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Creating Dynamic Navigation in Gatsby

At times you will want to be able to edit your website’s navigation in response to a change in requirements. To achieve this, you can use Gatsby to dynamically generate your navigation. Where you store the data for your navigation can be anywhere - a backend API, CMS, headless CMS or even the filesystem.

What this section will cover:

  • Adding data to your site’s configuration
  • Querying the data using GraphQL
  • Pulling the data into a component using StaticQuery
  • Dynamically rendering your navigation

You will be using gatsby-config.js to store the data for your links. gatsby-config.js is a file used for configuring Gatsby, located in the root path of every Gatsby project. A plain old JavaScript object is exported from this file; this object contains the siteMetadata object which you can query through GraphQL when generating your static pages.

This guide will use the Gatsby starter project gatsby-starter-default, which can be downloaded through the Gatsby command line interface tool using the command gatsby new [project-name] https://github.com/gatsbyjs/gatsby-starter-default.

First, locate the gatsby-config.js file in the root directory of your project. Inside the siteMetadata object, add an array of menu link objects. These objects should contain two properties: name and link. name is the name of your navigation item and link is the page which will be navigated to when a menu item is clicked.

Viewing the siteMetadata in GraphQL

GraphQL can be used to query for information contained in the siteMetadata object located in your project’s gatsby-config.js. In order to test this out, you can start the default-starter-project in development mode by running npm run develop.

Navigate to http://localhost:8000/___graphql in your browser to view the GraphiQL editor, which enables you to test GraphQL queries on the underlying APIs. Using the documentation explorer you can view the current GraphQL schema for your project, which is an invaluable resource during development.

Examining the available types in GraphQL you will notice that you can query site. This GraphQL type further returns the siteMetadata which needs to be accessed to create the dynamic navigation. At this point, it is useful if you know a little GraphQL in order to extract the menu links. If you are unfamiliar with GraphQL, there is some excellent documentation available at GraphQL’s official website found here that you can use to brush up on your skills! The query below will return the menu links.

When executing this query within the GraphiQL editor you see output that looks similar to the following:

Perfect! You now have a way of obtaining data from the gatsby-config.js file. Continue by pulling this data into the layout using the query you just formed.

Pulling data inside the layout component

Inside your project, locate the src/components folder and navigate to the layout.js file. Within this layout component, you should notice a component named StaticQuery.

StaticQuery is a new component introduced in Gatsby V2, which allows you to run GraphQL queries within your components, not just pages. It allows developers to collocate data with their components.

Extend the query within this component to include the menu links, so it looks like so:

With the above changes to your StaticQuery component, the render property, which accepts a function that takes one argument, now has access to the menu links for use inside the function (as the argument). The last thing that is left to do is to display the site’s navigation.

To do this, the header component that is already available in the project seems like it might be a good starting place to display the navigation. Pass the menuLinks object to this header component like so:

Using the header component to display the navigation

Locate the header.js file inside src/components and remove everything so only the functional component definition is left (everything else is boilerplate code given to you when generating your project):

Starting the development server by running npm run develop and navigating to http://localhost:8000 you should now see some dynamically generated menu links on your page.

If you have made it this far, good job! You can now add new site links to your website dynamically by adding entries to the gatsby-config.js file.

Where to next?

Be sure to check out more documentation for further in-depth examples and guides on achieving tasks using Gatsby.

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