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Create Server

In this step of the tutorial you will learn how to create an express server.

Change Branches

Whenever we want to make changes to our code we should do this on a new branch. Run the following command in your terminal.

Create and move to a new branch called add-server. (git checkout allows us to move to a new branch and the -b flag is used to create a new branch)
git checkout -b add-server

Add Gitignore

A .gitignore file is used to prevent certain files from being added to our .git history. We want to do this to minimize the size of our remote repositories. Run the following command to create a .gitignore file.

touch .gitignore

Go to this website. Copy the generated text and paste it into your .gitignore file. This will prevent any of our unnecessary files from entering our .git history.

Install Express

ExpressJS is a NodeJS package that allows us to, easily, create a web server. Run the following command to install ExpressJS.

Install express with npm
npm install express@4.17.3

Create Server

Add the following code to your app.js file

Import express using require
const express = require('express');
Create a variable called app to store our application
const app = express();

Servers work by making responses to requests that users send them. Users will make GET requests to your server in order to get information. We can respond to these requests by using the app.get() function. This function takes in two parameters: the path and a function. The path is the address users make the request to. For example, when you go to you are making a get request to the / path. The function is called when a user visits this route, this function takes in two parameters: req and res. req stands for the request sent to the route and res stands for the response that the server is going to make.

Create a route that responds to a GET request with Hello, World!
(req, res) => {
res.send('Hello, World!');

Right now our server still does not do anything. We need to tell our app to listen to a certain port for requests. To do this we will call the app.listen() function. This function takes two parameters: a port and a function. The port is where the app is going to listen for responses. The function will be run once the server is listening to the port specified.

Tell app to listen to port 3000
() => {
console.log(`Gif Search listening on http://localhost:3000/`);

Now our server is ready to go. Run the following command in the terminal.

node app.js

You should see "Gif Search listening on http://localhost:3000/" in the terminal. If you hold CMD and click on http://localhost:3000/, in your terminal, your browser will make a GET request to your server and you should see Hello, World! in your browser.

This is great but we need to make our server a bit more interactive. We can do this by taking in url parameters. Url parameters are used to send information to a server. We can use url parameters by adding a : followed by the parameter name to our route path. Let's create a route that will respond with Hello, then a users name. Make sure you add all routes before your app.listen() function.


In Javascript the backtick character is different than single quote character. The backtick allows us to do string interpolation using the ${} syntax.

`Hello, ${name}!`
Create a route that responds to /hello/
(req, res) => {
const name =;
res.send(`Hello, ${name}!`);

If you visit http://localhost:3000/hello/dylan you will see a message that says Cannot GET /hello/dylan. Restart your server to see your new changes by pressing CTRL+C in your terminal and then running bash node app.js.

Let's make making changes easier by installing a package called Nodemon. Nodemon will automatically restart your server when you save changes. Run the following command to install Nodemon.

Install Nodemon (The -g flag installs the package globally and allows us to use the package in other projects)
npm install nodemon -g

Now our project will automatically update if we run it with the following command.

Run project using Nodemon

Respond With HTML

Right now our server is just responding with text, let's get it to respond with <html>. Handlebars is an express view engine that allows us to render data in our <html>. Run the following commands to use Handlebars.

Install Handlebars
npm install express-handlebars@6.0.3
Create folder for html
mkdir views
Create home view
touch views/home.handlebars
Create layouts folder
mkdir views/layouts
Create main view layout
touch views/layouts/main.handlebars

Now that we have our view files created let's add some html to them.

Add html boilerplate to main.handlebars
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
<meta charset="UTF-8">
<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge">
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
<title>Gif Search</title>
Add html to home.handlebars
<h1>Gif Search</h1>

Now that our views have some html lets get our server to render them. In order to render our Handlebars html we are going to need to add the handlebars middleware to our server. Middleware are like plugins for ExpressJS, they allow us to modify the function of ExpressJS. All of your middleware should come after you declare your app and before any of your routes.

Import Handlebars engine function into your project
const { engine } = require('express-handlebars');
Set handlebars as the view engine for your app
app.engine('handlebars', engine());
app.set('view engine', 'handlebars');
Set express views to our views folder
app.set("views", "./views");

Now that we have our middleware setup we can render some <html>. We can do this using the res.render() function. This function takes in the view name and configuration options. We are going to pass in 'home' as the view name and use the default configuration by not passing in a second parameter.

Update our root route to show the home view
(req, res) => {

Push To GitHub

In your terminal run the following commands, to push your current code to the add-server branch on GitHub.

Add current changes to staging.
git add .
Commit current changes and call the commit Added Server. (The -m flag lets us add a message)
git commit -m "Added Server"
Push local changes to the remote repository. (origin is the name of the remote repository and add-server is the branch name)
git push origin add-server

You should see a link in your terminal following Create a pull request for 'add-server' on GitHub by visiting:. Hold CMD and click the link. You will be brought to a pull request called Add Server. Press the button that says Create Pull Request then press the Merge Pull Request button. This will merge the add-server branch with your main branch. In order to get the up to date main branch, locally, enter the following commands in your terminal.

Change to the main branch
git checkout main
Pull the updated main branch
git pull