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GraphQL in simple words with examples

GraphQL is a query language for APIs that was developed by Facebook in 2012. It is an alternative to REST and has become popular due to its advantages: flexibility, efficiency, and simplicity.

If you’re a beginner developer interested in using GraphQL in React, this article is for you. We will explain what GraphQL is, how it differs from REST, and how to use it in a React application. By the end of this article, you’ll understand how to use GraphQL in your React applications.

Let’s get started!

What is GraphQL?

GraphQL is a query language for APIs that fetches data more efficiently, powerfully, and flexibly than REST APIs. You can request only the data you need, reducing network overhead and improving performance.

GraphQL lets you fetch multiple resources with one query and only the fields you need, reducing over-fetching and under-fetching.

Additionally, GraphQL offers high flexibility and allows developers to use it with any backend technology or database. It establishes a common language for communication between clients and servers and enables the creation of APIs for various types of applications, including web, mobile, and desktop.

In addition to being a query language, GraphQL also serves as a type system for your API, defining the structure and types of the data that can be queried. This provides a clear documentation and helps ensure that the client and server are in sync.

Overall, GraphQL is a powerful and efficient way to fetch data from a server. Its flexibility and simplicity make it an excellent choice for building modern web applications.

How to use GraphQL in React

Now that we have a basic understanding of what GraphQL is, let’s see how we can use it in a React application.

There are a few GraphQL client libraries available for React, such as Apollo and Relay. These libraries provide an easy way to interact with a GraphQL API and handle returned data.

To get started with Apollo, you need to install the next packages using npm:

npm install @apollo/client graphql

Once you have installed the required packages, you can create an instance of the ApolloClient class and provide it with the URL of your GraphQL API:

import { ApolloClient, InMemoryCache } from '@apollo/client';

const client = new ApolloClient({
  uri: '',
  cache: new InMemoryCache(),

To fetch data from the server, you can use the useQuery hook provided by Apollo:

import { useQuery, gql } from '@apollo/client';

const GET_USERS = gql`
  query {
    users {

function Users() {
  const { loading, error, data } = useQuery(GET_USERS);

  if (loading) return <p>Loading...</p>;
  if (error) return <p>Error :(</p>;

  return (
      { => (
        <li key={}>{}</li>

In this example, we define a GraphQL query using the gql template literal and the useQuery hook. The useQuery hook takes a query as its argument and returns an object with the loading, error, and data properties. We can use these properties to render the data in our component.

We can also use the useMutation hook provided by Apollo to make mutations to the server:

import { useMutation, gql } from '@apollo/client';

const ADD_USER = gql`
  mutation addUser($name: String!, $email: String!) {
    addUser(name: $name, email: $email) {

function AddUser() {
  const [addUser, { data }] = useMutation(ADD_USER);

  const handleSubmit = event => {
    addUser({ variables: { name, email } });

  return (
    <form onSubmit={handleSubmit}>
        <input type="text" value={name} onChange={event => setName(} />
        <input type="email" value={email} onChange={event => setEmail(} />
      <button type="submit">Add User</button>
      {data && <p>User added successfully!</p>}

In this example, we define a GraphQL mutation using the gql template literal and the useMutation hook. The useMutation hook takes a mutation as its argument and returns an array with the mutate function and the data property. We can use the mutate function to send the mutation to the server, and we can use the data property to render a success message when the mutation is complete.

And that’s it! With these simple examples, you should have a basic understanding of how to use GraphQL in a React application using the Apollo client library.

Of course, there is much more you can do with GraphQL and Apollo, such as handling errors, caching, and pagination. But hopefully, this article has given you a good starting point for your GraphQL journey.

Benefits of using GraphQL in React

There are several benefits to using GraphQL in a React application:

  1. Reduced network requests: With GraphQL, you can request only the data you need, which can help reduce the number of network requests required to fetch all the data for your application.
  2. Simpler API: With a traditional REST API, you may need to make multiple requests to fetch all the data you need. With GraphQL, you can define a single query that fetches all the data you need in one request.
  3. Improved developer experience: GraphQL’s strongly typed schema and self-documenting nature can help improve the developer experience, making it easier to understand the data available and how to access it.
  4. Faster development time: With GraphQL, you can make changes to the API without affecting the clients that use it, which can help reduce the amount of time required to develop and maintain your application.
  5. Better performance: With GraphQL, you can optimize your queries to fetch only the data you need, which can help improve the performance of your application.

By using GraphQL in your React application, you can take advantage of these benefits and improve the user experience of your application while also making development easier and faster.

Drawbacks of using GraphQL in React

While there are many benefits to using GraphQL in a React application, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:

  1. Learning curve: Learning how to use GraphQL can be challenging. This is especially true if you are not familiar with the GraphQL query language. Compared to traditional REST APIs, GraphQL can be more complex to understand and work with.
  2. Overfetching and underfetching: GraphQL can reduce the number of network requests needed to fetch data. However, it can also result in overfetching or underfetching if queries are not optimized properly. It’s important to optimize queries to ensure the best performance for your application.
  3. Increased complexity: GraphQL allows for fine-grained control over returned data. However, this also means it can be more complex to set up and maintain compared to traditional REST APIs.
  4. Server-side complexity: Implementing a GraphQL server can be more complex than implementing a traditional REST API server.
  5. Less caching control: GraphQL queries are highly specific and dynamic, which makes caching more challenging to control and implement.

When considering using GraphQL in your React app, it’s important to weigh the potential drawbacks against the benefits. This will help you determine if it’s the right choice for your project.


GraphQL is a powerful tool for building APIs and has become increasingly popular in recent years. With its strongly typed schema and self-documenting nature, it can help improve the developer experience and make it easier to build and maintain complex applications.

When used in conjunction with React and the Apollo client library, GraphQL can help reduce network requests, simplify your API, and improve performance. However, there are also potential drawbacks to consider, such as a learning curve and increased complexity.

If you choose to use GraphQL, optimize your queries and be mindful of potential issues to ensure the best user experience for your application.

🤖 Happy coding!