The Complete Guide to Full Stack Ethereum Development

Building Full Stack dApps with React, Ethers.js, and Hardhat

Featured on Hashnode

The code for this project is located here

I recently joined Edge & Node as a Developer Relations Engineer and have been diving deeper into smart contract development with Ethereum. I have settled upon what I think is the best stack for building full stack dApps with Solidity:

▶︎ Client Framework - React
▶︎ Ethereum development environment - Hardhat
▶︎ Ethereum Web Client Library - Ethers.js
▶︎ API layer - The Graph Protocol

The problem that I ran into though while learning this was that while there was fairly good documentation out there for each of these things individually, there was nothing really out there for how to put all of these things together and understand how they worked with each other. There are some really good boilerplates out there like scaffold-eth (which also includes Ethers, Hardhat, and The Graph), but may be too much to pick up for people just getting started.

I wanted an end to end guide to show me how to build full stack Ethereum apps using the most up to date resources, libraries, and tooling.

The things I was interested in were this:

  1. How to create, deploy, and test Ethereum smart contracts to local, test, and mainnet
  2. How to switch between local, test, and production environments / networks
  3. How to connect to and interact with the contracts using various environments from a front end like React, Vue, Svelte, or Angular

After spending some time figuring all of this out and getting going with the stack that I felt really happy with, I thought it would be nice to write up how to build and test a full stack Ethereum app using this stack not only for other people out there who may be interested in this stack, but also for myself for future reference. This is that reference.

The pieces

Let's go over the main pieces we will be using and how they fit into the stack.

1. Ethereum development environment

When building smart contracts, you will need a way to deploy your contracts, run tests, and debug Solidity code without dealing with live environments.

You will also need a way to compile your Solidity code into code that can be run in a client-side application – in our case, a React app. We'll learn more about how this works a little later.

Hardhat is an Ethereum development environment and framework designed for full stack development and is the framework that I will be using for this tutorial.

Other similar tools in the ecosystem are Ganache and Truffle.

2. Ethereum Web Client Library

In our React app, we will need a way to interact with the smart contracts that have been deployed. We will need a way to read for data as well as send new transactions.

ethers.js aims to be a complete and compact library for interacting with the Ethereum Blockchain and its ecosystem from client-side JavaScript applications like React, Vue, Angular, or Svelte. It is the library we'll be using.

Another popular option in the ecosystem is web3.js

3. Metamask

Metamask helps to handle account management and connecting the current user to the blockchain. MetaMask enables users to manage their accounts and keys in a few different ways while isolating them from the site context.

Once a user has connected their MetaMask wallet, you as a developer can interact with the globally available Ethereum API (window.ethereum) that identifies the users of web3-compatible browsers (like MetaMask users), and whenever you request a transaction signature, MetaMask will prompt the user in as comprehensible a way as possible.

4. React

React is a front end JavaScript library for building web applications, user interfaces, and UI components. It's maintained by Facebook and many many individual developers and companies.

React and its large ecosystem of metaframeworks like Next.js, Gatsby, Redwood, Blitz.js, and others enable all types of deployment targets including traditional SPAs, static site generators, server-side rendering, and a combination of all three. React continues to be seemingly dominating the front-end space and I think will continue to do so for at least the near future.

5. The Graph

For most apps built on blockchains like Ethereum, it's hard and time-intensive to read data directly from the chain, so you used to see people and companies building their own centralized indexing server and serving API requests from these servers. This requires a lot of engineering and hardware resources and breaks the security properties required for decentralization.

The Graph is an indexing protocol for querying blockchain data that enables the creation of fully decentralized applications and solves this problem, exposing a rich GraphQL query layer that apps can consume. In this guide we won't be building a subgraph for our app but will do so in a future tutorial.

What we will be building

In this tutorial, we'll be building, deploying, and connecting to a couple of basic smart contracts:

  1. A contract for creating and updating a message on the Ethereum blockchain
  2. A contract for minting tokens, then allowing the owner of the contract to send tokens to others and to read the token balances, and for owners of the new tokens to also send them to others.

We will also build out a React front end that will allow a user to:

  1. Read the greeting from the contract deployed to the blockchain
  2. Update the greeting
  3. Send the newly minted tokens from their address to another address
  4. Once someone has received tokens, allow them to also send their tokens to someone else
  5. Read the token balance from the contract deployed to the blockchain

Prerequisites

  1. Node.js installed on your local machine
  2. MetaMask Chrome extension installed in your browser

You do not need to own any Ethereum for this guide as we will be using fake / test Ether on a test network for the entire tutorial.

