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Node on Federalist

Federalist supports using node and npm to build your entire site OR to build parts of your site before the build engine starts its work. This is helpful for doing things like compiling a site’s assets, or employing a build tool such as Fractal.

The Federalist NPM script

Before running any other generator, the Federalist build engine will check for a package.json file. If it finds one, it will install npm dependencies. Additionally, if the package.json provides a script named federalist, the build engine will run this script. This enables Federalist users to add Javascript dependencies to their site, and run a script to prepare the site for the build engine. If Node.js is the configured Site Engine, no other steps are run.

For more details see package.json examples.

Installing NPM dependencies

Federalist will install dependencies from NPM on your behalf, you should not include a call to npm install from your “federalist” NPM script or anywhere else. In particular, Federalist runs npm ci --production which means:

See npm-ci and npm-install for more details.

Specifying a Node version

Federalist uses Node Version Manager to track the node version your site is meant to use. Before running any npm commands, Federalist checks for a file named .nvmrc. If it finds one, it will use NVM to install and use the desired node version before continuing.

Excluding node modules

When Federalist runs npm install it will create a directory named node_modules. This is where it saves the downloaded dependencies. When using Node alongside Jekyll or Hugo, these may be built into a site if the build is not configured to ignore them, causing them to be uploaded. This can cause the time it takes to upload a site increase significantly.

For example, to ignore the node modules for a Jekyll site, add the following to the site’s _config.yml:

  - node_modules

After adding that, jekyll will ignore the node_modules directory when building the site.


Use Webpack to pre-process javascript

  "name": "Webpack example",
  "version": "1.0.0",
  "description": "An example Federalist site using webpack",
  "main": "index.js",
  "scripts": {
    "build": "`npm bin`/webpack",
    "federalist": "npm run build",
    "start": "`npm bin`/webpack-dev-server"
  "author": "Jonathan Hooper",
  "license": "ISC",
  "dependencies": {
    "webpack": "^1.14.0"

Use Gatsby to generate a static site

  "name": "federalist-gatsby-uswds-template",
  "description": "Description A template for Federalist that uses Gatsby and USWDS 2.0",
  "license": "CC0-1.0",
  "version": "0.1.0",
  "author": "davemcorwin",
  "scripts": {
    "develop": "gatsby develop",
    "start": "npm run develop",
    "build": "gatsby build",
    "serve": "gatsby serve",
    "federalist": "npm run build"
  "dependencies": {
    "gatsby": "^2.0.33",
    "react": "^16.5.1",
    "react-dom": "^16.5.1"