Changing the data schema on a gatsby theme

September 27, 2019 . 7 min read



data schema

Table of contents


In this post I intend to go through how could you change the data scheme of your gatsby theme, however I will not be doing it here, but rather only explaining the concept. As a result, I understand that this title could be a little bit misleading, so apologies for that.

Now that we have that out of the way allow me to start. A couple of weeks back, when I started to put together this blog, I had no idea how GatsbyJS worked, neither anything about graphQL, Gatsby starters, let alone Gastby themes. I was fascinated about Gatsby's flexibility, speed and interoperability as I tried to describe in one of my posts.

After setting up my blog using gatsby-theme-blog I was intrigued on how could I change aspects of my components, such as UI and data that is passed to them, but still leveraging the theme itself. That was when I came across the concept of theme shadowing.

My solution and implementation to passing data into any given component is not the best as I am using useStaticQuery in any component that I want to change the data structure. This, by the way, only happens if you want to increase the information detail that you would like to provide to your user.

From a conceptual stand point, I should be separating the data structure of my site and the UI aspect of it as this clearly splits both concepts and it also could be very helpful if you are working in a team where some prefer to work on the site data structure and others on the UI aspect of your site.

There are 2 forms of shadowing (not really)

After reading Chris Biscardi posts (post 1 and post 2) on component shadowing I came to the conclusion that there are effectively, for the gatsby-theme-blog, two themes. One is the parent and another one is the child theme. If you look in node_modules, this is what you will see:

├── _gatsby-theme-blog
├── _src
├── _gatsby-theme-blog-core
├── _src

In gatsby-theme-blog-core you will find the data model / structure of the site whereas in gatsby-theme-blog you will only find the UI supercharged with the theme-ui plug in so that you can style at scale.

What is also interesting, as per Chris Biscardi posts, is that when themes where first launched the shadowing feature was only applied to src/theme/components however now, given the way people started to use it, it was made available to src.

In theory I should be able to change the data structure of my blog across all components if I am able to shadow gatsby-theme-blog-core, however I will need to be aware of the implication of those changes across all components as the structure of my data object could be completely different

Despite the fact that only now I am able to grasp that concept (yes, I know it took me quiet a bit of time) I am still going to fall back on my not so ideal implementation. This will be just for now and in the future I am planning to change the data structure of my blog by changing the appropriate folder and keep the UI vs data structure abstraction that this theme has by design.

If you are reading this now and you haven't committed to inject data into your UI child theme, then you are in the perfect position to implement this the right way. My implementation below is more like a quick fix and not necessarily a robust and logical implementation.

Pulling data into post component

As I mentioned before, the only reason I am doing this is because I reckon the user will benefit to have access to more information about the blog post itself before starting to read it. A couple of more details, such as timeToRead, and information that I would be using on the frontmatter of my md files will be important from the reader standpoint.

title: Changing the data scheme on your gatsby theme
date: 2019-09-27
tags: ["blog","gatsby", "categories"]
categories: "Coding"

As you can see, ang if you compare this frontmatter with the md example files that you will find in gatsby-theme-blog, you will notice that I have added tags and categories. What is fantastic about this is that now you can query this data using graphQL.

Now that I have new and fresh data in my frontmatter I can query it using graphQl so that I can render it in my DOM my component is mounted. Let's check the example of post and how I will now render categories and timeToRead together with the title of the post.

So first things first, bellow you can find the graphQl query that I will be using, bearing in mind that I am adding this pieces of code into a the same post component that I copied from child theme gatsby-theme-blog:

const data = useStaticQuery(
query {
allMarkdownRemark(sort: { fields: [frontmatter___date], order: DESC }) {
nodes {
frontmatter {
date(formatString: "MMMM Do, YYYY")

Great, now I have all that data in the post component, so what should I be passing into my component return()? I mean, the above query will give all the data in my newly created data constant. Well to solve this I have created a new array that will only have the information that I wanted for that particular post title.

const postData = [];
const { nodes } = data.allMarkdownRemark;
nodes.forEach(node => {
const { timeToRead } = node;
const { title } = node.frontmatter;
const { categories } = node.frontmatter;
if (post.title === title) {
postTitle: title,
timeToRead: timeToRead,
categories: categories

To make it more interesting and also passing some emoji's into my categories as follows:

const catgIcons = [
{ name: "Coding", icon: "✍️" },
{ name: "Innovation", icon: "💡" },
{ name: "Travel", icon: "✈️" },
{ name: "Grit", icon: "🏃‍" }
catgIcons.forEach(catg => {
if (catg.name === postData[0].categories) {
icon: catg.icon

Perfect! now that I have my newly created array, I just need to inject this into the render() of my post component. Bellow you can see how I am solving for that:

<Styled css={css({ mb: `5px` })}>
{post.date} | {postData[0].timeToRead} minute(s) reading time
color: `primary`,
border: `solid 1px`,
boxSizing: `content-box`,
display: `inline-block`,
px: `4px`,
borderRadius: `5px`,
{postData[1].icon} {` `} {postData[0].categories}

This works fine, but as I am going through this I have to ask my self 1 question: Do I really need to do all this data manipulation in JavaScript, or could I do that on my graphQL query on the beginning? Surely there is a way to make the only pull the frontmatter of the post that I want and not all of them. This is definitely something that I will need to work on.

That is all for this post! See you around.

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