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Production-ready Vue SSR in 5 Simple Steps

Here at Namecheap, we often use Vue.js on the frontend with server-side rendering (SSR). Setting up SSR in the first place, however, isn’t always so easy. That’s why I decided to describe this process in simple steps to make it easier for understanding. 

Also, after reading the official documentation, I started thinking that it might be useful to see the full picture: how the application should look at the end. So I created a repo with an example.

In this article we’ll cover how to set up production-ready SSR for Vue application using:

  • Webpack 4
  • Babel 7
  • Node.js Express server
  • Webpack-dev-middleware and webpack-hot-middleware for comfortable dev environment
  • Vuex for state management
  • vue-meta plugin for metadata management 

Let me note that we won’t cover the basics of these technologies. We’ll concentrate on SSR only, and jump right into the action. I hope you find it helpful… Now let’s get into it!

Step 1. Configure Webpack

At this point, you probably already have a Vue app, and if you don’t, feel free to use my repo as a boilerplate. 

First, let’s take a look at our folders and files structure:

As you can see, it’s pretty standard except for a couple of things that might catch your eye:

  • there are two separate webpack configs for client and server builds: webpack.client.config.js and webpack.server.config.js.
  • there are two respective entry files: client-entry.js and server-entry.js.

This is actually a key configuration point of our application. Here is a great diagram from the official documentation that provides  the architecture overview we’re implementing: 

Client config is the one that you’ve probably already dealt with. It’s basically for building our application into plain JS and CSS files.

// config/webpack.client.config.js
const path = require('path');
const webpack = require('webpack');
const merge = require('webpack-merge');
const MiniCssExtractPlugin = require('mini-css-extract-plugin');
const VueLoaderPlugin = require('vue-loader/lib/plugin');
const autoprefixer = require('autoprefixer');
const base = require('./webpack.base.config');
const isProduction = process.env.NODE_ENV === 'production';
const srcPath = path.resolve(process.cwd(), 'src');
module.exports = merge(base, {
   entry: {
       app: path.join(srcPath, 'client-entry.js')
   output: {
       path: path.resolve(process.cwd(), 'dist'),
       publicPath: '/public',
       filename: isProduction ? '[name].[hash].js' : '[name].js',
       sourceMapFilename: isProduction 
           ? '[name].[hash].js.map' 
           : '[name].js.map',
   resolve: {
       extensions: ['.js', '.vue'],
   module: {
       rules: [         
               test: /\.css$/,
               use: [
                       loader: 'css-loader',
                       options: {
                           sourceMap: !isProduction 
               test: /\.scss$/,
               use: [
                       loader: 'postcss-loader',
                       options: {
                           plugins: () => [autoprefixer]
   plugins: [
       new VueLoaderPlugin(),
       ...(isProduction ? [
           new MiniCssExtractPlugin({
               filename: '[name].[contenthash].css',
       ] : [
           new MiniCssExtractPlugin({
               filename: '[name].css',
               hmr: true,
           new webpack.HotModuleReplacementPlugin(),

Server config is an interesting one. We need it to generate a special json file-server bundle, that will be used on the server-side for rendering the plain html of our Vue app. We use vue-server-renderer/server-plugin for this purpose.

// config/webpack.server.config.js
const nodeExternals = require('webpack-node-externals');
const VueLoaderPlugin = require('vue-loader/lib/plugin');
const VueSSRServerPlugin = require('vue-server-renderer/server-plugin');
const path = require('path');
const merge = require('webpack-merge');
const base = require('./webpack.base.config');
const srcPath = path.resolve(process.cwd(), 'src');
module.exports = merge(base, {
   entry: path.join(srcPath, 'server-entry.js'),
   target: 'node',
   // This tells the server bundle to use Node-style exports
   output: {
       libraryTarget: 'commonjs2'
   // This is a plugin that turns the entire output of the server build
   // into a single JSON file. The default file name will be
   // `vue-ssr-server-bundle.json`
   plugins: [
       new VueSSRServerPlugin(),
       new VueLoaderPlugin(),

Another thing that is different from the client config is that we don’t need to process CSS files, so there are no loaders and plugins for it.

As you may have figured out, all common settings for client and server configs we put to the base config.

// config/webpack.base.config.js	
const path = require('path');
const srcPath = path.resolve(process.cwd(), 'src');
const isProduction = process.env.NODE_ENV === 'production';
module.exports = {
   mode: process.env.NODE_ENV,
   devtool: isProduction ? 'source-map' : 'eval-source-map',
   module: {
       rules: [
               test: /\.vue$/,
               loader: 'vue-loader',
               include: [ srcPath ],
               test: /\.js$/,
               loader: 'babel-loader',
               include: [ srcPath ],
               exclude: /node_modules/,
               test: /\.(png|jpe?g|gif|svg)(\?.*)?$/,
               use: [
                       loader: 'url-loader',
                       options: {
                           limit: 10000,
                           name: '[path][name].[hash:7].[ext]',
                           context: srcPath
               test: /\.(woff2?|eot|ttf|otf)(\?.*)?$/,
               use: [
                       loader: 'url-loader',
                       options: {
                           limit: 10000,
                           name: '[name].[hash:7].[ext]'

