Blockchain platforms and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are extremely popular right now, with many first-time investors and creators building crypto fortunes through buying and selling these digital assets. However, smart contracts must be written and deployed before anyone can trade NFTs on a marketplace web application.
But what exactly are smart contracts, and how do you make one? This plain English guide discusses everything from NFTs to smart contract creation in a simple and easy-to-understand way.
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What Is A Non-Fungible Token?
An NFT, or non-fungible token, is a crypto asset primarily hosted on the Ethereum blockchain network. Unlike “fungible” assets like fiat currencies and ETH or BTC, each NFT is unique and non-interchangeable. But even with this definition, the idea of an asset being “non-fungible” may be challenging to grasp without a real-life analogue. Luckily, these are plentiful.
For example, say you’ve somehow gained ownership over the Mona Lisa. While others may own replicas or reprints of the painting, they simply aren’t the same as the authentic painting in your collection. In this scenario, the Mona Lisa is similar to a non-fungible token because copies can’t be traded for the authentic piece in your possession.
So, if you have an NFT in your blockchain wallet, you’ll still have the rights to the asset even if other people download the digital file onto their computers.
What Is An NFT Smart Contract?
NFT smart contracts are bits of code located on public blockchains that host your NFT’s metadata file and your proof of ownership. They can also enable basic functions like tradability or linking to an image file representing your digital asset. But more than just containing essential information, these smart contracts make your NFT art pieces non-fungible.
This is achieved through a smart contract’s immutability which is gained after the code is published to the blockchain. Simply put, this means that the rules you’ve set in the smart contract cannot be changed once it’s live. Everything from contract address, custom features, and proof of digital ownership all remain static unless certain conditions are met. This information permanence is also what makes an asset non-fungible.
In short, NFT smart contracts are the lines of code that govern a non-fungible token while enabling its non-interchangeable nature through interaction with the blockchain.
Creating Your First NFT Smart Contract: The Preparation Phase
Before creating your smart contracts using ERC-721 token standards (the set of rules used for making NFTs), you’ll have to take a few moments to prepare your virtual wallet and connect to the Ethereum network. Here are some of the tasks to be completed before you’re ready to work with different smart contract methods.
1. Connect To The Ethereum Blockchain Network
First, you’ll need to find a solution that lets the smart contract interact with the Ethereum blockchain. One of the easiest ways to interface with the Ethereum blockchain is through Alchemy API, a user-friendly development platform that directly links your code to the ledgers.
Alchemy accounts are free, and the technology and code it uses are completely open-source. That way, users who are more concerned with the inner workings of their NFT smart contract will understand exactly what’s going on under the hood.
2. Connect Your Wallet
Once you’ve chosen the app to help you interact with the blockchain, you’ll need to connect your MetaMask wallet to the platform. This will allow you to receive test currency from an ETH faucet, which is the primary method for analyzing whether your NFT smart contracts will work the way you need them to.
3. Get Test Currency
Now that you have your MetaMask account address, you’ll need something to fill the target wallet address. That’s where ETH test faucets come into the picture. As the name suggests, these test faucets can deposit a small amount of currency into your wallet so you can ascertain if everything is working fine. Here’s how to do that on the FaucETH platform:
- Ensure your MetaMask wallet is running on the Ethereum Ropsten test-net
- Copy your Ropsten wallet address from the app
- Paste the address into FaucETH
- Click “Request Funds”
- Select “Ethernet Testnet Ropsten”
- Click “Request Funds” again
- Receive your test ETH
4. Install HardHat
HardHat is a blockchain development platform that allows creators to compile, deploy, and test their code and smart contracts locally before going live. Downloading and installing HardHat can significantly impact development and deployment time, especially for beginners.
Writing The Smart Contract
You don’t need to be an experienced developer to develop ERC-721 smart contracts, but being confident enough to experiment with code is a significant advantage. That’s because the crypto community has worked tirelessly to make the smart contract development process more accessible to the average non-blockchain developer.
This is mainly achieved through open-source tools like the OpenZeppelin contracts library, which contains all the necessary smart contract code you’ll need to start. But even with this extensive blockchain developer platform, creators will still have to edit the templates to suit their specific needs.
With this in mind, the following guide will touch on a few technical steps without getting too in-depth about writing a smart contract using the ERC-721 standard.
