Angular 9 Universal Example: Server Side Rendering (SSR), Prerender


SEO optimized Angular 9 App starter - The Ultimate Angular Universal Tutorial
Learn how to create and build a new Angular 9 project from scratch, implement an example with routing and HTTP client, and set up serve-side rendering and pre-rendering with Angular Universal and Express.

Getting started with Angular 9

Node.js (with npm included) is required. You can download the latest version from the following link.

Open your terminal and install the Angular CLI by running the following command:

npm install -g @angular/cli

You can now execute from your workspace directory the following command to generate your Angular web app:

ng new <your-app-name>

You can test your generated app by executing:

cd <your-app-name>
ng serve

Your app will be accessible locally from http://localhost:4200.


Angular Getting Started - 1- Node.js Setup with npm included
Node.js Setup with npm included
Angular Getting Started - 2- Angular CLI Setup
Angular CLI Setup
Angular Getting Started - 3- Generate Angular 9 App
Generate the Angular 9 App
Angular Getting Started - 4- Serve the Angular 9 App locally
Serve the Angular 9 App locally
Angular Getting Started - 5- Angular 9 app running
Angular 9 app running

Angular 9 App implementation example with routing and HttpClient

In this example, we will implement a miniature version of the current website.

Let's start by creating the Home and Article components to display the pages data:

ng generate component home
ng generate component article

We also need to generate an Articles service to retrieve the pages data:

ng generate service articles

HttpClient

As the app will communicate with a backend service using HTTP, HttpClientModule have to be imported to use the HttpClient service:

app.module.ts

import { HttpClientModule } from '@angular/common/http';
import { NgModule } from '@angular/core';
import { BrowserModule } from '@angular/platform-browser';
import { AppRoutingModule } from './app-routing.module';
import { AppComponent } from './app.component';
import { ArticleComponent } from './article/article.component';
import { HomeComponent } from './home/home.component';

@NgModule({
  declarations: [
    AppComponent,
    HomeComponent,
    ArticleComponent
  ],
  imports: [
    BrowserModule,
    AppRoutingModule,
    HttpClientModule
  ],
  providers: [],
  bootstrap: [AppComponent]
})
export class AppModule { }

The Articles service is used to retrieve all the articles data from an external API.

articles.service.ts

import { HttpClient } from '@angular/common/http';
import { Injectable } from '@angular/core';
import { Article, ArticleCard } from './model/article';

@Injectable({
  providedIn: 'root',
})
export class ArticlesService {
  apiBase = 'https://simply-how.herokuapp.com';
  articleCardsPath = '/article-cards';
  articlesPath = '/articles';

  constructor(private http: HttpClient) {}

  getArticle(id: string) {
    return this.http.get<Article>(`${this.apiBase}${this.articlesPath}/${id}`);
  }

  getArticleCards() {
    return this.http.get<ArticleCard[]>(
      `${this.apiBase}${this.articleCardsPath}`
    );
  }
}

The article definition data will be defined in src/app/model/article.d.ts

export interface Article extends ArticleCard {
  description: string;
  cover: Image;
}

export interface ArticleCard {
  title: string;
  slug: string;
}

export interface Image {
  src: string;
  alt: string;
}

Routing

The app will use routing to navigate between the home page and article pages. We have to define the routes using the RouterModule:

app-routing.module.ts

import { NgModule } from '@angular/core';
import { RouterModule, Routes } from '@angular/router';
import { ArticleComponent } from './article/article.component';
import { HomeComponent } from './home/home.component';


const routes: Routes = [
  { path: '', component: HomeComponent },
  { path: ':id', component: ArticleComponent }
];

@NgModule({
  imports: [RouterModule.forRoot(routes)],
  exports: [RouterModule]
})
export class AppRoutingModule { }

The app component will contain the router-outlet directive that defines where the router should display the components.

app.component.html

<!-- Toolbar -->
<div class="toolbar" role="banner">
  <a routerLink="">
    <img width="40" alt="Angular Logo"
      src="data:image/svg+xml;base64,PHN2ZyB4bWxucz0iaHR0cDovL3d3dy53My5vcmcvMjAwMC9zdmciIHZpZXdCb3g9IjAgMCAyNTAgMjUwIj4KICAgIDxwYXRoIGZpbGw9IiNERDAwMzEiIGQ9Ik0xMjUgMzBMMzEuOSA2My4ybDE0LjIgMTIzLjFMMTI1IDIzMGw3OC45LTQzLjcgMTQuMi0xMjMuMXoiIC8+CiAgICA8cGF0aCBmaWxsPSIjQzMwMDJGIiBkPSJNMTI1IDMwdjIyLjItLjFWMjMwbDc4LjktNDMuNyAxNC4yLTEyMy4xTDEyNSAzMHoiIC8+CiAgICA8cGF0aCAgZmlsbD0iI0ZGRkZGRiIgZD0iTTEyNSA1Mi4xTDY2LjggMTgyLjZoMjEuN2wxMS43LTI5LjJoNDkuNGwxMS43IDI5LjJIMTgzTDEyNSA1Mi4xem0xNyA4My4zaC0zNGwxNy00MC45IDE3IDQwLjl6IiAvPgogIDwvc3ZnPg==" />
  </a>
</div>

