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Pilot & Refine architecture
11 min read

Pilot & Refine architecture

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RefineWeek series

This post provides an introduction to Refine, a React framework used to rapidly build data heavy CRUD apps like dashboards, admin panels and e-commerce storefronts.

It also presents the RefineWeek series - which is a seven part quickfire guide that aims to help developers learn the ins-and-outs of Refine and Supabase powerful capabilities and get going with Refine within a week.

At the end of this series, you'll be able to build a fully functional CRUD app named "Pixels" with Refine and Supabase.

The live version of the app is be available here.

The final apps source codes are available on GitHub:

Pixels Client

Source Code on GitHub

To get completed client source code simply run:

 npm create refine-app@latest -- --example pixels

Pixels Admin

Source Code on GitHub

To get completed admin source code simply run:

 npm create refine-app@latest -- --example pixels-admin

What is Refine ?

Refine is a highly customizable React based framework for building CRUD apps that comes with a headless core package and supplementary "pick-and-plug" modules for the UI, backend API clients and Internationalization support.

Refine's (intentionally decapitalized) core is strongly opinionated about RESTful conventions, HTTPS networking, state management, authentication and authorization. It is, however, unopinionated about the UI and render logic. This makes it customizable according to one's choice of UI library and frameworks.

In a nutshell, you can build rock-solid CRUD apps easily using Refine✨.

Refine Architecture

Everything in Refine is centered around the <Refine /> component, which is configured via a set of provider props that each requires a provider object to be passed in. A typical application of providers on the <Refine /> component looks like this:

import { Refine } from "@refinedev/core";
import dataProvider from "@refinedev/simple-rest";
import routerProvider from "@refinedev/react-router-v6";
import { liveProvider } from "@refinedev/supabase";
import authProvider from "./authProvider";


The above snippet lists a few of the props and their objects.

However, rather than precisely being a component, <Refine /> is largely a monolith of provider configurations backed by a context for each. Hence, inside dataProvider, we have a standard set of methods for making API requests; inside authProvider, we have methods for dealing with authentication and authorization; inside routerProvider, we have exact definitions of routes and the components to render for that route, etc. And each provider comes with its own set of conventions and type definitions.

For example, a dataProvider object has the following signature to which any definition of a data provider conform:

Show data provider code

const dataProvider = {
create: ({ resource, variables, metaData }) => Promise,
createMany: ({ resource, variables, metaData }) => Promise,
deleteOne: ({ resource, id, variables, metaData }) => Promise,
deleteMany: ({ resource, ids, variables, metaData }) => Promise,
getList: ({ resource, pagination, pagination, sort, filters, meta }) =>
getMany: ({ resource, ids, metaData }) => Promise,
getOne: ({ resource, id, metaData }) => Promise,
update: ({ resource, id, variables, metaData }) => Promise,
updateMany: ({ resource, ids, variables, metaData }) => Promise,
custom: ({ url, method, sort, filters, payload, query, headers, metaData }) =>
getApiUrl: () => "",

The underlying architecture involves any presentational component passed to <Refine /> to be able to consume these configured methods via corresponding hooks. Each method in a provider has a corresponding hook via which a consumer component is able to fetch data from the backend, i.e. the useList() hook is the corresponding function accessing the dataProvider.getList() provider method.

An example hook usage looks like this:

Inside a UI component
const { data } = useList<Canvas>({
resource: "canvases",
pagination: {
mode: "off",
sorters: {
initial: [
field: "created_at",
order: "desc",

The hooks, in turn, leverage React Query hooks in order to make API calls asked by the provider methods. Here's an early sneak peek into the action under the hood:

Show Refine `useList` hook code

const queryResponse = useQuery<GetListResponse<TData>, TError>(
({ queryKey, pagination, signal }) => {
const { pagination, meta, ...restConfig } = config || {};
return getList<TData>({
meta: {
queryContext: {
onSuccess: (data) => {

const notificationConfig =
typeof successNotification === "function"
? successNotification(data, { metaData, config }, resource)
: successNotification;

onError: (err: TError) => {

const notificationConfig =
typeof errorNotification === "function"
? errorNotification(err, { metaData, config }, resource)
: errorNotification;

handleNotification(notificationConfig, {
key: `${resource}-useList-notification`,
message: translate(
{ statusCode: err.statusCode },
`Error (status code: ${err.statusCode})`,
description: err.message,
type: "error",

We'll be visiting code like this often, but if you examine closely you can see that Refine uses React Query to handle caching, state management as well as errors out-of-the-box.

The following diagram illustrates the interactions:

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Providers and Hooks

Refine's power lies in the abstraction of various app component logic such as authentication, authorization, routing and data fetching - inside individual providers and their corresponding hooks.

Common providers include:

For an exhaustive list of providers, please visit the Refine providers documentation from here.

Each method in these providers comes with its corresponding hook to be used from inside UI components and pages. For more details, please refer to the Refine hooks documentation starting here.

