ProjectTemplate = props => {
  // Extract image and video nodes from Airtable
  const images = props.data.allAirtable.nodes[0].data.Images
  const videos = props.data.allAirtable.nodes[0].data.Videos

  // Remaining JSX
}

export default ProjectTemplate;

The code snippet above shows how all the sourced data from Airtable is on the data property on the components props. Additionally, all properties from the context object passed to this page can be accessed by the pageContext property, for instance, props.pageContext.pressRelease.

Image Gallery and Modal Carousel

Flexbox gallery

When a user enters into a project page, a gallery appears that contains small previews of each image for that project. There are two major components to building this gallery:

  1. Enforcing a uniform height of each gallery image while preserving the image ratio
  2. Creating a responsive container so that images resize and flow naturally within the gallery based on viewport size

Luckily, image aspect ratios are accessible by including the aspectRatio property in the GraphQL query via the Sharp image processing package. This can be seen in the previous section's GraphQL query for images in project-template.js.

After extracting the image nodes from the GraphQL query, we map each image into a container with a fixed height and varying width based on the image's aspect ratio. I chose a height 250px for larger screens, which changes to 100% width on small screens, which seemed to create a nicely responsive gallery for a range of viewports.

/src/templates/project-template.js

import React from 'react'
import { graphql, Link } from 'gatsby'
import Img from "gatsby-image"
import styled from "styled-components"

export const query = graphql`
  // GraphQL query as seen above
  // Response is injected as a 'data' prop into component
`

const ProjectTemplate = props => {

  // Extract images from data prop
  const images = props.data.allAirtable.nodes[0].data.Images;

  // Map images into an ImageCard with fixed heights of
  // 150px for small screens and 250px for larger screens
  // and variable widths based on image aspect ratio
    const renderImageList = images.map(image => {
    const aspectRatio = image.data.attachment.localFiles[0].childImageSharp.fluid.aspectRatio
    const widthSmall = 150 * aspectRatio
    const widthLarge = 250 * aspectRatio

    return (
      <ImageCard
        className="image-card"
        widthSmall={widthSmall}
        widthLarge={widthLarge}
        key={image.id}
        data-id={image.id}
      >
        <figure className="image">
          <Img
            alt={image.data.image_title}
            fluid={image.data.attachment.localFiles[0].childImageSharp.fluid}
          />
        </figure>
      </ImageCard>
    )
  })

  return (
    <>
      // Additional JSX
      <section className="image-list">
        {renderImageList}
      </section>
    </>
  )

const ImageCard = styled.div`
  width: 100%;
  height: auto;
  display: inline-block;
  margin-bottom: 4rem;
  cursor: zoom-in;

  @media screen and (min-width: 800px) {
    height: 250px;
    width: ${props => props.widthLarge}px;
    margin: 0.5rem;
  }
`

Using styled-components, we pass down widthLarge to the ImageCard component, which sets the card's width based on screensize with a breakpoint at 800px.

With each image now created with standardized heights, only a few lines of CSS are needed on the overall gallery (i.e. <section className="image-list">) to have the images flow nicely:

.image-list {
  display: flex;
  min-height: 200px;
  flex-wrap: wrap;
  justify-content: center;
}

Flexbox is a perfect tool for this feature. We only need to define a minimum height on the section and tell the flexed container to wrap children elements to new rows when they can no longer fit on a single row. Lastly, all content inside of the flexed container is centered along the main axis (rows in this case) using justify-content: center.

Gallery demo

Responsive image gallery using flexbox

Portals in Gatsby/React

We also wanted users to have the ability to click on an image in the gallery to reveal a close-up version of that image inside of a modal. Once inside the modal, the close-up image is in fact one item of an infinite carousel that users can click/swipe through.

Portals are required in React apps to render a component (e.g., a Modal) that is not mounted into the DOM as a child of the nearest parent node. For instance, we'll want to use a Portal to mount a modal component atop the DOM node heirarchy so that it can be displayed on top of the entire app and not be "stuck" inside of a nearest parent container.

Portals require a new div to be created in the index.html file as a sibling to the overall app container. However, Gatsby builds the index.html file when generating the site - unlike the case of bootstrapping a React app with create-react-app - so we can't manually insert a new div element for the portal. No fear, there's a plugin to accomplish this called gatsby-plugin-portal, which can be installed with:

npm install --save gatsby-plugin-portal

and configured in gatsby-config.js according to the documentation. The docs also provide the JSX for a reusable Portal component, which is used in this site too.

In the end, the DOM looks like:

html
  head
  body
    div#___gatsby (where main Gatsby app lives)
    div#portal (where children of the Portal get mounted)

Now the generic Portal component can be included in each project page, which receives a child Modal component that is opened by clicking on any gallery image.

src/templates/project-template.js

import React from 'react';

import Layout from '../components/lauyout";
import Portal from '../components/Portal";
import Modal from '../components/Modal";

// GraphQL query as discussed above
// ...

const ProjectTemplate = props => {
  return (
    <>
      <Layout>
        // Additional JSX for project pages
      </Layout>
      <Portal>
        <Modal />
      </Portal>
    </>
  )
};

export default ProjectTemplate;

Modal Component

The Modal component is passed 3 props that are maintained by local state inside of the project-template component:

  1. showModal - boolean (initially false) indicating whether the Modal should be shown or not
  2. setShowModal - a function controlling the value of showModal
  3. modalImages - an array (initially empty) of images for a given project that will be shown in the carousel of the modal

When a user clicks on a gallery image, showModal is set to true via setShowModal and the array of gallery images is re-ordered so that the clicked image comes first. These re-ordered images are then set to be modalImages. All of this happens on a click event attached to the section containing the gallery, which is delegated to child images in the section.

