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ยท 11 min read
Feodor Fitsner

Introductionโ€‹

Staying in touch with your users via email is still an effective and reliable communication channel. In this tutorial we are going to implement email signup form for a React-based static website that allows users to submit their email address and subscribe to a project mailing list. We are going to implement "double opt-in" process where upon signup an email is sent to the user which includes a link to click and confirm the subscription.

Pglet website is made with Docusaurus and hosted on Cloudflare Pages. However, the following solution could be easily adopted for other React-based website frameworks such as Next.js and use a different backend for server-side logic such as Vercel Functions or Deno Deploy.

Project requirements:

  • The form must be as simple as possible: just "email" field and "submit" button.
  • The form must protected by CAPTCHA.
  • Double opt-in subscription process should be implemented: after submitting the form a user receives an email with a confirmation link to complete the process.

For CAPTCHA we are going to use hCaptcha, which is a great alternative to Google's reCAPTCHA and has a similar API.

A signup form requires server-side processing and for that we re going to use Cloudflare Pages Functions which are a part of Cloudflare Pages platform.

For maintaining mailing list and sending email messages we are going to use Mailgun. Mailgun offers great functionality, first-class API at a flexible pricing, plus we have a lot of experience with it.

All code samples in this article can be found in:

Email signup formโ€‹

Signup form is implemented as a React component and includes an email entry form with hCaptcha and two messages:

The official hCaptcha demo React app with invisible captcha was a perfect starting point for making our own Docusaurus component.

Add hCaptcha component to your project:

yarn add @hcaptcha/react-hcaptcha --save

Create src/components/signup-form.js with the following contents:

import React, { useEffect, useRef, useState } from "react";
import BrowserOnly from '@docusaurus/BrowserOnly';
import HCaptcha from "@hcaptcha/react-hcaptcha";

export default function SignupForm() {
const [token, setToken] = useState(null);
const [email, setEmail] = useState("");
const captchaRef = useRef(null);

const onSubmit = (event) => {
event.preventDefault();
captchaRef.current.execute();
};

useEffect(async () => {
if (token) {
var data = {
email: email,
captchaToken: token
};

// send message
const response = await fetch("/api/email-signup", {
method: 'POST',
headers: { 'Content-Type': 'application/json' },
body: JSON.stringify(data),
});
}
}, [token, email]);

return (
<div id="signup" className="signup-form">
<BrowserOnly fallback={<div>Loading...</div>}>
{() => {
if (token) {
// signup submitted
return <div>Thank you! You will receive the confirmation email shortly.</div>
} else if (window.location.href.endsWith('?signup-confirmed')) {
// signup confirmed
return <div><span style={{fontSize:'25px', marginRight:'10px'}}>๐ŸŽ‰</span>Congratulations! You have successfully subscribed to Pglet newsletter.</div>
} else {
// signup form
return <form onSubmit={onSubmit}>
<h3>Subscribe to Pglet newsletter for project updates and tutorials!</h3>
<input
type="email"
value={email}
placeholder="Your email address"
onChange={(evt) => setEmail(evt.target.value)}
/>
<input type="submit" value="Submit" />
<HCaptcha
sitekey="{YOUR-HCAPTCHA-SITE-KEY}"
size="invisible"
onVerify={setToken}
ref={captchaRef}
/>
</form>
}
}}
</BrowserOnly>
</div>
);
}

It's simply <form> element with "email" and "submit" inputs - except hCaptcha, no other 3rd-party components or hooks were used.

Replace {YOUR-HCAPTCHA-SITE-KEY} with your own hCaptcha site key.

Captcha is verified on form.onSubmit event which supports submitting form with ENTER and triggers built-in form validators. The result of captcha verification is stored in token state variable which is sent to /api/email-signup server function along with entered email for further verification and processing.

Add signup-form.js component to src/pages/index.js page:

import SignupForm from '@site/src/components/signup-form'

and then put <SignupForm/> inside <main> element:

<main>
<SignupForm/>
...
</main>

When you run Docusaurus site with yarn start and navigate to a page with captcha at http://localhost:3000 you'll get "blocked by CORS policy" JavaScript errors. To make captcha work locally you should browse with a domain instead of "localhost".