Getting started

To get started, we'll create a new React application:

npx create-react-app react-dapp

Next, change into the new directory and install ethers.js and hardhat using either NPM or Yarn:

npm install ethers hardhat @nomiclabs/hardhat-waffle ethereum-waffle chai @nomiclabs/hardhat-ethers

Installing & configuring an Ethereum development environment

Next, initialize a new Ethereum Development Environment with Hardhat:

npx hardhat

? What do you want to do? Create a sample project
? Hardhat project root: <Choose default path>

Now you should see the following artifacts created for you in your root directory:

hardhat.config.js - The entirety of your Hardhat setup (i.e. your config, plugins, and custom tasks) is contained in this file. scripts - A folder containing a script named sample-script.js that will deploy your smart contract when executed test - A folder containing an example testing script contracts - A folder holding an example Ethereum smart contract

Because of a MetaMask configuration issue, we need to update the chain ID on our HardHat configuration to be 1337. We also need to update the location for the artifacts for our compiled contracts to be in the src directory of our React app.

To make these updates, open hardhat.config.js and update the module.exports to look like this:

module.exports = {
  solidity: "0.8.3",
  paths: {
    artifacts: './src/artifacts',
  },
  networks: {
    hardhat: {
      chainId: 1337
    }
  }
};

Our smart contract

Next, let's have a look at the example contract given to us at contracts/Greeter.sol:

//SPDX-License-Identifier: Unlicense
pragma solidity ^0.7.0;

import "hardhat/console.sol";


contract Greeter {
  string greeting;

  constructor(string memory _greeting) {
    console.log("Deploying a Greeter with greeting:", _greeting);
    greeting = _greeting;
  }

  function greet() public view returns (string memory) {
    return greeting;
  }

  function setGreeting(string memory _greeting) public {
    console.log("Changing greeting from '%s' to '%s'", greeting, _greeting);
    greeting = _greeting;
  }
}

This is a very basic smart contract. When deployed, it sets a Greeting variable and exposes a function (greet) that can be called to return the greeting.

It also exposes a function that allows a user to update the greeting (setGreeting). When deployed to the Ethereum blockchain, these methods will be available for a user to interact with.

Let's make one small modification to the smart contract. Since we set the solidity version of our compiler to 0.8.3 in hardhat.config.js, let's also be sure to update our contract to use the same version of solidity:

// contracts/Greeter.sol
pragma solidity ^0.8.3;

Reading and writing to the Ethereum blockchain

There are two types of ways to interact with a smart contract, reading or writing – or queries and transactions. In our contract, greet can be considered reading, and setGreeting can be considered writing / transactional.

When writing or initializing a transaction, you have to pay for the transaction to be written to the blockchain. To make this work, you need to pay gas%3F,on%20the%20Ethereum%20blockchain%20platform) which is the fee, or price, required to successfully conduct a transaction and execute a contract on the Ethereum blockchain.

As long as you are only reading from the blockchain and not changing or updating anything, you don't need to carry out a transaction and there will be no gas or cost to do so. The function you call is then carried out only by the node you are connected to, so you don't need to pay any gas and the read is free.

From our React app, the way that we will interact with the smart contract is using a combination of the ethers.js library, the contract address, and the ABI that will be created from the contract by hardhat.

What is an ABI? ABI stands for application binary interface. You can think of it as the interface between your client-side application and the Ethereum blockchain where the smart contract you are going to be interacting with is deployed.

ABIs are typically compiled from Solidity smart contracts by a development framework like HardHat. You can also often find the ABIs for a smart contract on Etherscan

Compiling the ABI

Now that we have gone over the basic smart contract and know what ABIs are, let's compile an ABI for our project.

To do so, go to the command line and run the following command:

npx hardhat compile

Now, you should see a new folder named artifacts in the src directory. The artifacts/contracts/Greeter.json file contains the ABI as one of the properties. When we need to use the ABI, we can import it from our JavaScript file:

import Greeter from './artifacts/contracts/Greeter.sol/Greeter.json'

We can then reference the ABI like this:

console.log("Greeter ABI: ", Greeter.abi)

Note that Ethers.js also enables human readable ABIs, but will will not be going into this during this tutorial.

