Building a Convention Based Routes in Node.js

Convention over configuration (also known as coding by convention) is a software design paradigm which seeks to decrease the number of decisions that developers need to make, gaining simplicity, and not necessarily losing flexibility.

It seems in programming, if we haven’t learned the basic practices of others, we’ll end of repeating those practices; discovering them on our own. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be a good way to learn. But at the same time, we can learn faster just by learning from others first. I also like to think about how a pattern or architecture could come about.

Take for example the library intercooler.js. You can see where that library originated from. In HTML you can call a function directly by adding an event to it. E.g.,

<div onclick="clicked(this, 'my string I am passing')">Click Me!</div>

So, intercooler.js took it the next step. They made it so you can create a declarative HTML syntax. Similar to the code above, but an abstraction of that. Now, I can see where angular.js came from (note, I’ve never actually used angular.js). It just takes another abstraction layer up.

Well, for convention of configuration. I came up with something for node.js, but, after coming up with the idea I noticed that other people had come up with similar ideas. In the end I liked mine more than theirs. But, many times we think we are being original, but many of the ideas have probably existed for the past thirty plus years.

I went to a class at work where they were showing ASP.NET WebAPI. It is also convention based and pretty much did the same thing I came up with, but more powerful. I can understand why people don’t like convention over configuration since you need to learn the conventions before you can understand the code, since there is a certain amount of “magic”. But once you get past the magic it becomes nice since you don’t need to write the same code over and over again.

So, after that long introduction, here’s how I did convention based node.js.

The file structure is like so:

  ┕ controllers
    ┝ people
    │ ┝ get-{id}.js
    │ ┕ get-{id}-animals.js
    ┕ animals
      ┝ get-{id}.js
      ┕ delete-{id}.js

These directories/files would correspond to the routes:

/api/people/{id} → Method: GET
/api/people/{id} → Method: GET
/api/animals/{id} → Method: GET
/api/animals/{id} → Method: DELETE

As you can see you could set up whatever combination you would like. I like this method of convention also, since it keeps things simple. All your routes are in your controller and easy to scan. So, when I need to edit a file I can quickly find which one I’m looking for. Some of the other libraries nest the routes in directories, which becomes very tedious.

I use swagger to map the route definitions to the route methods. This way, I must have documentation in order to have a route. No documentation, no route. But it also leaves me the flexibility to create routes outside of this documentation if I really need to. But it just means it won’t be set up in the normal way.

So, in swagger (using YAML), the code would look like so:


          - [params, id]

          - [params, id]

So, you can see how you can pass pretty much anything into your route method. Each array element is passed into the method in the order given. The call takes the parameters from the request object that express.js passes in. For more complex items you can even pass in an object from different parts of the request object like so:

  - userId: [params, id]
    userName: [user, username]
    guid: [user, guid]

Where user comes from some middleware which validates the user authentication information.

This way of doing things also comes in handy since it means I can automate integration tests. I can test each route in the swagger file and make sure that it is validated against the json-schema associated with that route.

So, let’s look at the glue for all of this. I didn’t create an npm library for this. I was thinking I would eventually, but since I just use WebAPI now, I don’t want to support it. But, luckily the code is simple enough that that isn’t a problem!

import path = require('path')

module SwaggerRoutes {
    export interface Options {
        swagger: any
        baseRoute: any
        response: any
        baseDirectory: string
    export interface CreateRoutes {
        (options: Options): void

fail = reason => {throw new Error(reason)},
type = o =>,
isFunction = o => type(o) === '[object Function]',
isArray = o => type(o) === '[object Array]',
isObject = o => type(o) === '[object Object]',
getPropValue = (path, obj) =>
    path.reduce((acc, prop) => acc === void 0 ? void 0 : acc[prop], obj),
args = (o, xs) => => (
            ? getPropValue(x, o)
        : isObject(x)
            ? (Object
                .reduce((acc, name) =>
                    (acc[name] = getPropValue(x[name], o), acc), {}))
        : void 0

const routePath = (route: string) => {
    components = route.slice(1).split('/'),
    dir = components[0],
    baseFileName = components.slice(1).join('-')
    return [dir, baseFileName]

const expressCallback = (response, routeProperties, method, controller) =>
    (request, client, error) => {

        const send = <any> response.bind(response, client)
        controller.apply(controller, args(request, routeProperties[method]._call))


const createRoutes: SwaggerRoutes.CreateRoutes = (o: SwaggerRoutes.Options) => {
    const paths = o.swagger.paths
    .filter(x => x.charAt(0) === '/')
    .forEach(routeName => {

        routeProperties = paths[routeName],
        basePath = routePath(routeName)

        .forEach(method => {
            if (routeProperties[method]._call) {
                requirePath = path.resolve(
                        (basePath[1] ? `${method}-${basePath[1]}` : method))),
                handler = require(requirePath),
                controller =
                        ? handler
                    : isFunction(handler.default)
                        ? handler.default
                    : fail('Could not retrieve `handler` function.')

                routePath = routeName.replace(/{(\w+)}/g, ':$1'),
                altPath =
                    (routeProperties[method].parameters || [])
                    .reduce((acc, x) =>
                        x.required ? acc : acc.replace(RegExp(`/:${}`), ''), routePath),
                routePaths = altPath !== routePath ? [altPath, routePath] : [routePath]

                routePaths.forEach(x => {
                    [method](expressCallback(o.response, routeProperties, method, controller))



export = createRoutes

Here’s how you would call that code to set up your routes:

import swaggerRoutes = require('./swagger-routes')
const yaml = require('js-yaml')

    swagger: yaml.load(readFileSync('./api/api.yml', 'utf-8')),
    baseRoute: authenticatedRoute,
    response: (client: express.Response, result) =>
        client.send(omit(['httpStatusCode'], withMessageAs(result))),
    baseDirectory: '../controllers'

Tue Jun 7, 2016 | tags: node.js convention over configuration

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