Fast app generation and deployment guide for Startup Weekend
Leaving Montana

Fast app generation and deployment guide for Startup Weekend

The aim of this guide is to demonstrate the fastest way to create a client-side web app and get it deployed. I’m writing it for myself in preparation for an upcoming Startup Weekend event. We’ll keep it CLI-heavy and automation-friendly as opposed to point-and-clicking our way through web dashboards.


  • GitLab - GitLab’s unlimited private repos, amazing CI and free public pages make it an excellent choice for deploying static sites.
  • React - create-react-app is the quickest way to start hacking on React without messing around with Babel and Webpack configs.
  • ES6 - we’ll use plain ES6 instead of something fancier like TypeScript, ReasonML, or Elm because the focus is speed and simplicity.


  • We’ll eschew typical production concerns like performance, security, configuration, and tests since we’re aiming to build an MVP in a weekend.
  • Even though a web app will likely need some CRUD we won’t spend the time and effort to use an actual database; instead the prototype will use client-side state to simulate how it will work.


This guide assumes Homebrew but the following packages can be installed by many other means.

brew install yarn
brew install jq
brew install ruby


Let’s create a GitLab group so we can collaborate with our teammates.

gem install gitlab

# visit and generate a token
echo "Enter your GitLab token"
 read -s gitlab_token
export GITLAB_API_PRIVATE_TOKEN=$gitlab_token

gitlab user # make sure we're authenticated
user_id=`gitlab user --json | jq ''`
echo $gitlab_user_id # this should be an integer

gitlab help create_group
# pick your own unique group name and group path
# these are global on GitLab
group_json=`gitlab create_group startup-weekend-2019 startup-weekend-2019 --json`
echo $group_json | jq
group_id=`echo $group_json | jq ''`
echo $group_id # should be an integer

# add your teammates (you'll need their GitLab user IDs)
gitlab help add_group_member
# we'll give everyone owner permissions for this exercise
# see for docs
gitlab add_group_member $group_id $user_id $access_level
# the above will fail because we're already a member
# instead perform this for gitlab users on your team that you want to add
# you can do this via the web dashboard if you like

Now that our group is setup and members added, let’s create the repo under it.

gitlab help create_project
project_json=`gitlab create_project app "{namespace_id: '$group_id'}" --json`
# confirm it succeeded:
echo $project_json

Node.js React App

Let’s generate a fresh React app:

yarn global add create-react-app
create-react-app startup-weekend
cd startup-weekend
yarn install

Now configure the git repo we setup in the previous step and push to it:

git remote add origin `echo $project_json | jq -r '.result.ssh_url_to_repo'`
git push -u origin master

Congratulations, your app source is now safe in GitLab. The next step is to deploy!

Deployment on GitLab Pages

First we need to specify the homepage property in package.json so CRA computes the correct asset paths when it builds assets.

group_path=`echo $group_json | jq -r '.result.full_path'`
project_path=`echo $project_json | jq -r '.result.path'`
gitlab_pages_url=`echo https://$$project_path`

cat package.json \
  | jq --arg homepage $gitlab_pages_url '. + {homepage: $homepage}' > $tmp \
  && mv $tmp package.json

git commit -am 'Add homepage to package.json'

Now we can setup CI. Run this to add a .gitlab-ci.yml to your repo specifying how to build in GitLab CI and deploy to GitLab Pages:

cat << 'EOF' > .gitlab-ci.yml
  untracked: true
    - node_modules/
    - .yarn-cache

image: node

  - deps
  - test
  - publish

  stage: deps
    - yarn config set cache-folder .yarn-cache
    - yarn install --pure-lockfile

pages: # must be named pages to publish to GitLab pages!
  stage: publish
    - yarn build
    # replace public contents with build - GitLab requires a `public` dir
    - rm -rf public/*
    - mv build/* public
    - ls -al public/
    - public

With this in place, GitLab CI will build and deploy our app on every git push. Let’s try it out:

git add .gitlab-ci.yml && git commit -m 'Setup GitLab CI deployments'
git push

Open up the pipelines dashboard and sit back while your app is built and deployed:

open `echo $project_json | jq -r '.result.web_url'`/pipelines

Once it’s finished, view your app:

open $gitlab_pages_url

At this point you can start developing your app and have it auto deployed any time someone pushes to master.

Closing thoughts

One of the Startup Weekend resources is $3k worth of credits on Google Cloud Platform. While GCP is an excellent option for real apps, I opted to keep things as minimal as possible, and it ended up being free.

We could very easily extend this further using the Firebase Realtime Database and Firebase Authentication which gets you Google / Facebook / Twitter / GitHub login and a schemaless data store with very little work. These options change nothing from a deployment standpoint as Firebase usage remains purely client side. And since Firebase is a part of the GCP offering you can use those credits.

Trevor Hartman

Written by on

Automate or die