Basic Routing with Express.js

5 min read

Want an easy way to have a few routes in your Node.js web application? If you answered yes, you willunderstand how to do exactly that by the end of this post. But first, what is routing? In simple terms, it is how an application is told to respond to a client on a specific endpoint. An endpoint is basically a path or URI and one of the HTTP request methods (GET, POST, and so on).

Express is a Node.js framework that allows you to help organize your web applications on the server side. It is one of the most popular node packages and many of the other popular packages on NPM are built using Express. So, today we are going to learn how to use this in our web app! This tutorial assumes that you have Node installed; if you do not, visit this link.

Install and Setup

The first step is to setup your environment. Make sure that you create a new project directory for this sample app using the following:

$ mkdir basic-routing-example

I will be using basic-routing-example, but you can use whatever name you would like. Enter that directory using this:

$ cd basic-routing-example

Now that you are in that directory, create a file called server.jsfor our code. This is the entry point of our application. Now, you need to install the Express.js package with the following command:

$ npm install express --save

Then, if you are familiar with Node.js development, we need to create a package.json file using this command:

$ npm init

Now that you are all setup to use Express, it’s time to start coding!


Open the server.js file we created earlier and start editing it by adding this to the top of your file:

const express = require('express')
const app = express()
var port = 3000

The first line allows us to use the Express.js package in our code. The second line creates a variable called app that is an instance of Express. This is how we will access the functionalities of Express. We then create a variable called port to store the port the server will listen on when it is started. Then below our variables, add this:

app.get('/', function (req, res) {
  res.send('This is our home page!')

app.listen(port, function () {
  console.log('We are listening on port ' + port)

The first bit here is our first example of handling a route. It says that we would like to handle a HTTP GET request method on the route /, which in this case is the homepage of our web application. If there is a GET request to the route /, then it will handle it by calling the callback function specified. So upon receiving a GET request, it will send a response to the page with the text This is our home page!. In order to get this to show, we need to have our server listen on a port. We do that with the second bit of code: app.listen(). To test that you have handled this request properly, save the file, and in the command line enter,$ node server.js.

The command line should outputWe are listening on port 3000.

Then, go to your web browser and go tothe pagelocalhost:3000. Here is a sample image of what you should see on that page:



Now, let’s test this with a second web page for your web application. Suppose you had an About page as part of your site. The route you would want for this page would be /about. Let’s see how we would handle a GET Request to that page:

app.get('/about', function (req, res) {
  res.send('This is a basic app with routing in express')

This is similar to how we handled the GET request for the home page route of /. Here, we change the route to /about to specify the About page of our application and we change how we would like to handle it by changing the message being sent in with res.send(). Now, let’s test to see if this works by saving our file, running it with: $ node server.js, and then opening up a web browser and going to the URLlocalhost:3000/about. This image is what your webpage should look like:



Let’s say you wanted to handle another request such as a POST request. We would add the following code to our application:'/', function (req, res) {
  res.send('we got a POST req from the client')

This handles a POST request on the route /. To make this fully functional, we would have to go out of the scope of this tutorial, but this is simply an example of how you would handle a different type of HTTP request for a route.

Now, what if you had multiple types of HTTP request methods that need to be handled for one route? We could use app.route(). Remove the code for app.get(‘/’) and‘/’) handlers and add this following code snippet:

  .get(function (req, res) {
    res.send('This is our home page!')
  .post(function (req, res) {
    res.send('we got a POST req from the client')

This allows us to handle multiple types of HTTP requests for one specific route. In this case, the route is /, and it has a handler for a GET and POST request.


You made it! You now have a simple web app that can handle different HTTP request methods on different routes. Here is a high-level overview of what we did here:

  1. We installed Express.js.
  2. Created an instance of Express called appin our code.
  3. Used that instance to handle multiple routes.
  4. Used that instance to handle different types of HTTP requests.
  5. Learned how to use app.route() to simplify handling of HTTP requests for one route.

If you enjoyed this post, share it on twitter. Check out the code for this tutorial on GitHub.

About the Author

Antonio Cucciniello is a software engineer with a background in C, C++, and Javascript (Node.Js) from New Jersey. His most recent project called Edit Docs is an Amazon Echo skill that allows users to edit Google Drive files using theirvoice. He loves building cool things with software and reading books on self-help and improvement, finance, and entrepreneurship. You can find Antonio on Twitter @antocucciniello and on GitHub.


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