<div class="content" role="main">
  <router-outlet></router-outlet>
</div>

app.component.css

.toolbar {
  position: absolute;
  top: 0;
  left: 0;
  right: 0;
  height: 60px;
  display: flex;
  align-items: center;
  background-color: #1976d2;
}

.toolbar img {
  margin: 0 16px;
}

.content {
  display: flex;
  margin: 82px auto 32px;
  padding: 0 16px;
  max-width: 960px;
  flex-direction: column;
  align-items: center;
}

Home component

The home component will list all the article links.

home.component.ts

import { Component, OnInit } from '@angular/core';
import { ArticlesService } from '../articles.service';
import { ArticleCard } from '../model/article';

@Component({
  selector: 'app-home',
  templateUrl: './home.component.html',
  styleUrls: ['./home.component.css'],
})
export class HomeComponent implements OnInit {
  articleCards: ArticleCard[];

  constructor(private articlesService: ArticlesService) {}

  ngOnInit(): void {
    this.articlesService.getArticleCards().subscribe((cards) => {
      this.articleCards = cards;
    });
  }
}

home.component.html

<div *ngFor="let card of articleCards">
    <p><a routerLink="/{{card.slug}}">{{card.title}}</a></p>
</div>

*ngFor is used to iterate over the articleCards array and render a link for every one of them.

Article component

The Article component will display the title, the cover image and the description.

Navigating to the home page is possible by clicking on the Angular logo of the toolbar.

article.component.ts

import { Component, OnInit } from '@angular/core';
import { ActivatedRoute } from '@angular/router';
import { ArticlesService } from '../articles.service';
import { Article } from '../model/article';

@Component({
  selector: 'app-article',
  templateUrl: './article.component.html',
  styleUrls: ['./article.component.css'],
})
export class ArticleComponent implements OnInit {
  article: Article;

  constructor(
    private route: ActivatedRoute,
    private articlesService: ArticlesService
  ) {}

  ngOnInit(): void {
    this.route.paramMap.subscribe((params) => {
      const id = params.get('id');
      this.articlesService.getArticle(id).subscribe((article) => {
        this.article = article;
      });
    });
  }
}

article.component.html

<article *ngIf="article">
    <h1>{{article.title}}</h1>

    <a [href]="'https://simply-how.com/' + article.slug" target="_blank">
        <div class="cover-image">
            <img [alt]="article.cover.alt" [src]="article.cover.src" />
        </div>
    </a>

    <p>{{article.description}}</p>
</article>

*ngIf is used to render the structure only after the article was retrieved, which is when article will no longer be null or false.

article.component.css

h1 {
    text-align: center;
}

.cover-image {
    display: grid;
    height: 100%;
}

.cover-image img {
    max-width: 500px;
    max-height: 100vh;
    margin: auto;
}

Angular Implementation - 1- Generate Angular components and services
Generate the Angular components and services
Angular Implementation - 2- Home component
Home page
Angular Implementation - 3- Article component
Article page

Angular 9 server side rendering (SSR) example

The currently implemented Angular app is rendered in the browser, which means that when a user loads the page:

  1. The HTML document he receives is the empty index.html page skeleton
  2. Angular will initialize, then will construct the final article/home page after fetching and rendering the article data.

This is not very practical for many reasons:

  1. Poor search engine optimization (SEO)
  2. Low performance on mobile and low-powered devices
  3. More delayed first-contentful paint (FCP)

Server-side rendering is a technique that helps improve all the 3 sited limitations by fetching all the data then rendering the page on the server. The user will already receive an HTML page skeleton that contains article data.

Angular Universal is the most adopted technology that allows Angular web apps to be server-side rendered.

Getting started with Angular Universal

To convert the current project to Angular Universal with Express as it's rendering engine, execute:

ng add @nguniversal/express-engine

You can now start testing your Angular app's server-side rendering with the following command:

npm run dev:ssr

Keep in mind that there are many limitations when using Angular Universal. For example the window and document objects are not defined in a server context. But you can always limit some functionality to be used only on the server or on the browser. The following page has a comprehensive list of Universal limitations and how to work around them.

