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Pages and routes

What you'll learn

  1. How to add new pages
  2. How to link from one page to another
  3. How to style a page with CSS
Demo of pages and layouts

Creating a new project

Before we get started, let's create a fresh new project called "pages-and-routes" using the Elm Land CLI:

sh
elm-land init pages-and-routes
sh
cd pages-and-routes
sh
elm-land server

You should see your new Elm Land application is running at http://localhost:1234.

Adding new pages

When you create a new project with elm-land init, a homepage is automatically created for you. A homepage is a great start, but most web applications will need multiple pages.

Let's imagine we are building a GitHub clone. Here are six pages it might contain:

  • Home - shows a feed with interesting repos to follow
  • Sign in - allow users to sign in with email/password
  • Account Settings - allows a user to change their email, username, etc
  • User - shows the profile for a specific user
  • Repo - shows a repo for a specific user
  • File Explorer - shows a repo for a specific user

In Elm Land, the names of files in the src/Pages folder automatically connect a URL to a specific page. For example, if you navigated to /banana in your web browser, Elm Land would look for a file named src/Pages/Banana.elm.

With that in mind, what would the pages in our fake GitHub app look like?

PageElm File & Example URLs
HomeElm file:
src/Pages/Home_.elm

URLs:
/
Sign inElm file:
src/Pages/SignIn.elm

URLs:
/sign-in
Account SettingsElm file:
src/Pages/Settings/Account.elm

URLs:
/settings/account
UserElm file:
src/Pages/User_.elm

URLs:
/elm
/elm-land
/ryannhg
RepoElm file:
src/Pages/User_/Repo_.elm

URLs:
/elm/compiler
/elm-land/vscode
/ryannhg/elm-spa
Code ExplorerElm file:
src/Pages/User_/Repo_/Tree/Branch_/ALL_.elm

URLs:
/elm-land/elm-land/tree/main/README.md
/elm-land/elm-land/tree/main/examples/01-hello-world/elm.json
/elm/compiler/tree/master/roadmap.md

Let's add each of those pages together!

The "Sign in" page

To get started, let's start with a page that is displayed when a user visits the URL /sign-in.

We can create our sign-in page using the elm-land add page command shown below:

sh
elm-land add page:view /sign-in
txt
🌈  Elm Land added a new page at /sign-in
    ⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺
    You can edit your new page here:
    ./src/Pages/SignIn.elm

The elm-land add page:view command created a view-only page that allows us to customize two things:

  • title - the text shown in the browser tab
  • body - the HTML we want to render on the screen

Here's what that code looks like for our /sign-in page

elm
module Pages.SignIn exposing (page)

import Html exposing (..)
import View exposing (View)


page : View msg
page =
    { title = "Pages.SignIn"
    , body = [ text "/sign-in" ]
    }

Anytime you run the elm-land add page:view command, a new file will be created in the src/Pages folder.

If we visit http://localhost:1234/sign-in in the browser, we will see this new page:

Browser window showing the sign in page

The "Account Settings" page

Some pages in our app need a URL like /settings/account or /settings/notifications. In Elm Land, we refer to these as "nested routes".

A nested route is what we call a route with more than one slash in the URL. Let's add a nested route for account settings:

sh
elm-land add page:view /settings/account
txt
🌈  Elm Land added a new page at /settings/account
    ⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺
    You can edit your new page here:
    ./src/Pages/Settings/Account.elm

Here is the code generated at ./src/Pages/Settings/Account.elm:

elm
module Pages.Settings.Account exposing (page)

import Html exposing (..)
import View exposing (View)


page : View msg
page =
    { title = "Pages.Settings.Account"
    , body = [ text "/settings/account" ]
    }

This is what we see when we visit http://localhost:1234/settings/account

Browser window showing the settings page

"How deep can I nest routes?"

You can nest routes as much as you like, it doesn't have to be only two-levels deep:

sh
elm-land add page:view /something/really/nested/like/super/nested

That command will create a file in a bunch of nested folders inside your src/Pages directory, and be available when visiting the provided URL.

The "User" page

For things like the "User" page, our app won't know all the usernames up-front. It's common to define a single detail page that will work for any username provided in the URL.

When we need to handle URLs like /ryan, /duncan, or /alexa, we can make a "dynamic route".

A dynamic route passes in URL parameters (like username) to your page as an input, so it can handle the dynamic values.

sh
elm-land add page:view /:user

Unlike our static /sign-in and /settings/account pages, the dynamic user page has access to a URL parameter input. Let's take a look at the new file together:

elm
module Pages.User_ exposing (page)

import Html exposing (..)
import View exposing (View)


page : { user : String } -> View msg
page params =
    { title = "Pages.User_"
    , body = [ text ("/" ++ params.user) ]
    }

Here, the value of params.user depends on the URL in the browser. For example, when a user navigates to /elm-land, the value of params.user will be "elm-land".

