Create a super-duper-happy SPA web app using Durandal, Nancy, and Bootstrap

I start looking at Durandal after attending Jason Clark’s DurandalJS and Twitter Bootstrap at Nashville .NET User Group. Durandal is a SPA framework that incorporated several popular JavaScript libraries like JQuery, Knockout, and RequireJs. It’s also created by Rob Eisenberg who is also behind Caliburn.Micro.

For Nancy, I have heard about it in .NET Rocks and Hanselminutes podcasts for a while, but I haven’t had a chance to look at it until recently. Basically, Nancy (or NancyFX) is a lightweight web framework allowing you to build HTTP based web applications or services using .NET. Nancy is very easy to learn and set up.However, It doesn’t depend on System.Web and doesn’t need to be run on IIS at all. Most importantly, Nancy is very easy to learn and set up as you will see.

The last one is Bootstrap which is a very popular front-end framework that comes with HTML/CSS/JavaScript templates and controls. It allows us to create better-looking responsive web UI with small effort.

Using them together makes our job to create a web app much easier.

 

Ok. Enough with the background. Let’s get start by building a web app using Durandal and Nancy (I will touch on Bootstrap once we have a web app running).

First, we start with just an empty ASP.NET web site.

 

001-Empty-Web-Project

002-Empty-Web-Project 

 

Once we have the web site project, we install Durandal and Nancy via NuGet. Since I want our web app to run on IIS, I also have another package, Nancy.Hosting.Aspnet installed.

image

 

If everything went smoothly, you should see these packages installed in your project. As Durandal is using JQuery, Knockout, and RequreJS, those packages will be installed as well.

004-NuGet-Packages

 

Now, let’s start coding. We start in the client-side by creating modules (viewmodels) and views. If you have played with the Durandal StarterKit, you should be familiar with the files (index.html, main.js, shell.js, etc.). I won’t explain what those files do here, but you can find more information about them here.

Next, we look at the server-side with Nancy. To set up a Nancy site, what I need to do is to create a C# class derived from NancyModule, and define route handler in the constructor. We don’t need to worry about the name. As long as it is derive from NancyModule, Nancy will find it. Here is how I want Nancy to return back index.html for the root URL.

 

 

By default, Nancy will look at static content like JavaScript files, css, images, and so on in /Content folder only. But we already have those static files that Durandal needs in App folder. So to make Durandal works, we need to tell Nancy to look at those folders as well by adding those folders to StaticContentsConventions which can be done in Nancy Bootstrap process. We can do that by creating a class derived from DefaultNancyBootstrapper and add some code.

 

 

Here is how our project looks right now.

005-EDT-Minimum-Final

 

Now, let’s run the web app. And you should see our very simple web app

image 

To make our web app a bit less trivia, I will add another Durandal view and module which will do some AJAX call to get JSON data from the server. Here is the code in the new module.

 

 

The page is expecting the server to send JSON when it hits /api/list. With Nancy, we can do that easily by adding just couple lines of code.

 

 

Now. let’s run our web app again and click the new link!

image

Wow! super easy, right?

 

So far, we just have our client-side and server-side code taken care. However, you probably notice that our web app doesn’t look good at all. This is how Bootstrap can help. By using its reusable CSS templates, we can make our web app looks much better with ease.

Before we can do that we have to install Bootstrap package.

image

 

Next, we bootstrapify our pages by adding Bootstrap CSS class to HTML elements in our Durandal views. Besides reusable JavaScript/CSS components, there are many things that Bootstrap can help, most notably, the grid layout system.

image

 

Let’s run our web app again.

image

 

That’s it. Using Durandal, Nancy, and Bootstrap, we have a super-duper-happy SPA web app done right! 🙂

 

For the full source code, please see my github repo. I have each step in git branches as well. If you want to see the site in action, I also set up the Windows Azure web site here,

Happy coding!

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