Creating a Hello World React application from scratch

Creating a project from ground up without using any boilerplates feels pretty much like going on an adventure in a jungle without carrying a map. So let's go ahead and create a hello world React application from an empty directory to a fully functional React web application.

Initial Setup

  1. Create an empty directory for your application.
mkdir hello-world
  1. Quickly initiate a node project (make sure you have node and npm installed on your machine)
cd hello-world
npm init -y

Just in case you do not want the default initialization, use npm init skipping -y option.

That’s it! You have successfully initialized npm and we are now ready to add React.

Install React and ReactDOM

ReactDOM will serve as a glue between the browser DOM(Document Object Model) and our React application.

Let’s go ahead and install React and ReactDOM.

npm install react react-dom --save

Next, let’s install and setup Babel so that browsers can understand the JavaScript’s ES6 syntax that we'll be using in our application. It is not mandatory to use React with ES6 or further versions of JavaScript, React application can also be configured to use ES5 version.

Install and configure Babel

Babel is a JavaScript transpiler that will transpile ES6 and higher versions of JavaScript and React’s JSX to browser understandable JavaScript.

Install babel and configuration packages:

npm install babel-core babel-loader babel-preset-env babel-preset-react --save-dev

Okay some explanation here:

  1. babel-core - The actual babel package.
  2. babel-loader - Loader used by webpack to call babel.
  3. babel-preset-env - Babel preset used to transpile ES6 and higher version to ES5.
  4. babel-preset-react - Adds support for JSX.

Now let's add webpack to your application, which would help us bundle all the modularized code into a single JavaScript file.

Install and configure Webpack

Webpack is a module bundler. Webpack is a build tool that puts all your files including JS, CSS, images, fonts, JSON, etc into a dependency tree. It allows you to use require() and import in your code to make it more modularised.

Let’s put that too in!

npm install webpack --save-dev

Now create a webpack configuration file webpack.config.js in the root for project.

var path = require('path');
var webpack = require('webpack');

module.exports = {
  entry: './src/index.js',
  output: {
    path: path.resolve(__dirname, 'dist'),
    filename: 'bundle.min.js',
    libraryTarget: 'umd',

  module: {
    loaders: [
        test: /\.js$/,
        exclude: /(node_modules|bower_components|build)/,
        use: {
          loader: 'babel-loader',
          options: {
            presets: ['env'],

  plugins: [
    new webpack.DefinePlugin({
      'process.env': {
        NODE_ENV: JSON.stringify('production'),
    new webpack.optimize.UglifyJsPlugin({
      compress: {
        warnings: false,
      output: {
        comments: false,

After these steps your package.json should look something like this

  "name": "hello-world",
  "version": "1.0.0",
  "main": "index.js",
  "license": "ISC",
  "dependencies": {
    "react": "^16.2.0",
    "react-dom": "^16.2.0"
  "devDependencies": {
    "babel-core": "^6.26.0",
    "babel-loader": "^7.1.2",
    "babel-preset-env": "^1.6.1",
    "babel-preset-react": "^6.24.1",
    "webpack": "^3.10.0",
    "webpack-dev-server": "^2.9.7"

Phew! Enough of configuration. Now let’s get into some actual code for our application.

Create index.html and React components

Create an index.html file in the root of your project directory having a div with id root where our React code would be rendered. Notice how we added a script tag before closing body. This script tag references to the bundle that will be created by webpack.

<!doctype html>
<html lang="en">
   <title>Hello World</title>
     <div id="root"></div>

     <script src="./dist/bundle.min.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

Create a src directory in the root and place index.js file in it which will consist of, finally, our React component.

import React from 'react';
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';

const App = () => {
  return <h3>Hello World!</h3>

ReactDOM.render(<App />, document.getElementById('root'));

And we are done!

Add a build script in package.json

As a final step let’s add a script to package.json to run our build and generate a bundle file.

"scripts": {
   "build": "webpack"

To generate build run the following command:

npm run build

Open ./index.html in a web browser to view the react app! Cheers!

Read next:
Minimal React vs Create React App