Mark DiMarco

UI Developer at Bazaarvoice

WIP URL Managed, State-based Single Page Applications With Ember.js & Director.

Update: This is soon-to-be deprecated due to Ember.Router!

Check out the sample application, and source on github.

One of the drawbacks of single paged apps is when you no longer depend on distinct URLs for each of the pages - URLs get dropped in favor of hosting the entire app under one root URL ( ).

Outlined here is an architecture to maintain distinct URLs with Ember.js applications.


Director, part of Nodejitsu’s Flatiron framework, is a URL routing library that is capable of running in the browser. It uses hashChange ( and soon, pushState ) to change URLs and execute the appropriate Javascript. Perfect for single paged apps.

If you’ve used Django (, Sinatra, Rails, Express for Node - this should look familiar. Keep in mind it’s running in the browser.


Ember.js is a project run by Tom Dale and Yehuda Katz. It’s a client-side MVC framework - the benefits of using Ember.js (or Backbone.js) go beyond the scope of this article.

One of Ember.js’s most useful, yet least documented features, is Ember.StateManager.

Ember.StateManager is easy to use - you need a rootElement (defaults to body) and a few distinct Ember.ViewStates, which at their simplest - just need a Ember.View.

Switching between states will remove the currentState view, and insert the new state’s view, and run appropriate enter/exit events if you wanted.

Ember.StateManager.goToState ( strStateName ) if enough to switch the state. Pretty easy.


Hijacker takes a jQuery Anchor tag selector (e.g. .container a[href]), and “hijacks” click events to push the new URL into Director instead of allowing a page jump.

This let’s us keep our markup semantically pure - we don’t have to add click handlers everywhere, just classic <a href="/product/10101/">Product 10101</a>. Perfect for porting an existing application.

All together

A user clicks a link - Director changes the URL and runs a callback that updates Ember’s current state.

Now that user can refresh the page, or share the link, and the app follows the same path as it did when somebody clicked a link.

Effectively, URLs are controlling the state of our application, not click events.

Check out the sample application, and source on github.

Notes: I used Director instead of an user contributed addon, SproutCore Routes, because I wanted to keep my URL routing and application decoupled. Checkout Sproutcore Routes if you’d rather use that.