This will be helpful later, when we learn how to work with APIs to fetch different content based on URL parameters.

Naming dynamic parameters

We learned earlier that page filenames affect which URL renders our page. Did you know they also affect the names of our dynamic URL parameters?

Because our user page was at User_.elm, the value for our URL parameter is params.user.

If we renamed this file to Id_.elm, it would automatically update the parameter name to params.id. The Elm compiler will let us know if any of our code needs to change. This gives you the flexibility to choose the name that makes sense in each specific scenario.

"What's up with the trailing underscore?"

You may have noticed there is a trailing underscore in the "User_.elm" file. What's up with that?

Underscores help Elm Land distinguish a static route from a dynamic one:

  • User.elm is static, and only handles /user
  • User_.elm is dynamic, and can handle /ryannhg, /elm-land, and more

The "Repo" route

For our repo route, we'll want to access two dynamic parameters:

  1. The user who owns the repo
  2. The repo name for the project.

Elm Land supports nested dynamic routes, which handle multiple dynamic URL parameters:

sh
elm-land add page:view /:user/:repo
elm
module Pages.User_.Repo_ exposing (page)

import Html exposing (..)
import View exposing (View)


page : { user : String, repo : String } -> View msg
page params =
    { title = "Pages.User_.Repo_"
    , body =
        [ text ("/" ++ params.user ++ "/" ++ params.repo)
        ]
    }

The "Code Explorer" page

Some web applications have pages that need to respond to many different URLs with an unknown number of / characters between them. This might not make sense for Twitter, but can be helpful if you are building an app like GitHub.

To help users navigate their projects, GitHub has a code explorer page, which needs to handle a pattern like this:

txt
/:owner/:repo/tree/:branch/*

Here are some real URL examples to help you visualize how the depth of this page's URL could be any length:

txt
/elm/compiler/tree/master/README.md
/elm-land/elm-land/tree/main/docs/README.md
/elm-land/elm-land/tree/main/examples/01-hello-world/elm.json

There will always be an owner, repo, and branch, but the number of files in a user's repo could be multiple URL levels deep. It depends on the content of each project's repo.

sh
elm-land add page:view '/:user/:repo/tree/:branch/*'

This will create a file at src/Pages/User_/Repo_/Tree/Branch_/ALL_.elm:

elm
module Pages.User_.Repo_.Tree.Branch_.ALL_ exposing (page)

import Html exposing (..)
import View exposing (View)


page :
    { user : String
    , repo : String
    , branch : String 
    , all_ : List String 
    }
    -> View msg
page params =
    { title = "Pages.User_.Repo_.Tree.Branch_.ALL_"
    , body = [ text "..." ]
    }

The ALL_.elm filename is a special filename to handle a "catch-all route". Try opening any of these URLs in your web browser, all of them will match the new page we created!

  • http://localhost:1234/elm/compiler/tree/master/README.md
  • http://localhost:1234/elm-land/elm-land/tree/main/docs/README.md
  • http://localhost:1234/elm-land/elm-land/tree/main/examples/01-hello-world/elm.json

The "all_" parameter

When working with catch-all routes, you'll have access to the special params.all_ parameter. Here's a quick visualization of how the value of params.all_ will change, based on the URL:

URLroute.params
/blog/hello{ all_ = [ "hello" ] }
/blog/elm/land{ all_ = [ "elm", "land" ] }
/blog/elm/land/ui{ all_ = [ "elm", "land", "ui" ] }

The "elm-land routes" command

After adding in all these pages, our project should look something like this:

txt
pages-and-routes/
├── README.md
├── elm.json
├── elm-land.json
└── src/
    └── Pages/
        ├── Home_.elm
        ├── SignIn.elm
        ├── Settings/
        │   └── Account.elm
        ├── User_.elm
        └── User_/
            ├── Repo_.elm
            └── Repo_/
                └── Tree/
                    └── Branch_/
                        └── ALL_.elm

If you are ever curious about the routes in your Elm application, you can use the built-in elm-land routes command. Here's what that looks like:

sh
elm-land routes
txt

  🌈  Elm Land (v0.19.5) found 6 pages in your application
    ⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺⎺
  src/Pages/Home_.elm ........................... /
  src/Pages/SignIn.elm .......................... /sign-in
  src/Pages/Settings/Account.elm ................ /settings/account
  src/Pages/User_.elm ........................... /:user
  src/Pages/User_/Repo_.elm ..................... /:user/:repo
  src/Pages/User_/Repo_/Tree/Branch_/ALL_.elm ... /:user/:repo/tree/:branch/*

So far, to navigate from one page to another, we've been manually changing the URL in the browser. In a real app, our users need a way to navigate the app within the UI.

