Building a Ron Swanson Quote App on Amplify with Javascript and GraphQL


AWS Amplify was released in November 2018 and is described by AWS as:

“an end-to-end solution that enables web developers to build and deploy secure, scalable full stack applications, powered by AWS. With Amplify, you can configure app backends in minutes, connect them to your app in just a few lines of code, and deploy static web apps in three steps.”

Amplify is a very powerful tool and can be used to quickly deploy databases, push notifications, authentication services and datastores with the developer tools you are already used to. Here I am going to show you how to quickly set up a GraphQL API using the Amplify framework and ReactJS.

The simple API will be responsible for returning Ron Swanson quotes to be displayed by a React frontend.

I will assume you already have an AWS account and have configured the AWS CLI, via `aws configure`, and your local environment is set up for NodeJS/React development. I also highly recommend the use of VSCode `` which has a great number of productivity tools and integrates nicely with the Amplify CLI.

We will create:

  1. A DynamoDB database with schemas managed by Amplify SDK
  2. An AppSync GraphQL API
  3. Frontend site hosted in S3 with Cloudfront CDN and SSL

You can check out the sample app at:

Setting up the Environment

First, begin by installing the Amplify CLI globally:
npm i -g @aws-amplify/cli

Then in your working directory create a React app in the usual way:
npx create-react-app aws-amplify-swanson

Now you can move into the new working directory: aws-amplify-swanson and initialise Amplify with amplify init

You can configure Auth here or use a profile from ~/.aws/credentials

Once this is completed you have access to  the following commands:

amplify {category} add – will allow you to add features like user login or a backend API

amplify status – shows what you’ve added already and if it’s locally configured or deployed

amplify push – will build all your local backend resources and provision it in the cloud

amplify publish – will build all your local backend and frontend resources (if you have hosting category added) and provision it in the cloud

The GraphQL API

An API of some kind is required to provide access to our data. Traditionally we might have created a database with RDS, then create some middleware to perform operations on the data, but because we are using Amplify this whole process is handled nicely for us.

We will add a Graphql API by running amplify add api

Selecting Y for the last option will launch VSCode and allow you to edit the schema. For this Swanson quotes API we only need 2 fields: an ID and the quote itself.

Once you have designed your schema you can update the database with amplify push

You will also want to generate the Graphql code automatically. The defaults should be fine. 

This may take a while to complete as it is triggering a cloudformation script which in turn builds out the infrastructure for your backend. It will also generate the connection strings and queries for your application and add them to your React project.

Once the rollout completes you will be presented with an API Key as well as the GraphQL endpoint.  These can also be found in src/aws-exports.js

Now it gets exciting – head over to AWS AppSync and you’ll find your DynamoDB and GraphQL API.

Navigate to the Queries panel and you can start to run your own mutations to populate the API with sample data.

You can find what your mutations should look like in src/graphql/mutations.js

Once you have inserted your data you can view it all in the DynamoDB console as well. This is the data that will be served over the GraphQL endpoint.

And that’s the backend configured. We have just created a new AppSync API and DynamoDB database in a few simple commands and are now ready to look at frontend hosting.

Simple React Test

I have created a very simple App.js that will print out the quote returned from a graphql query – arguably Lambda triggers should be used to randomly grab a row from Dynamo, but as we have a small sample size I’ll just use a dirty Math() function.

You can find this sample app at: Just replace the content of your src/ directory with this one.

If you have been following along and using the example frontend, you will be able to build and run the app with npm install && npm run start. Your browser should load up and you will be able to see a quote which is pulled via the AppSync API. Magic! 

This is the application running on your local machine and authenticating with the GraphQL API in AWS. All of this is managed by the Amplify SD.

Deploying to AWS

The final part of this guide is to add static hosting for our frontend app which again is fully managed by Amplify: amplify hosting add

As this is a simple React SPA I have selected to deploy to S3 and to utilise Cloudfront to provide HTTPS access. This is a really low latency, low-cost hosting option for static websites. Name the S3 bucket as you like, or leave it as the default.

You have now configured your deployments.

When you are ready to deploy, simply type amplify publish and AWS Amplify will handle the rest.

Here you can see it will add s3 and CloudFront hosting. The API has no changes pending.

Once cloudformation has deployed all of the infrastructure, your React project will be built and automatically uploaded to S3.

You will see the CloudFront endpoint listed at the bottom, where you will be able to view your application in AWS. As CloudFront is a global resource, it may take a little while for the endpoint to resolve correctly if this is a new deployment.

If you would like to remove all of these resources afterwards you can use amplify delete.

Amplify – FullStack Solutions for FrontEnd Developers

AWS Amplify is a fantastic framework to rapidly build new web applications. It reduces the overheads and complexity of managing infrastructure and introduces a lot of serverless-like concepts.

It is ideal for start-ups in a rapid development phase or freelancers who want to focus on app design and functionality over infrastructure optimisation and management.

It also feels pretty cool to use.

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