Serving Static HTML With Nodjs And Grunt For Template-Development

A Simple Nodejs/Grunt-Development-Environment for static HTML-Templates

Nowadays, frontend-development is mostly done with Nodjs and Grunt. On npm, there are plenty of useful plugin’s, that ease the development of HTML and CSS. For example grunt-contrib-less to automate the compilation of LESS-sourcecode to CSS, or grunt-svgstore to pack several SVG-graphics in a single SVG-sprite.

Because of that, I decided to switch to Nodejs and Grunt to develop the HTML- and CSS-Markup for the templates, that I need for my Spring/Thymeleaf-Applications. But as with everything new, I had some hard work, to plug together what I needed. In this article I want to share, how I have set up a really minimalistic, but powerful development-environment for static HTML-templates, that suites all of my initial needs.

This might not be the best solutions, but it is a good starting point for beginners like me and it is here to be improved through your feedback!

You can browse the example-development-environment on juplo.de/gitweb, or clone it with:


git clone http://juplo.de/git/examples/template-development

After installing npm you have to fetch the dependencies with:


npm install

Than you can fire up a build with:


grunt

…or start a webserver for development with:


git run-server

Serving The HTML and CSS For Local Development

The hardest part while putting together the development-environment was my need to automatically build the static HTML and CSS after file-changes and serve them via a local webserver. As I wrote in an earlier article, I often stumble over problems, that arise from the Same-origin policy when accessing the files locally through file:///-URI’s).

I was a bit surprised, that I could not find a simple explanation, how to set up a grunt-task to build the project automatically on file-changes and serve the generated HTML and CSS locally. That is the main reason, why I am writing this explanation now, in order to fill that gap ;)

I realised that goal by implemnting a grunt-task, that spawn’s a process that uses the http-server to serve up the files and combine that task with a common watch-task:


grunt.registerTask('http-server', function() {

  grunt.util.spawn({
    cmd: 'node_modules/http-server/bin/http-server',
    args: [ 'dist' ],
    opts: { stdio: 'inherit' }
  });

});

grunt.registerTask('run-server', [ 'default', 'http-server', 'watch' ]);

The rest of the configuration is really pretty self-explaining. I just put together the pieces I needed for my template development (copy some static HTML and generate CSS from the LESS-sources) and configured grunt-contrib-watch to rebuild the project automatically, if anything changes.

The result is put under dist/ and is ready to be included in my Spring/Thymeleaf-Application as it is.

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