Developing and Deploying Nodejs (Express) apps on Heroku

Heroku is an amazing platform for getting quick development up and running in a smart virtual instances. There is no hussle to get additional services you may need for a quick and dirty app to ground up. I’ve already wrote about how to use heroku for quick development environment before:

This short article will be about specifically developing and deploying node.js and express apps on heroku. There is actually not much difference for deploying a node.js app than a php application or in another language. Heroku CLI tool automatically detects the application type from the package.json file for a node.js application and it’s entry point from there.

For the express related parts, just go ahead and see the very simple example I put up in github the past:

Another more detailed express example that uses pug template engine for it’s layouts and views:

Aside of the application itself, there are few key points I found helpful when creating and deploying node.js apps. 

Use environment variables

Using environment variables is the best way to set configuration details for your application.

Setting which node.js version your app will use

As simple as adding “engines” object in package.json and having your node.js version defined in “node” property inside engines object like:

"engines": {"node": "12.13.0"}

Same applies for npm and yarn versions to be defined within engines object as well.

Use prebuild and postbuild steps to prepare additional steps needed for your application build

By default, heroku will build your application on every deployment. This is not very meaningful for pure node.js applications but you app may need build. Like gulp, grunt, webpack builds. For this, heroku will read “build” npm script if exists in package.json. Aside of this, heroku will always install dependencies with npm install as a minimum build step. If you need additional steps before or after the build, you can define these in npm scripts as heroku-prebuild and heroku-postbuild named scripts.

Utilize heroku add-ons

Remember, Heroku comes with tons of 3rd party services which a lot of them have free packages that will be enough to try things out and start coding stuff up quickly. One of my favorite is heroku’s internal database service providing postgresql database with single command line command:

heroku addons:create heroku-postgresql

Wrapping up

All in all, heroku is a great cloud platform allow developers to kick off ideas, starting with simple code to grow into complex distributed applications very easily. In my opinion, it should be in the go-to tools for every engineer’s arsenal.

Using Heroku for a quick development environment

Heroku is an industry-changing service that is established in 2007. It transformed how developers create and deploy apps today. With its add-ons marketplace, Heroku became the development hub that you can easily enable 3rd party cloud services. These services can be in many different categories that a web application may require. From database services, caching, image processing to mail delivery and so on…

Heroku supports many modern development languages that are actively used with big communities like PHP, nodejs, ruby, python, go, java… The beauty of the Heroku applications is that, managed by Heroku and very very easy to understand. They are also very easy to scale, deploy apps in Heroku infrastructure… All Heroku apps are deployed to given app name’s subdomain under or can be easily set to have a custom domain for free.

Essentially, Heroku runs on a command line interface and an internal git repository to manage versions of your code. When you set up a new project folder, Heroku CLI tool registers your app and assigns a git repository. Heroku CLI doesn’t initiate git repository on your folder, so if it’s a non-git folder, you need to git init on your project folder first.

$ mkdir hello-world && cd hello-world
$ echo "{}" > composer.json
$ echo "<!--? print 'hello';" --> index.php
$ git init

$ heroku create
Creating sharp-rain-871... done, stack is heroku-18 |
Git remote heroku added

$ git add . && git commit -m "first commit"
$ git push heroku master
Counting objects: 488, done.
Delta compression using up to 8 threads.
Compressing objects: 100% (367/367), done.
Writing objects: 100% (488/488), 231.85 KiB | 115.92 MiB/s, done.
Total 488 (delta 86), reused 488 (delta 86)
remote: Compressing source files... done.
remote: Building source:
remote: -----> Node.js app detected
remote: -----> Creating runtime environment
remote: NODE_VERBOSE=false
remote: NODE_ENV=production
remote: -----> Installing binaries
remote: engines.node (package.json): 10.13.0
remote: engines.npm (package.json): unspecified (use default)
remote: Resolving node version 10.13.0...
remote: Downloading and installing node 10.13.0...
remote: Using default npm version: 6.4.1
remote: -----> Build succeeded!
remote: -----> Discovering process types
remote: Procfile declares types → web
remote: -----> Compressing...
remote: Done: 19M
remote: -----> Launching...
remote: Released v3
remote: ( deployed to Heroku
remote: Verifying deploy... done.
* [new branch] master → master

I highly suggest all developers adapt Heroku in their workflow, at least for the sandbox & playground purposes.

I have created some boilerplate repositories in the past: