A Comprehensive Guide to Node.js Development
Ready to unlock the power of Node.js? From best practices to ideal tools and frameworks, here's everything you need to know about Node.js development.
1 min read
What’s included in this guide
From highly scalable real-time solutions to single-page applications, you can achieve a lot using a runtime environment like Node.js. But there’s also plenty to know if you want to make the most of it! So if you’d like to save yourself a bunch of research time around Node.js, you’ve come to the right place.
Tapping into the 10+ years of expertise of the NaNLABS team around this topic, we've crafted the ultimate Node.js development expert guide. And we're really not joking when we say that this is a comprehensive piece, so go ahead and bookmark this page.
Whether you're exploring web frameworks, building a dev toolkit or interested in best practices to optimize your processes, here's your Node.js mastery guide!
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.
What exactly is Node.js backend development?
Using this RTE for backend development comes with several advantages, including:
High speed: Node.js uses non-blocking I/O operations and asynchronous I/O, allowing it to handle multiple client-side requests simultaneously without blocking input requests.
Optimized performance: Its single-threaded and event-driven architecture enables seamless process execution from start to finish, and simultaneous multitasking of requests without excessive RAM usage.
Scalability: Node.js' high-speed operations and optimized performance make it easy to scale your application. Be it vertically or horizontally.
When using Node.js is (and isn’t) a good idea
Although Node.js development offers all the benefits listed above (and more), there are certainly cases in which it will not serve you.
As a rule of thumb, Node.js is a great option for backend web development when heavy loads of data need to be quickly processed. So this language is your best bet when working on:
Real-time applications like messaging or chat solutions
Single-page applications (SPAs) such as social network platforms, email solutions, and dynamic websites
Streaming applications – Node.js is behind Netflix!
Scalable solutions, such as apps that experience high-peak loads
In contrast, we'll always advise our clients to steer clear of Node.js if they're dealing with web applications with relational databases, multi-threaded applications, and heavy computations. For these cases, we recommend other runtime environments such as Java or Python. Both have strong multi-threading capabilities and robust performance in handling computationally intensive tasks.
Node.js Web Frameworks You Should Know About
Even the best RTEs require the support of a good web framework.
When it comes to Node.js, here is a summary of the best frameworks you can find for building your application and organizing your workflows.
|Best Suited For
|Full-stack, real-time web development for startups and small businesses.
|Fast, unopinionated, minimalist web framework for startups and small businesses.
|Efficient, easy-to-maintain and scalable MVPs.
|MVC framework inspired by Laravel for large and small businesses.
|Extensible and configuration-centric framework for medium and large businesses.
|Realtime MVC Framework and scalable APIs for small and medium businesses.
|Complex integrations for businesses of all sizes.
|Expressive middleware using async functions for small and medium businesses.
|Cloud-native solution for businesses of all sizes.
Node.js Development Tools Real Developers Swear By
In addition to web frameworks, there are a number of development tools you can pick from to take your project to the next level.
To help you with that selection, below you will find a list of the best Node.js development tools, according to the experts in our engineering team.
But before you jump in, here's a key reminder: your development toolkit must always be built based on the needs of your project and the skills of your team.
The top 10 Node.js development tools:
Virtual Studio Code (VS Code)
Fast Node Manager (fnm)
Node Package Manager (npm)
#1 Virtual Studio Code (VS Code)
VS Code is an open-source integrated development environment (IDE) created by Microsoft, which includes a text editor, syntax highlighter, code completion, and debugging tools.
Why add VS Code to your toolkit?
Nearly every engineer at NaNLABS has VS Code as their primary text editor and IDE for multiple programming languages.
This is our team's number one pick because it's lightweight and comes with a wide range of features and extensions, including:
Syntax highlighting—to catch errors and come up with simplified lines of code
Code completion—to get automatically generated code suggestions
Debugging tools—to simplify bug fixing
Integrated terminal—to run commands without leaving the editor
Plug it into VS Code, Sublime Text or Atom, for example, and you'll benefit from real-time feedback and suggestions while coding.
Why add ESLint to your toolkit?
Having a clear code style helps a team create cohesive code that matches those standards. And since ESLint lets you adapt the settings according to your coding style, using it allows you to streamline projects and quickly ramp up new developments.
#3 GitHub Copilot
GitHub Copilot is an AI-powered code completion tool that proposes code snippets and function implementations based on the context provided. While it can be helpful to come up with new ideas or generate some boilerplate code, pushing it too far will likely result in disjointed software. So be sure to always check if the suggested code meets your intended functionality.
Why add GitHub Copilot to your toolkit?
Like every good assistant, GitHub Copilot makes you more productive by handling simple yet time-consuming jobs, while you tackle what truly matters.
Is writing code for that homepage signup really the best use of your time? Probably not. So enlist this tool to create your Node.js templates, and move on to more complex functions like determining the search algorithm, for example.
