Deploying React Applications with Webhooks and Slack on Ubuntu 16.04

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When a developer is making continuous changes to an application, a deployment system with webhooks can streamline development, particularly for teams. Integrating Slack notifications for code changes into a team's workflow can also be helpful if part of the team relies on back-end software like an API.

In this tutorial, you will build a React application with the create-react-app npm package. This package simplifies the work of bootstrapping a React project by transpiling syntax and streamlining work with dependencies and prerequisite tools. After adding your application code to a GitHub repository, you will configure Nginx to serve your updated project files. You will then download and set up the webhook server and configure GitHub to communicate with it when your code is modified. Finally, you'll configure Slack to act as another webhook server, which will receive notifications when a successful deploy has been triggered.

Ultimately, the deployment system you are building in this article will look like this:

Sample deployment

This short video shows an empty commit and push to the GitHub repository, which triggers the application build and notifications in Slack.


To complete this tutorial, you will need:

  • An Ubuntu 16.04 server, which you can set up by following the Initial Server Setup with Ubuntu 16.04 tutorial. After following this guide, you should have a non-root user account with sudo privileges.
  • Nginx installed on your server by following the first two steps of How To Install Nginx on Ubuntu 16.04.
  • Git configured on both your local machine and your server. You can find instructions for installing and configuring Git in this tutorial on getting started with Git.
  • Node.js and npm installed on your local machine and server. For your server, follow the instructions on installing Node.js from a PPA in How To Install Node.js on Ubuntu 16.04. On your local machine, you can follow the project's installation directions.
  • Yarn installed on your server by following the official guide on installing yarn.
  • Permissions to configure Slack and individual channels for notifications. You can find more information on roles and permissions in the Slack permissions docs.

Step 1 — Creating a React Application Using create-react-app

Let's first build the application that we will use to test our webhooks with create-react-app. We can then create a GitHub repository and push the project code to it.

On your local machine, add the create-react-app node module to your global repository and make the create-react-app command available in your shell environment:

  • sudo npm install -g create-react-app

Next, run create-react-app to create a project called do-react-example-app:

  • create-react-app do-react-example-app

Navigate to the directory do-react-example-app:

  • cd do-react-example-app

With nano or your favorite text editor, open the package.json file:

  • nano package.json

The file should look like this:


 {   "name": "do-react-example-app",   "version": "0.1.0",   "private": true,   "dependencies": {     "react": "^16.2.0",     "react-dom": "^16.2.0",     "react-scripts": "1.0.17"   },   "scripts": {     "start": "react-scripts start",     "build": "react-scripts build",     "test": "react-scripts test --env=jsdom",     "eject": "react-scripts eject"   } } 

The package.json file includes the following scripts:

  • start: This script is responsible for starting the development version of the application. It runs an HTTP server which serves the application.
  • build: This script is responsible for making the production version of the application. You will use this script on the server.
  • test: This script runs the default tests associated with the project.
  • eject: This script is an advanced feature of the create-react-app package. If the developer is not satisfied with the build environment the package offers, it is possible to 'eject' the application, which will produce options that are otherwise unavailable (including things like custom CSS transpilers and JS processing tools).

Close the file when you are finished inspecting the code.

Next, let's create a GitHub repository for the project. You can follow this tutorial on creating a GitHub repository for guidance. Take note of the repository's origin (i.e. its GitHub URL).

Back in your do-react-example-app directory, initialize the repository with git:

  • git init

Next, add the remote origin with your GitHub URL:

  • git remote add origin your-github-url

Stage all of the files in the project directory:

  • git add .

Commit them:

  • git commit -m "initial commit"

And push them to repository:

  • git push origin master

For more information on creating GitHub repositories and initializing existing applications with git, see GitHub's documentation.

Once we have finished the repository setup, we can move on to specifying configuration details on our server.

Step 2 — Directory Set Up and Nginx Configuration

With the repository in place, it is now possible to pull the application code from GitHub and configure Nginx to serve the application.

Log into your server, go to your home directory, and clone your repository:

  • cd ~
  • git clone your-github-url

Go to the cloned project:

  • cd do-react-example-app

To create a build directory within the project and files for Nginx to serve, you will will need to run the yarn build command. This runs the build script for the project, creating the build directory. This folder includes, among other things, an index.html file, a JavaScript file, and a CSS file. The yarn command will download all of the required node modules for your project:

  • yarn && yarn build

Next, let's make a symlink in the /var/www/ directory to the ~/do-react-example-app directory. This will keep the application in our home directory, while making it available to Nginx to serve from the /var/www directory:

  • sudo ln -s ~/do-react-example-app /var/www/do-react-example-app

Note that this links to the project directory rather than to the build directory, which changes more frequently. Creating this link can be particularly helpful in scenarios where you are deploying new versions of the application: by creating a link to a stable version, you simplify the process of swapping it out later, as you deploy additional versions. If something goes wrong, you can also revert to a previous version in the same way.

