Node.js Best Practices: 15 Pro Tips for Enterprise Development in 2023

When you’re building Node.js enterprise applications, there are a few things you can do to help structure your code and deal with errors fast. Check out these best practices from our co-founder.

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by Esteban Agustin D'Amico


Let's say you're building a web application with Node.js. You start by writing some basic code to get things up and running. But, as your application grows in complexity, you notice some performance issues, bugs, and security vulnerabilities that threaten to derail your progress or require you to use callbacks. 

So, how do you create a reliable, and maintainable solution? There are a few best practices you can follow—from optimizing your code structure to securing your application and efficiently deploying. 

In this article, Esteban D'Amico, Co-Founder and Head of Engineering at NaNLABS, shares his best practices to help you build an application that meets your users' needs and is robust enough to handle the challenges of web development. 

Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you

Project architecture best practices for Node.js

The architecture of a Node.js project refers to how the code is organized, how the different components interact with each other, and how the project as a whole is designed to meet its goals and objectives. Here are a few project architecture best practices:

1. Use Typescript boilerplates for specific Javascript environments 

TypeScript is fully compatible with JavaScript runtime and integrates with widely used libraries, Node.js extensions, and frameworks like React, Angular, and Express.js, making it an ideal choice for Node.js development. But it often requires additional configuration and setup. So if you want to quickly set up a TypeScript project in a specific JavaScript environment, consider using a boilerplate. 

A boilerplate can help ensure consistent code while speeding up the development process, which is why we've created our own at NaNLABS. As Esteban explains, "If you need a reliable and tested boilerplate using Typescript, you can always trust our TypeScript Monorepo Boilerplate that provides a set of tooling to start a project making sure the implementation will be robust and scalable.”

2. Use Node.js boilerplates for building complex applications

Building a complex Node.js application from scratch can give you flexibility and control over the project's architecture, design, and functionality. But it can also be time-consuming and requires high skill and experience.

Node.js boilerplates typically include a set of best practices, coding conventions, plugins, index.js files, configuration files, and pre-installed dependencies that are specific to the needs of the project, such as database connectors, API frameworks, and authentication libraries. 

“There are many Node.js boilerplates to choose from depending on the runtime environment and language selected. Our GitHub repository, NaNAwesome, has a  huge selection and adaptation of NodeJS boilerplates, and is constantly updated and improved by our dedicated team,” says Esteban.

3. Structure your architecture using components

When you break a Node.js application into smaller, more manageable components, you can create a more structured, organized, and scalable codebase that’s easier to understand and maintain. For example, a Node.js application for an e-commerce site can have components for handling user authentication, managing product catalogs, and processing payments.

This makes it easy to reuse components across multiple parts of the application. It also makes the codebase more modular and easier to debug, as changes to one component don’t impact the rest of the application. 

Quote by Esteban D-Amico, NaNLABS Co-founder and Head of Engineering

4. Layer components

“Each layer should be responsible for a specific type of functionality and should be decoupled from the other layers. This makes it easier to test and maintain your code and add new functionality as your application grows,” says Esteban.  

In a basic server architecture for Node.js, the components are often separated into three layers: controllers, models, and routes.

  • Controllers layer is responsible for handling incoming requests and generating responses, 

  • Models layer is responsible for interacting with the database or other data sources

  • Routes layer is responsible for mapping incoming requests to the appropriate controller function.

Middleware can also be used as an additional layer in a basic server architecture for Node.js, alongside the existing components of controllers, models, and routes. This way, changes to the logic can be made in the models layer without affecting the controllers or routes. And you can manage and modify the codebase over time, making it easy to develop enterprise apps with Node.js.

