When it comes to a website, it usually means its frontend (client side), that is, the way we see web pages. There is a more important part, however, namely the backend (server side). This is where most of the processes that determine how the website should work and what it should look like take place. No matter how attractive and up-to-date the design is, if the server-side does not work properly, none of this makes sense.
Given the above, it is crucial for a business to pay close attention to the issue of backend technologies. Every year the trends in the use of technologies change. Some of them prove to be effective, some are to be replaced. We have made a review of key backend features in 2020 to stay on track.
What is Backend Development?
It refers to all the things that enable web and mobile applications to perform well. It is responsible for how they function and how the application's internal processes are interconnected.
On the other side of the backend lies the frontend. Frontend, in turn, is about the way the site looks, how attractive its interface is, and how it manages with user retention. One without the other makes no sense.
Who is a backend engineer?
Backend engineers are tasked with behind-the-scenes activities related to the server-side development. They write code to provide business logic of the website and its functionality as well.
There is also serverless backend, also known as ‘Function as a Service’ (FaaS) or ‘Backend as a Service’ (BaaS). The overall principle behind the serverless backend is that backend functions such as user authentication, scheduling, etc. are cloud-based, allowing developers to quickly access and integrate them into their applications while saving time and money.
Backend programmers can develop APIs, libraries, deal with data architecture and even build business processes. Behind the term ‘backend’ hides a great array of actions and functions necessary for the smooth performance of any application, as well as business processes.
Backend developer requirements:
- Know how to create a backend and be proficient in at least several backend languages, including those listed above;
- Have knowledge of backend technologies, such as Database Management Systems (MySQL, SQLServer, MongoDB, and so on) and caching mechanisms (Redis, Memcached, etc.);
- Know how to work with frameworks, including those listed in this article;
- Have an understanding of security concerns so as to be able to address them in the best way possible;
- Have a grasp of the frontend fundamentals, such as HTML and CSS, and much more.
Having this and other knowledge is essential to know how to create a backend, so backend developers should be as versatile and tech-savvy as possible.
When choosing a software development team, it's useful for a business owner to have an idea not only of the web development tech stack but also of what roles and responsibilities may be given to developers.
Some of them are listed below:
- Have a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the application and the set of skills required to effectively address them;
- Provide secure storage and data access only for certain users;
- Take charge of payment processes;
- Deal with data science analysis and the system architecture;
- Maintain system logic accuracy across all devices;
- Handle system-related issues, etc.
Does each website need a backend? The answer to this question depends on what you would like the site to do. If you need to provide dynamic user interface elements with authorization or connect a payment system, you definitely need a backend. If there are enough static variables on the page, it can be done with the frontend.
The main backend features an app needs to be run
If you are not a programmer, you don't need to know all the backend features and technologies to get an efficient web application. However, it is worth it to get your head around the basics of backend development.
The server side manages all those requests from the client side caused by user actions. Backend components - software and hardware - come into play to receive, process, and give out the requested information.
This is the big picture of the key backend components:
- Backend tech stack. It comprises servers, database, operating system, frameworks;
- APIs. They allow data exchange between the database and the software;
- Frameworks. These are pieces of code needed to build the server part of the site.
Let's take a closer look at how the backend works.
Servers and the database. The server is the link that powers the system and determines whether or not it will be available to users. Servers are powerful computers that provide the backend process with all the resources needed. They keep the database running, store and share files, provide security and reliable data encryption, and much more.
The database is responsible for finding information requested on the client side. It can be updated with new articles, photos, videos, or other changes directly from the browser every time a client, having access to the database, enters the above information.
APIs or so-called "middleware". Another backend component, which is, however, not so obvious, is the so-called middleware. This includes queries, questions and answers, i.e. everything that connects, like glue, the design of the application with its server side.
Using the backend technology, the middleware creates a path between the client side and the server, database, operating system, and other network components. As a rule, different APIs are used as middleware. As a crucial backend feature, middleware provides data integration, error handling, business process and content management, authentication, etc.
All backend languages along with frameworks described below are used to develop and implement middleware, APIs, and other server-side features.
The main backend languages to use in 2020
All backend languages can be divided into categories:
- Object-oriented: focused on creating objects that must be executed in a particular order. Examples: PHP, Python, Java, etc.
- Functional: declarative languages are utilized, statements can be executed in any order; they are mostly used in data science. Examples: SQL, F#, and R.
- Others: Go, Node.js, Rust, etc.
They can also be subdivided into the following types:
- Statically typed languages: more rigid, limited in action, but better error detection;
- Dynamically typed languages: more flexible, allows for changing types for variables, which can lead to errors.
Widely used backend languages
They vary by industry, country, and the preferences of the development team. However, there is a list of the most leading ones.