Add a new mapping 127.0.0.1 mysite.local to sudo nano /private/etc/hosts and then you can open http://mysite.local:3000 with working captcha.

note

A part of form component is wrapped with <BrowserOnly> element which tells Docusaurus that the contents inside <BrowserOnly> is not suitable for server-side rendering because of client-side API used, in our case window.location.ref. You can read more about <BrowserOnly> here.

Configuring Mailgunโ€‹

Mailgun is a transactional email service that offers first-class APIs for sending, receiving and tracking email messages.

note

We are not affiliated with Mailgun - we just like their service and have a lot of experience with it.

Some advice before creating a mailing list in Mailgun:

  • Start with a free "Flex" plan - it allows sending 5,000 messages per month and includes custom domains.
  • Configure custom domain - of course, you can test everything on a built-in {something}.mailgun.org domain, but messages sent from it will be trapped in recipient's Junk folder. Custom domain is included with a free plan and setting it up is just a matter of adding a few records to your DNS zone.
  • Get dedicated IP address - if you require even greater email deliverability, assign your domain to a dedicated IP address. Dedicated IP is part of "Foundation" plan which starts at $35/month.

Cloudflare Pages Functionsโ€‹

Cloudflare Page Functions are based on Cloudflare Workers.

Be aware that Functions runtime environment is different from Node.js - you can't use Node.js built-in modules, you can't install anything from NPM. It's more like JavaScript in a headless browser with fetch(), WebSocket, Crypto and other Web APIs.

For signup form, we are going to add two functions:

  • POST /api/email-signup - for initial form processing and signup
  • GET /api/confirm-subscription?email={email}&code={code} - for confirming subscription

To generate routes above, we need to create two files: /functions/api/email-signup.js and /functions/api/confirm-subscription.js in the project repository.

caution

/functions directory must be in the root of your repository, not in /static directory, and must be published along with the site.

You can glance through Functions docs to become familiar with the technology. Here I'll only cover some tricky issues which could arise while you develop.

First, it's possible to run and debug your functions locally. A beta version of Wrangler tool should be installed for that:

yarn add [email protected] --save-dev
caution

Disregard scary deprecation warning while looking for wrangler package on npmjs.com and don't install @cloudflare/wrangler as it suggests. Apparently, Cloudflare team is actively working on Wrangler v2 and publishes it as wrangler package.

Run Wrangler as a proxy for your local Docusaurus run:

npx wrangler pages dev -- yarn start

For configurable settings in functions we use environment variables. In contrast with Cloudflare Workers, environment variables are not set as globals in your functions, however they can be accessed via handler's context, like that:

// handler function
export async function onRequestPost(context) {
const { request, env } = context;
const apiKey = env.API_KEY;
}

where API_KEY is the name of environment variable.

For Workers environment variables can be configured in wrangler.toml, but wrangler.toml is not supported by Functions, so the only way to test with environment variables locally is to pass them via command line with -b switch:

npx wrangler pages dev -b API_KEY=123! -b MY_VAR2=some_value ... -- yarn start

For your Cloudflare Pages website, you can configure Production and Preview environment variables on Settings โ†’ Environment variables page:

info

Environment variables are immutable. If you update/add/delete environment variable and then call the function using it again, it won't work - once variables have changed, the website must be re-built to pick up new values.

danger

Do not put real secrets into "Preview" environment variables if your project in a public repository. Any pull request to the repository publishes "preview" website to a temp URL which is visible to everyone in commit status. Therefore, it's possible for the attacker to submit malicious PR with a function printing all environment variables and then run it via temp URL.

Form submit handlerโ€‹

Email signup form POSTs entered email and hCaptcha response to /api/email-signup function, which performs the following:

  1. Parses request body as JSON and validates its email and captchaToken fields.
  2. Performs hCaptcha response validation and aborts the request if validation fails.
  3. Tries adding a new email (member) into Mailgun mailing list and exits if it's already added.
  4. Sends email with confirmation link via Mailgun to a newly added email address.

Validating hCaptcha responseโ€‹

Validating hCaptcha response on the server is just a POST request to https://hcaptcha.com/siteverify with hCaptcha response received from browser and hCaptcha site key secret in the body:

async function validateCaptcha(token, secret) {
const data = {
response: token,
secret: secret
}

const encData = urlEncodeObject(data)
const captchaResponse = await fetch(
`https://hcaptcha.com/siteverify`,
{
method: 'POST',
headers: {
'Content-Type': 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded',
'Content-Length': encData.length.toString()
},
body: encData
}
)
const captchaBody = await captchaResponse.json()
if (!captchaBody.success) {
throw captchaBody["error-codes"]
}
}

Thanks to this great example on how to send a form request with fetch() method.

