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How to Build and Structure a Node.js MVC Application

In a non-trivial application, the architecture is as important as the quality of the code itself. We can have well-written pieces of code, but if we don’t have a good organization, we will have a hard time as the complexity increases. There is no need to wait until the project is half-way done to start thinking about the architecture; the best time is before starting, using our goals as beacons for our choices.

Node.js doesn’t have a de facto framework with strong opinions on architecture and code organization in the same way that Ruby has the Rails framework, for example. As such, it can be difficult to get started with building full web applications with Node.

In this article, we are going to build the basic functionality of a note-taking app using the MVC architecture. To accomplish this we are going to employ the Hapi.js framework for Node.js and SQLite as a database, using Sequelize.js, plus other small utilities to speed up our development. We are going to build the views using Pug, the templating language.

What is MVC?

Model-View-Controller (or MVC) is probably one of the most popular architectures for applications. As with a lot of other cool things in computer history, the MVC model was conceived at PARC for the Smalltalk language as a solution to the problem of organizing applications with graphical user interfaces. It was created for desktop applications, but since then, the idea has been adapted to other mediums including the web.

We can describe the MVC architecture in simple words:

Model: The part of our application that will deal with the database or any data-related functionality.

View: Everything the user will see. Basically the pages that we are going to send to the client.

Controller: The logic of our site, and the glue between models and views. Here we call our models to get the data, then we put that data on our views to be sent to the users.

Our application will allow us to publish, see, edit and delete plain-text notes. It won’t have other functionality, but because we will have a solid architecture already defined we won’t have big trouble adding things later.

You can check out the final application in the accompanying GitHub repository, so you get a general overview of the application structure.

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