This is a high-level, interpreted general-purpose programming language that originally appeared as an object-oriented scripting language. Being focused on improving developer productivity, Ruby contains the key advantages of other languages in demand. These made Ruby dynamic, functional and concise.
It is often chosen by developers because of its friendly subject community and straightforward syntax. Ruby is used in areas such as data analysis, AI and web development, and is the basis of the Ruby on Rails framework.
Well-known companies such as Twitter, Airbnb, Shopify use Ruby to develop their websites.
This is one of the most sought after, yet easy to learn and use programming languages. It is multi-purpose as it is used for both data analysis and web development (namely, for scalable websites and applications).
- Simple, concise, elegant, yet powerful and versatile;
- Provides perfect integration with other languages such as C and C++;
- Seamlessly facilitates heavy tasks on the CPU to C/C++;
- Applied for creating applications based on GUI, Data Science, Machine Learning, for desktop and web applications, and network servers.
The advantages of Python:
- Supports various platforms and systems;
- Driven by object-oriented programming (OOP);
- Comprises a large number of libraries;
- Provides easy-to-read code and application scalability;
- Improves Python developer productivity.
The disadvantages of Python:
- It is of limited value in mobile computing tasks solving;
- Too simplified database, which is considered underdeveloped.
Python is used to develop and provide such solutions:
- IoT-based applications;
- Cloud technologies;
- Serverless and system computing;
- Business applications.
Features of PHP:
- Great fit for high-performance apps;
- Broadly used to write and run applications quickly.
The advantages of PHP:
- User-friendly and easy-to-learn;
- Has the Xdebug extension for efficient debugging;
- Supports test automation tools, object-oriented and functional programming paradigms;
- Has a broad ecosystem and robust community support.
The disadvantages of PHP:
- Lack of functionality for security and error handling;
- Slow web page creation vs. other programming languages.
PHP is utilized to develop CMS, standalone and server-side web apps.
Java is considered a universal backend development language supported by OOP. It is usually applied to create desktop, web and Android applications. This is a multi-purpose, platform-independent language. For decades, such versatility and simplicity make it the choice of many. In 2020, Java remains one of the most mandatory backend languages.
Features of Java:
- Multi-purpose, multi-functional, multi-paradigm and interpreted language;
- A must for business-purpose apps;
- Stable and reliable with no significant changes or updates during its lifetime;
- The runtime of Java Virtual Machine (JVM) is one of the highest in the industry.
The advantages of Java:
- Automatic free memory allocation and trash collection;
- A large number of open-source libraries;
- It follows the stack allocation principle;
- Provides greater platform independence through JVM;
- With security manager implemented to define class access, Java provides the application with extreme security;
- Support for computing and multithreading;
- A large number of APIs for all kinds of web development tasks.
The disadvantages of Java:
- Lack of templates, which makes it difficult to develop custom structure elements with high-security level provided;
- Expensive memory management option;
- It is slower than C and C++.
What Java is applied to:
- Development of Big data, Android and web applications;
- Enterprise-level application development.
Today, Java is considered to be what is referred to as a "write once, run anywhere" language. Moreover, considering the market needs, Java is already available in the cloud using GraalVM (Java VM and JDK based on HotSpot/OpenJDK).
Go (also known as Golang) is an open-source programming language developed by Google. It is statically typed, structured and readable, making it a great choice for concurrent computing. Go is a combination of the C and Python programming languages. It is best suited for micro services, cloud-based and real-time application development. Golang is considered one of the best backend development tools for its lower response time and app loading.
The advantages of Go:
- Standard library;
- Garbage collection feature;
- Error handling mechanism.
The disadvantages of Go:
- Young language, which leads to its immaturity and small community;
- Security aspect is weak;
- Problems with code duplication.
This is an OOP language developed by Microsoft based on the common C programming language. C# is a multi-purpose and multi-platform language, as it can be applied on such widely used platforms as Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Features of C#:
- It has a Common Language Runtime (CLR), which makes it platform-independent;
- A lot of libraries and frameworks that have appeared for as long as C# has existed.
The advantages of C#:
- It is a component and object-oriented language;
- It can handle publicly available codebases;
- Uses a syntax similar to all C programming language derivatives;
- More secure compared to C++ and C;
- Enriched with data types and library functions;
- Integration with the .NET library is available;
- Fast compilation and execution process.
The disadvantages of C#:
- Its less secure blocks are explicitly specified;
- Less flexible compared to C++;
- Requires an effort to fix bugs.
Where C# is used:
- Game and web application development;
- Server-side programming;
- Windows software development.
The advantages of NodeJS:
- It increases the application development speed;
- Comes with excellent package management capabilities and libraries as an advanced support system;
- Best suited for API development.
The disadvantages of NodeJS:
- Asynchronous programming is an integral part of NodeJS development;
- One callback can lead to several nested callbacks at a time.
