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Decoupling data and presentation components in Gatsby themes

April 27, 2020 1 Min

When building a Gatsby theme it is best practice to separate data queries from presentation components. This separation of concerns enables a happy path for component shadowing in the finished production site.

Keep in mind that to do this you also need to control the page creation process in gatsby-node. The following example is theoretical - sorry no copy and paste code here! How page components are structured depends too much on a unique set of data sources and other components in a theme. There is however a link to a working example at the end of the post to help further demonstrate this concept in action.

Here is the file structure:

└── src
├── components
│ ├── queries
│ │ ├── page-query.js
│ │
│ ├── templates
│ │ ├── page-template.js

The data fetching component could look like this:

// page-query.js
import React from "react"
import { graphql } from "gatsby"
import Page from "../templates/page-template"
export default ({ data }) => {
return <Page data={{ }} />
export const query = graphql`
query PageQuery($id: String!) {
sitePage(id: { eq: $id }) {

Notice that data is passed down to the presentation component as a prop. So, as long as you give the presentation component the same data structure the component will continue to work. It doesn’t care where the data comes from, it cares how it is structured. This means you can switch a data source (e.g. markdown to a headless CMS) by shadowing a data component and passing the same data structure down to the presentation component.

The presentational page component could then look like this, all this component needs is a title and a body - from any source:

// page-template.js
/** @jsx jsx */
import { jsx, Styled } from "theme-ui"
import { SEO, Layout } from "gatsby-theme-catalyst-core"
const PageTemplate = ({ data }) => {
const page = data.sitePage
return (
<SEO title={page.title} />
<div dangerouslySetInnerHTML={{ page.body }} />
export default PageTemplate

Congratulations you have now decoupled the data and presentational components in your theme. This gives you the power to modify one - or both - without worrying about breaking your site!

You can see a great example of this principal in action by exploring how gatsby-theme-blog-core and gatsby-theme-blog are structured together. gatsby-theme-blog-core provides decoupled data and presentation components which are then shadowed in gatsby-theme-blog to enable a full working blog without having to touch the data source!

As a closing note you should also be considering using a hook for accessing site metadata within a theme. This follows the same principal of separating data queries from other components.

Happy coding!

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Illustrations by Diana Valeanu
Design inspired by Gatsby-Absurd
© 2020 Eric Howey