Rails Dynamic Request Readme

Review

You already know how to create a static request, which is where you create a page that doesn't take any parameters and simply renders a view. For example: localhost:3000/about. For Rails to process this request, the routes.rb file contains a route such as:

get 'about', to: "static#about"

This is mapped to the static controller and its about action, which renders the about.html.erb view template.

Dynamic Requests

According to REST, if we want to retrieve the post with an id of 42, we should navigate to /posts/42. It's technically possible to create a new line in your routes file for each post... but that would quickly get ridiculous. You would have to modify your web server every time someone posts! Enter: dynamic routes. A breakdown of the dynamic route process flow is below:

  1. The routes.rb file takes in the request and processes it like normal, except this time it also parses the 42 as a parameter and passes it to the posts controller.

  2. From that point, the controller action that you write will parse the 42 parameter and run a query on the Post model, storing the result in an instance variable.

  3. Finally, the controller passes the instance variable to the associated view, which renders details of that specific post record for the client.

In review, what's the difference between static and dynamic routes?

  • Static routes render pages that have a hard coded path connected to them. For example, the /welcome path will always show the welcome page.

  • Dynamic routes will render different data based on the parameters passed to the route. For example, when 42 is passed in as the parameter to the /posts/:id route, the app should render the data for the post with an ID of 42. When 222 is passed in, the app should render the data for the post with an ID of 222.

Code Implementation

In order to setup a dynamic request feature, we will start by writing a test to verify that the page exists:

# spec/features/post_spec.rb

require 'rails_helper'

describe 'navigate' do
  before do
    @post = Post.create(title: "My Post", description: "My post desc")
  end

  it 'loads the show page' do
    visit "/posts/#{@post.id}"
    expect(page.status_code).to eq(200)
  end
end

Running rspec gives us an expected error of: ActionController::RoutingError: No route matches [GET] "/posts/1". To correct this error, let's draw a route in config/routes.rb that maps to a show action in the PostsController:

get 'posts/:id', to: 'posts#show'

Here you will notice something that's different from the static route. The /:id tells the routing system that this route can receive a parameter and that the parameter will be passed to the controller's show action. With this route in place, let's run our tests again.

You should see a new failure this time: ActionController::RoutingError: uninitialized constant PostsController. Once we stub out a PostsController class in app/controllers/posts_controller.rb, running the tests again will give us yet another new failure: AbstractController::ActionNotFound: The action 'show' could not be found for PostsController. This means that we need to create a corresponding show action in the PostsController. Let's get this failure fixed with the code below:

# app/controllers/posts_controller.rb

class PostsController < ApplicationController
  def show
  end
end

Run the tests again. Now we see a failure saying that we are missing the posts/show view template. Let's fix that by creating a posts folder in the views directory and creating a show.html.erb file in the new views/posts directory.

Running the tests now shows that we're all green, which means that the request will be properly routed through the controller and view and returns an HTTP status code of 200.

If you start the Rails server and navigate to /posts/1 or any other post record, the router will know what you're talking about. However, the controller still needs to be told what to do with the id.

Now that we have the routing configured, let's build a test to see if the post content is rendered on the show page with the title in an h1 tag and the description in a p tag. We'll start by creating a test for the title:

# spec/features/post_spec.rb

require 'rails_helper'

describe 'navigate' do
  before do
    @post = Post.create(title: "My Post", description: "My post desc")
  end

  it 'loads the show page' do
    visit "/posts/#{@post.id}"
    expect(page.status_code).to eq(200)
  end

  it 'shows the title on the show page in an h1 tag' do
    visit "/posts/#{@post.id}"
    expect(page).to have_css("h1", text: "My Post")
  end
end

This gives us a failure that says: expected to find css "h1" with text "My Post" but there were no matches. We first need to get the ID sent by the user through the dynamic URL. This variable is passed into the controller in a hash called params. Since we named the route :id, the ID will be the value of the :id key, stored in params[:id]. Let's set that up here:

# app/controllers/posts_controller.rb

def show
  @post = Post.find(params[:id])
end

In this line, our show action is running a database query on the Post model that will return a post with an ID that matches the route parameters. It will store this record in the @post instance variable and make it available to the show.html.erb file. Let's get our spec passing by placing the post's title on the show view template:

<%# app/views/posts/show.html.erb %>
<h1><%= @post.title %></h1>

We're back to green! Now let's implement the description spec:

it 'shows the description on the show page in a p tag' do
  visit "/posts/#{@post.id}"
  expect(page).to have_css("p", text: "My post desc")
end

This will give us a failure since there are no matches on the template yet. To implement this fix, update the view:

<%# app/views/posts/show.html.erb %>
<h1><%= @post.title %></h1>
<p><%= @post.description %></p>

Now we're passing again, and you now know how to create dynamic routes in Rails! However, we would be remiss if we didn't follow the full "Red, Green, Refactor" TDD workflow.

Resource routing

There are a few elements of the application that can be refactored. Instead of the long, drawn out get route we placed in our routes.rb file, we can use Ruby's RESTful defaults and the resources method. Problem is, we only have one of the seven RESTful routes. Thankfully, we can pass in an only option, selecting which of the seven RESTful routes we care about. In this case, we only care about the show action.

Remove:

get 'posts/:id', to: 'posts#show'

Replace with:

resources :posts, only: :show

We will go into detail on what the resources method does in a future lesson. For right now, just know that it deals with the seven key RESTful routes. In this case, we limited it to only make the show action available.

Run the tests for a final time, and they should still be passing! Nice work!

View Rails Dynamic Request on Learn.co and start learning to code for free.

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