How to Learn GraphQL
GraphQL is a query language for APIs. The language, developed by engineers at Facebook, is also a runtime for fulfilling queries with your existing data. A GraphQL query returns predictable results by giving the application the responsibility of controlling data, rather than the server.
GraphQL streamlines API queries by returning all data in one request. Requests to multiple endpoint URLs must be sent to get the same result in a REST API. This is useful in that an app built with GraphQL is fast, stable, and scalable.
What is GraphQL?
GraphQL enables an app to retrieve multiple sources of data within one request. In a REST API, each layer of data is retrieved from a different URL endpoint. Multiple requests to a server means there is a potential for more errors and slower performance.
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Let’s quickly review. REST has been the standard for data flow on the web. Representational State Transfer (REST) divides the API into endpoints (/api/products). Using this URL, we can get information about all listed products.
However, to get data on an individual product, another request is sent to (/api/products/:id). We can start to see that with multiple requests, that opens up potentials for errors in data transfer. GraphQL addresses this issue by receiving all desired data in a single request.
Learn more about how GraphQL and REST differ here.
What is GraphQL Used for?
GraphQL executes queries of data from an API on top of your existing back-end code. In the real world, APIs can be tricky to deal with. Sometimes, a fetch request returns too much information, which could slow the performance of the app.
GraphQL steps in and helps avoid these performance pitfalls in a few key ways.
- Returns only specified data. GraphQL gives you control over what data comes back from the API.
- Get multiple resources from a single request. The ability to get many data sources from a single request can dramatically increase app performance.
- GraphQL’s type system grants access to data from a single endpoint. This helps avoid manually parsing code and provides helpful errors.
GraphQL brings flexibility to API queries. It is a modern technology that easily incorporates into your existing back-end language of choice. To have more control over queries for your app, GraphQL is a good learning investment.
How Long Does It Take to Learn GraphQL?
With two hours of daily effort, learning and confidently using GraphQL takes seven weeks. Keep in mind it is a new language and learning to integrate it takes time. After the basics are mastered, you’ll be implementing fast, stable, and predictable queries.
How to Learn GraphQL: Step-by-Step
The current standard for interacting with an API is through different URL endpoints. GraphQL strives to improve on the REST method of requesting data. Since it integrates with the current back-end language of your choice, having programming experience is a must.
Here are some steps to consider when deciding if learning GraphQL would be a valuable investment for you.
- Be proficient in a back-end language. GraphQL integrates with established languages and proficiency in one of these back-end languages is required.
- Know what a query is. Familiarity with database queries, such as SQL, will help in understanding the core principles of GraphQL.
- Be familiar with REST. Knowing this convention for interacting with APIs will grant insight into exactly what GraphQL is improving on.
Having a working knowledge of these fundamentals is key to understanding how GraphQL works. Now on to where to learn the language.
The Best GraphQL Courses and Trainings
There are many resources available to start learning GraphQL. From online courses, e-books, and tutorials, you can find something that best suits your learning style.
Online GraphQL Courses
- Provider: edX
- Price: Free
- Audience: Intermediate
This is the course the developers of GraphQL recommend. Investing a couple of hours per day, you’ll master GraphQL in seven weeks. You’ll learn the benefits of using GraphQL with your current back-end language as well as advanced topics such as server security.
- Provider: Udemy
- Price: $94.99
- Audience: Intermediate
Running at 13 hours of coursework, this class walks you through building a single page application with React and GraphQL. Covering the basics to real world implementation, you’ll become fluent in the GraphQL ecosystem. Prior knowledge of React required.
- Provider: Pluralsight
- Price: Plans starting at $29.99 per month
- Audience: Beginner
This course is shorter than the other options. Clocking in at one hour and 20 minutes, you’ll understand when to implement GraphQL, its core principles, and how to use it. This course was designed to provide a general overview of GraphQL and if it is a good fit for your application.
Author Robin Wieruch wrote this book while building several applications using GraphQL for clients. It is not intended to be an exhaustive reference book, but a guide to pragmatically implementing GraphQL in a React/Node stack. For $29.99, you can begin your road to GraphQL.
Sebastion Grebe takes you from setup to deployment using the GraphQL, React, Apollo, Node, and Express stack. The book even covers writing tests. By the end of the book, you’ll have built a scalable application and host it on Heroku. Priced at $22.39, you’ll gain exposure to some tricks and workarounds used by experienced developers.
This guide aims to simplify the process of learning GraphQL. Authors Alex Banks and Eve Porcello cover the fundamentals of graph theory to enhance understanding of graph data structure. Covering these fundamentals ensures you know what’s going on in a GraphQL query.
Online GraphQL Resources
The documentation for GraphQL includes an entire tutorial section to get you familiar with GraphQL. After learning the core concepts of this query language, there is a section full of best practices. This is useful for writing conventional GraphQL queries.
This free and open source tutorial assumes you have no prior knowledge of GraphQL. It is intended to take you from no experience to production, and you’ll have the basics down in about an hour. There is an advanced section that covers concepts such as security, client side, and server side implementation.
Should I Learn GraphQL?
GraphQL is a valuable learning investment for your future. It’s an alternative to the REST convention and learning this way to query an API is where many developers seem to be heading. The amount of resources available to learn GraphQL implies that it will be in fashion for some time to come.
By learning GraphQL’s method of consuming APIs, you’ll have more options to work with when designing your next application. The option to choose when to implement GraphQL or to go with the REST convention could open possibilities in your programming career.
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