Quality first! 5 easy steps to lint your code with GitHub workflows in JavaScript project
Software Development
Wojciech Bak
2020-03-10

Quality first! 5 easy steps to lint your code with GitHub workflows in JavaScript project

Code quality is a crucial part of the development process, especially when you want to work efficiently in a long-term manner. There are many approaches and best practices, including whole agile methodologies stuff, but most of them relate to some big, enterprise project conducted by at least 6 people.

What should we do, when the project is small or the customer still doesn’t know if it’s worth investing more? Obviously, at the MVP stage of the project, code styling or unit tests are not the top priority. Investors usually want to have a good product and c’mon - if it works, it doesn’t need testing, right?

Actually, I have some experience in building apps from scratch, even without using best practices in the first place. Some business circumstances forced me to look for the compromise between an investor’s budget plans and the developer’s „nice-to-have” list. Thankfully, if you use GitHub, most of the common issues related to code quality can be solved in a few minutes.

In this article, I’m gonna show you how to use GitHub workflows in the Node.js environment to standardize your codebase.

Few assumptions before we start:

  • You are familiar with NPM and Linux console.
  • You have some experience with style preprocessors, module loaders, bundlers, etc.
  • You know what linters are for and really want to use them in your projects.

1. Typical JavaScript project structure

If you ever used some JS frameworks like Vue or React, you can easily spot some common things between them, e.g.:

  • /src directory with all your JS logic and components,
  • /test directory for unit and e2e tests,
  • /assets directory for styles, images, etc.

Even if we are talking about JavaScript project, we work in Node environment, so obviously there should be also some Node stuff like package.json, package-lock.json and /node_modules catalog in our root directory.

All these things are in their place - that's what we call the convention. Frameworks are invented to provide some reasonable conventions, so usually, we don't even need to care about the initial design pattern. As in this example, I want to explain some approaches, I won't apply any ready-to-use solutions like Vue CLI.

Time to understand what's lying under all these magic lint scripts!

2. Extending the typical Node project

To provide high-quality solutions, linters are the first thing we should start with while setting up a new project. Let’s focus on two linters - Stylelint for styles (*.scss) and ESLint for source files (*.js). Both of these linters are available on NPM and pretty easy to configure. Using linters requires going through the installation process, adding config files and defining project scripts. Let’s do it step-by-step.

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3. Adding Stylelint

The installation of Stylelint in the Node environment is really simple. According to official docs, you just need to run:

npm install --save-dev stylelint stylelint-config-standard

and wait until it’s done.

stylelint-config-standard provides a default set of linting rules and can be replaced with any package which suits your needs better (e.g. Airbnb style). Then create a new hidden file .stylelintrc.json, which is Stylelint configuration file, responsible for loading our pre-defined rules:

{
    "extends": "stylelint-config-standard"
}

Right now, the only missing thing is some NPM script (or scripts) declared in package.json file to start linting our SCSS files. Here is my proposition:

"scripts": {
    "lint:scss": "stylelint '**/*.scss' --syntax scss -f verbose --color",
    "lint:scss:fix": "stylelint '**/*.scss' --syntax scss --fix -f verbose —color"
}

As you can see, I’ve declared the script containing —fix option - this one is to use before pushing changes to repository.

Remember - it’s a bad practice to use —fix in your CI flow, because then the code you pass to production is not styled correctly in the repository. That’s why we need both of the scripts.

Let’s test our linter by creating a file /assets/scss/styles.scss with some content, like:

body {
                    background-color: #fff;
}
npm run lint:scss

You should see in your console something like this:

> stylelint '**/*.scss' --syntax scss -f verbose --color

assets/scss/styles.scss

2:21  ✖ Expected indentation of 2 spaces   indentation

1 source checked

~/Codest/Projects/github-workflow-demo/assets/scss/styles.scss

1 problem found

severity level "error": 1

indentation: 1

npm ERR! code ELIFECYCLE

npm ERR! errno 2

npm ERR! github-workflow-demo@1.0.0 lint:scss: \`stylelint '**/*.scss' --syntax scss -f verbose --color\`

npm ERR! Exit status 2

This actually means that our linter works!