Adding email to a mailing listโ€‹

In utils.js we implemented a helper method for calling Mailgun API:

export function callMailgunApi(mailgunApiKey, method, url, data) {
const encData = urlEncodeObject(data)
return fetch(
url,
{
method: method,
headers: {
Authorization: 'Basic ' + btoa('api:' + mailgunApiKey),
'Content-Type': 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded',
'Content-Length': encData.length.toString()
},
body: encData
}
)
}

export function urlEncodeObject(obj) {
return Object.keys(obj)
.map(k => encodeURIComponent(k) + '=' + encodeURIComponent(obj[k]))
.join('&')
}

Request parameters are passed in URL-encoded form in the body.

Requests require Basic authentication header with api and Mailgun primary account API key as username and password respectively.

With callMailgunApi() helper function adding a new member into Mailgun mailing lists becomes trivial:

async function addMailingListMember(mailgunApiKey, listName, memberAddress) {
const data = {
address: memberAddress,
subscribed: 'no',
upsert: 'no'
}

const response = await callMailgunApi(mailgunApiKey,
'POST', `https://api.mailgun.net/v3/lists/${listName}/members`, data)

if (response.status === 200) {
return true; // member has been added
} else if (response.status === 400) {
return false; // member already added
} else {
const responseBody = await response.json()
throw `Error adding mailing list member: ${responseBody.message}`
}
}

It tries to add a new member into mailing list and returns true if it was successfully added; otherwise returns false.

Sending confirmation emailโ€‹

The function for sending confirmation email message to a user via Mailgun is just a few lines:

async function sendEmail(mailgunApiKey, mailDomain, from, to, subject, htmlBody) {
const data = {
from: from,
to: to,
subject: subject,
html: htmlBody
}

const response = await callMailgunApi(mailgunApiKey,
'POST', `https://api.mailgun.net/v3/${mailDomain}/messages`, data)

if (response.status !== 200) {
const responseBody = await response.text()
throw `Error sending email message: ${responseBody}`
}
}

An interesting part here is how confirmation URL is built, which is sent in the message and should be clicked by a user to confirm subscription.

Confirmation URL contains two parameters: email and confirmation code. Email is just recipient's email address which is, obviously, not a secret. Confirmation code is calculated as sha1(email + secret), with secret known to the server only.

When the server receives a request with email and confirmation code, it calculates a new confirmation code for the received email and compares it with the code from the request.

The algorithm could be further improved by implementing expiring confirmation code, but we want to keep it simple for now.

Verifying email and completing signup processโ€‹

/api/confirm-subscription function has a single onRequestGet() handler which performs the following:

  • Validates email and code request parameters.
  • Calculates confirmation code and compares it to the one from the request.
  • If both codes match, updates Mailgun mailing list member's subscribed status to yes.
  • Redirects to a home page with ?signup-confirmed appended to the URL.
export async function onRequestGet(context) {
const { request, env } = context;

// get request params
const { searchParams } = new URL(request.url)
const email = searchParams.get('email')
const code = searchParams.get('code')

if (!code || !email) {
throw "Invalid request parameters"
}

// validate confirmation code
const calculatedCode = await sha1(email + env.CONFIRM_SECRET)
if (calculatedCode !== code) {
throw "Invalid email or confirmation code"
}

// update subscription status
await subscribeMailingListMember(env.MAILGUN_API_KEY, env.MAILGUN_MAILING_LIST, email);

// redirect to a home page
return Response.redirect(new URL(request.url).origin + "?signup-confirmed", 302)
}

Conclusionโ€‹

In this article we created an email signup form for Docusaurus website protected with hCaptcha. The form allows user to submit their email address and subscribe to a project mailing list. We implemented "double opt-in" process, where upon signup an email is sent to the user which includes a link to click and confirm the subscription. We used Cloudflare Pages Functions to implement all server-side logic. Mailgun service was used to send email messages and maintain mailing list.

In the next article we will build an interactive Python app using Pglet for sending newsletter to Mailgun mailing lists. Make sure to subscribe to Pglet mailing list not to miss it!