Production use

When the project migrated to Angular Universal, a server.ts file was generated. This file contains a minimal server implementation for rendering and serving an Angular Universal app using the Express framework in a Node.js runtime.

To build your Angular Universal app and server for production use, run:

npm run build:ssr

The main entry for the Express server app is located in dist/<your-app-name>/server/main.js. You can launch it locally by running:

npm run serve:ssr

The app will be accessible locally from the 4000 port.

You can also use other server side frameworks and runtime environments to deploy and serve your app, or even a use a content delivery network to deliver directly your generated static files. The next section will demonstrate how you could achieve that with the help of prerendering.


Angular SSR - 1- Angular HTML page skeleton
Angular HTML page skeleton
Angular SSR - 2- Install Angular Universal
Install Angular Universal
Angular SSR - 3- Launching Angular Universal development server
Launching the Angular Universal development server
Angular SSR - 4- Angular Universal server-side rendered page skeleton
Angular Universal server-side rendered page skeleton
Angular SSR - 5- Angular Universal production build
Angular Universal production build

Angular 9 pre-rendering example with dynamic routes

When the project migrated to Angular Universal, a prerender npm script was generated in the project's package.json. If we try to execute it, only the home page will be pre-rendered. That's because the current app uses dynamic routes: the page ids are unknown without manually calling an external service. That's why we will need the following prerendering solution.

Prerender Node.js script

In order to generate all the article pages, we will make use of the generated Express server.

We will also need to query all the article ids. The node-fetch Node.js library will help us make HTTP requests with Promise support (in order to use async/await):

npm install --save-dev node-fetch
npm install --save-dev @types/node-fetch

This is an implementation example of the pre-rendering script: prerender.ts

import { Express } from 'express';
import { existsSync, mkdirSync, writeFile } from 'fs';
import fetch from 'node-fetch';
import { join } from 'path';

const app: Express = require('./main').app();

const OUTPUT_FOLDER = join(process.cwd(), 'dist/prerender');
if (!existsSync(OUTPUT_FOLDER)) {
  mkdirSync(OUTPUT_FOLDER);
}

const port = process.env.PORT || 5000;
const expressBaseUrl = `http://localhost:${port}`;
const server = app.listen(port, async () => {
  console.log('Server launched');
  await prerenderPages();
  server.close(() => {
    console.log('Server closed');
  });
});

async function prerenderPages() {
  const articleCards = await fetch(
    'https://simply-how.herokuapp.com/article-cards'
  ).then((res) => res.json());
  const articleIds: string[] = articleCards.map((a) => a.slug);
  console.log(`Prerendering ${articleIds.length} pages ...`);
  await Promise.all(articleIds.map(prerenderPage));
}

async function prerenderPage(articleId) {
  const pageOutputPath = join(OUTPUT_FOLDER, articleId + '.html');
  const response = await fetch(`${expressBaseUrl}/${articleId}`);
  if (response.status === 200) {
    writeFile(pageOutputPath, await response.text(), (err) => {
      if (err) {
        throw err;
      }
    });
  } else {
    throw Error(`Received page not ok: /${articleId} - ${response.status}`);
  }
}

To build the prerender script, this TypeScript configuration file can be used: tsconfig.prerender.json

{
  "extends": "./tsconfig.json",
  "compilerOptions": {
    "outDir": "./dist/<your-app-name>/server",
    "module": "commonjs",
    "types": ["node"]
  },
  "files": ["prerender.ts"]
}

Create/replace the following npm scripts in the package.json file:

{
  "scripts": {
    // ...
    "build:prerender": "tsc -p tsconfig.prerender.json",
    "prerender": "node dist/<your-app-name>/server/prerender.js"
  }
}

We can now build and launch the prerendering by executing the following commands:

npm run build:prerender
npm run prerender

The pre-rendered HTML pages will be generated in the dist/prerender folder.

Next steps

Now that we pre-rendered the pages, we can either:

  • Use a content delivery network (CDN) or a static hosting service to deliver your app such as Firebase and Netlify.
  • Customize the Node.js server or use an alternative framework and runtime environnement then deploy a dynamic web app using a Platform as a Service (PaaS). If you need a PaaS with a free tier, checkout this guide.

Angular Prerendering - 1- Initial prerender script
Initial prerender script
Angular Prerendering - 2- Build and launch prerendering script
Build and launch the prerender script
Angular Prerendering - 3- Prerendered HTML pages
Pre-rendered HTML pages