The output shows exactly which line causes an error and describes the issue to solve. Some issues are not fixable automatically as they need a developer’s decision, but in the majority of cases, you just need to run the same command with —fix option, so let’s run it.

npm run lint:scss:fix

Now you should see green output with no errors found:

stylelint '**/*.scss' --syntax scss --fix -f verbose --color


1 source checked

/Users/wojciechbak/Codest/Projects/github-workflow-demo/assets/scss/styles.scss

0 problems found

4. Adding ESLint

This step is almost the same as the one before. We're gonna install ESLint, define some default rules set and declare two callable NPM scripts - one for CI, one for pre-push. Let's go through this!

If you use NPM in your daily work, perhaps you'd like to install ESLint globally. If you don't, please check the installation instructions in official docs.

npm install -g eslint

When eslint command is available on your machine, just run this in your project:

eslint --init

Following further instructions displayed in your terminal, just make a few project decisions like:

  • Javascript or TypeScript
  • Airbnb style or Google style
  • configuration type (JSON file, JS file or inline in package.json)
  • ES modules (import/export) or require syntax

In this place it’s worth to write a word about code formatter called Prettier. It’s fully standardized and compatible with most of code editors (e.g. VS Code). Prettier provides many sets of predefined code styling rules, co-works with linters and can be a great support in chasing top quality of the code. To understand what exactly Prettier is, visit this comparison from official docs.

If it's done, ESlint config file (e.g. .eslintrc.json, depending on what you've chosen before) should appear in your root directory, somewhere next to .stylelintrc.json created before.

Now we have to define scripts in package.json file, same as for SCSS files:

"scripts": {
    "lint:js": "eslint '**/*.js' --ignore-pattern node\_modules/",
    "lint:js:fix": "eslint '**/*.js' --ignore-pattern node\_modules/ --fix"
}

Congrats! ESLint is ready to use right now. Let's check if it works correctly. Create /src/index.js file with some content:

console.log("something");

Run linter:

npm run lint:js

The output should look like this:

\> eslint '**/*.js' --ignore-pattern node\_modules/

~/Codest/Projects/github-workflow-demo/src/index.js

1:1  warning  Unexpected console statement  no-console

✖ 1 problem (0 errors, 1 warning)

This warning won't disappear after using --fix option, because linters doesn't affect potentially meaningful code. They are only for code styling, including white-spaces, newlines, semicolons, quotation marks etc.

5. Defining GitHub workflows

GitHub workflows are a pretty well-documented thing. Feel free to dig deeper into this, but for now, I'm gonna implement a simple workflow to lint our code after the push to the remote repository (obviously, hosted on GitHub).

Create /.github/workflows directory and new code-quality-workflow.yml file in there as GitHub workflows have to be defined with YAML files.

To run a proper workflow, we have to answer a few questions:

  • When do we want to run our workflow (on push, on pull request, on merge etc.)?
  • Do we want to exclude some situations (like push to branch master)?
  • What environment do we need to setup to run our commands correctly (in this example - Node)?
  • Do we need to install dependencies? If so, how should we cache it?
  • What steps do we need to make to complete the check?

After some considerations and few hours of work with docs example .yml file can look like this:

name: Code quality

on: 'push'

jobs:
  code-quality:
    name: Lint source code
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    steps:
    - uses: actions/checkout@v1

    - name: Setup Node
      uses: actions/setup-node@v1
      with:
        node-version: '12.1'

    - name: Cache dependencies
      uses: actions/cache@v1
      with:
        path: ./node\_modules
        key: ${{ runner.OS }}-dependencies-${{ hashFiles('\*\*/package-lock.json') }}
        restore-keys: |
          ${{ runner.OS }}-dependencies-${{ env.cache-name }}-
          ${{ runner.OS }}-dependencies-
          ${{ runner.OS }}-

    - name: Install dependencies
      run: |
        npm install

    - name: Lint files
      run: |
        npm run lint

GitHub provides all environmental stuff we need. In the last line we're running command npm run lint which was not defined before:

"scripts": {
    "lint": "npm run lint:js && npm run lint:scss"
}

Note that in our workflow I'm not using :fix commands.

When all these steps are done, you can enjoy this beautiful output from GitHub before merging your Pull Request:

Read more:

- How to start building your product from scratch?

- How to start programming in Ruby in 7 easy steps

- 10 UI/UX design trends for 2020. What’s new?

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