March 02nd 2023

A Compact Guide To Backend Development

A Compact Guide To Backend Development

So much of the world runs on the web. You can access countless digital services with just a computer and an internet connection. But most people who use these services don't even consider what's happening behind the scenes. 


What happens when you use the search box to find a product in an online store? How do websites reserve and process payments for concert tickets? What enables a streaming service to offer a library of movies and series that can be watched from anywhere in the world? 


You see a lot when using services on the internet. But what you see is only the result of the mountain of programming that makes it possible—the things you DON'T see. These things are created and maintained by backend developers. 

What Is Backend Development? 


Backend development refers to designing and programming systems that store, retrieve, process, secure, and perform functions on website data. It's the side of web development that concerns everything that's unseen by the user but essential for websites to deliver their functionalities.  


Usernames, passwords, images, videos, search history, and user preferences are examples of things managed on a website's 'backend.' 


So, say you wanted to create a website that lets users store images and write a small caption for each image to remember a memory associated with it. Each user would need a unique profile so that images aren't shuffled between users. The website must also store each image and caption, so they don't get mixed up. 


A team of backend developers like Diffco would program the logic and functions that give the website that functionality. They'd write code to ensure each user can maintain a unique profile, set up encryption and authentication features for the website to prevent hacking, and establish a database to securely and efficiently store and retrieve each image with its associated caption and user. 


What's The Difference Between Backend And Frontend? 


While the backend encompasses everything a user doesn't see on a website, the frontend concerns everything the user DOES see.  
When looking at a website, anything you see is thanks to frontend developers writing code to tell the browser where everything should be and making the website responsive.  


Consider the previous example. In this scenario, the frontend would ensure users can interact with the website, provide their username and password, and see all their images and captions. In simple terms, it's like a conversation or agreement between backend and frontend to provide a service by working together. 

It would go something like this: 

Frontend: ‘The user is asking for this image, but I can’t find it.’

Backend: ‘I can find it in the database. Tell me the user's name and the image they're looking for...Here it is. But I don't know how to show it on the screen.’

Frontend: ‘Here, give it to me. I'll make sure the user sees it.’

What Must You Know To Be A Backend Developer? 

Backend development is a complex mix of various programming languages and frameworks working together to provide a set of functionalities in a complete system. Developers who work in the backend must understand how each component of their project works, how to use them, and how to make them communicate with each other. 

Every backend developer must have these four basic things: 

  1. Fundamental Knowledge: Because they're working with logic and the web, all backend developers need a foundational understanding of how the web works. They must also understand object-oriented programming, data structures, and algorithms.
  2. A Backend Programming Language: Knowing at least one backend programming language is essential to writing backend systems. 
  3. Backend Framework: Instead of writing all code from scratch, most companies use a backend framework that predefines a structure for backend code. This makes it easier to develop functions and work with databases in the backend. 
  4. A Database: Databases allow you to manage, store and retrieve various data types. Knowing at least one is essential to developing complete backend systems. 

Backend Programming Languages And Frameworks 


It's important to understand that programming languages and frameworks go together. A framework is made to work with a specific programming language. So, the language you learn will determine which frameworks are available to you. 


Some of the most common programming languages and frameworks used for backend development are: 

  • JavaScript with Node.JS and Express.JS 
  • Python with Flask or Django 
  • Java and Spring Boot 
  • .NET and ASP.NET
  • PHP and Laravel 
  • Ruby and Ruby on Rails 

The language and framework you learn are usually determined by personal preference or what an employer needs you to learn. Each has a different learning curve with pros, cons, and other features that make it unique. 

Databases 
Much like before, the database you use may depend on your language and framework. Some frameworks are built to integrate with specific databases. That said, there are usually ways to integrate a different database of your choice if needed. 

Here are some of the most common databases used in web development and web applications: 

  • Oracle 
  • MySQL 
  • MongoDB 
  • SQLite 
  • Microsoft SQL Server 
  • PostgreSQL 
  • Redis 

Once again, each of them has its own strengths. The database you use often depends on what functionalities your current project requires. 

Conclusion 


Backend development is the hidden part of web development that powers everything you can do with online services and web applications. The backend of a website is all the logic and programming that makes websites do what they do without making it known to the user.  

There are several things to learn before you can be a backend developer. First, you must know some fundamentals of programming. Next, focus on learning a language and framework and integrating those with a database. Finally, practice, practice, and practice until you're confident in your skills.


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