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Decisions 4

Adam Neary

Engineer at Airbnb

At Airbnb we use GraphQL Unions for a "Backend-Driven UI." We have built a system where a very dynamic page is constructed based on a query that will return an array of some set of possible “sections.” These sections are responsive and define the UI completely.

The central file that manages this would be a generated file. Since the list of possible sections is quite large (~50 sections today for Search), it also presumes we have a sane mechanism for lazy-loading components with server rendering, which is a topic for another post. Suffice it to say, we do not need to package all possible sections in a massive bundle to account for everything up front.

Each section component defines its own query fragment, colocated with the section’s component code. This is the general idea of Backend-Driven UI at Airbnb. It’s used in a number of places, including Search, Trip Planner, Host tools, and various landing pages. We use this as our starting point, and then in the demo show how to (1) make and update to an existing section, and (2) add a new section.

While building your product, you want to be able to explore your schema, discovering field names and testing out potential queries on live development data. We achieve that today with GraphQL Playground, the work of our friends at #Prisma. The tools come standard with Apollo Server.


30 880.9K

Adam Neary

Engineer at Airbnb

GitGitVisual Studio CodeVisual Studio Code

One of the joys I wanted to demonstrate in a GraphQL Summit talk I did is having so many helpful tools at my fingertips while building our product at Airbnb. This includes access to Git in Visual Studio Code, as well as the integrated terminal and tasks for running frequently-needed commands.

Of course, we also had some fun stuff to show for GraphQL and Apollo! The part that most people had not seen was the new Apollo GraphQL VS Code Extension. There is no need for me to copy over all juicy features from their marketing site (there are many!), but I will elaborate on one feature: Schema Tags.

If you are going to lint your queries against the schema you are working on, you will invariably be presented with the decision of “which schema?” The default may be your production schema (“current,” by convention), but as we discuss in the demo, if you need to iterate and explore new ideas, you need the flexibility of targeting a provisional schema.

Since we are using Apollo Engine, publishing multiple schemas using tags allows us this flexibility, and multiple engineers can collaborate on a single proposed schema. Once proposed schema changes for a service are merged upstream and those changes are naturally flowing down in the current production schema, we can flip back to “current” in VS Code. Very cool.


16 794.4K

Adam Neary

Engineer at Airbnb

React StorybookReact StorybookZeplinZeplin

The tool we use for editing UI is React Storybook. It is the perfect place to make sure your work aligns with designs to the pixel across breakpoints. You get fast hot module reloading and a couple checkboxes to enable/disable browser features like Flexbox.

The only tricks I apply to Storybook are loading the stories with the mock data we’ve extracted from the API. If your mock data really covers all the various various possible states for your UI, you are good to go. Beyond that, if you have alternative states you want to account for, perhaps loading or error states, you can add them in manually.

This is the crux of the matter for Storybook. This file is entirely generated from Yeoman (discussed below), and it delivers the examples from the Alps Journey by default. getSectionsFromJourney() just filters the sections.

One other hack you’ll notice is that I added a pair of divs to bookend my component vertically, since Storybook renders with whitespace around the component. That is fine for buttons or UI with borders, but it’s hard to tell precisely where your component starts and ends, so I hacked them in there.

Since we are talking about how all these fabulous tools work so well together to help you be productive, can I just say what a delight it is to work on UI with Zeplin or Figma side by side with Storybook. Digging into UI in this abstract way takes all the chaos of this madcap world away one breakpoint at a time, and in that quiet realm, you are good down to the pixel every time.

To supply Storybook and our unit tests with realistic mock data, we want to extract the mock data directly from our Shared Development Environment. As with codegen, even a small change in a query fragment should also trigger many small changes in mock data. And here, similarly, the hard part is tackled entirely by Apollo CLI, and you can stitch it together with your own code in no time.

Coming back to Zeplin and Figma briefly, they're both built to allow engineers to extract content directly to facilitate product development.

Extracting the copy for an entire paragraph is as simple as selecting the content in Zeplin and clicking the “copy” icon in the Content section of the sidebar. In the case of Zeplin, images can be extracted by selecting and clicking the “download” icon in the Assets section of the sidebar.

ReactDesignStack #StorybookStack #StorybookDesignStack
10 823.8K

Adam Neary

Engineer at Airbnb is a straight up life-saver. It is the only screenshot testing tool I’ve ever used, so I would not be sophisticated enough to compare it to alternatives, if there are any, but the essential idea is that you push code, and it goes off and renders all the components in your PR, comparing it with the version on master.

This means if you edit a component like <Input /> it will show you the impact on components that use Input, including the Search Bar you accidentally modified. It. Is. Fabulous.

How many times did you think your change was contained only to discover that ten other teams started using what you built, and your change breaks three of the ten? Without Happo, you might not know.

Until lately, the only downside with Happo was that our React Storybook variations (the input to the screenshot testing process) did not always reflect reliable data adequately. Now that Storybook is leveraging API data, we can feel much more confident. Plus, as our demo explores, it is automatic. If you add a field to the query and then the component, Happo will automatically post the diff to your PR, letting the engineers, designers, and product managers sitting next to you see the visual consequences of the change you have made.

6 686.9K

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