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Learn how to build an API backend with Node.js, Express and MongoDB for a React Native app.

What We Will Be Building

In the previous tutorial, we built movie tickets booking app that stored all movie data in javascript files. That is obviously not what you want to do for a real world app. So, this time we’re going to build an API backend for our movie tickets booking app that will store movie data in a MongoDB database and will return it to the app as JSON data.

For your reference, the final code for the app we’re building can be found in this GitHub repo.

Prerequisites

MongoDB

To install MongoDB open Terminal App and execute:

brew install mongodb

Now, let’s create a folder that MongoDB will use to store our database data:

sudo mkdir -p /data/db

And set the correct permissions:

sudo chmod 777 /data/db

Finally, let’s launch MongoDB:

mongod&

Initialize Node.js Project

First, create a new folder:

mkdir MovieTicketsBackend;
cd MovieTicketsBackend;

Next, initialize new Node.js project by executing:

npm init

And answering a few questions asked in the terminal. It’s safe to give default answers to all questions.

That will create package.json file that is used to store your app’s info, scripts, and dependencies.

Install Dependencies

First, install dev dependencies that we’ll going to need during development and to run the app locally:

npm install --save-dev babel babel-cli babel-preset-es2015 babel-preset-stage-0 nodemon 

And next, install all of the rest:

npm install --save body-parser express moment mongoose morgan

Create .babelrc File

  • Create a new file called .babelrc with the following content:
{
  "presets": ["es2015", "stage-0"]
}

That will allow us to use ES6 features of JavaScript that we have access to when developing React Native apps. In case with React Native ES6 is enabled by default when you do react-native init project.

Add Scripts

Next, let’s add some scripts to run the app.

  • Open package.json file and find scripts object:
  "scripts": {
    "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1"
  },

And update it with the following:

  "scripts": {
    "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1",
    "build": "node_modules/babel-cli/bin/babel.js ./ --source-maps --out-dir dist",
    "start": "node_modules/nodemon/bin/nodemon.js -- node_modules/babel-cli/bin/babel-node.js server.js",
    "populate": "node_modules/babel-cli/bin/babel-node.js populate.js"
  },

We’ll be using nodemon to automatically restart the server when we change anything in the code.

Starting with the Server

Let’s create a script that will run an HTTP server and handle incoming requests.

  • Create a new file called server.js with the following content:
import express from 'express';

// Initialize http server
const app = express();

// Handle / route
app.get('/', (req, res) =>
  res.send('Hello World!')
)

// Launch the server on port 3000
const server = app.listen(3000, () => {
  const { address, port } = server.address();
  console.log(`Listening at http://${address}:${port}`);
});

For now, it just outputs Hello World when GET request submitted to / route.

Let’s launch the server and see how it works.

  • Open Terminal App and execute:
npm start

You should see a confirmation that it’s running in your terminal.

Now, let’s open a browser and go to http://127.0.0.1:3000/.

That’s great. The serves works. Next, let’s make it serve movie data as JSON object.

Movie Model

We’ll use Mongoose for modeling movie data. It makes writing MongoDB validation, casting and business logic a breeze.

  • Create a new folder called models.
  • Create a new file called movie`.js within models folder with the following content:
import mongoose, { Schema } from 'mongoose';

// Define movie schema
var movieSchema = new Schema({
  title: {
    type: String,
    unique: true,
  },
  poster: String,
  genre: String,
  days: Array,
  times: Array,
});

// Export Mongoose model
export default mongoose.model('movie', movieSchema);

Populating MongoDB with Movie Data

Next, let’s populate the database with movie data.

  • Create a new file called populate.js with the following content:
import mongoose from 'mongoose';
import Movie from './models/movie';

const movies = [
  {
    title: 'La La Land',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/po7UezG.jpg',
    genre: 'Drama/Romance',
  },
  {
    title: 'Paterson',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/pE0C9E0.jpg',
    genre: 'Drama/Comedy',
  },
  {
    title: 'Jackie',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/VqUi1sw.jpg',
    genre: 'Drama/Biography',
  },
  {
    title: 'Lo and Behold Reveries of the Connected World',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/s106X7S.jpg',
    genre: 'Documentary',
  },
  {
    title: '10 Cloverfield Lane',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/kV2BVdH.jpg',
    genre: 'Drama',
  },
  {
    title: 'Birth of a Nation',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/a6HJj8S.jpg',
    genre: 'Fantasy/Myster',
  },
  {
    title: 'De Palma',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/oOIa73M.jpg',
    genre: 'Documentary',
  },
  {
    title: 'Doctor Strange',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/kyHDVOk.jpg',
    genre: 'Fantasy/Science Fiction',
  },
  {
    title: 'Eddie the Eagle',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/GNrdAuF.jpg',
    genre: 'Drama/Sport',
  },
  {
    title: 'Pride and prejudice and zombies',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/KhbG0Lw.jpg',
    genre: 'Thriller/Action',
  },
  {
    title: 'Finding Dory',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/BTexHYJ.jpg',
    genre: 'Comedy/Adventure',
  },
  {
    title: 'Green Room',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/Q0Ysh7L.jpg',
    genre: 'Crime/Thriller',
  },
  {
    title: 'Kubo and the Two Strings',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/uTFCKZc.jpg',
    genre: 'Fantasy/Adventure',
  },
  {
    title: 'In a Valley of Violence',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/DTtJ62G.jpg',
    genre: 'Drama/Western',
  },
  {
    title: 'O.J.: Made in America',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/T8uc6x8.jpg',
    genre: 'Documentary',
  },
  {
    title: 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/zOF2iYc.jpg',
    genre: 'Science Fiction/Action',
  },
  {
    title: 'Sing Street',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/C3ExEb6.jpg',
    genre: 'Drama/Romance',
  },
  {
    title: 'Zoolander 2',
    poster: 'https://i.imgur.com/ejlIijD.jpg',
    genre: 'Comedy',
  },
];

// Connect to MongoDB
mongoose.connect('mongodb://localhost/movies');

// Go through each movie
movies.map(data => {
  // Initialize a model with movie data
  const movie = new Movie(data);
  // and save it into the database
  movie.save();
});
  • Open Terminal App and execute:
node_modules/babel-cli/bin/babel-node.js populate.js

Now we have movie data in the database, and the server can get it and serve to the mobile app.

You can use Robomongo to manage your MongoDB databases.

Movies Controller

Let’s create a controller that will be responsible for serving movie data.

  • Create a new folder called controllers.
  • Create a new file called movies`.js within controllers folder with the following content:
import Movie from '../models/movie';
import moment from 'moment';

// Hardcode the days for the sake of simplicity
const days = [ 'Today', 'Tomorrow', moment().add(2, 'days').format('ddd, MMM D') ];
// Same for the times
const times = [ '9:00 AM', '11:10 AM', '12:00 PM', '1:50 PM', '4:30 PM', '6:00 PM', '7:10 PM', '9:45 PM' ];

export const index = (req, res, next) => {
  // Find all movies and return json response
  Movie.find().lean().exec((err, movies) => res.json(
    // Iterate through each movie
    { movies: movies.map(movie => ({
      ...movie,
      days,     // and append days
      times,    // and times to each
    }))}
  ));
};

Set up a Router

Next part is a router, that will be responsible for handling incoming HTTPc requests and directing them to appropriate controllers.

  • Create a new file called router.js with the following content:
import express, { Router } from 'express';
// Import index action from movies controller
import { index } from './controllers/movies';

// Initialize the router
const router = Router();

// Handle /movies.json route with index action from movies controller
router.route('/movies.json')
  .get(index);

export default router;

Update the Server

Finally, let’s update our server to connect to MongoDB and use the router that we just created.

  • Open server.js file and replace it with the following code:
import express from 'express';
import morgan from 'morgan';
import mongoose from 'mongoose';
import router from './router';

// Connect to MongoDB
mongoose.connect('mongodb://localhost/movies');

// Initialize http server
const app = express();

// Logger that outputs all requests into the console
app.use(morgan('combined'));
// Use v1 as prefix for all API endpoints
app.use('/v1', router);

const server = app.listen(3000, () => {
  const { address, port } = server.address();
  console.log(`Listening at http://${address}:${port}`);
});

It should automatically reload if you didn’t close it since we launched it the first time. And if you did, just execute npm start to launch it.

Get the Data

Open http://127.0.0.1:3000/v1/movies.json in your browser. And you should see a JSON object with movie data.

What’s Next

In the next tutorial we’ll update our Movie Tickets Booking App to use the API we just built instead of javascript files to get movie data, and to use Redux to store and manage the data.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed the tutorial and have learned a lot. Subscribe to get notified about new tutorials. And if you have any questions or ideas for new tutorials, just leave a comment below the post.

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  • Hans Felipe

    Step “Starting with the Server” doesn’t work for me… node tells me “node_modules is not recognized as an internal or external command” :/ and that’s all.

  • Hans Felipe

    SOLVED! on windows, the npm start script should look like this: “start”: “nodemon node_modules/nodemon/bin/nodemon.js — node_modules/babel-cli/bin/babel-node.js server.js”

    🙂

    • I’m glad you were able to figure that out. Great job, Hans! 🙂

  • Pingback: Storing Data From API with Redux in React Native Apps | Rational App Development()

  • Rahul Krishnan

    Brief, to the point and very informative, great post!!!

  • Vignesh Prasad

    npm run build gives the following error :
    SyntaxError: node_modules/babel-runtime/helpers/asyncGenerator.js: await is a reserved word (122:20)
    What does this mean???

    • Carr Thicke

      Hi where can I see the full source code?

  • Carr Thicke

    Hi where can I see the whole source code?

  • Tho Le

    Hi, could you guild to me how to update the movie by snip code( ex: title ,..)
    ?

  • vijay

    I hope this backend API service will also work with a react web app not a react native app??
    Please confirm.

    • Yes, it will work with any client that’s is able to make http calls.

  • Yves Chu

    Hi, anyone comes accross this error when launching the function > babel-node.js movie.js to populate mongodb movie db ? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1dca545a594f26af6cbfbc3e71fce76842135e867d65a90006198e518a9d6497.png

  • Grace Li

    Great tutorial! I’m quite new to React Native and your tutorials gave me lots of information and insight. However, instead of Mongodb, I’m using Knex/Postgres and I’m not sure what I have to change to achieve that.

  • Gorjan Mishevski

    THIS IS AWESOME! Thank you Konstantin for all of these projects, I am coding them along with you. Loved this especially as it goes outside of the React native and shows the “other” part of the app 🙂

  • Russell Harrower

    But what if I want to make this work on cPanel, do I build and hope that everything works.

  • /Users/farihul/ReactPro/MovieEnd/controllers/movies.js:11
    export const index = (req, res, next) => {
    ^^^^^^

  • klessk

    Hi, Excellente blog, Excellent tutorials. I´m new to this of mobile developement and i’ve been trying to decide which stack to use, until know I´ve seen MEAN and Meteor React-Native, MEAN looks cleanner to me, the web says Meteor is faster to develope… which one should I choose to start with, iwould like to hear your thogs about it… I´ve made a search and found nothing on meteor on your site. Thanks for your advice