Deploying and using a local network / blockchain

Next, let's deploy our smart contract to a local blockchain so that we can test it out.

To deploy to the local network, you first need to start the local test node. To do so, open the CLI and run the following command:

npx hardhat node

When we run this command, you should see a list of addresses and private keys.

Hardhat node addresses

These are 20 test accounts and addresses created for us that we can use to deploy and test our smart contracts. Each account is also loaded up with 10,000 fake Ether. In a moment, we'll learn how to import the test account into MetaMask so that we can use it.

Next, we need to deploy the contract to the test network. First update the name of scripts/sample-script.js to scripts/deploy.js.

Now we can run the deploy script and give a flag to the CLI that we would like to deploy to our local network:

npx hardhat run scripts/deploy.js --network localhost

Once this script is executed, the smart contract should be deployed to the local test network and we should be then able to start interacting with it.

When the contract was deployed, it used the first account that was created when we started the local network.

If you look at the output from the CLI, you should be able to see something like this:

Greeter deployed to: 0x9fE46736679d2D9a65F0992F2272dE9f3c7fa6e0

This address is what we will use in our client application to talk to the smart contract. Keep this address available as we will need to use it when connecting to it from the client application.

To send transactions to the smart contract, we will need to connect our MetaMask wallet using one of the accounts created when we ran npx hardhat node. In the list of contracts that the CLI logs out, you should see both an Account number as well as a Private Key:

➜  react-defi-stack git:(main) npx hardhat node
Started HTTP and WebSocket JSON-RPC server at http://127.0.0.1:8545/

Accounts
========
Account #0: 0xf39fd6e51aad88f6f4ce6ab8827279cfffb92266 (10000 ETH)
Private Key: 0xac0974bec39a17e36ba4a6b4d238ff944bacb478cbed5efcae784d7bf4f2ff80

...

We can import this account into MetaMask in order to start using some of the fake Eth available there. To do so, first open MetaMask and update the network to be Localhost 8545:

MetaMask Localhost

Next, in MetaMask click on Import Account from the accounts menu:

Import account

Copy then paste one of the Private Keys logged out by the CLI and click Import. Once the account is imported, you should see the Eth in the account:

Imported account

Now that we have a smart contract deployed and an account ready to use, we can start interacting with it from the React app.

Connecting the React client

In this tutorial we are not going to be worrying about building a beautiful UI with CSS and all of that, we are focused 100% on the core functionality to get you up and running. From there, you can take it and make it look good if you'd like.

With that being said, let's review the two objectives that we want from our React application:

  1. Fetch the current value of greeting from the smart contract
  2. Allow a user to update the value of the greeting

With those things being understood, how do we accomplish this? Here are the things we need to do to make this happen:

  1. Create an input field and some local state to manage the value of the input (to update the greeting)
  2. Allow the application to connect to the user's MetaMask account to sign transactions
  3. Create functions for reading and writing to the smart contract

To do this, open src/App.js and update it with the following code, setting the value of greeterAddress to the address of your smart contract.:

import './App.css';
import { useState } from 'react';
import { ethers } from 'ethers'
import Greeter from './artifacts/contracts/Greeter.sol/Greeter.json'

// Update with the contract address logged out to the CLI when it was deployed 
const greeterAddress = "your-contract-address"

function App() {
  // store greeting in local state
  const [greeting, setGreetingValue] = useState()

  // request access to the user's MetaMask account
  async function requestAccount() {
    await window.ethereum.request({ method: 'eth_requestAccounts' });
  }

  // call the smart contract, read the current greeting value
  async function fetchGreeting() {
    if (typeof window.ethereum !== 'undefined') {
      const provider = new ethers.providers.Web3Provider(window.ethereum)
      const contract = new ethers.Contract(greeterAddress, Greeter.abi, provider)
      try {
        const data = await contract.greet()
        console.log('data: ', data)
      } catch (err) {
        console.log("Error: ", err)
      }
    }    
  }

