Building pages with Storybook

Storybook helps you build any component, from small “atomic” components to composed pages. But as you move up the component hierarchy toward the level of pages, you end up dealing with more complexity.

There are many ways to build pages in Storybook. Here are common patterns and solutions.

  • Pure presentational pages.
  • Connected components (e.g. network requests, context, browser environment).

Pure presentational pages

Teams at the BBC, The Guardian, and the Storybook maintainers themselves build pure presentational pages. If you take this approach, you don't need to do anything special to render your pages in Storybook.

It's straightforward to write components to be fully presentational all the way up to the screen level. That makes it easy to show in Storybook. The idea is you then do all the messy “connected” logic in a single wrapper component in your app outside of Storybook. You can see an example of this approach in the Data chapter of the Intro to Storybook tutorial.

The benefits:

  • Easy to write stories once components are in this form.
  • All the data for the story is encoded in the args of the story, which works well with other parts of Storybook's tooling (e.g. controls).

The downsides:

  • Your existing app may not be structured in this way and it may be difficult to change it.

  • Fetching data in one place means that you need to drill it down to the components that actually use it. This can be natural in a page that composes one big GraphQL query (for instance), but in other data fetching approaches may make this less appropriate.

  • It's less flexible if you want to load data incrementally in different places on the screen.

Args composition for presentational screens

When you are building screens in this way, it is typical that the inputs of a composite component are a combination of the inputs of the various sub-components it renders. For instance, if your screen renders a page layout (containing details of the current user), a header (describing the document you are looking at), and a list (of the subdocuments), the inputs of the screen may consist of the user, document and subdocuments.

In such cases it is natural to use args composition to build the stories for the page based on the stories of the sub-components:

This approach is particularly useful when the various subcomponents export a complex list of different stories, which you can pick and choose to build realistic scenarios for your screen-level stories without repeating yourself. By reusing the data and taking a Don't-Repeat-Yourself(DRY) philosophy, your story maintenance burden is minimal.

Mocking connected components

If you need to render a connected component in Storybook, you can mock the network requests that it makes to fetch its data. There are various layers in which you can do that.

Mocking providers

If you are using a provider that supplies data via the context, you can wrap your story in a decorator that supplies a mocked version of that provider. For example, in the Screens chapter of the Intro to Storybook tutorial we mock a Redux provider with mock data.

Additionally, there may be addons that supply such providers and nice APIs to set the data they provide. For instance storybook-addon-apollo-client provides this API:

Mocking imports

It is also possible to mock imports directly, as you might in a unit test, using webpack’s aliasing. This is extremely useful if your component makes network requests directly with third-party libraries.

We're going to use isomorphic-fetch as an example.

Let's start by creating our own mock, which we'll use later with a decorator. Create a new file called isomorphic-fetch.js inside a directory called __mocks__ (we'll leave the location to you, don't forget to adjust the imports to your needs) and add the following code inside:

The above code creates a decorator which reads story-specific data off the story's parameters, allowing you to configure the mock on a per-story basis.

To use the mock in place of the real import, we use webpack aliasing:

Add the decorator you've just implemented to your storybook/preview.js (if you don't have it already, you'll need to create the file):

Once that configuration is complete, we can set the mock values in a specific story. Let's borrow an example from this blog post:

Specific mocks

Another mocking approach is to use libraries that intercept calls at a lower level. For instance you can use fetch-mock to mock fetch requests specifically, or msw to mock all kinds of network traffic.

Similar to the import mocking above, once you have a mock you’ll still want to set the return value of the mock on a per-story basis. Do this in Storybook with a decorator that reads story parameters.

Avoiding mocking dependencies

It's possible to mostly avoid mocking the dependencies of connected "container" components entirely through passing them around via props, or React context. However, it necessitates a strict split of container and presentational component logic. For example, if you have a component that is responsible for data fetching logic and rendering DOM, it will need to be mocked as previously described.

It’s common to import and embed container components in amongst presentational components. However, as we discovered earlier, in order to also render them within Storybook, we’ll likely have to mock their dependencies or the imports themselves.

Not only can this quickly grow to become a tedious task, it’s also very difficult to mock container components that use local state. So, a solution to this problem is instead of importing containers directly, instead create a React context that provides the container components. This allows you to freely embed container components as usual, at any level in the component hierarchy without worrying about subsequently mocking their dependencies; since we can simply swap out the containers themselves with their mocked presentational counterpart.

We recommend dividing context containers up over specific pages or views in your app. For example, if you had a ProfilePage component, you might set up a file structure as follows:

It’s also often useful to setup a “global” container context, (perhaps named GlobalContainerContext) for container components that may be rendered on every page of your app, and adding it to the top level of your application. While it’s possible to place every container within this global context, it should only provide containers that are required globally.

Let’s look at an example implementation of this approach.

First we’ll need to create a React context, and we can name it ProfilePageContext. It does nothing more than export a React context:

ProfilePage is our presentational component. It will use the useContext hook to retrieve the container components from ProfilePageContext:

Mocking containers in Storybook

In the context of Storybook, instead of providing container components through context, we’ll instead provide their mocked counterparts. In most cases, the mocked versions of these components can often be borrowed directly from their associated stories.

If the same context applies to all ProfilePage stories, we can also use a decorator.

Providing containers to your application

Now, in context of your application, you’ll need to provide ProfilePage with all of the container components it requires by wrapping it with ProfilePageContext.Provider:

For example, in Next.js, this would be your pages/profile.js component.

Mocking global containers in Storybook

If you’ve setup GlobalContainerContext, in order to provide context to all stories you’ll need to set up a decorator within Storybook’s preview.js. For example: