If you have been following along with our series on how to create your own web server, you should now be familiar with node.js and Express.  Node.js lays the groundwork for the web server and Express builds upon it.  If you haven’t already, I recommend that you take a look at the previous blog posts on Node.js and Express before we get started.

    The next step in building an awesome web server, is using EJS to render dynamic web pages with embedded JavaScript.  You can check out the EJS home page to view more documentation.  After your Express project has been set up, take a look at the app.js file.  In this file, you will see the line:

app.use('/', routes);

    This use statement means that when you visit your project in a web browser, Express will look in the routes folder for a file called index.js that will tell the browser what to do.  Right now, the index.js file should look something like this:

var express = require('express');

var router = express.Router();

/* GET home page. */

router.get('/', function(req, res, next) {

  res.render('index', { title: 'Express' });


module.exports = router;

    Right now, the Express router has one interaction that will render the home page.  Currently, when there is a GET request to the route ‘/‘, Express will render the view found in views/index.ejs.  The first argument for the render function is the name of the view file, and the second is an object that will be passed to the view file when it is rendered.  This object can be used by EJS to change what is rendered on the page, without having to write an entirely new view.  Right now the view will only render two lines of text.  We are going to expand on this in order to show some dynamic content in the browser.

Rendering with EJS

    With EJS, JavaScript between <% %> is executed, and JavaScript between <%= %> adds HTML to the result.  Lets give this a try.  First, in our Express file, index.js, we will send a list of items we want show on the web page.  Then, we will use EJS to iterate through this list and display the contents.


router.get('/', function(req, res, next) {

  res.render('index', { title: 'Express' , items : [‘red’, ‘blue’, ‘green’]});


    We simply add a new property to the object we are sending to the render function.  The property items is an array containing three strings.  Now we will print these strings in our EJS file.


<h1><%= title %></h1>


<% for(var i=0; i<items.length; i++) {%>

<li style="color:<%=items[i]%>;"><%= items[i] %></li>

<% } %>


    We create a for loop that will iterate through the array we passed from our Express function.  The loop is places inside <% %> tags because we do not want the for loop itself to be added to the web page.  Inside the loop, we have a <li> tag that will place an item on the web page for each item in the array.  To display the item from the array, use the tag <%= items[i] %>.  This will look up the element in the items, array, and add it to the web page.  As you can see, these tags can be place anywhere inside normal html.  To view these changes, just restart the server and reload the page in your browser.  You should see something like this:


  • red
  • green
  • blue

If you view the source for the page in your browser, you might be wondering why you don’t see any of the EJS tags that are in the view file.  That is because Express will evaluate the EJS tags before the page is shown, and only the results will be displayed.  EJS gives you flexibility when creating views for you website.  You will be able to use powerful embedded JavaScript to render views for different situations.