Support Packages

Refine is inherently headless in its core API and deliberately agnostic about the UI and backend layers. Being so, it is able to provide fantastic support for major UI libraries and frameworks as well as popular backend frameworks and services. To name a few, Refine's UI support packages include Ant Design, Material UI, Chakra UI and Mantine. Backend supplementary modules include Supabase, GraphQL, and NestJS

For a complete list of all these modules, check out this page.

What is Supabase?

Supabase is an open source alternative to Firebase. It is a hosted backend that provides a realtime database, authentication, storage, and API services.

Refine has a built-in data provider support for Supabase. You can find the advanced tutorial here.

We'll be using Supabase to build our backend for Pixels app.

A week of Refine ft. Supabase

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In this tutorial series, we will be going through most of the core features of Refine by building two apps related to drawing pixels on a canvas. This section is intended to provide an overview.

The first one, the client app - Pixels, allows a logged in user to create a canvas and draw on it together with other users. It also displays a public gallery of all canvases and a "Featured Canvases" page.

The second app, Pixels Admin is an admin dashboard that allows authorized users like editors and admins to view the list of users registered with Pixels app and manage user drawn canvases, with actions like promoting, unpromoting and deleting a canvas.

We will be building these two apps day-by-day over a period of 7 days. And while doing so, we will dive deep into the details of related providers, hooks, UI components and how Refine works behind the scenes.

As far as our features and functionalities go, we will cover most of the providers and some of the related hooks. For the UI side, we will be using the optional Ant Design package supported by Refine. For the backend, we will use a PostgreSQL database hosted on the Supabase cloud.

Here are the detailed outlines split per day:

Day One - On RefineWeek

This post. Hello! 👋 👋 Refine welcomes you! We are here 😄 😄

Day Two - Setting Up the Client App

We start with setting up the Pixels client app using create refine-app. We choose Refine's optional Ant Design and Supabase modules as our support packages. After initialization, we explore the boilerplate code created by create refine-app and look into the details of the dataProvider and authProvider objects and briefly discuss their mechanisms.

Day Three - Adding CRUD Actions & Authentication

On Day Three, we start adding features to our app. We activate the resources prop for <Refine /> and using the dataProvider prop, we implement how to create a canvas, show a canvas and draw pixels on a canvas. We add a public gallery to show all canvases in a page and featured canvases in another. We also implement user authentication so that only signed in users can create and draw on a canvas - and while doing so we delve into the authProvider object.

Here is a quick sum up of specifications we cover on Day Three:

  1. The Pixels app has a public gallery.
  2. The public gallery has a home page of featured canvases.
  3. The public gallery contains a section for all the canvases.
  4. All users can view the public gallery.
  5. All users can view a canvas.
  6. Only logged in users can create a canvas.
  7. Only logged in users can draw pixels on a canvas.
  8. A user can sign up to the app using email, Google and GitHub.
  9. A user can log in to the app using email, Google and GitHub.

Day Four - Adding Realtime Collaboration

On Day Four, we add real time features to our app using the liveProvider prop on <Refine />. Real time updates on a canvas will facilitate multiple users to collaborate on it at the same time.

We are going to use Supabase's Realtime PostgreSQL CDC in order to perform row level updates on the PostgreSQL database in real time.

Day Five - Initialize and Build Pixels Admin App

Basing on the learning from the client app, we quickly implement an admin dashboard app and explore how Refine's Ant Design support module is geared to rapidly build CRUD pages for a Refine app.

Here are the requirements for Pixels Admin:

  1. Allow a user to sign up to the app using email, Google and GitHub.
  2. Allow a user to log in to the app using email, Google and GitHub.
  3. Build a dashboard that lists users and canvases.
  4. The dashboard shows a list of all users at /users endpoint.
  5. The dashboard shows a list of all canvases at /canvases endpoint.

Day Six - Add Role Based Authorization

On Day Six, we implement user role based authorization to our admin app. While doing so, we analyze the authProvider.getPermissions() method from the standpoint of implementing authorization and customize according to our needs. We use Casbin for implementing a Role Based Access Control model and use it to define the can method of the accessControlProvider provider.

Here are the features we implement on Day Six:

  1. There are two authorized roles for admin dashboard: editor and admin.
  2. An editor is able to promote a canvas to "featured" status and demote it back.
  3. An admin is able to promote a canvas to "featured" status and demote it back.
  4. An admin is able to delete a canvas.

Day Seven - Add Audit Log to Client App and Admin App

On the last day, with the auditLogProvider prop, we implement a log of all pixel drawing activities.Mutations for drawing pixels will be logged and saved in a logs table in our Supabase database.

We will display these logs inside a modal for each canvas both in the client Pixels app and in the Pixels Admin dashboard app. So, we will implement audit logging on both our apps.


In this post, we introduced the Refine framework and the RefineWeek series itself. We talked about Refine's underlying architecture which consists of providers, hooks and components that help rapidly build internal tools.

We laid out the plans for building a Pixels client app and an admin dashboard app in considerable depth.

Tomorrow, on Day Two, we are ready to start "Setting Up the Client App". See you soon!

Click here to read "Setting Up the Client App" article.