  // call the smart contract, send an update
  async function setGreeting() {
    if (!greeting) return
    if (typeof window.ethereum !== 'undefined') {
      await requestAccount()
      const provider = new ethers.providers.Web3Provider(window.ethereum);
      const signer = provider.getSigner()
      const contract = new ethers.Contract(greeterAddress, Greeter.abi, signer)
      const transaction = await contract.setGreeting(greeting)
      await transaction.wait()
      fetchGreeting()
    }
  }

  return (
    <div className="App">
      <header className="App-header">
        <button onClick={fetchGreeting}>Fetch Greeting</button>
        <button onClick={setGreeting}>Set Greeting</button>
        <input onChange={e => setGreetingValue(e.target.value)} placeholder="Set greeting" />
      </header>
    </div>
  );
}

export default App;

To test it out, start the React server:

npm start

When the app loads, you should be able to fetch the current greeting and log it out to the console. You should also be able to make updates to the greeting by signing the contract with your MetaMask wallet and spending the fake Ether.

Setting and getting the greeting value

Deploying and using a live test network

There are several Ethereum test networks like Ropsten, Rinkeby, or Kovan that we can also deploy to in order to have a publicly accessible version of our contract available without having to deploy it to mainnet. In this tutorial we'll be deploying to the Ropsten test network.

To start off, first update your MetaMask wallet to connect to the Ropsten network.

Ropsten network

Next, send yourself some test Ether to use during the rest of this tutorial by visiting this test faucet.

We can get access to one of these test networks by signing up with a service like Infura or Alchemy (I'm using Infura for this tutorial).

Once you've created the app in Infura or Alchemy, you will be given an endpoint that looks something like this:

https://ropsten.infura.io/v3/your-project-id

Be sure to set the ALLOWLIST ETHEREUM ADDRESSES in the Infura or Alchemy app configuration to include the wallet address of the account you will be deploying from.

To deploy to the test network we need to update our hardhat config with some additional network information. One of the things we need to set is the private key of the wallet we will be deploying from.

To get the private key, you can export it from MetaMask.

Export private key

I'd suggest not hardcoding this value in your app but instead setting it as something like an environment variable.

Next, add a networks property with the following configuration:

module.exports = {
  defaultNetwork: "hardhat",
  paths: {
    artifacts: './src/artifacts',
  },
  networks: {
    hardhat: {},
    ropsten: {
      url: "https://ropsten.infura.io/v3/your-project-id",
      accounts: [`0x${your-private-key}`]
    }
  },
  solidity: "0.7.3",
};

To deploy, run the following script:

npx hardhat run scripts/deploy.js --network ropsten

Once your contract is deployed you should be able to start interacting with it. You should be now able to view the live contract on Etherscan Ropsten Testnet Explorer

Minting tokens

One of the most common use cases of smart contracts is creating tokens, let's look at how we can do that. Since we know a little more about how all of this works, we'll be going a little faster.

In the main contracts directory create a new file named Token.sol.

Next, update Token.sol with the following smart contract:

//SPDX-License-Identifier: Unlicense
pragma solidity ^0.8.3;

import "hardhat/console.sol";

contract Token {
  string public name = "Nader's Hardhat Token";
  string public symbol = "NHT";
  uint public totalSupply = 1000000;
  address public owner;
  mapping(address => uint) balances;

  constructor() {
    balances[msg.sender] = totalSupply;
    owner = msg.sender;
  }

  function transfer(address to, uint amount) external {
    require(balances[msg.sender] >= amount, "Not enough tokens");
    balances[msg.sender] -= amount;
    balances[to] += amount;
  }

  function balanceOf(address account) external view returns (uint) {
    return balances[account];
  }
}

Note that this token contract is for demo purposes only and is not ERC20 compliant. For an example of an ERC20 token, check out this contract

This contract will create a new token called "Nader Dabit Token" and set the supply to 1000000.

Next, compile this contract:

npx hardhat compile

Now, update the deploy script at scripts/deploy.js to include this new Token contract:

const hre = require("hardhat");

async function main() {
  const [deployer] = await hre.ethers.getSigners();

  console.log(
    "Deploying contracts with the account:",
    deployer.address
  );

  const Greeter = await hre.ethers.getContractFactory("Greeter");
  const greeter = await Greeter.deploy("Hello, World!");

  const Token = await hre.ethers.getContractFactory("Token");
  const token = await Token.deploy();

  await greeter.deployed();
  await token.deployed();

  console.log("Greeter deployed to:", greeter.address);
  console.log("Token deployed to:", token.address);
}

main()
  .then(() => process.exit(0))
  .catch(error => {
    console.error(error);
    process.exit(1);
  });

Now, we can deploy this new contract to the local or Ropsten network:

npx run scripts/deploy.js --network localhost

Once the contract is deployed, you can start sending these tokens to other addresses.

