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Saurabh Misra
Saurabh Misra

Posted on • Originally published at

Serve a static HTML page using NodeJS and ExpressJS


I recently came across a situation where I had to serve a static HTML page from an API powered by ExpressJS on a NodeJS server.

This was a simple but interesting problem and I thought about documenting this in one place for my future self or for anybody else in the same situation as me looking for a solution and a straight-forward explanation.

Tutorial Project Setup

Download or clone the tutorial files from this github repo.

The project comprises of a basic NodeJS and ExpressJS setup. There is a server.js file which has the code to initialize the server. There is a /public folder which contains our static HTML, CSS, JS and media files.

Run npm i to install dependencies and then npm start to start the server.

The project will also install nodemon which will automatically restart the server for you whenever you make any changes to the files in the project.

Serve the HTML page

If you visit http://localhost:3000/ right now in the browser, you won't see anything because the API root endpoint is not returning any response.

What we want is that this URL should serve our static html: /public/index.html.

Open server.js in your editor and replace the definition of the root API service handler with this.

app.get( "/", ( req, res ) => {
  // send the HTML file in the API response
  res.sendFile( path.join( __dirname + "/public/index.html" ));
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The sendFile() method, as the name suggests will send the HTML file as the response. The Content-Type will automatically be set to text/html.

If you visit http://localhost:3000/, you should be able to see the HTML page.

But our CSS, JS and media files are not served properly. If you look at the Console in Dev Tools, you'll see errors like this:

screenshot showing errors while loading static assets in browser console

The cause of these issues is that ExpressJS is unaware of the existence of these static assets in the /public directory. To make it aware, we need to use the middleware returned by express.static().

Copy paste this entire code into your server.js file.

const express = require( "express" ),
  app = express(),
  path = require( "path" ),
  PORT = 3000;

// register the location of the static assets
app.use( express.static( 'public' ));

app.get( "/", ( req, res ) => {
  // send the HTML file in the API response
  res.sendFile( path.join( __dirname + "/public/index.html" ));

// Start the API server!
app.listen( PORT, () => console.log( `๐Ÿ‘‚ API server listening on port ${ PORT }` ) );
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express.static() takes in the location of the folder that contains the static files as an input argument.

If you reload the page, you should now be able to see the properly served page with all static assets in place๐ŸŽ‰.

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