Server-side rendering with React

Let’s set up server-side rendering with React.

2 min readOct 30, 2016



In your Terminal, create a directory for the project and change into it:

$ mkdir React
$ cd React

Install Express, a web framework for Node.js:

$ npm install express

Create a simple server.js:


Start your server:

$ node server.js

Open the url in a browser (run command in new tab/window):

$ open http://localhost:3000

If you see the webpage, then that means your basic Express server is working. Go back to your Terminal and stop your server by pressing Ctrl+C.


If you plan to deploy your web app to service like Heroku, you’ll need to modify line 9:

var PORT = process.env.PORT || 3000;

This means use the port specified by the environment variable or 3000 by default.

Also, it’s recommended that you refactor your app so it’s more production-ready. Here are some tips for Express.


Install React and ReactDOM:

$ npm install react react-dom

Create Component.jsx (not using JSX at the moment):


Refactor server.js to render the component as a string:


Start the server again and confirm the result in the browser:

$ node server.js$ open http://localhost:3000


JSX is the syntactic sugar that makes React code look more like HTML. In order to use it, we’ll need to set up a compiler like Babel.

Install babel-register, which will upgrade node’s require hook:

$ npm install babel-register

Install babel-preset-react, which will allow Babel to compile JSX to JS:

$ npm install babel-preset-react

Use Babel to transform required files from JSX to JS in server.js:


Now refactor Component.jsx and add some additional code:


Restart your server and view the result:

$ node server.js$ open http://localhost:3000

However, when you click the button, the alert doesn’t show. Why is that? That’s because the client-side portion is not set up. What’s missing is the component remounting in the DOM.

As a result, a client script needs to be built and loaded in the browser so the application can become universal/isomorphic.

The next tutorial will show you how to do that. Feel free to check out the code for this tutorial as well as other videos in my React playlist.