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How to Deploy a React App to Netlify – A Step-by-Step Guide

React is one of the most popular front-end frameworks for building interactive user interfaces. Its component-based architecture, declarative programming style, and ability to build complex applications make it a top choice for developers.

To deploy React apps, many teams use Netlify – a platform designed specifically for static site hosting. Netlify provides a simplified deployment workflow, global CDN, automatic SSL, and more.

Have you ever considered deploying your projects to a live URL, without the headaches of traditional hosting providers? In this article, I will walk through how to use Netlify to deploy your React application. We will also look at setting up a Netlify account, connecting your project repository, configuring optimal builds, and deploying your React app instantly.

You will see firsthand how easy Netlify makes it to go from local development to worldwide deployment in minutes

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Challenges with Deployments

Deploying your web applications live comes with many pain points that slow down and complicate the process for developers. Challenges like configuring servers, managing dependencies, optimizing performance, implementing CI/CD pipelines, and securing sites put a major burden on developers and engineering teams.

Developers usually spend significant time on deployment activities rather than writing code adding to the already existing challenges of the need to coordinate across infrastructure, operations, and development teams further hampers speed.

Enter Netlify πŸš€

Netlify removes these issues identified above by providing a unified platform designed for streamlined deployments. Its git-based workflow allows sites to be deployed directly from repositories with every code push.

Netlify handles provisioning servers, optimizing performance, provisioning CDNs, managing SSL certificates, and other infrastructural tasks. This shifts the focus back to writing application code rather than configuring infrastructure.

With built-in support for popular frameworks like React, Netlify makes it simple for developers to go from code to production in minutes.

React - Netlify

In this article, you will learn how to set up continuous deployment for a React application with Netlify. I will walk through creating a React project, connecting it to GitHub and Netlify, and deploying changes automatically on each commit to the main branch. you will gain hands-on experience taking control of the React deployment process. Once complete, you will have a robust system to deploy your app, run tests, or perform any other required steps.

Let’s get started!

Why Use Netlify?

  • Free domains with automatic SSL certificates: Netlify provides free custom domains and handles provisioning SSL certificates automatically, removing this manual task for developers.

  • Support for automatic deployments from Git repositories: It has built-in continuous deployment capabilities directly from Git repositories like GitHub and GitLab. This automates the build and deploy process on each code change.

  • Instantaneous launch and automatic scaling: Sites launch instantly on Netlify’s global CDN network and scale automatically to handle traffic spikes without intervention.

  • Marketplace for integrating third-party tools: The integrations marketplace allows connecting to CI tools, third-party APIs, analytics, and more to extend Netlify’s capabilities.

Prerequisites

  • An account with a Git provider like GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket to store your code repository.

  • Node.js and NPM or Yarn are installed locally to manage dependencies and run React commands.

  • Basic terminal/command line knowledge to run commands for initializing projects, installing packages, deploying sites, etc.

  • Understanding of React fundamentals like components, JSX, props, state, etc.

  • Netlify account to connect to your Git repository and deploy sites. The free tier is enough for most use cases.

Getting Started

In this guide, we will deploy a React application. To get started, start by cloning this repository on GitHub. This is what our application looks like when you run the application:

Netlify React

Since we already have this repository pushed to GitHub, we will proceed with its deployment to Netlify.

Setting Up a Netlify Account

There are a few ways in which you can Create a Netlify account. You can either create one with your email or use a GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket account.

To get started creating your Netlify account, head over to https://netlify.com/signup and follow the steps:

  • Connect your Git account. I am using my GitHub account in this case

Create a Netlify account

For this project, I used GitHub as the Git provider, but the overall process should be very similar if you use a different provider like GitLab or Bitbucket. The onboarding flow with Netlify is straightforward and user-friendly. Regardless of which provider you choose, you will need to authorize Netlify and grant permissions so it can access your repositories. The steps we cover will apply across providers, just follow along using whichever Git service you prefer.

After Authorization

Once you authorize Netlify, you will be taken to your dashboard screen where you can import an existing repository or create a new project from a template. We do not want to use a template, so click on “Add new site” then click on β€œImport an existing project” and select β€œ Deploy with GitHub” if using GitHub or the other option for different providers. This will allow you to connect your Git provider account so you can import the repository containing the project you want to deploy.