Step 2. Create Application Entries

Before we get into the client and server entries, let’s have a look at the app.js file:

// app.js
import Vue from 'vue';
import Vuex from 'vuex';
import Meta from 'vue-meta';
import App from './App.vue';
import {createRouter} from './router';
import createStore from './store';
Vue.use(Meta, {
   ssrAppId: 1
export const createApp = (context) =>  {
   const router = createRouter();
   const store = createStore(context.state);
   const app = new Vue({
       render: h => h(App),
   return {app, router, store};

Note that instead of just creating an app instance, we export a factory function createApp(). If our app were running in the browser env only, we wouldn’t have to worry about our users getting a fresh new Vue instance for each request. But since we’re creating the app in the node.js process, our code will be evaluated once and stay in the memory of the same context. 

So if we use one Vue instance across multiple requests, it can lead to a situation when one user gets the app state of another’s. In order to avoid this scenario, we should create a new app instance for each request. Also, for the same reason, it’s not recommended that you use stateful singletons in Vue app.

Every real-life app will have some metadata, like title or description, that should be different from page to page. You can achieve this with a vue-meta plugin. Click here to understand why we’re using the ssrAppId option. 

// client-entry.js	
import { createApp } from './app';
const { app, router } = createApp({state: window.__INITIAL_STATE__});
import './assets/style.scss';
router.onReady(() => {

In the client entry, we call createApp(), passing the initial state injected by the server. After the router has completed the initial navigation, we mount the app to the DOM. Also in this file, you can import global styles and initialize directives or plugins that work with the DOM.

// src/server-entry.js	
import { createApp } from './app';
export default context => {
   // since there could potentially be asynchronous route hooks or 
   // components, we will be returning a Promise so that the server can
   // wait until everything is ready before rendering.
   return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
       const { app, router, store } = createApp(context);
       // metadata is provided by vue-meta plugin
       const meta = app.$meta();
       // set server-side router's location
       context.meta = meta;
       // wait until router has resolved possible async components and 
       // hooks
       router.onReady(() => {
           const matchedComponents = router.getMatchedComponents();
           // no matched routes, reject with 404
           if (!matchedComponents.length) {
               return reject({ code: 404 });
           // This `rendered` hook is called when the app has finished
           // rendering
           context.rendered = () => {
               // After the app is rendered, our store is now
               // filled with the state from our components.
               // When we attach the state to the context, and the 
               // `template` option is used for the renderer, the state
               // will automatically be serialized and injected into the
               // HTML as `window.__INITIAL_STATE__`.
               context.state = store.state;
           // the Promise should resolve to the app instance so it can
           // be rendered
       }, reject);

Server entry is pretty much described by the comments in the code. The one thing I’d add regarding the router.onReady() callback is that if we use a serverPrefetch hook for data prefetching in some of our components, it waits until the promise returning from the hook is resolved. We’ll see an example of how to use it a bit later.

Now we can add scripts for building our app to the package.json:

// package.json	
    "cross-env NODE_ENV=production webpack --config ./config/webpack.client.config.js",
    "cross-env NODE_ENV=production webpack --config ./config/webpack.server.config.js"

Step 3. Run Express Server with Bundle Renderer 

In order to render our app into plain HTML on the server side, we’ll use vue-server-renderer module and the ./dist/vue-ssr-server-bundle.json file that we generated by running build:server script. Let’s not think about development mode for now, we’ll discuss it in the next step.

// server.js	
const express = require('express');
const path = require('path');
const fs = require('fs');
const vueServerRenderer = require('vue-server-renderer');
const setupDevServer = require('./config/setup-dev-server');
const port = 3000;
const app = express();
const createRenderer = (bundle) =>
   vueServerRenderer.createBundleRenderer(bundle, {
       runInNewContext: false,
       template: fs.readFileSync(
           path.resolve(__dirname, 'index.html'),
let renderer;
// you may want to serve static files with nginx or CDN
app.use('/public',  express.static(path.resolve(__dirname, './dist')));
if (process.env.NODE_ENV === 'development') {
    setupDevServer(app, (serverBundle) => {
        renderer = createRenderer(serverBundle);
} else {
    renderer = createRenderer(
app.get(/^\/(about)?\/?$/, async (req, res) => {
   const context = {
       url: req.params['0'] || '/',
       state: {
           title: 'Vue SSR Simple Steps,
           users: []
   let html;
   try {
       html = await renderer.renderToString(context);
   } catch (error) {
       if (error.code === 404) {
           return res.status(404).send('404 | Page Not Found');
       return res.status(500).send('500 | Internal Server Error');
app.listen(port, () => console.log(`Listening on: ${port}`));

First, we need to create a renderer by calling the createBundleRenderer() method and passing two arguments: the bundle that we generated earlier and the next options:

  • runInNewContext

Do you remember the problem with sharing application state between multiple requests that we discussed in the previous step? This option aims to solve that. But creating a new V8 context and re-executing the bundle for each request is an expensive operation, so it’s recommended that you set this flag to false due to possible performance issues. Also, beware of using stateful singletons in the app.

