Dynamically generating social images

Inspired by Chris Biscardi, Joel Hooks, Shawn Wang, and others, I, too, wanted to dynamically generate social images for my blog posts.

But the thought of creating an image generation API was daunting to me. Cloudinary, Lambdas, Chromium are cool, but I wanted something more straightforward.

It was around this time that Marina introduced me to Microlink and its creator Kiko. Microlink was just about to release their new product, Microlink Cards.

Being one of the alpha testers of Microlink Cards, I decided to take it for a spin and rely on it to generate the social images for me.

Microlink Cards works like this:

  1. Pick a template or build your own
  2. Define your dynamic queries
  3. Add the generated URL to your meta tag, providing the right queries
A screen shot of Microlink Cards showing my template

Building my template

Instead of using an existing template, I decided to build my own. Have a look here.

Templates are built (designed) in JSX, powered by Theme UI. What a good idea! 👏

Defining my queries

This how you choose what can be customised via query strings passed in to the generated URL.

I created the following queries:

  • heading: the heading of the card
  • subheading: the sub-heading of the card
  • title: the main title of the page you're sharing
  • domain: the URL of the page you're sharing
  • theme: a theme object following (I'm using a subset from Wallop System theme)

Showing dynamic images

The last step is to take the generated URL and pass in your queries via query strings.

For example, let's say you want to generate a card with a title of "The future is now.":

const title = 'The future is now.';
const api = 'https://i.microlink.io/';
const cardUrl = `https://cards.microlink.io/?preset=pedro&title=${title}`;
const image = `${api}${encodeURIComponent(cardUrl)}`;

And then add it as an OpenGraph meta:

<meta property="og:image" content={image} />

Wrapping up

I think this is a sweet balance between flexibility and simplicity. I love that I can build templates in JSX and decide how customisable I want them to be.

The ability to take a URL, provide some query strings, and get back a social image (at the right size!) is brilliant to me.

In order to create templates right now, you need to contribute to the repo. It would be cool if there was a way to do it all in the app.

Finally, I think there's some potential for a Modulz integration. Imagine connecting your Modulz generated design system and having access to all your components? 🤯


Have a play

See for yourself how it works. Enjoy! ✌️

Mini Microlink Card Playground

Playground 🎢
Here's the generated URL based on the queries above:
https://i.microlink.io/https%3A%2F%2Fcards.microlink.io%2F%3Fpreset%3Dpedro%26heading%3DHeading%26subHeading%3DSubheading%26title%3DPlayground%20%F0%9F%8E%A2%26domain%3Ddoma.in

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