Priyanka Rathor
Priyanka Rathor in Tutorials
Wed Dec 05 2018 · 21 min read

Create a REST API [Part 1]: Project Setup with Express

In this tutorial, we will create a new NodeJS project with ExpressJS, body-parser, and nodemon and get our server.js file ready to build a REST API. This is part 1 of a series of tutorials on building a REST API in Node with ExpressJS, KnexJS, and PostgreSQL.

More From This Series

• Part 1 - Project Setup with Express

Download the code for this series

Project Setup

1. Create a new node project

Create a new node project (We called ours 'simple-api' but you can call yours anything you'd like):

# From your command line / terminal
mkdir simple-api
cd simple-api
npm init

NPM will ask you a series of unimportant questions about naming your package and version numbers. Just hit 'Enter' until you get to 'entry point' and type in server.js instead of the default index.js. Create a server.js file now in your projects root directory.

2. Install some packages

For this part of the tutorial series we will need express, body-parser and nodemon.

Express - A web framework for Node.js which makes working on web applications easier by providing a nice coder-friendly layer on the Node.js HTTP server. Check out the express website for more details.

body-parser - Middleware for Express that extracts the body of an incoming request stream into a more usable form, ‘req.body’. You can read more about it here

nodemon - Automatically restarts node applications when changes are made to a directory. Read more about it here .

Use the following command to install express and body-parser:

npm i express body-parser

Tip: As of version 5.0.0 of NPM, you don't need to add --save at the end of an NPM install command to have packages added to your package.json file.

and install nodemon globally so you can use it as a command line tool:

npm i nodemon -g

3. Don't forget Git

I am assuming you are familiar with Git so this is just a friendly reminder that this would be a good time to create a .gitignore file (with 'node_module' and package-lock.json') and do a git commit.

4. Server.js

Moving on to the ‘server.js’ file where we will customize the configuration of our project.

// simplecode-api/server.js
// Include express
const express = require("express");

// This line simply puts Express in a variable called 'app'
const app = express(); // Include body-parser
const bodyParser = require("body-parser");

// Include users.js file from the api directory (We will add this in the next step)
const userRoutes = require("./api/routes/users");

// Configure body-parser settings//
// urlencoded is for bodies that have UTF-8 encoding.
// If {extended: false} you cannot use nested objects.
// e.g. nested obj = {person:{name: adam}}
app.use(bodyParser.urlencoded({ extended: true }));

// Parse json with body-parser

// Setup your api routes with express
app.use("/v1/users", userRoutes);

// Server will listen to whatever is in the environment variable 'port'
// or 3000 if nothing is specified
const port = process.env.PORT || 3000;

// express returns an HTTP server
app.listen(port, () => console.log("[Server] online " + new Date()));


Used in express to set up the middleware layers. Various options can be added after app.use() i.e. app.use([path,] callback [,callback…]). The usage of each option has been explicitly mentioned in the comments above each line of code.


The purpose of using ‘/v1/’ in our routes is to make versioning of the api possible without a lot of hassle. So, for version 2 of a route you could just add ‘/v2/users’. There are other more elegant ways to perform versioning, but for the purposes of learning how to make an api, this should work for now.

5. User Routes

Let's setup our users routes file. Create a directory called ‘api’ in your project root with another directory called 'routes' inside that. Create a ‘users.js’ file in the ‘routes’ directory. In the ‘users.js’ file we will include the express router middleware for our routing.

// simeplcode-api/api/routes/users.js
// Include express
const express = require("express");

// Include express router middleware
const router = express.Router();

// Add a 'get' method to express router for our test route
router.get("/", function(req, res) {
  res.send({ msg: "Hello World" });

// Exports the router object
module.exports = router;

If you remember, this file is loaded by server.js and inserted at the end of the 'v1/users' route. So in this test route we are adding '/' to the end of our users route which will respond to any requests to 'localhost:3000/v1/users/'. We'll see this in action in the next few steps.

6. Start your server

In your projects root directory in a command line or terminal enter:

nodemon server.js

and you should see the following:

[nodemon] 1.18.6
[nodemon] to restart at any time, enter `rs`
[nodemon] watching: *.*
[nodemon] starting `node server.js`
[Server] online Thu Dec 08 2018 09:57:07 GMT-0500 (Eastern Standard Time)

Looking good! Your server is up and running!

7. Test your server

With your server running, open up a web browser and go to 'localhost:3000/v1/users' (Remember this route we create earlier?). You should see the following:

8. Testing with Postman

Before we move on to part 2 of this series, it might be useful to download and install the Postman App. Once you have postman open, select the GET method, type in ‘localhost:3000/v1/users/’ in the address bar and click 'Send'. You should see the same “Hello World” message as you did in your browser.

Success! You have yourself an API (Although it doesn't do much yet).


You now have a working yet basic REST API that we will continue to build on throughout this series. Move on to part 2 where we will connect to a PostgreSQL database using another excellent NodeJS package called KnexJS. Leave a comment below if you need help or have anything to add!

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