Some permissions should be set on the symlink so Nginx can serve it properly:

  • sudo chmod -R 755 /var/www

Next, let's configure an Nginx server block to serve the build directory. Make a new server configuration by typing:

  • sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/test-server

Copy the following configuration, replacing your_server_ip_or_domain with your IP or domain (if applicable):


server {         listen 80;          root /var/www/do-react-example-app/build;         index index.html index.htm index.nginx-debian.html;          server_name your_server_ip_or_domain;          location / {                 try_files $uri /index.html;         } } 

The directives in this file include:

  • listen: The property that configures the server listening port.
  • root: The path to the folder from which Ngnix will serve files.
  • index: The file that the server tries to serve first. It will try to serve any of following files from the /var/www/do-react-example-app/build directory: index.html, index.htm, index.nginx-debian.html, with priority from first to last.
  • server_name: The server domain name or IP.

Next, make a symlink in the sites-enabled directory:

  • sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/test-server /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/test-server

This will tell Nginx to enable the server block configuration from the sites-availablefolder.

Check if the configuration is valid:

  • sudo nginx -t

Finally, restart Nginx to apply the new configuration:

  • sudo systemctl restart nginx

With these configuration details in place, we can move on to configuring the webhook.

Step 3 — Installing and Configuring Webhooks

Webhooks are simple HTTP servers that have configurable endpoints called hooks. Upon receiving HTTP requests, webhook servers execute customizable code that adheres to a set of configurable rules. There are already many webhook servers integrated into applications across the internet, including Slack.

The most widely-used implementation of a webhook server is Webhook, written in Go. We will use this tool to set up our webhook server.

Make sure you are in your home directory on your server:

  • cd ~

Then download the webhook:

  • wget

Extract it:

  • tar -xvf webhook-linux-amd64.tar.gz

Make the binary available in your environment by moving it to /usr/local/bin:

  • sudo mv webhook-linux-amd64/webhook /usr/local/bin

Last, clean up the downloaded files:

  • rm -rf webhook-linux-amd64*

Test the availability of webhook in your environment by typing:

  • webhook -version

The output should display the webhook version:

Outputwebhook version 2.6.5 

Next, let's set up hooks and scripts folders in the /optdirectory, where files for third-party applications usually go. Since the /opt directory is usually owned by root, we can create directories with root privileges and then transfer ownership to the local $USER.

First, create the directories:

  • sudo mkdir /opt/scripts
  • sudo mkdir /opt/hooks

Then transfer the ownership to your $USER:

  • sudo chown -R $USER:$USER /opt/scripts
  • sudo chown -R $USER:$USER /opt/hooks

Next, let's configure the webhook server by creating a hooks.json file. With nano or your favorite editor, create the hooks.json file in /opt/hooks directory:

  • nano /opt/hooks/hooks.json

For the webhook to be triggered when GitHub sends HTTP requests, our file will need a JSON array of rules. These rules consist of the following properties:

{     "id": "",     "execute-command": "",     "command-working-directory": "",     "pass-arguments-to-command": [],     "trigger-rule": {} } 

Specifically, these rules define the following information:

  • id: The name of the endpoint the webhook server will serve. We will call this redeploy-app.
  • execute-command: The path to the script that will be executed when the hook is triggered. In our case, this will be the script located in /opt/scripts/
  • command-working-directory: The working directory that will be used when executing the command. We will use /opt/scripts because that is where is located.
  • pass-arguments-to-command: The parameters passed to the script from the HTTP request. We will pass a commit message, pusher name, and commit id from the payload of the HTTP request. This same information will also be included in your Slack messages.

The /opt/hooks/hooks.json file should include the following information:


[   {     "id": "redeploy-app",     "execute-command": "/opt/scripts/",     "command-working-directory": "/opt/scripts",     "pass-arguments-to-command":     [       {         "source": "payload",         "name": "head_commit.message"       },       {         "source": "payload",         "name": ""       },       {         "source": "payload",         "name": ""       }     ],     "trigger-rule": {}   } ] 

The payload of the GitHub HTTP POST request includes the head_commit.message,, and properties. When a configured event (like PUSH) happens in your GitHub repository, GitHub will send a POST request with a JSON body containing information about the event. Some examples of those POST payloads can be found in the GitHub Event Types docs.

