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Beautiful Web Design With Semantic UI 2.2 and NodeJS Server-side Rendering

It’s worth pointing out that Semantic UI provides richer UI elements and robust features than Bootstrap 3/4. Semantic UI does contain more elements without the needs of 3rd party libraries. For examples:
  • dropdown has built-in animation & search function.
  • Step, Rating, Statistic are not existed in Bootstrap 3/4.
  • Semantic UI comes with more than 20 themes.
  • The CSS class names are more friendly to human words.
(Semantic UI is available for download if you haven’t tried it yet, and want to.)

This is a steps by steps guild show you how to create a basic Semantic UI theme, customize it, and setup the NodeJS server-side rendering development environment.


This project leverages below technologies:

Install NodeJS

You can download & install the NodeJS from the official site or using NVM to install NodeJS. Moreover, NVM offers to switch different NodeJS version anytime. I’m using the version of NodeJS & NPM is:
$ node -v && npm -v

Project Setup

Create the server App

Create a new directory for our project and initialize it using NPM. Type below commands in Terminal:
$ mkdir [your_project_name] && cs [your_project_name]
$ npm init -y
$ mkdir public
$ mkdir public/js
$ mkdir public/css
$ mkdir public/images
$ mkdir views

Specify server startup file

Modify the below properties inside the package.json file:
  "main": "app.js",
  "scripts": {
    "start": "node app.js"

Install the ExpressJS

ExpressJS is a lightweight framework for NodeJS. To install it, type below command in the project root directory:
$ npm install --save express

Install the Task runner

Gulp is a task runner for build processes. It is similar to a batch file but provides much more powerful features. In the project root directory, run below commands to install Gulp & its helpers:
$ npm install -g gulp-cli
$ npm install --save-dev gulp gulp-chug gulp-csso gulp-less gulp-pug run-sequence

Install Semantic UI

To install Semantic UI into our project, type below command in the project root:
$ npm install semantic-ui --save
After answer few questions from Semantic UI with default values, then build the Semantic UI:
$ cd semantic
$ gulp build
$ cd ..
After the semantic-ui build, the built files are stored in ./dist/. That means the initial setup is done. Let’s get started for site customization.

Create the home page

I’ve translated a PUG (HTML template engine) file views/index.pug. This is the home page of this project. The PUG file contains almost everything of Semantic Ui elements in PUG syntax. For example:

As you can see, PUG syntax is not only the shorthand of HTML. But also type fewer and cleaner. Furthermore, it is more human words like.

You can see the full file of views/index.pug here.

Although we can view the PUG file using PUG view engine provided by ExpressJS, I chose pre-rendered approach in this project. It is mentioned in below Gulp build processes.

Create the server program

In the project root directory, create a simple NodeJS server program app.js:
const express = require('express')
const app = express()
app.listen(3000, () => console.log('The app listening on port 3000!'))

Create Gulp task file

In the project root directory, create a file gulpfile.js. The content is:

Now build our project. In project root, type:
$ gulp
After about 30 sec on my computer, the built files are generated in directory /public. Let's run the server:
$ npm start
Open the browser and browse http://localhost:3000. The home page should look like:

You’ll see many Semantic UI elements in there. That is the default theme of Semantic UI. But you’ll notice that no action when clicking some elements e.g. menu, dropdowns, etc. We need to create Javascript codes to initialize the Semantic UI. See the following section...

Create our own stylesheet and javascript

Semantic UI requires jQuery to initialize some elements. So I created a views/javascripts/demo.js javascript:

In addition, we need to add some extra styles for this demo. Create a stylesheet in views/stylesheets/demo.less as below content:

Note that the above LESS file is used by this project only.

Create our own theme for Semantic UI using LESS

Semantic UI default theme is stored in semantic/src/themes/default directory. Now we create our own theme directory, e.g. mytheme. And copy all files from default to mytheme recursively. In project root, type:
$ mkdir semantic/src/themes/mytheme
$ cp -R semantic/src/themes/default/* semantic/src/themes/mytheme/
The next step is to tell Semantic UI to use & build the new theme. Edit /semantic/src/theme.config file Global section, replace all ‘default’ values to ‘mytheme’:
/* Global */
@site       : 'mytheme';
@reset      : 'mytheme';
/* Elements */
@button     : 'mytheme';
@container  : 'mytheme';
Adjust the font size to bigger little bit. Edit the Semantic UI site file semantic/src/themes/mytheme/globals/site.variables Base Sizes section, as below:
      Base Sizes
/* This is the single variable that controls them all */
@emSize   : 18px; // Original 14px
/* The size of page text  */
@fontSize : 18px; // Original 14px
The next step is to change the color. Every website has its own brand color. We can create and assign our own brand color into the Semantic UI. To create a brand color, we can use COOLORS. Coolors does have a very nice interface. And it is very easy to create our own color scheme. Below is the screenshot when I create my brand color scheme:

When finish, copy & paste the colors into the Semantic UI site file (same file as above) semantic/src/themes/mytheme/globals/site.variables Brand Colors section, as below:
    Brand Colors
@primaryColor        : #5D7EA1;
@secondaryColor      : #8FB2B1;
@lightPrimaryColor   : #77A6B6;
@lightSecondaryColor : #B3D89C;
@pageBackground      : #F2FAE9;
At this time, we can run build processes again. Type gulp again and refresh the browser. The home page is changed to:


We’ve created a new basic Semantic UI theme. You can add more pages to your project. I would suggest that to configure the Gulp to watch the LESS files instead of rebuilding the whole Semantic UI every time.

All source codes of this project are stored in this Github repo


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