Why add Jest to your toolkit?
Offering a test runner, assertion library, and mocking features, it's really an excellent option for Node.js development. Working with Jest you'll be able to run several testing types to see how well your code works in a real-life simulation environment like Node.js.
#5 Fast Node Manager (fnm)
No surprises here. Fast Node Manager does exactly what the name implies.
It's a Node.js version manager with the benefits of being both fast and lightweight. Built on Rust, fnm supports cross-platform installation and makes it easy for you to switch between multiple Node.js versions or access other ones you can install.
Why add Fast Node Manager to your toolkit?
We recommend adding fnm to your toolkit since it makes it easy to access and debug apps developed on different versions of Node.js.
Take it from our co-founder and Engineering Manager, Matias Alvarez Duran:
Anyone building software needs to use APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to connect it to other tools. Postman will make handling those connections simpler, and every stage of the API lifecycle will become faster and easier to build. Postman supports you in coding, testing, editing, and documenting APIs, and offers a repository of pre-developed and public options too.
Why add Postman to your toolkit?
Establishing clear APIs is crucial for any large-scale modern application, and using this tool is simply the easiest way to write, test, and debug APIs. At NaNLABS, we rely on Postman to develop APIs, document software and even to automate workflows.
#7 Node Package Manager (npm)
Why add Node Package Manager to your toolkit?
Turborepo is an open-source build system, written in Rust, that automatically compiles a codebase into executable software. It simplifies development by providing incremental builds, without affecting the runtime.
Why add TurboRepo to your toolkit?
If you're working with Node.js, using Turborepo to handle your large-scale code repositories is a great choice. It automates a significant portion of your development process and boosts the speed and reliability of code searches, pulls, and merges.
Why add Socket.io to your toolkit?
This tool allows you to create interactive features such as chat rooms, real-time gaming, and collaborative editing. With Socket.IO and Node.js, you can easily build these two-sided communications, with Node.js acting as the server. This is one of our team's most loved tools, and we bet it will become one of yours too!
Why add Babel to your toolkit?
We like Babel for Node.js development as it will help you compile ECMAScript 6 code and make it compatible with Node.js versions like ES5. It also allows you to enhance the performance of your ES5 applications by using ES6 features while still being able to run them on ES5.
Best Node.js Libraries for Your Next Project
Even the most experienced developers don't have all the answers. What they have is the knowledge of how to get them. So let's have a look at the 7 best Node.js libraries you can consult when things get tricky.
1. Express.js for developing web applications APIs
Express.js is our preferred library for developing web apps in Node.js due to its minimalistic and lightweight nature. It allows developers to efficiently create features, APIs, and microservices for web applications. While it allows fast API development, for larger Node.js enterprise applications we'd recommend a complete framework.
2. Mongoose for handling MongoDB databases
Mongoose is a MongoDB Object Data Modeling (ODM) library for Node.js, offering a user-friendly way to work with MongoDB databases in Node.js applications.
This library provides you with a wide range of ready-made features like type casting and query builders to enhance in-app functionality. Mongoose is also the place to go for easy-to-use modeling solutions based on schemas for your software data.
3. Passport.js for user authentication
Passport.js is a powerful middleware for Node.js that authenticates Express.js requests. It's one of the most comprehensive libraries available and offers a huge selection of in-app plugins, making it flexible and adaptable for Express-based web applications. Similar to a local passport enabling travel between countries, Passport.js allows you to add user authentication to web-based apps, granting them access to their accounts.
4. Day.js for handling different date and times formats
5. Axios for making HTTP requests from Node.js apps
Axios is a promise-based HTTP client library for Node.js, simplifying HTTP requests and response handling for developers on browsers or Node.js platforms. Compared to libraries like Request, Axios is lightweight and faster, offering an efficient performance. It supports all of your run-of-the-mill requests like GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE.
6. Ramda for working with functional programming paradigms
7. Socket.IO for bidirectional communication between the client and server
Node.js Best Practices
Certain things you can learn by consulting a library, others only through experience. And our 10 years of working with Node.js have taught us a lot about what works and what doesn't. So here are our top 15 Node.js best practices to help you structure your code and tackle errors fast!
Project architecture best practices for Node.js
2. Use Node.js boilerplates for building complex applications
Creating an intricate Node.js application from scratch offers flexibility and control but requires time and expertise. That's why we strongly recommend using boilerplates.
Node.js boilerplates come with best practices, coding conventions, and pre-installed dependencies tailored to the project's needs, such as database connectors and API frameworks.
If you were looking for a boilerplate for this purpose, you're in luck! NaNAwesome, our GitHub repository, offers a wide range of Node.js boilerplates for different RTEs and languages. And all of them are regularly improved and updated by our experts, so just take your pick and run with it!