  • template
// index.html
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
       {{{ meta.inject().title.text() }}}
       {{{ meta.inject().meta.text() }}}
       <link rel="stylesheet" href="public/app.css">
       <script async src="public/app.js"></script>
</body> </html>

There is a special comment that will be replaced with HTML that’s generated by the renderer. And by the way, using the template option, the renderer will automatically add a script with declaring __INITIAL_STATE__ global variable that we use in client-entry.js to create our app.

Now, when we have a renderer instance, we can generate HTML by calling the renderToString() method, passing the initial state and current URL for the router.

Step 4. Set Up the Dev Environment

What do we need for a comfortable dev environment? I’d say the following:

  • run only one node.js server without using an additional webpack-dev-server
  • re-generate vue-ssr-server-bundle.json files every time our source code is changed
  • hot reloading

In order to accomplish all of these things, we can use the setupDevServer() function in server.js (see the previous step).

// config/setup-dev-server.js
const setupDevServer = (app, onServerBundleReady) => {
   const webpack = require('webpack');
   const MFS = require('memory-fs')
   const path = require('path');
   const clientConfig = require('./webpack.client.config');
   const serverConfig = require('./webpack.server.config');
   // additional client entry for hot reload
   clientConfig.entry.app = ['webpack-hot-middleware/client',
   const clientCompiler = webpack(clientConfig);
   // setup dev middleware
   app.use(require('webpack-dev-middleware')(clientCompiler, {
       publicPath: clientConfig.output.publicPath,
       serverSideRender: true,
       logLevel: 'silent'
   // setup hot middleware
   // watch src files and rebuild SSR bundle
   global.console.log('Building SSR bundle...');
   const serverCompiler = webpack(serverConfig);
   const mfs = new MFS();
   serverCompiler.outputFileSystem = mfs
   serverCompiler.watch({}, (error, stats) => {
       if (error) throw error;
               colors: true,
               modules: false,
               children: false,
               chunks: false,
               chunkModules: false,
       if (stats.hasErrors()) {
           throw new Error(stats.compilation.errors);
       // read bundle generated by vue-ssr-webpack-plugin       
       bundle = JSON.parse(
               'vue-ssr-server-bundle.json'), 'utf-8')
module.exports = setupDevServer;

This function accepts two arguments:

  • app – our Express app;
  • onServerBundleReady() – callback that is called each time the source code is changed and new vue-ssr-server-bundle.json is generated. It takes the bundle as an argument.

In server.js we pass a callback onServerBundleReady() as an arrow function that accepts a fresh bundle and re-creates the renderer.

Note that we require all dependencies inside of the setupDevServer() function, we don’t need them to consume our process memory in production mode. 

Now let’s add npm script for running the server in development mode using nodemon:

"dev": "cross-env NODE_ENV=development nodemon ./server.js",

Step 5. Use ServerPrefetch()

Most likely you’ll need to get some data from the server when your app is initializing. You can do it by simply calling API endpoint once a root  component is mounted. But in this case, your user will have to observe a spinner—not the best user experience. 

Instead, we can fetch the data during SSR using the serverPrefetch() component hook that was added in 2.6.0 Vue version. Let’s add an endpoint to our server.

// server.js
app.get('/users', (req, res) => {
           name: 'Albert',
           lastname: 'Einstein'
       }, {
           name: 'Isaac',
           lastname: 'Newton'
       }, {
           name: 'Marie',
           lastname: 'Curie'

We’ll call this endpoint in getUsers action. Now let’s take a look at an example of using the serverPrefetch() hook in a component.

// src/modules/home/index.vue
       <router-link to="/about">Go to About page</router-link>
       <users-list :users="users"></users-list>

   import {mapGetters} from 'vuex';
   import UsersList from './components/users-list/index.vue';
   export default {
       name: 'Home',
       metaInfo: {
           title: 'Vue SSR Simple Setup Home',
           meta: [
               { name: 'description', content: 'Home page description' }
       components: {
       computed: {
               users: 'users',
       // Server-side only
       // This will be called by the server renderer automatically
       serverPrefetch () {
           // return the Promise from the action
           // so that the component waits before rendering
           return this.getUsers();
       // Client-side only
       mounted () {
           // If we didn't already do it on the server, we fetch the
           // users
           if (!this.users.length) {
       methods: {
           getUsers () {
               return this.$store.dispatch('getUsers');

As you can see, we use serverPrefetch() along with a mounted() hook. We need it for cases when a user is sent to this page from another route on the client side, so the users array is empty and we call the API.

Also, check out how we define the title and the description metadata for a particular page in the metaInfo property provided by vue-meta plugin.

Well, this is it. I think we covered all the main configuration points of setting up SSR for Vue.js and I hope these steps helped you to better understand this process.

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Oleg Pisklov avatar

Oleg Pisklov

Senior software engineer at Namecheap More articles written by Oleg.

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