The last property in the configuration file is the trigger-rule property, which tells the webhook server under which condition the hook will be triggered. If left empty, the hook will always be triggered. In our case, we will configure the hook to be triggered when GitHub sends a POST request to our webhook server. Specifically, it will only be triggered if the GitHub secret (denoted here as your-github-secret) in the HTTP request matches the one in the rule, and the commit happened to the master branch.

Add the following code to define the trigger-rule, replacing your-github-secret with a password of your choosing:

...      "trigger-rule":     {       "and":       [         {           "match":           {             "type": "payload-hash-sha1",             "secret": "your-github-secret",              "parameter":             {               "source": "header",               "name": "X-Hub-Signature"             }           }         },         {           "match":           {             "type": "value",             "value": "refs/heads/master",             "parameter":             {               "source": "payload",               "name": "ref"             }           }         }       ]     }   } ] 

In full, /opt/hooks/hooks.json will look like this:


[   {     "id": "redeploy-app",     "execute-command": "/opt/scripts/",     "command-working-directory": "/opt/scripts",     "pass-arguments-to-command":     [       {         "source": "payload",           "name": "head_commit.message"       },       {         "source": "payload",         "name": ""       },       {         "source": "payload",         "name": ""       }     ],     "trigger-rule":     {       "and":       [         {           "match":           {             "type": "payload-hash-sha1",             "secret": "your-github-secret",              "parameter":             {               "source": "header",               "name": "X-Hub-Signature"             }           }         },         {           "match":           {             "type": "value",             "value": "refs/heads/master",             "parameter":             {               "source": "payload",               "name": "ref"             }           }         }       ]     }   } ] 

One final configuration item to check is your server's firewall settings. The webhook server will be listening on port 9000. This means that if a firewall is running on the server, it will need to allow connections to this port. To see a list of your current firewall rules, type:

  • sudo ufw status

If port 9000 is not included in the list, enable it:

  • sudo ufw allow 9000

For more information about ufw, see this introduction to ufw essentials.

Next, let's set up our GitHub repository to send HTTP requests to this endpoint.

Step 4 — Configuring GitHub Notifications

Let's configure our GitHub repository to send HTTP requests when a commit to master happens:

  • 1. Go to your repository and click Settings.
  • 2. Then go to Webhooks and click Add Webhook, located in top right corner.
  • 3. For the Payload URL, type your server address as follows: http://your_server_ip:9000/hooks/redeploy-app. If you have a domain name, you can use that in place of your_server_ip. Note that the endpoint name matches the id property in the hook definition. This is a detail of webhook implementations: all hooks defined in hooks.json will appear in the URL as http://your_server_ip:9000/hooks/id, where id is the id in hooks.json file.
  • 4. For Content type, choose application/json.
  • 5. For Secret, type the secret (your-github-secret) that you set in the hooks.json definition.
  • 6. For Which events would you like to trigger this webhook? select Just push event.
  • 7. Click the Add webhook button.

Now when someone pushes a commit to your repository, GitHub will send a POST request with the payload containing information about the commit event. Among other useful properties, it will contain the properties we defined in the trigger rule, so our webhook server can check whether the POST request was valid. If it is, it will contain other info like

The full list of properties sent with payload can be found on the GitHub Webhooks page.

Step 5 — Writing the Deploy/Redeploy Script

At this point, we have pointed the webhook to the script, but we haven't created the script itself. It will do the work of pulling the latest master branch from our repository, installing node modules, and executing the build command.

Create the script:

  • nano /opt/scripts/

First, let's add a function to top of the script that will clean up any files it has created. We can also use this as a place to notify third party software like Slack if the redeploy didn't go through successfully:


#!/bin/bash -e  function cleanup {       echo "Error occoured"       # !!Placeholder for Slack notification } trap cleanup ERR 

This tells the bash interpreter that if the script finished abruptly, it should run the code in the cleanup function.

Next, extract the parameters that webhook passes to the script when executing it:


...  commit_message=$1 # head_commit.message pusher_name=$2 # commit_id=$3 #   # !!Placeholder for Slack notification 

Notice that the order of the parameters corresponds to the pass-arguments-to-command property from the hooks.json file.

