Deploy a Django REST API to Heroku in 5 minutes

Sometimes you’re super eager to get started with a new project! Seems easy – you set up a git repo, use django-admin startproject to generate an empty project, start adding dependencies… You want to use Django REST framework for the API, so you install that. Then you need to connect Postgres for the database… Oh, but you want to deploy to Heroku, so you need to configure that DATABASE_URL environment variable and hook that up in settings.py – there was that one project where we had that working already, we can copy/paste it for sure… Celery for async tasks… Redis… 😴… Wait, what were we building again?

If the scenario described above sounds familiar, then like me you’ve run into the problem of boring, repetitive and uncreative work necessary to set up a modern web app project. A lot of boilerplate is needed to get a basic project working and best practices keep changing. Sure, there are solutions like cookiecutter-django which is quite nice, but with ~40 requirements spread across 3 files and ~500 lines of settings spread across 4 files it might be overkill when you’re just getting started. More importantly, while cookiecutter is great for initial project generation, it doesn’t allow you to easily update a project afterwards. Regenerating the project, even when exactly the same prompt answers are selected results in “Error: “my_awesome_project” directory already exists”. As already stated, best practices change over time and it would be useful to have an easy way to update your project boilerplate occasionally.

To address these issues, I’ve developed generator-django-rest – a Yeoman generator for quickly bootstrapping a (relatively simple) Django REST API project that’s deployable to Heroku in 5 minutes. In this post we’ll explain how it works (and why use a JavaScript framework for generating Pythong code 😱), but first let’s see it in action in this screencast:

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Simple way to set up Django and a SPA frontend on Heroku

This post was adapted from my Stack Overflow answer to a question about using single page applications (SPAs) with Django on Heroku.

Update: check out my django-spa package for a ready-to-use solution for serving SPAs from Django.

Here’s how to set up Django to serve your static files and index.html on / while still having the possibility to use Django views for the admin dashboard, registration etc.:

from django.conf.urls import include, url
from django.contrib import admin
from django.contrib.staticfiles.views import serve
from django.views.generic import RedirectView

admin.autodiscover()

urlpatterns = [

    # / routes to index.html
    url(r'^$', serve,
        kwargs={'path': 'index.html'}),

    # static files (*.css, *.js, *.jpg etc.) served on /
    # (assuming Django uses /static/ and /media/ for static/media urls)
    url(r'^(?!/?static/)(?!/?media/)(?P<path>.*\..*)$',
        RedirectView.as_view(url='/static/%(path)s', permanent=False)),

    # other views still work too
    url(r'^admin/', include(admin.site.urls)),
]

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