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In this guide we'll dive into some of the best practices and utilities for building a production site or application.

This walkthrough stems from Tree Shaking and Development. Please ensure you are familiar with the concepts/setup introduced in those guides before continuing on.


The goals of development and production builds differ greatly. In development, we want strong source mapping and a localhost server with live reloading or hot module replacement. In production, our goals shift to a focus on minified bundles, lighter weight source maps, and optimized assets to improve load time. With this logical separation at hand, we typically recommend writing separate webpack configurations for each environment.

While we will separate the production and development specific bits out, note that we'll still maintain a "common" configuration to keep things DRY. In order to merge these configurations together, we'll use a utility called webpack-merge. With the "common" configuration in place, we won't have to duplicate code within the environment-specific configurations.

Let's start by installing webpack-merge and splitting out the bits we've already worked on in previous guides:

npm install --save-dev webpack-merge


  |- package.json
- |- webpack.config.js
+ |- webpack.common.js
+ |-
+ |-
  |- /dist
  |- /src
    |- index.js
    |- math.js
  |- /node_modules


+ const path = require('path');
+ const CleanWebpackPlugin = require('clean-webpack-plugin');
+ const HtmlWebpackPlugin = require('html-webpack-plugin');
+ module.exports = {
+   entry: {
+     app: './src/index.js'
+   },
+   plugins: [
+     new CleanWebpackPlugin(['dist']),
+     new HtmlWebpackPlugin({
+       title: 'Production'
+     })
+   ],
+   output: {
+     filename: '[name].bundle.js',
+     path: path.resolve(__dirname, 'dist')
+   }
+ };

+ const merge = require('webpack-merge');
+ const common = require('./webpack.common.js');
+ module.exports = merge(common, {
+   devtool: 'inline-source-map',
+   devServer: {
+     contentBase: './dist'
+   }
+ });

+ const merge = require('webpack-merge');
+ const UglifyJSPlugin = require('uglifyjs-webpack-plugin');
+ const common = require('./webpack.common.js');
+ module.exports = merge(common, {
+   plugins: [
+     new UglifyJSPlugin()
+   ]
+ });

In webpack.common.js, we now have our entry and output setup configured and we've included any plugins that are required for both environments. In, we've added the recommended devtool for that environment (strong source mapping), as well as our simple devServer configuration. Finally, in, we included the UglifyJSPlugin which was first introduced by the tree shaking guide.

Note the use of merge() in the environment-specific configurations to easily include our common configuration in dev and prod. The webpack-merge tool offers a variety of advanced features for merging but for our use case we won't need any of that.

NPM Scripts

Now let's repoint our scripts to the new configurations. We'll use the development one for our webpack-dev-server, npm start, script and the production one for our npm run build script:


    "name": "development",
    "version": "1.0.0",
    "description": "",
    "main": "webpack.config.js",
    "scripts": {
-     "start": "webpack-dev-server --open",
+     "start": "webpack-dev-server --open --config",
-     "build": "webpack"
+     "build": "webpack --config"
    "keywords": [],
    "author": "",
    "license": "ISC",
    "devDependencies": {
      "clean-webpack-plugin": "^0.1.17",
      "css-loader": "^0.28.4",
      "csv-loader": "^2.1.1",
      "express": "^4.15.3",
      "file-loader": "^0.11.2",
      "html-webpack-plugin": "^2.29.0",
      "style-loader": "^0.18.2",
      "webpack": "^3.0.0",
      "webpack-dev-middleware": "^1.12.0",
      "webpack-dev-server": "^2.9.1",
      "webpack-merge": "^4.1.0",
      "xml-loader": "^1.2.1"

Feel free to run those scripts and see how the output changes as we continue adding to our production configuration.


Note that while the UglifyJSPlugin is a great place to start for minification, there are other options out there. Here are a few more popular ones:

If you decide to try another, just make sure your new choice also drops dead code as described in the tree shaking guide.

Source Mapping

We encourage you to have source maps enabled in production, as they are useful for debugging as well as running benchmark tests. That said, you should choose one with a fairly quick build speed that's recommended for production use (see devtool). For this guide, we'll use the source-map option in production as opposed to the inline-source-map we used in development:

  const merge = require('webpack-merge');
  const UglifyJSPlugin = require('uglifyjs-webpack-plugin');
  const common = require('./webpack.common.js');

  module.exports = merge(common, {
+   devtool: 'source-map',
    plugins: [
-     new UglifyJSPlugin()
+     new UglifyJSPlugin({
+       sourceMap: true
+     })
Avoid inline-*** and eval-*** use in production as they can increase bundle size and reduce the overall performance.

Specify the Environment

Many libraries will key off the process.env.NODE_ENV variable to determine what should be included in the library. For example, when not in production some libraries may add additional logging and testing to make debugging easier. However, with process.env.NODE_ENV === 'production' they might drop or add significant portions of code to optimize how things run for your actual users. We can use webpack's built in DefinePlugin to define this variable for all our dependencies:

+ const webpack = require('webpack');
  const merge = require('webpack-merge');
  const UglifyJSPlugin = require('uglifyjs-webpack-plugin');
  const common = require('./webpack.common.js');

  module.exports = merge(common, {
    devtool: 'cheap-module-source-map',
    plugins: [
      new UglifyJSPlugin({
        sourceMap: true
+     new webpack.DefinePlugin({
+       'process.env': {
+         'NODE_ENV': JSON.stringify('production')
+       }
+     })
Technically, NODE_ENV is a system environment variable that Node.js exposes into running scripts. It is used by convention to determine dev-vs-prod behavior by server tools, build scripts, and client-side libraries. Contrary to expectations, process.env.NODE_ENV is not set to "production" within the build script webpack.config.js, see #2537. Thus, conditionals like process.env.NODE_ENV === 'production' ? '[name].[hash].bundle.js' : '[name].bundle.js' within webpack configurations do not work as expected.

If you're using a library like react, you should actually see a significant drop in bundle size after adding this plugin. Also note that any of our local /src code can key off of this as well, so the following check would be valid:


  import { cube } from './math.js';
+ if (process.env.NODE_ENV !== 'production') {
+   console.log('Looks like we are in development mode!');
+ }

  function component() {
    var element = document.createElement('pre');

    element.innerHTML = [
      'Hello webpack!',
      '5 cubed is equal to ' + cube(5)

    return element;


CLI Alternatives

Some of what has been described above is also achievable via the command line. For example, the --optimize-minimize flag will include the UglifyJSPlugin behind the scenes. The --define process.env.NODE_ENV="'production'" will do the same for the DefinePlugin instance described above. And, webpack -p will automatically invoke both those flags and thus the plugins to be included.

While these short hand methods are nice, we usually recommend just using the configuration as it's better to understand exactly what is being done for you in both cases. The configuration also gives you more control on fine tuning other options within both plugins.