Last, let's call the commands necessary for redeploying the application:


...  cd ~/do-react-example-app/ git pull origin master yarn && yarn build  # !!Placeholder for Slack notification 

The script in full will look like this:


#!/bin/bash -e  function cleanup {       echo "Error occoured"       # !!Placeholder for Slack notification } trap cleanup ERR  commit_message=$1 # head_commit.message pusher_name=$2 # commit_id=$3 #  # !!Placeholder for Slack notification  cd ~/do-react-example-app/ git pull origin master yarn && yarn build  # !!Placeholder for Slack notification 

The script will go to the folder, pull the code from latest master branch, install fresh packages, and the build the production version of the application.

Notice the !!Placeholder for Slack notification. This is a placeholder for the last step in this tutorial. Without notifications, there is no real way of knowing if the script executed properly.

Make the script executable so the hook can execute it:

  • chmod +x /opt/scripts/

Because Nginx is configured to serve files from /var/www/do-react-example-app/build, when this script executes, the build directory will be updated and Nginx will automatically serve new files.

Now we are ready to test the configuration. Let's run the webhook server:

  • webhook -hooks /opt/hooks/hooks.json -verbose

The -hooks parameter tells webhook the location of the configuration file.

You will see this output:

Output[webhook] 2017/12/10 13:32:03 version 2.6.5 starting [webhook] 2017/12/10 13:32:03 setting up os signal watcher [webhook] 2017/12/10 13:32:03 attempting to load hooks from /opt/hooks/hooks.json [webhook] 2017/12/10 13:32:03 os signal watcher ready [webhook] 2017/12/10 13:32:03 found 1 hook(s) in file [webhook] 2017/12/10 13:32:03   loaded: redeploy-app [webhook] 2017/12/10 13:32:03 serving hooks on{id} 

This tells us that everything is loaded properly and that our server is now serving the hook redeploy-app via the URL This exposes a path or hook on the server that can be executed. If you now do a simple REST call (like GET) with this URL, nothing special will happen because the hook rules were not satisfied. If we want the hook to be triggered successfully, we must fulfill the trigger-rule we defined in hooks.json.

Let's test this with an empty commit in the local project directory. Leaving your webhook server running, navigate back to your local machine and type the following:

  • git commit --allow-empty -m "Trigger notification"

Push the commit to the master branch:

  • git push origin master

You will see output like this on your server:

Output[webhook] 2018/06/14 20:05:55 [af35f1] incoming HTTP request from [webhook] 2018/06/14 20:05:55 [af35f1] redeploy-app got matched [webhook] 2018/06/14 20:05:55 [af35f1] redeploy-app hook triggered successfully [webhook] 2018/06/14 20:05:55 200 | 726.412µs | | POST /hooks/redeploy-app [webhook] 2018/06/14 20:05:55 [af35f1] executing /opt/scripts/ (/opt/scripts/ with arguments ["/opt/scripts/" "Trigger notification" "sammy" "82438acbf82f04d96c53cd684f8523231a1716d2"] and environment [] using /opt/scripts as cwd 

Let's now add Slack notifications and look at what happens when the hook triggers a successful build with notifications.

Step 6 — Adding Slack Notifications

To receive Slack notifications when your app is redeployed, you can modify the script to send HTTP requests to Slack. It's also necessary to configure Slack to receive notifications from your server by enabling the Webhook Integration in the Slack configuration panel. Once you have a Webhook URL from Slack, you can add information about the Slack webhook server to your script.

To configure Slack, take the following steps:

  • 1. On the main screen of the Slack application, click the dropdown menu located on the top left and choose Customize Slack.
  • 2. Next, go to the Configure Apps sections located in the left sidebar Menu.
  • 3. In the Manage panel, choose Custom Integration from the lefthand list of options.
  • 4. Search for the Incoming WebHooks integration.
  • 5. Click Add Configuration.
  • 6. Choose an existing channel or create a new one.
  • 7. Click Add Incoming WebHooks integration.

After that, you will be presented with a screen displaying the Slack webhook settings. Make note of the Webhook URL, which is the endpoint generated by the Slack webhook server. When you are finished taking note of this URL and making any other changes, be sure to press the Save Settings button at the bottom of the page.

Return to your server and open the script:

  • nano /opt/scripts/

In the previous step, we left placeholders in the script for Slack notifications, denoted as !!Placeholder for Slack notification. We will now replace these with curl calls that make POST HTTP requests to the Slack webhook server. The Slack hook expects the JSON body, which it will then parse, displaying the appropriate notification in the channel.