Deploy-to-Netlify-account

This will open a popup asking you to install Netlify, with β€œAll repositories” selected by default. You can keep this to grant access to all repositories, or specify individual ones if preferred – you can adjust these permissions later. When ready, click β€œInstall” to connect your Git provider account and allow Netlify to access your repositories. For your projects, you may want to limit access to specific repos rather than granting access to all. But the choice can be changed anytime as you add new projects.

After installing Netlify, you should see the YellowGirlfriend-React repository. Just click on the β€œImport” button.

Build Options and Deploy

After connecting the Git repository and choosing the branch to deploy from, you need to configure the build settings in Netlify. For apps made with Create React App, these will be pre-filled automatically.

The key settings are the base directory, which is the main folder Netlify will run commands from, defaulting to the repo root. You can also specify a subfolder if needed.

The build command triggers the actual app build. If not using Create React App, check package.json for any existing build script – usually npm run build. The build output will go into the publish directory, which is built for the Create React App.

With the build options set, click Deploy Site and Netlify will start the deployment. Once successful, you can preview the live site using the temporary domain.

Netlify Deploy

In the next section, I will walk you through using the Netlify CLI tool to manage your deployments to Netlify

Deploying with Netlify CLI

Next, you will want to install the Netlify CLI. We’ll only cover the basic commands needed to deploy a React project here, but you can refer to the Netlify docs for more details on using the CLI.

To install it globally on your machine, run this command in your terminal:

npm i -g netlify-cli

Once it finishes installing, you can confirm it was successful by running this command to output the current version:

netlify --version

You should see something like this displayed on your terminal:

$ netlify --version
netlify-cli/17.16.2 win32-x64 node-v16.20.2

Deploying Code

Now that the Netlify CLI is installed, we can deploy our code. Since this is the first time using it, you will need to log in to Netlify through the CLI. Run netlify in your terminal to begin the login process:

netlify

Once the Netlify CLI is installed on your machine, go to the directory where your project code is located. Then run the following commands to connect the CLI to your Netlify account:

cd YellowGirlfriend-React
netlify deploy

The above command will prompt a popup window to be open for authentication and authorization. Make sure your browser does not block pop-ups that will be opened for authorization redirects. When running the netlify deploy command, it will redirect to a browser window asking you to authorize the Netlify CLI to connect to your Netlify account. Allow pop-ups so this authorization can be completed.

Pop-up for authentication and authorization for Netlify

Click on the “Authorize” button to complete the process:

Authorized application

The CLI will prompt you with some questions.

Prompt 1: This folder isn’t linked to a site yet

After authorizing the Netlify CLI, it will ask if you want to deploy to an existing site or create a new one. Since we are deploying a new application, select the option to create and configure a new site by following the command line prompts.

You are now logged into your Netlify account!

Run netlify status for account details

To see all available commands run: netlify help

This folder isn't linked to a site yet
? What would you like to do?
  Link this directory to an existing site
> +  Create & configure a new site

Use your direction buttons to either move up or down and tap the enter button to select your preferred option.

Prompt 2: Choose a site name

The next prompt allows you to configure the site details like name, or leave it blank for Netlify to generate a random name. Either way, you can update these details later on if needed.


You are now logged into your Netlify account!

Run netlify status for account details

To see all available commands run: netlify help

This folder isn't linked to a site yet
? What would you like to do? +  Create & configure a new site
? Team: Eunit ’s team
? Site name (leave blank for a random name; you can change it later): yellow-girlfriend-netlify

Site Created

Admin URL: https://app.netlify.com/sites/yellow-girlfriend-netlify
URL:       https://yellow-girlfriend.netlify.app/
Site ID:   xxx-xxx-xxxxxx-xxx-xxxx-xxx-xxxx
Deployed site

Prompt 3: Deploy path

Because we are running netlify deploy inside the React app’s working directory, it will deploy the build folder by default. When prompted for the deploy path, specify the path to the build directory since it contains the optimized production files needed to deploy the app.

NOTE πŸ“

If the preview URL shows a “Site not found” error, there is likely an issue with the build files. Run netlify deploy again and update the build path if needed. Once the draft URL looks correct, deploy to the live production URL by adding the –prod flag to the command.

How to Deploy Your React App To Netlify Production

Once you have tested the website using the draft URL, you can deploy it live by running the command below with the –prod flag added. This will take your application live on the production URL.

netlify deploy --prod

You will need to specify the deploy path again, which should point to your build directory. After a successful deployment, you will receive an updated website URL for the live production site.

