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Click To Call with Node.js and Express

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Wish your users could get in touch as easily as they can surf? It's your lucky day!

Let's go over the steps necessary to implement click-to-call in a Node.js and Express MVC application.

Click to Call

  1. A website visitor submits a web form with a phone number.
  2. Your web application receives the submission and initiates an HTTP request to Twilio asking to initiate an outbound call.
  3. Twilio receives the request and initiates a call to the user's phone number.
  4. The user picks up the call.
  5. After the call connects, we provide TwiML instructions to connect the user to our sales or support teams.

What We Will Learn

This tutorial demonstrates how to initialize a call using the Twilio REST API and how to create a call using the TwiML Say verb.

Let's get started! Click the button below to move to the next step of the tutorial.

Next

Set up your environment

Before we create our click-to-call application, we need to set up our environment first.

Let's put our Twilio credentials in a place where our application can access them. For this tutorial, we'll use environment variables that our application can read.

  "env": {
    "TWILIO_ACCOUNT_SID": {
      "description": "Your Twilio account SID",
      "value": "enter_your_account_sid_here"
    },
    "TWILIO_AUTH_TOKEN": {
      "description": "Your Twilio account Auth token,      
      "value": "enter_your_auth_token_here"
    },
    "TWILIO_NUMBER": {
      "description": "Twilio phone number you are using for this app. 
      "value": "+15005550006"
    }
  }

Replace the Account_SID, Auth_Token, and Twilio_Number placeholder values with your unique values, which you can find in the Twilio Console. You can use an existing Twilio phone number or obtain a new number.

Twilio Console Credentials Location

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      app.json

      Next, let's look at making a friendly web form.

      Next

      The web form

      For our solution, we'll need a form where the user can enter a phone number.

      No need to overthink this as the real goal is to POST the user's and sales team's phone number to your controller.

      What information does this form need?

      • An input for the User's phone number
      • An input for the sales team phone number
      • A submit button
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          views/index.jade

          Build a web form

          views/index.jade

          Since the page doesn't need to render new content after clicking on submit, we've decided to implement the POST action via AJAX using jQuery. Let's take a look at that, next.

          Next

          Submit the form

          To make the click-to-call feature more seamless we used Ajax to send the form asynchronously.

          This code shows one way you could implement this functionality using jQuery:

          • Watch for the user submitting the form element.
          • Submit the form's data to our controller.
          • Let the user know if the submission was successful or not.

          This is a common implementation of jQuery's $.ajax() method. (Notice that we are returning the response message when the call has connected.)

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              public/app.js

              Now that we have the front end done let's build the back end that will receive this data and call the user. We'll start our exploration in the next step.

              Next

              Instantiate a client object

              First, we instantiate a client object with our Account SID and Auth Token. This is essentially our Javascript REST API handler that we could use to send SMSes (or a myriad of other things).

              In this example, we need it to get access to a twilio object that we're going to use to create phone calls.

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                  routes/index.js

                  Set up our Twilio client

                  routes/index.js

                  Next, let's look at making a phone call.

                  Next

                  Make a phone call

                  We'll use the twilio object to make an outgoing phone call which requires us to pass a From number, a To number and the URL Parameter that tells Twilio what to do after it connects the call to our user. In this case, Twilio needs to DIAL in the Agent once the call has been placed. We'll discuss this more in the future steps.

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                      routes/index.js

                      Route for outbound calls

                      routes/index.js

                      Next, let's look at the endpoint we'll expose to Twilio.

                      Next

                      The Outbound endpoint

                      Twilio makes a request to our application when the call is created using the REST API. This means that we need to create an endpoint that is publicly available for requests: we'll walk through a way to make your localhost accessible via ngrok a little later in this tutorial.

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                          routes/index.js

                          Return TwiML instructions

                          routes/index.js

                          A publicly exposed URL has some drawbacks. Next, we'll look at making sure we don't leak any sensitive data.

                          Next

                          Generate TwiML

                          TwiML is a set of verbs and nouns written in XML that Twilio reads as instructions.

                          In this case, our instructions inform Twilio to SAY something to the user and DIAL a support agent so the cusomer can talk to him or her.

                          To make writing TwiML easy, many of the helper libraries have methods that generate TwiML for you. In this case, we use twilio-node to create a TwiML response that will instruct Twilio to SAY something.

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                              routes/index.js

                              And with that, you've helped us get a working click-to-call form, ready to be integrated into your application.

                              Next

                              Testing Your App Locally

                              Now you can run and test your Twilio app.

                              However, you probably want to test it using a publicly available endpoint without having to go "public" with your app. The best option is to use ngrok.

                              Note: For more information about running the application, see the Readme file in the app github repository.

                              About ngrok

                              ngrok generates a secure URL that forwards traffic to a port, usually 5000, on your localhost server. It allows you to run applications locally but make them a publicly available endpoint via secure tunneling. This allows you to test your application and do all the things you want your app to do but in a secure public space.

                              ngrok is an executable (ngrok.exe) that you run on the command line or terminal.

                              Setting Up ngrok

                              Head over to ngrok's website, download the ngrok.zip file for your OS of choice, then unzip the file into an easily accessible location.

                              For example, on Windows, you can place it in your \Users directory in \AppData\Roaming\<ngrok-directory-name>\ngrok.exe. Then, update your PATH environment variables to the location of the ngrok executable. On Linux or OSX, it's much easier (see the instructions on the ngrok site).

                              And that's it.

                              Accessing your app from an endpoint using ngrok

                              Before you start ngrok, it might be a good idea to have your Twilio Console open.

                              For Mac and Linux, open a terminal and run this command to start ngrok:

                              $ ./ngrok http 4040

                              On Windows, open a command prompt and run this command to start ngrok:

                              $ Path-to-ngrok> ngrok http 4040

                              Alternately, you can start ngrok using the following command:

                              $ ngrok http 4040 -host-header="localhost:4040"

                              The port number "4040" is arbitrary. If your local server is running on another port, replace "4040" in the command with the appropriate port number.

                              This will start ngrok. A running instance of ngrok will appear in the terminal showing the local web interface (in this case http://127.0.0.1:4040) and the public URL (in this case, https://28dd499b.ngrok.io).

                              ngrok-running

                              The forwarding public URL needs to be set in the Twilio Console. In the Console, select the active phone number you set in Local.config and enter the public URL from ngrok (shown above) in the "A Call Comes In" field under Voice & Fax. Be sure to select Webhook from the dropdown list.

                              Remember, each time you run ngrok, a new public URL will be generated. You will need to set this new URL in the Console.

                              Twilio Console Webhook Setting

                              You now have a publicly available endpoint for your app, so now you can take a look at your running app and enter the phone numbers using your ngrok address: https://xxxxxx.ngrok.io

                              What Else Can I Build?

                              Where to Next?

                              Did this help?

                              Thanks for checking out this tutorial! Tweet to us @twilio and let us know what you're building!

                              Kevin Whinnery Jose Oliveros Agustin Camino Samuel Mendes Andrew Baker Paul Kamp Kat King Glenn Lea

                              Need some help?

                              We all do sometimes; code is hard. Get help now from our support team, or lean on the wisdom of the crowd browsing the Twilio tag on Stack Overflow.

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