Getting Started with React, GraphQL, and SilverStripe

Just a collection of thoughts from my first project using these technologies

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I completed my first project using React, GraphQL, and SilverStripe recently. Whilst I’ve worked with SilverStripe since version 2.1 and React for the past year or so, this was my first time combining the two - and my first time bringing GraphQL into the mix.

It wasn’t as easy or as straightforward as I’d hoped, so here are a random collection of my thoughts and discoveries from doing this project. It’s not a tutorial as such - let me know if there was more specific things you’d like me to go over.

GraphQL is awesome!

I first came across GraphQL at the SilverStripe Conference in Wellington back in 2017. It sang out to me as the answer to all the issues with traditional REST APIs. I loved the declarative nature of GraphQL and how you get exactly what you ask for. If you’re unfamiliar with GraphQL I’d highly recommend this video by Aaron Carlino (aka Unclecheese)

You need the GraphiQL dev tools

composer require silverstripe/graphql-devtools

Then you can go to http://yoursite.local/dev/graphiql and see all the query types you can make.

You need the silverstripe graphql documentation

silverstripe-graphql is iterating quickly. But the doco remains supurb. This is really an invaluable resource.

If you use PhpStorm, use give my GraphQL helper a shot

This won’t be needed in the future as I hear there are changes being made to the silverstripe-graphql introspection, but for now you might find this helper useful.

Authentication is a bit hard

This isn’t directly related to GraphQL, but SilverStripe 4 has an all new authentication system. Sure it’s more flexible, but it really does feel like a dishwasher api.

Compare this login with SS3:


With SS4


WTF is Injector? WTF is IdentityStore? I don’t know and I don’t care but this is what I need to use to log in now. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Most of the time you’ll probably just want to use session based authentication, so the most straightforward way to log in is to get the user to log in via normal SilverStripe methods first before showing the react app.

<% if $LoggedIn %>
    <noscript>You need to enable JavaScript to run this app.</noscript>
    <div id="root"></div>
    <script src="/resources/client/build/main.js"></script>
<% else %>
<% end_if %>

You could also log in via a GraphQL mutation. Create an extension for Member and scaffold something like this:


namespace MyNameSpace\Extensions;

use SilverStripe\ORM\DataExtension;
use SilverStripe\GraphQL\Scaffolding\Interfaces\ScaffoldingProvider;
use SilverStripe\GraphQL\Scaffolding\Scaffolders\SchemaScaffolder;
use SilverStripe\Security\Authenticator;
use SilverStripe\Security\Member;
use SilverStripe\Security\Security;
use SilverStripe\Security\IdentityStore;
use SilverStripe\Control\Controller;
use SilverStripe\Core\Injector\Injector;

class MemberExtension extends DataExtension implements ScaffoldingProvider
  public function provideGraphQLScaffolding(SchemaScaffolder $scaffolder)
    $scaffolder->mutation('login', Member::class)
      ->addArgs(['Email' => 'String!', 'Password' => 'String!'])
      ->setResolver(function($obj, $args, $context) {
        /** @var Security $security */
        $security = Injector::inst()->get(Security::class);
        $authenticators = $security->getApplicableAuthenticators(Authenticator::LOGIN);
        $request = Controller::curr()->getRequest();
        $member = null;
        $result = null;
        if (count($authenticators)) {
          /** @var Authenticator $authenticator */
          foreach ($authenticators as $authenticator) {
            $member = $authenticator->authenticate($args, $request, $result);
            if ($result->isValid()) {
        if ($member) {
        return $member;
    return $scaffolder;

Other options are to use jwt. Check out this repo. It didn’t suit me in this case as I needed the login to be the same whether accessing normal PHP pages or GraphQL.

Use create-react-app

You don’t need to know about webpack. Just use create-react-app. Seriously.

Tell SilverStripe to use your webpack when you’re running it

Hat tip to @unclecheese right here, because this was really slowing me down.

Your PageController needs this:

  * Used for development to load webpack script as opposed to built js
  * @return bool
public function isWebpackRunning()
    return Director::isDev() && !!@fsockopen('localhost', 3000, $errorNumber, $errorMsg, 2);

Your template that has the React application needs this:

<% if $isWebpackRunning %>
    <script src="//localhost:3000/static/js/bundle.js"></script>
<% else %>
    <script src="/resources/app/client/build/main.js"></script>
<% end_if %>

Now, if webpack is running it will connect directly to that, otherwise it will use your built bundle.

Simplify deployment

There’s probably something a lot smarter that you could do here, but I was in a hurry to ship and couldn’t deal with parsing map files 😜

Instead, I hacked the build script in package.json to move my files to static names:

"scripts": {
    "start": "react-scripts start",
    "build": "react-scripts build && npm run build:clean",
    "build:clean": "cd build && move static\\js\\*.js main.js && move static\\css\\*.css main.css && rmdir /s /q static",
    "test": "react-scripts test --env=jsdom",
    "eject": "react-scripts eject"

Now I can link to /resources/app/client/build/main.js and /resources/app/client/build/main.css without worrying. Of course, this breaks the cache-busting, so if you’ve got a better way I’m all ears!

Handle javascript URLs nicely

In this project I had a multi page form, so it was important that users could come back to where they left off. For this I used react-router but of course you need to tell SilverStripe to hand over to the page that renders your react app, even though this page doesn’t exist in SilverStripe.

There are a few ways of going about this - for me I just made sure that the bulk of the react URLs were under a sub-url

<Route exact path="/" render={props => <Home />} />
<Route exact path="/myapp/thing-one" render={props => <ThingOne} {...props}/>}/>
<Route exact path="/myapp/thing-two" render={props => <ThingTwo} {...props}/>}/>

and then in my PageController:


private static $url_handlers = [
   'myapp/$action' => 'index'

Anything else?

Well, that’s all I can think of that was a major blocker for me to get started. If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up. I’m alt on the SilverStripe Slack, and @altwohill on Twitter.