To do so, let's update the client code we will need in order to make this work:

import './App.css';
import { useState } from 'react';
import { ethers } from 'ethers'
import Greeter from './artifacts/contracts/Greeter.sol/Greeter.json'
import Token from './artifacts/contracts/Token.sol/Token.json'

const greeterAddress = "your-contract-address"
const tokenAddress = "your-contract-address"

function App() {
  const [greeting, setGreetingValue] = useState()
  const [userAccount, setUserAccount] = useState()
  const [amount, setAmount] = useState()

  async function requestAccount() {
    await window.ethereum.request({ method: 'eth_requestAccounts' });
  }

  async function fetchGreeting() {
    if (typeof window.ethereum !== 'undefined') {
      const provider = new ethers.providers.Web3Provider(window.ethereum)
      console.log({ provider })
      const contract = new ethers.Contract(greeterAddress, Greeter.abi, provider)
      try {
        const data = await contract.greet()
        console.log('data: ', data)
      } catch (err) {
        console.log("Error: ", err)
      }
    }    
  }

  async function getBalance() {
    if (typeof window.ethereum !== 'undefined') {
      const [account] = await window.ethereum.request({ method: 'eth_requestAccounts' })
      console.log({ account })
      const provider = new ethers.providers.Web3Provider(window.ethereum);
      const signer = provider.getSigner()
      const contract = new ethers.Contract(tokenAddress, Token.abi, signer)
      contract.balanceOf(account).then(data => {
        console.log("data: ", data.toString())
      })
    }
  }

  async function setGreeting() {
    if (!greeting) return
    if (typeof window.ethereum !== 'undefined') {
      await requestAccount()
      const provider = new ethers.providers.Web3Provider(window.ethereum);
      console.log({ provider })
      const signer = provider.getSigner()
      const contract = new ethers.Contract(greeterAddress, Greeter.abi, signer)
      const transaction = await contract.setGreeting(greeting)
      await transaction.wait()
      fetchGreeting()
    }
  }

  async function sendCoins() {
    if (typeof window.ethereum !== 'undefined') {
      await requestAccount()
      const provider = new ethers.providers.Web3Provider(window.ethereum);
      const signer = provider.getSigner()
      const contract = new ethers.Contract(tokenAddress, Token.abi, signer)
      contract.transfer(userAccount, amount).then(data => console.log({ data }))
    }
  }

  return (
    <div className="App">
      <header className="App-header">
        <button onClick={fetchGreeting}>Fetch Greeting</button>
        <button onClick={setGreeting}>Set Greeting</button>
        <input onChange={e => setGreetingValue(e.target.value)} placeholder="Set greeting" />

        <br />
        <button onClick={getBalance}>Get Balance</button>
        <button onClick={sendCoins}>Send Coins</button>
        <input onChange={e => setUserAccount(e.target.value)} placeholder="Account ID" />
        <input onChange={e => setAmount(e.target.value)} placeholder="Amount" />
      </header>
    </div>
  );
}

export default App;

Next, run the app:

npm start

We should be able to click on Get Balance and see that we have 1,000,000 coins in our account logged out to the console.

You should also be able to view them in MetaMask by clicking on Add Token:

Add token

Next click on Custom Token and enter the token contract address and then Add Token. Now the tokens should be available in your wallet:

NDT

Next, let's try to send those coins to another address.

To do so, copy the address of another account and send them to that address using the updated React UI. When you check the token amount, it should be equal to the original amount minus the amount you sent to the address.

Conclusion

Ok, we covered a lot here but for me this is kind of the bread and butter / core of getting started with this stack and is kind of what I wanted to have not only as someone who was learning all of this stuff, but also in the future if I ever need to reference anything I may need in the future. I hope you learned a lot.

In my future tutorials and guides I'll be diving into more complex smart contract development and also how to deploy them as subgraphs to expose a GraphQL API on top of them and implement things like pagination and full text search.

I'll also be going into how to use technologies like IPFS and Web3 databases to store data in a decentralized way.

If you have any questions or suggestions for future tutorials, drop some comments here and let me know.

Siddharth Chandra's photo

Bookmarked!

Catalin Pit's photo

Well done for your new job! 👏

Also, great article!