Provision An Oracle Blockchain Platform Instance
Before starting the process of writing your smart contract, you’ll need to provision a blockchain platform instance. We recommend using Oracle to manage your project because it provides users with a full suite of tools for management and troubleshooting while offering a layer of security. So, how do you create your instance?
Once you’ve finished making your Oracle Cloud Infrastructure account, navigate to the Services panel under the Blockchain Platform menu. Select the Create Blockchain Platform option and input your project data. Documentation is available on the Oracle website for a more detailed breakdown of how this works.
Install Blockchain App Builder
Earlier, we mentioned that creators didn’t need to be seasoned developers to write a smart contract, and this is possible primarily because of projects like the Blockchain App Builder. This indispensable development extension manages everything development-related and can build code based on user-defined specifications and settings.
So, how do you install Blockchain App Builder? Here are the simple steps you need to take:
- Click the Developer Tools panel in the Oracle Blockchain Console
- Select Blockchain App Builder panel from the drop-down menu
- From the Download section, select the CLI (command line interface) archive or the VS (visual studio) extension
- Set either program up locally once downloaded
Customize The Sample NFT Specification File And Create The Smart Contract
The Oracle platform allows users to build smart contracts based on parameters they set, which cuts out much of the necessary coding. To facilitate this, Oracle provides an easily accessible template to simplify the process. Users can expand on the specification file to build a foundation for additional functions.
Here’s how to use Oracle to generate your chaincode project or smart contract:
- Click on the Chaincodes section of your workspace and hit the + icon
- Enter all the necessary details in the blank fields provided by the development platform
- Select Create
Once the chaincode has been generated, users can review the smart contract’s functions and internal logic systems before proceeding.
Deploy The Smart Contract
After the initial review process, users can locally deploy their chaincode or smart contract via Blockchain App Builder. This is so developers can build a testing environment to work out any issues or bugs before publishing the project to the blockchain.
Alternatively, users can use the Oracle Blockchain Platform instance to get similar results. However, this requires more input from users because all parameters and connection profiles must be selected before any testing can occur.
Test The Smart Contract
Once the smart contract has been deployed into the testing environment, it’s ready for initial assessment and analysis. In its current deployed state, users can access all the major moving parts within the smart contract, such as roles, account management, and the NFT’s basic functions. Of course, these parameters and settings can be changed at any time, but what’s important is the actual execution.
So, how do you start testing Oracle’s development environment? The answer is the Execute panel under Chaincode details. The panel houses a drop-down menu containing all the necessary functions for your NFT, and the platform will return errors in case something fails.
Final Thoughts On Creating A Smart Contract
Smart contracts are the building blocks of NFTs. Every smart contract contains the ruleset that governs the NFT, which involves everything from its name, quantity, rarity (if part of a collection), and current owner.
However, since these smart contracts contain lots of necessary data, they must be properly written and tested before being deployed to the blockchain. Luckily, many open-source apps and services exist to streamline and simplify the development process. That means even non-developers can write and implement their smart contracts with ease.
So, if you want to launch your NFT project without worrying about coding, check out Tokenfy to find out how we can help.
Creating An NFT Smart Contract FAQs
What data is packed in a freshly minted NFT?
Theoretically, a freshly-minted NFT can be packed with near-limitless quantities of data. This can include a visual asset like a JPEG, GIF, video, 3D model, or even a complete digital experience. However, as an asset increases in size, so do the gas prices for minting. As a result, many creators try to cut down on the data they include in their NFT.
How to create and deploy an ERC-721 (NFT)?
The steps to create and deploy an ERC-721 (NFT) are as follows:
- Get test ETH: Test ETH can be obtained from any Ethereum test faucet. Just connect your wallet and request for currency.
- Add files and assets to IPFS (InterPlanetary File System): Upload the files and assets you want to use for your NFT to the IPFS. Using the IPFS means your asset will be hosted on a decentralized server with zero downtime.
- Create your token or smart contract: Using a smart contract writing service or your own coding knowledge, write and deploy your chaincode. For more information, refer to the guide above.
How do I store my NFT’s metadata?
Your NFT’s metadata can be stored on IPFS, or the InterPlanetary File System. This will need to be linked to your token via a smart contract.