How to render dynamic component defined in JSON using React

Contents

With React it is easy to render dynamic components utilizing JSX and React.createElement, which we can utilize to render content with specific components and layouts by only using their name.

A basic content JSON that should be rendered

The content JSON below contains an array called body which consists of multiple objects with different fields and one attribute called component which allows us to determine what component we should use to render its actual content.

const data = {
  content: {
    body: [
      {
        _uid: "BUY6Drn9e1",
        component: "foo",
        headline: "Foo"
      },
      {
        _uid: "gJZoSLkfZV",
        component: "bar",
        title: "Bar"
      },
      {
        _uid: "X1JAfdsZxy",
        component: "foo",
        headline: "Another headline"
      }
    ]
  }
};

Dynamic component rendering with React

To allow us to render a JSON by dynamic components using their name we first have to loop through the array of components itself. Below you can see that we’re using the map function to do exactly that.

Looping through the content array

function App() {
  return (
    <div className="App">
      {data.content.body.map(block => block.component)}
    </div>
  )
}

Creating components dynamically

Now to actually use the React component instead of only outputting their name we will pass the name of the component to a custom function called Components.

function App() {
  return (
    <div className="App">
      {data.content.body.map(block => Components(block))}
    </div>
  )
}

To allow the component itself to access the current instance properties we’re using the block object and pass it down to the React component we will create. We use block or blok in our tutorials as they are not “components” but instances of them filled with specific values.

Create and include your components

We’re using two nested components one is called foo and the other one is called bar. We choose to create a components/ folder to have them at one place.

import React from "react";

export default props => (
  <div className="foo">
    <hr />
    Hi I'm a Foo component with the headline:
    <h2>{props.block.headline}</h2>
  </div>
);

Once created we need to set-up the custom Components function we were talking about earlier. First we will create a components.js in our root folder right next to our index.js. There we will start by importing our components from the components folder itself

import React from "react";
import Foo from "./components/Foo";
import Bar from "./components/Bar";
...

Next we will define one object that maps the React components to the name we have given the components in the content JSON itself:

import React from "react";
import Foo from "./components/Foo";
import Bar from "./components/Bar";

const Components = {
  foo: Foo,
  bar: Bar
};
...

Now all that’s left for us to do is to write a function that checks if a component with a specific name exists. Since we’re passing down the whole block in our JSX template we’re able to access the block.component and look for that content in our newly created Components object.

import React from "react";
import Foo from "./components/Foo";
import Bar from "./components/Bar";

const Components = {
  foo: Foo,
  bar: Bar
};

export default block => {
  // component does exist
  if (typeof Components[block.component] !== "undefined") {
    return React.createElement(Components[block.component], {
      key: block._uid,
      block: block
    });
  }
}

We can also create an anonymous component for the case that we didn’t yet create or include a component of a specific name so we tell the user directly to create the missing component rather than throwing an exception.

import React from "react";
import Foo from "./components/Foo";
import Bar from "./components/Bar";

const Components = {
  foo: Foo,
  bar: Bar
};

export default block => {
  // component does exist
  if (typeof Components[block.component] !== "undefined") {
    return React.createElement(Components[block.component], {
      key: block._uid,
      block: block
    });
  }
  // component doesn't exist yet
  return React.createElement(
    () => <div>The component {block.component} has not been created yet.</div>,
    { key: block._uid }
  );
}

There are only two differences between foo and bar as one uses the property headline and the other title to showcase that the components can be completely different from their structure. They can even contain a property with another component array to allow you to build a more complex layout driven by your content.

Editing the JSON

You can now add more components of the type foo and bar with different title/headline values and they will be rendered as if you would add them statically under each other. The order in the JSON defines the order of them being rendered.

Foo and Bar edited in Storyblok

With Storyblok you’re able to build such a structure with reusable and nestable components. Using the blocks field type you are able to add the exact behavior as you would edit the JSON directly, but in an easy to use interface. After adding the content in the interface you’re able to consume our Content Delivery API. You can try it yourself and exchange the static content by loading content from our API.

Codesandbox example

Open our codesandbox example in a new Tab.


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About the author

Dominik Angerer

Dominik Angerer

A web performance specialist and perfectionist. After working for big agencies as a full stack developer he founded Storyblok. He is also an active contributor to the open source community and one of the organizers of Stahlstadt.js.