The Modal is comprised of 5 elements:

  1. An overall container
  2. A semi-transparent backdrop
  3. A carousel wrapper/card
  4. The Carousel component
  5. Close button

/src/components/Modal.js

import React from 'react';
import styled from 'styled-components';

import Carousel from './Carousel';

const Modal = ({ showModal, setShowModal, modalImages }) => {

  return (
    <div className="container">
      <div 
        className="backdrop" 
        aria-modal="true" 
        role="dialog" 
        onClick={e => {
          if (e.target.classList.contains('backdrop')) {
            setShowModal(false);
          }
        }}>
        <div className="card">
          <Carousel modalImages={modalImages} />
          <div>
            <button 
              className="card__button"
              onClick={() => setShowModal(false)}
            >
            Close
            </button>
          </div>
        </div>
      </div>
    </div>
  )
}

The backdrop is fixed to the upper left corner, spans the entire screen, and centers its children elements (the Carousel component):

// Styling for backdrop portion of the Modal component

.backdrop {
  position: fixed;
  left: 0;
  top: 0;
  width: 100%;
  height: 100vh;
  z-index: 200;
  display: flex;
  justify-content: center;
  align-items: center;
  background-color: rgab(0, 0, 0, 0.85);
  overflow: hidden;
}

Carousel Component

The Carousel component is made possible thanks to the nifty react-swipe package, which provides a component named ReactSwipe that allows users to swipe to next/previous items based on an array of children items in the component. In our case, modalImages are these children items, which are passed a prop to Carousel.js from Modal.js, as seen in the code snippet above. The react-swipe docs provide an excellent example for how to wire up the component, and I only slightly modified it for our purposes here:

/src/components/Carousel.js

import React, { useEffect, useRef } from "react"
import ReactSwipe from "react-swipe"

const Carousel = ({ modalImages }) => {
  let reactSwipeEl

  // Create images with captions that will displayed on hover
  const images = modalImages.map(image => (
    <figure key={image.id}>
      <div>
        <img
          srcSet={image.fluid.srcSet}
          alt={image.title}
          onClick={() => reactSwipeEl.next()}
        />
        <figcaption>
          <p>{image.title}</p>
          <p>{image.year}</p>
          <p>{image.materials}</p>
          <p>{image.view}</p>
          <p>{image.location}</p>
          <p>{image.dimensions}</p>
        </figcaption>
      </div>
    </figure>
  ))

  return (
    <CarouselContainer>
      <button onClick={() => reactSwipeEl.prev()}>
        Previous
      </button>
      <ReactSwipe
        childCount={images.length}
        swipeOptions={{}}
        ref={el => (reactSwipeEl = el)}
      >
        {images}
      </ReactSwipe>
      <button onClick={() => reactSwipeEl.next()}>
        Next
      </button>
    </CarouselContainer>
  )
}

On a desktop, users can navigate through the carousel by clicking on the previous or next buttons, which trigger a click event to built-in prev() and next() methods on the react-swipe element.

One last feature we wanted to implement on the carousel was the ability to also navigate to previous/next images using the left and right arrow keys, respectively. Accomplishing this is a two-step process:

  1. Create a Ref to the Carousel container that can be focused when the component mounts
  2. Attach key down events to the container that trigger the built-in prev() and next() methods when the left or right arrow is pressed.

/src/components/Carousel.js

import React, { useEffect, useRef } from "react"
import ReactSwipe from "react-swipe"

const Carousel = ({ modalImages }) => {

  // Focus <CarouselContainer> on mount to allow for
  // arrow left and arrow right keys to toggle images
  const carouselRef = useRef(null)
  useEffect(() => {
    carouselRef.current.focus()
  }, [])
  
  let reactSwipeEl

  // Create images with captions that will displayed on hover
  const images = modalImages.map(image => (
    <figure key={image.id}>
      <div>
        <img
          srcSet={image.fluid.srcSet}
          alt={image.title}
          onClick={() => reactSwipeEl.next()}
        />
        <figcaption>
          <p>{image.title}</p>
          <p>{image.year}</p>
          <p>{image.materials}</p>
          <p>{image.view}</p>
          <p>{image.location}</p>
          <p>{image.dimensions}</p>
        </figcaption>
      </div>
    </figure>
  ))

  return (
    <CarouselContainer
      ref={carouselRef}
      tabIndex="0"
      onKeyDown={e => {
        if (e.key === "ArrowLeft") {
          reactSwipeEl.prev()
        } else if (e.key === "ArrowRight") {
          reactSwipeEl.next()
        }
      }}
    >
      <button onClick={() => reactSwipeEl.prev()}>
        Previous
      </button>
      <ReactSwipe
        childCount={images.length}
        swipeOptions={{}}
        ref={el => (reactSwipeEl = el)}
      >
        {images}
      </ReactSwipe>
      <button onClick={() => reactSwipeEl.next()}>
        Next
      </button>
    </CarouselContainer>
  )
}

Voilà!

Carousel demo

Swipeable carousel of project images