Netlify Drag and Drop Feature

The Netlify drag and drop deployment method is very similar to using the Netlify UI described previously. However, drag and drop is unique because it uses the online app capabilities and is optimized for fast app deployments.

Deploy applications by dropping files with Netlify Drop

Get started with the Netlify Drag and Drop feature by following this link.

Comparing Deployment Methods

The Netlify CLI and dashboard accomplish the same end goal of deploying your app, just through different interfaces. The ideal method comes down to personal preference.

The CLI performs the entire process in the terminal, avoiding the context switch of leaving your IDE. Whereas the dashboard provides a visual GUI for managing deployments.

Both have their merits. The CLI is quick and simple without leaving your coding environment. The dashboard gives more visibility into your projects and accounts.

Overall, the CLI may be preferable for frequent deployments as it saves clicks and stays in your workflow. However, the dashboard can be useful for managing many projects. Choose whichever feels more efficient for your needs – there’s no right or wrong answer!

The hosted application can be found here: https://yellow-girlfriend.netlify.app/

Tabular Comparison of the Methods for Deploying a React App to Netlify

Deploying with Netlify CLIDeploying from Netlify Dashboard
Sign UpCreate Netlify account and install CLICreate Netlify account and connect GitHub
ConfigureLink CLI to GitHub repo and answer promptsImport repo from GitHub and configure
DeploySingle CLI command to deployClick deploy button in dashboard
Pros– Fully CLI based
– Stays in terminal
– Fast and simple
– Visual interface
– Guided process
Cons– Requires CLI comfort
– Leaves IDE
– More steps
– Leaves IDE

The main differences are that the CLI deployment is done fully in the terminal and stays in your development environment, while the dashboard provides a more guided visual process but requires leaving your IDE.

The CLI is great for those comfortable working in the terminal, while the dashboard may be better for those wanting a more visual workflow. Both achieve the same result of deploying your React app quickly and easily on Netlify.

FAQs

Does Netlify work With React?

Yes, Netlify is a great platform for deploying React applications. It has built-in support for Create React App and Next.js projects.

What is Netlify Used For?

Netlify is used for hosting and deploying static front-end websites and web services built with frameworks like React, Vue, Angular, etc. It provides features like automatic deployments, serverless functions, and global CDN.

Can I Deploy React Apps on Netlify?

Yes, Netlify has excellent support for deploying React apps with zero configuration. It auto-detects Create React App projects and sets up optimal build settings.

How Can I Deploy a React App?

There are two main ways to deploy a React app on Netlify – using the Netlify CLI or deploying manually through the Netlify dashboard. The CLI provides a simple terminal-based workflow while the dashboard gives a more visually guided process.

Is deploying with Netlify Free?

Yes, Netlify offers a generous free tier that allows deploying static sites and client-side rendered apps for free with no time limits. Paid plans add features like custom domains, serverless functions, and more.

How Do I Deploy a Project to Netlify?

You can deploy a project to Netlify either through the Netlify CLI or the Netlify dashboard. The CLI requires linking your Git repository and answering prompts, while the dashboard allows importing the repo and configuring the deploy settings visually.

Does Netlify Automatically Deploy?

Yes, one of Netlify’s best features is that it automatically deploys your app whenever you push changes to your connected Git repository. This enables fast and continuous delivery of changes.

Wrapping Up

In this article, you learned how to deploy React applications to Netlify using a customizable continuous deployment pipeline. This gives you more control over the process compared to Netlify’s default workflow.

You also set up a new React project locally and pushed it to a GitHub repository. Then you created a Netlify site connected to GitHub for automatic deployments.

Deploying React applications with Netlify is straightforward thanks to its user-friendly capabilities. After selecting your preferred deployment approach and meeting the requirements like installing the CLI, you can typically deploy a React app to Netlify in under a minute.

I hope you enjoyed learning how to create and deploy a React app in this guide. Please let me know in the comments if you run into any problems or errors. Happy coding!

Further Readings

Did you enjoy reading this great piece? Then be sure to check to check other great articles from our blog:

Happy Coding πŸ’»

Emmanuel Uchenna

Emmanuel Uchenna

Emmanuel is an experienced and enthusiastic software developer and technical writer with 4+ proven years of professional experience. He focuses on full-stack web development. He is fluent in React, TypeScript, VueJS, and NodeJS and familiar with industry-standard technologies such as version control, headless CMS, and JAMstack. He is passionate about knowledge sharing.