3. Structure your architecture using components
Breaking a Node.js application into smaller components will leave you with a better structured, organized, and scalable codebase. And one that's a lot easier to work with and maintain. Having separate components to handle different functions will allow you to reuse them across the app. But will also prevent changes in one component from affecting the rest, simplifying your debugging process.
4. Layer components
In a basic server architecture for Node.js, layers should be decoupled. Each one should handle a certain type of functionality making maintenance, testing and feature additions simpler.
The three main layers are controllers, responsible for requests and responses, models, responsible for data interactions, and routes, responsible for mapping requests to the correct controller function.
You can also use middleware as an additional layer to prevent logic changes made to the models layer from impacting the rest of the components. This approach enables the development of scalable enterprise apps with Node.js.
Node modules and code style best practices for Node.js
5. Follow a consistent coding style guide
As explained in the tools section above, adopting a consistent code style and formatting is essential for any development team. This practice reduces errors and ensures a scalable codebase, and can be fairly simple with the help of tools like ESLint. For that, you can also browse NaNLABS' devcontainer repository is based on Microsoft's published version.
6. Incorporate ES modules or CommonJS modules
The two main types of Node.js modules are ES modules and CommonJS modules. ES modules offer better syntax, efficient bundling, and tree-shaking, while CommonJS modules are older but still widely used in Node.js projects. Both module types improve dependency management and facilitate updates, reducing errors caused by incompatible packages.
7. Build small, focused modules
By dividing the code into smaller units, each module adheres to the single responsibility principle (SRP), meaning it has a specific task. This simplifies the debugging process for individual modules and allows for easy reuse and sharing across various projects.
8. Use NPM scripts for task automation
Scripts are great for automating tasks like building, testing, and deploying applications. They're defined in the package.json file, promoting consistency and reducing errors by ensuring that everyone follows the same processes. On top of that, they eliminate the need for global dependencies. To maximize the benefits of NPM scripts, we recommend having a go at tools like husky, npm-run-all, and Turbo.
Debugging and testing best practices for Node.js
9. Write different types of tests
Validating different aspects of the application to ensure functionality, reliability and maintenance ease is an essential part of Node.js development. And that's where multi-level testing comes in.
In the case of an e-commerce platform, for instance, that would mean guaranteeing a seamless interaction between components like the shopping cart, product listing, and order tracking. So make use of unit testing, integration testing, and end-to-end testing. That will not only improve your efficiency in solving errors but also your user's experience as a whole.
10. Use a testing framework
11. Apply TDD and BDD principles
Test-driven Development (TDD) and Behavior-driven Development (BDD) are highly-relevant software development approaches that prioritize testing throughout the development process. TDD involves writing tests before implementing code to meet specific functionality requirements. BDD goes beyond TDD by defining the application's user behavior, ensuring the code meets user expectations. Both TDD and BDD are supported by current runners, as both adopt the Test Anything Protocol (TAP).
Security best practices for Node.js
12. Regularly update dependencies
Outdated dependencies in your application equal vulnerability. So reviewing release notes and changelogs with each update to understand how they may impact your app should be a priority.
Dependabot, npm audit and Sny are good tools for automating this process and easily maintaining a secure and efficient application. But consistency is also key! We recommend updating your dependencies every couple of weeks to keep security breaches, performance issues, and unexpected app behavior at bay.
13. Use input validation and sanitization to prevent injection attacks
Unauthorized access and data manipulation are only a couple of the damaging actions which result from injection attacks like SQL injection or Cross-Site Scripting (XSS).
Since attackers insert malicious code or data through user inputs, you can adopt a validation and sanitization strategy to protect your application. Validation will ensure that data meets specific criteria and format, and sanitization will remove harmful content from the user inputs before processing.
Production best practices for Node.js
14. Set environment-specific configurations
By keeping configurations separate for different environments, you prevent sensitive information, such as API keys and database credentials, from being exposed in the wrong environment. This way you simplify application management and deployment throughout the development process.
15. Use a reverse proxy
A reverse proxy acts as an intermediary between the client and your Node.js server. It processes client requests before forwarding them to the backend service, and handles SSL/TLS termination, relieving your Node.js server from this task and improving performance. The reverse proxy also enhances performance by managing load balancing, caching, and compression tasks.
Finding first-rate Node.js Development Companies with experienced Node.js developers
Yes, picking the right tools and frameworks is critical to the success of your development project. But that will only take you so far.
Ultimately, a project will always be limited to the quality of the team working on it, so assess your options with care.
Luckily, we have already done most of the research for you and below is a short list of the top 6 Node.js development teams on a global scale:
1. NaNLABS: Best for team augmentation services
Should you need help with AWS cloud and tools, progressive web apps (PWA), SEO-friendly applications, mobile app development, and machine learning algorithms, we've got you covered as well! With a team of 80 tech experts, we’re always able to curate a pod tailored to the specific needs of your project.
