A flexible Node.js framework for building single, multipage, and hybrid web apps.

You might not expect it when you see something this small, but Express.js (simply referred to as Express) is a critical component of many web development projects. That surely has to do with the fact that it’s an essential component of MEAN, one of the most widely used tech stacks in web application development. 

A small web application server framework, Express is impossible to understand without talking about Node.js first. That’s because Express leverages Node.js web server functionality to simplify its APIs and provide new functionality. In fact, Node.js is boosted by the presence of Express, which, in turn, powers the backend part of the MEAN stack.

A favorite in the development world, Express consistently ranks among the best web frameworks in the market. That’s why any web development team worth its salt almost always has an engineer capable of using Express to empower web development projects through the MEAN stack.

Express.js Developers Hiring Guide

  • How to choose the best
  • Interview questions
  • Job Description

What Is Express.js?

Since Express is tightly linked to Node.js, it’s important to know what Node.js is before explaining Express. So, Node.js is a cross-platform runtime environment for running JavaScript code without a browser. It’s commonly used to build backend components (such as APIs for web or mobile apps) as well as server-side scripts. 

Express, on the other hand, is a small framework based on Node.js and designed to build web applications and APIs. It’s a minimal tool with many plug-ins that extend its functionality. Express makes it easier to organize the app’s architecture on the server side, adds utilities to Node.js’s HTTP objects, and facilitates their rendering.

Express Use Cases

Since Express is so closely related to Node.js, its use cases are, too. In other words, both technologies work together to empower the backend of different web development projects. Some of the most common include the following:

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    Real-time communication platforms
    Node.js is great at guaranteeing speed and performance as well as at supporting high traffic that doesn’t require intense processing. That’s why it’s so perfect for developing messaging and chatting applications.
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    Collaboration tools
    Processing real-time flows doesn’t just serve Node.js (and, consequently, Express) in developing communication platforms. It also powers collaborative tools, such as project management apps and cloud-based CRMs.
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    Data streaming apps
    There’s a reason why the streaming giant Netflix uses the MEAN stack to provide its services—the Node.js/Express pair is perfect to support streaming of large amounts of data in small packages, whether they are readable or writable.
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    Scalable apps
    One of the main reasons why people use the MEAN stack is how scalable the resulting apps can be. Node.js can support high peak loads with the help of Express organizing the back-end part.

While Express and Node.js are great for these types of processes, it’s important to note that they aren’t a good match for projects that require heavy server-side processing, which overrides the benefits of Node’s event-driven, non-blocking I/O model for incoming requests.

The Relevance of Express Today

It’s impossible to think of Express without the MEAN stack, one of the most popular tech stacks in development. Given MEAN’s popularity, it’s not surprising that Express enjoys a widespread reputation as a great minimal tool to power the back end of numerous web development projects. In fact, according to Stack Overflow’s Developer Survey, Express has consistently ranked among the top 5 web development frameworks alongside jQuery, React, Angular, and ASP.NET. 

Additionally, Express is a powerful tool that’s powering the web operations of some highly renowned companies, including IBM, Uber, Accenture, and Fox Sports. This comes to show that Express can deliver a notable performance that has been tried in production environments with high demand and a superb quality level.

While Express isn’t the only back-end web framework out there, it doesn’t seem like its popularity will decrease anytime soon. That’s because it isn’t just part of the MEAN stack but also contributes to other popular stacks, such as MERN and MEVN.

Benefits of Using Express

The fact that it’s part of a very popular tech stack shouldn’t be the only reason why a team picks Express to work on its web development projects. There are multiple advantages to using Express, including the following:

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    Faster development time
    As it happens with all frameworks, Express allows developers to work on their projects faster and in a more organized way. That’s especially so because Express is a very simple framework that’s easy to configure and customize.
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    High scalability
    Since Express works alongside Node.js, scalability is guaranteed. That’s because engineers can scale the application easily by adding nodes and supplementing with new resources.
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    Language consistency in both backend and frontend
    Having the possibility to use the same language for both backend and frontend development is great. In the case of Express (and the MEAN stack), that language is JavaScript, one of the most powerful and popular languages out there.
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    Increased efficiency and performance
    Node.js interprets the JavaScript code through Google’s V8 engine, which then compiles it into machine code. That means that running the code is more straightforward and shows impressive speed.
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    Concurrent requests management
    Node.js can process multiple requests simultaneously, thanks to its nonblocking I/O system. This is key to the projects Express can power, as requests can be launched quickly and systematically.
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    Huge community support
    The huge popularity around all the components of the MEAN stack guarantees that there will be a community of engineers ready to help in case any issue arises. Additionally, there are plenty of online resources that further facilitate development with Express.

Drawbacks of Using Express

While there are plenty of benefits when using Express, it’s also important to point out that there are a couple of disadvantages that can derail a web development project. The 2 most important ones are:

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    Lots of manual labor
    The purpose of any framework is to facilitate the engineers’ job, which is why it’s such a shame that Express requires so much manual input. That’s because endpoints, middleware, and other components need to be created and tested manually.
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    Lack of a recommended method of organization
    Flexibility and freedom of use are always welcome, but sometimes it’s better to have some guidance. Unfortunately, there’s not one in Express when it comes to defining the approach to organizing the code. That can become problematic when fixing and maintaining the code.

An Essential Technology for Web Development

You can certainly work on web development projects without ever using Express and still get great results. But why would you do that when you have a framework that’s capable of getting the most out of Node? By choosing Express for the backend of your web development, you’ll be taking a step toward increased efficiency and high scalability.

Sure, it won’t be able to power all your web development projects, but being a part of the MEAN stack means Express can be used to build a respectable range of web applications that allow real-time collaboration and communication. What’s best, you’ll be able to do so through a very simple and easy-to-use framework that’s become an essential part of modern web development.

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