For that reason, let's make a sidebar component with convenient links to the "Homepage", "Settings", and "User" pages. We'll design our component so it's easy to add it to any page we like.

The "Sidebar" component

Let's start by creating a new file at src/Components/Sidebar.elm, with the following content:

elm
module Components.Sidebar exposing (view)

import Html exposing (..)
import Html.Attributes exposing (..)
import View exposing (View)


view :
    { title : String
    , body : List (Html msg) 
    }
    -> View msg
view props =
    { title = props.title
    , body =
        [ div [ class "layout" ]
            [ aside [ class "sidebar" ]
                [ a [ href "/" ] [ text "Home" ]
                , a [ href "/elm-land" ] [ text "User" ]
                , a [ href "/elm-land/vscode" ] [ text "Repo" ]
                , a [ href "/settings/account" ] [ text "Settings" ]
                ]
            , div [ class "page" ] props.body
            ]
        ]
    }

To make it easy to reuse, we'll accept the entire page as the input to the UI component. Just like we might pass in a String, Int, or another value, we can pass in Html msg to allow our page's content to be nested inside our component.

Using components on pages

This new sidebar isn't automatically wired up to all our pages. In Elm Land, you can easily opt-in to which pages should use the sidebar by importing the module.

For our example, we don't want a sidebar on the "Sign in" page. For that reason, we will only connect it to our "Homepage", "Account Settings", and "User" page by adding in these lines of code:

elm
module Pages.Home_ exposing (page)

import Components.Sidebar
import Html exposing (..)
import View exposing (View)


page : View msg
page =
    Components.Sidebar.view
        { title = "Homepage"
        , body = [ text "Hello, world!" ]
        }

Here's what we did in the code snippet above:

  1. Imported the Components.Sidebar module on line 3
  2. Passed in the previous { title, body } record as an input to our component

Try following the same steps to get this working for: Pages.Settings.Account and Pages.User_. I've included the actual code snippets when you're ready to see what's changed:

Adding the sidebar to Pages.Settings.Account
elm
module Pages.Settings.Account exposing (page)

import Components.Sidebar
import Html exposing (..)
import View exposing (View)


page : View msg
page =
    Components.Sidebar.view
        { title = "Pages.Settings.Account"
        , body = [ text "/settings/account" ]
        }
Adding the sidebar to Pages.User_
elm
module Pages.User_ exposing (page)

import Components.Sidebar
import Html exposing (..)
import View exposing (View)


page : { username : String } -> View msg
page params =
    Components.Sidebar.view 
      { title = "Pages.User_"
      , body = [ text ("/" ++ params.user) ]
      }

Adding in CSS

All of our pages and layouts are ready, but there's still one missing piece: the page doesn't look pretty. We can add CSS to our Elm Land projects by modifying the elm-land.json file at the root of our project.

Let's add a <link> tag to our HTML by updating the app.html.link property:

json
{
  "app": {
    "elm": {
      "development": { "debugger": true },
      "production": { "debugger": false }
    },
    "env": [],
    "html": {
      "attributes": {
        "html": { "lang": "en" },
        "head": {}
      },
      "title": "My Elm Land App",
      "meta": [
        { "charset": "UTF-8" },
        { "http-equiv": "X-UA-Compatible", "content": "IE=edge" },
        { "name": "viewport", "content": "width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0" }
      ],
      "link": [
        { "rel": "stylesheet", "href": "/main.css" }
      ],
      "script": []
    },
    "router": {
      "useHashRouting": false
    },
    "proxy": null
  }
}

The "static" folder

You can serve static files like images or CSS by adding them in a static folder at the project root, alongside the src folder and elm-land.json file.

Let's start by creating a file at ./static/main.css:

txt
pages-and-routes/
├── README.md
├── elm.json
├── elm-land.json
├── src/
│   └── Pages/
│       └── ...
└── static/
    └── main.css
css
/* static/main.css */

body {
  padding: 32px;
}

.layout {
  display: flex;
  gap: 16px;
}

.sidebar {
  display: flex;
  flex-direction: column;
  gap: 8px;
}

Now that we've added in some CSS, we should see our full example working. We can use our sidebar to navigate from one page to another.

Demo of pages and layouts

See the full example in the examples/02-pages-and-routes folder on GitHub.

Nice work!

You just made a multi-page application in Elm Land! Next up, let's take a look at how we can handle user input by learning "The Elm Architecture".

See you there! 👋

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