Although we work with clients from all industries, these are the industries we know the best:
eCommerce and retail
Cybersecurity and Internet of Things (IoT)
Sales intelligence and enablement
Transportation and logistics
Our clients recommend us for our ability to seamlessly integrate with their in-house teams and solve issues fast.
We're proud to have won the 2021 Leader Awards on Clutch.co for being Argentina’s leading web development agency. And are also listed under the top 20 Best Software Development Companies in Argentina on TheManifest.
2. Devlane: Best for developing internal business services
Based in Uruguay, Devlane is a medium-sized staff augmentation company that integrates with your in-house team to tackle IT requests.
Devlane isn't on GoodFirms yet.
3. iTechArt Group: Best for VC-funded startups
iTechArt Group is an American app development company with 20 years of experience and a focus on two custom software development models: outsourcing and team augmentation.
With 3,000 employees, this is the largest player on our list!
4. Vincit: Best US-based agency for commercial and digital transformation
Vincit is an award-winning LA-based company specializing in commercial and digital software development.
Wholesale and retail
Enterprise business services
Energy and electricity services
Vincit isn't on GoodFirms yet.
5. One Beyond: Best European company for ERP development
One Beyond has 300 employees all over Europe and 30 years of experience in ERP solutions for hospitality and non-profits under its belt.
They have mastered the use of technologies like Microsoft .NET, Node.js, Express, Angular, Azure, AWS, and React Native. And you can rely on their team for web development services, customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, cloud migrations, hosting, and team augmentation.
Hospitality and Leisure
6. TechMagic: Best for HRTech and MarTech companies
Poland-based TechMagic offers you development projects that come with a dedicated team, as well as a fixed timeline and price tag. The agency's 250 employees can help you with AWS consulting, UX/UI design, test automation, low-code and no-code apps, and web development.
Interestingly, it's also possible to have them open a nearshore IT subsidiary of your organization in Poland or Ukraine. In that case, after intensive training, the developers are transferred and fully onboarded into your company.
In terms of technology, TechMagic's expertise includes Node.js, TypeScript, Angular, React, Vue.js, GraphQL, AWS, Serverless, and Firebase.
NaNLABS’ Experience with Node.js
To bring your Node.js app to life, you need a team of developers skilled in functional, asynchronous programming, and writing code suitable to different platforms.
That's what we did for HyreCar, a peer-to-peer car-sharing platform that connects car owners with rideshare drivers.
How we helped HyreCar migrate to microservices and scale with Node.js
As a successful SaaS company, HyreCar was growing fast and needed help to build enterprise-level software using Node.js. The client reached out to us but was hesitant about outsourcing due to challenging previous experiences.
Our team was able to put their mind at ease and establish a great collaboration because, at NaNLABS, we work with our clients and not just for them.
Since our approach is all about team augmentation and not box-ticking, our developers seamlessly integrated with HyreCar's engineers to work as one cohesive team.
Working together, our teams delivered impressive results! Ultimately, with the support of NaNLABS' developers, HyreCar was able to keep everything running smoothly while significantly boosting velocity. The company successfully migrated its legacy architecture to a state-of-the-art Cloud platform and increased its time-to-market.
Read the full case study below to find out more about this project.
Working with NaNLABS on your Node.js project: What you can expect
You already know that, at NaNLABS, our goal is to make the process better, not simply handle tickets. So you can be sure that you won't get any code monkeys, and that we'll team up with you to fix issues and make improvements. That's the most important aspect of the NaNLABS approach to software development!
Other than that, here's what you need to know about how we work:
We live and breathe Agile principles – Agile software development has been our mindset from day one and we use frameworks like Scrum, Lean Software Development (LSD), and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) daily.
You get the best of both worlds – Since NaNLABS is based in Argentina, having us as your nearshore partner means reaping the price benefits of hiring a non-US-based team, without the massive timezone issues.
We can be hands-on or off, it's your call – Our level of involvement is always determined by the client! So if you're pleased with the hands you have on deck, we're also happy to take on an advisor role. We offer complete Node.js specialist teams as well as consulting services, so we'll customize our collaboration to your needs.
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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 is Node.js in technical development?
Is Node.js good for backend development?
Yes. Due to its non-blocking I/O and event-driven architecture, Node.js efficiently handles multiple requests at once, without slowing down. That makes Node.js development ideal for solutions that involve the need to quickly process a lot of data.
What are the Node.js frameworks?
Node.js frameworks are pre-built tools offering ready-made structures and functionalities, which make it easier to develop applications.
Is Node.js for beginners?
Is Python better than node.js for backend?
Depends on what you're developing. Python is better than Node.js if it involves web apps with relational databases, multi-threaded applications, and heavy computations.