Replace the !!Placeholder for slack notification with the following curl calls. Note that you will need to replace your_slack_webhook_url with the Webhook URL you noted earlier:


#!/bin/bash -e  function cleanup {       echo "Error occoured"       curl -X POST -H 'Content-type: application/json' --data "{               "text": "Error occoured while building app with changes from ${pusher_name} (${commit_id} -> ${commit_message})",               "username": "buildbot",               "icon_url": ""       }" your_slack_webhook_url } trap cleanup ERR  commit_message=$1 # head_commit.message pusher_name=$2 # commit_id=$3 #  curl -X POST -H 'Content-type: application/json' --data "{         "text": "Started building app with changes from ${pusher_name} (${commit_id} -> ${commit_message})",         "username": "buildbot",         "icon_url": "" }" your_slack_webhook_url  cd ~/do-react-example-app/ git pull origin master yarn && yarn build  curl -X POST -H 'Content-type: application/json' --data "{         "text": "Build and deploy finished with changes from ${pusher_name} (${commit_id} -> ${commit_message})",         "username": "buildbot",         "icon_url": "" }" your_slack_webhook_url 

We have replaced each placeholder with a slightly different curl call:

  • The first ensures that we receive notification of any errors that occurred while executing the script.
  • The second sends the notification that the build of the application has started.
  • The third sends the notification that the build has successfully finished.

More on Slack bots and integrations can be found in the Slack webhooks documentation.

Again, we can test our hook with an empty commit in the local project directory. Leaving the webhook server running, navigate back to this directory and create the empty commit:

  • git commit --allow-empty -m "Trigger notification"

Push the commit to the master branch to trigger the build:

  • git push origin master

The output, including build information, will look like this:

Output[webhook] 2018/06/14 20:09:55 [1a67a4] incoming HTTP request from [webhook] 2018/06/14 20:09:55 [1a67a4] redeploy-app got matched [webhook] 2018/06/14 20:09:55 [1a67a4] redeploy-app hook triggered successfully [webhook] 2018/06/14 20:09:55 200 | 462.533µs | | POST /hooks/redeploy-app [webhook] 2018/06/14 20:09:55 [1a67a4] executing /opt/scripts/ (/opt/scripts/ with arguments ["/opt/scripts/" "Trigger notification" "sammy" "5415869a4f126ccf4bfcf2951bcded69230f85c2"] and environment [] using /opt/scripts as cwd [webhook] 2018/06/14 20:10:05 [1a67a4] command output:   % Total    % Received % Xferd  Average Speed   Time    Time     Time  Current                                  Dload  Upload   Total   Spent    Left  Speed 100   228    0     2  100   226     11   1324 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:--  1329 okFrom  * branch            master     -> FETCH_HEAD    82438ac..5415869  master     -> origin/master Updating 82438ac..5415869 Fast-forward yarn install v1.7.0 [1/4] Resolving packages... success Already up-to-date. Done in 1.16s. yarn run v1.7.0 $ react-scripts build Creating an optimized production build... Compiled successfully.  File sizes after gzip:    36.94 KB  build/static/js/main.a0b7d8d3.js   299 B     build/static/css/main.c17080f1.css  The project was built assuming it is hosted at the server root. You can control this with the homepage field in your package.json. For example, add this to build it for GitHub Pages:    "homepage" : "",  The build folder is ready to be deployed. You may serve it with a static server:    yarn global add serve   serve -s build  Find out more about deployment here:  Done in 7.72s.   % Total    % Received % Xferd  Average Speed   Time    Time     Time  Current                                  Dload  Upload   Total   Spent    Left  Speed 100   233    0     2  100   231     10   1165 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:--  1166 ok [webhook] 2018/06/14 20:10:05 [1a67a4] finished handling redeploy-app 

In Slack, you will receive messages to your channel of choice notifying you that the application build has started and when it has finished.


We have now finished setting up a deployment system using webhooks, Nginx, shell scripts, and Slack. You should now be able to:

  • Configure Nginx to work with dynamic builds of your application.
  • Set up the webhook server and write hooks that trigger on GitHub POST requests.
  • Write scripts that trigger application builds and notifications.
  • Configure Slack to receive these notifications.

The system from this tutorial can be expanded, since the webhook server is modular and can be configured to work with other applications such as GitLab. If configuring the webhook server through JSON is too much, you can build a similar setup using Hookdoo. More information on how to configure trigger rules for webhook can be found on the webhook project example hooks page.