Node modules and code style best practices for Node.js

If you want readability, maintainability, and scalability of the codebase, follow these best practices for node modules and code style:

5. Follow a consistent coding style guide

“If you’ve multiple developers working on a project, having a consistent code style and formatting reduces the likelihood of errors and makes the codebase scalable,” says Esteban. He advises using tools like ESLint to enforce a coding style guide, catch common errors, and prebuilt and community-adopted configs like eslint-config-airbnb. He also recommends checking out NaNLABS’ devcontainer repository, based on Microsoft's published version.

6. Incorporate ES modules or CommonJS modules

ES modules and CommonJS modules are the two main types of Node.js modules. “ES modules are a newer standard that provides better syntax and allows for more efficient bundling and tree-shaking. CommonJS modules, on the other hand, are the older standard and are still widely used in many Node.js projects,” says Esteban.

These node modules allow for better dependency management and make it easier to update them as needed, reducing errors from incompatible packages. 

7. Build small, focused modules 

When you break a code into smaller, focused units, each module follows the single responsibility principle (SRP)—so each module has a specific task or responsibility. This makes it easier to debug individual modules, reuse, and share them among multiple projects. 

8. Use NPM scripts for task automation

“By using NPM scripts, you can automate various tasks, such as building your application, running tests, and deploying to production,” says Esteban. Since NPM scripts are defined in the package.json file, you can ensure that everyone follows the same processes. It reduces the errors and eliminates the need for global dependencies.

To make the most of NPM scripts, Esteban recommends these tools:

  • husky - Git hooks made easy

  • npm-run-all - Run multiple npm-scripts in parallel or sequential

  • Turbo - A monorepo manager for JavaScript and TypeScript

Quote by Esteban D'Amico, NaNLABS Co-founder and Head of Engineering

Debugging and testing best practices for Node.js

Debugging and testing are essential practices for software development, and Node.js is no exception. While console.log is a built-in function for debugging and testing JavaScript code, there are a few debugging and testing best practices for Node.js:

9. Write different types of tests

When building a Node.js application, you’d ideally want to validate various aspects of the application, ensuring that it works as expected, is reliable, and can be maintained effectively. For example, if you’re building an e-commerce platform, you’ll need to ensure that each component—shopping cart, product listing, and order tracking—works properly and in tandem with other components.

Employing different types of tests like unit testing, integration testing, and end-to-end testing gives you a multi-level approach to testing, leading to efficient error handling in production and a better user experience overall.

10. Use a testing framework

Node.js has released a native stable version of the test_runner module in version 20. “The test runner module is ideal for running JavaScript test suites without installing additional dependencies. It has building blocks like describe, it/test, and hooks for authoring and structuring test files. Plus, it has mocking, watch mode, and can run multiple test files in parallel using the node --test command,” adds Esteban. 

While the new native test runner is a great alternative when starting new projects, Some Node.js development companies use popular non-native Node.js testing frameworks like Mocha, Jest, and Jasmine. 

11. Apply TDD and BDD principles

“Applying Test-driven Development (TDD) and Behavior-driven Development (BDD) are two popular approaches to software development that emphasize the importance of testing throughout the development process. The existing runners support any of these principles since they use the Test Anything Protocol (TAP)”, says Esteban. 

In TDD, you write tests for a specific functionality before implementing the actual code, while BDD is an extension of TDD and focuses on defining the user’s behavior for an application. That way, you ensure your code meets the requirements and expectations of your users.

Security best practices for Node.js

Security measures help safeguard sensitive data and maintain the integrity of the application while providing a safe user experience. Here are some security best practices for Node.js:

12. Regular updation of dependencies 

Outdated dependencies can cause vulnerabilities like security breaches, performance issues, and unexpected application behavior, making your application an easier target for attackers. So, it’s important to review release notes and changelogs for each update to identify the impact of changes on your application.

While there’s no fixed timeline on how often dependencies should be updated, it’s recommended to do so every few weeks. Tools like Dependabot, npm audit, or Sny can help automate this process. 

13. Input validation and sanitization to prevent injection attacks

Injection attacks like SQL injection or Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), occur when an attacker ‘injects’ malicious code or data into your application through user inputs, leading to harmful actions like unauthorized access, and data manipulation.

Validation ensures data received by your application meets specific criteria and adheres to expected formats. And sanitization helps remove any potentially harmful content before your application processes it by escaping special characters, removing HTML tags, or filtering unwanted input patterns.

Quote by Esteban D'Amico, NaNLABS Co-founder and Head of Engineering

Production best practices for Node.js

Making sure the application functions correctly in production is essential for a successful deployment. Here are some production best practices for Node.js:

14. Set environment-specific configurations

When you separate configurations for different environments, you can avoid accidentally leaking sensitive information like API keys and database credentials into the wrong environment. This approach makes it easy to manage and deploy the application across various stages of the development lifecycle—development, staging, and production. 

15. Use a reverse proxy

A reverse proxy between the client and your Node.js server intercepts and processes client requests before forwarding them to the appropriate backend service. It can also handle SSL/TLS termination and offload secure connections from your Node.js server, reducing the server's workload and improving performance by handling tasks like load balancing, caching, and compression. 

Build your Node.js application the right way

Developing complex applications with Node.js can be challenging, especially when you’re dealing with a large codebase. Slow performance, security vulnerabilities, and code bloat make it difficult to meet the needs of your business. 

Following best practices and sound development principles like modularizing your code, optimizing performance, securing your application, and keeping your codebase clean and maintainable can help you create reliable Node.js applications.

But if you're struggling to find professional developers or want to augment your team with additional expertise, we’re here to help. 

At NaNLABS, we have over 10 years of experience in JavaScript and Node.js development services. As part of our consultancy services, we'll work with you to identify the right technology stack for your software project, so you can build high-performing Node.js web applications that make an impact in no time. 

Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you

Frequently asked questions about Node.js

  • What’s the best way to create a new project in Node.js?

    The best way to create a new project in Node.js is to use a package manager like npm or Yarn. These tools help initialize a new project with all the necessary files and dependencies and also provide a convenient way to manage those dependencies as the project evolves.

  • What’s a package manager?

    A package manager is a tool that automates installing, upgrading, configuring, and removing software packages or libraries. In the context of Node.js, a package manager such as npm or Yarn is used to manage the dependencies of a Node.js project, making it easy to install and manage third-party libraries and node modules.

  • What’s the best way to create a Node.js package?

    ​​The best way to create a Node.js package is to use the npm init command, which initializes a new package with a package.json file that includes metadata about the package and its dependencies. From there, you can add the necessary files and publish the package to the npm registry for others to use.

  • What’s the best way to make your application smaller?

    The best way to make your application smaller is by:

    • Minifying and compressing code by removing whitespace, comments, and shortening names of variables in JavaScript, CSS, and HTML files 

    • Compressing images, resizing them, and using correct file formats

    • Eliminating unused code through bundling and tree shaking 

    • Loading smaller chunks of your application as required through code splitting

    • Removing any unused dependencies to minimize your application and reduce complexity

    • Efficiently storing static assets and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) by caching

  • What’s the difference between "const" and "let" in Nodejs?

    The difference between a "const" and "let" in Node.js is that "const" is used to declare constants or environment variables that won’t ever be changed throughout the code, while "let" can be used to declare environment variables whose values can change over time. Using "const" will make your code more secure and efficient, while "let" can provide more flexibility in certain cases, like loops where you need to alter the value of a variable.

  • What are the advantages of Node.js?

    Some advantages of Node.js include:

    • Fast and efficient performance, thanks to the v8 engine

    • Asynchronous and non-blocking I/O for handling concurrent connections effectively

    • Scalability which makes it ideal for applications with high traffic or growth potential

    • A unified development experience using JavaScript for both front-end and back-end

    • Versatility across various applications, from web servers to real-time systems

    • A robust ecosystem that features open-source libraries and packages via npm

    A supportive and active community which fosters continuous improvements, knowledge sharing, and assistance

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