Best backend frameworks of 2020
To decide on backend implementation through frameworks, you need to understand what features, capabilities and options a future application should have. As a rule, subject-matter experts in software development are well-versed in the frameworks to make the most effective use of them. Before heading to back-end frameworks, let us be clear about what a framework is.
A framework is a platform, the basis for developing any application and software. It provides developers with the tools and solutions to create a program with the required functionality. The frameworks have predefined classes and functions for data processing, hardware management and software interactions.
In the case of frameworks, their ability to speed up and optimize the development process is often implied first and foremost. Those parts of code that previously had to be written from scratch can now be built faster using frameworks.
If you are willing to be aware of the best backend frameworks, you can find them listed below without any gradation in importance.
By following this page, you can find a more itemized overview of this framework. The current article is intended to highlight the most prominent features of Laravel.
Laravel is a free open-source PHP framework. It is what is called the Model-View-Controller (MVC) framework. Laravel has an intuitive user interface and API support that requires no HTML code and no pre-configuration or modification to be installed.
Laravel already includes all the necessary packages, tools and libraries, which not only greatly simplify the programmers' work, but also allows them to get up-to-date applications with a high level of security. It comes with a built-in authentication/authorization system and can be integrated with the mail system.
Other features of Laravel:
- Artisan Console. This is the native command-line interface (CLI). It is able to perform complex and repetitive tasks, freeing Laravel developers to deal with more important tasks that require human attention.
- Blade. This is a Laravel template engine that supports simple PHP code and provides lightweight frontend templates.
- Exhaustive documentation along with reliable community support makes Laravel user-friendly.
- If there is a need to develop a custom website, integration with a third party will be required as Laravel lacks some built-in tools.
Django is a Python-based model-view-template framework. It has a built-in feature that allows for messaging and authentication. Django gives developers techniques and tools to create highly secure applications and implement security features within the framework itself. No wonder that Django is chosen by such technology giants as Instagram, Google, Mozilla, YouTube.
The advantages of Django:
- It is flexible and scalable;
- Follows the Convention Over Configuration (CoC) approach;
- To start making an application, just go straight to the Django documentation.
The disadvantages of Django:
- It is monolithic and more suitable for creating large applications;
- It is a burdening and inconvenient condition for Django developers when creating a small component or a custom app.
The platforms built using Django are as follows: Disqus, Mozilla, National Geographic, Pinterest.
Spring is an MVC framework that uses Java. It is well known among developers. Its main strength is, probably, a large number of extensions due to which it is possible to quickly scale the project and business. However, to work with Spring a deep knowledge of Java will be required. This fact makes it necessary to work with experienced Java programmers.
Platforms built using Spring are as follows: BillGuard, TicketMaster, Wix.
Ruby on Rails
This is a server-side web framework. It supports MVC, DRY ("Don't repeat yourself") principle and follows the CoC approach.
Ruby on Rails is an open-source, object-oriented and broadly useful framework for backend improvements. It enables seamless interaction with third-party applications, which leads to unique project capabilities. Since developers keep a detailed mistake log, applications can be maintained without errors, thus contributing to high-quality SEO.
Platforms built using Ruby on Rails are as follows: SoundCloud, Shopify, GitHub, Basecamp.
Express (Express.js) was released as a minimal Node.js framework. It continues getting the traction that can be proved with the fact that it is chosen by such large companies as IBM, Uber, Accenture.
The main features of Express.js are as follows:
- Great routing API;
- It is easy-to-use and flexible;
- A large number of plug-ins available for use, as well as HTTP methods needed to build dynamic APIs;
- REST API application support.
Things to be considered when choosing a backend framework
The first thing to pay attention to when it comes to getting a reliable, secure application is the level of security provided by the frameworks. It is necessary to choose those able to provide a high level of security and safety of the code, as well as those that are regularly updated, and thus will be able to keep your application code secure.
The programming language already used in the development process must also be considered. The thing is that the frameworks you are going to apply must use this language.
Another issue to consider is the community and comprehensive documentation. If unexpected difficulties or questions arise, they should be quickly resolved within the community or through documentation.
Last but not least, whether the frameworks are capable of scaling the application if necessary.
When it comes to technological solutions that would reliably support the startup online or would allow for business scaling, the choice of the right technology is of utmost importance. Especially when it comes to backend technologies or if the choice is being made by a non-tech-savvy business owner or CEO of a startup.
Unlike technicians, C-level people are usually more involved in business processes. Their job is to find the right team for successful backend implementation for business purposes. For this reason, we tried to make it easier for executives to choose the appropriate technologies and therefore came up with this overview.
As it is already known from this article, the key to making an efficient application is backend technology, which includes both frameworks and languages. Each of the above technologies in its own way contributes to creating a seamless and high-performance web application. However, a well-defined tech stack will depend on what tech talents are needed and how well-versed they are in handling backend technologies to achieve business goals.
If it is important for you to entrust your project to specialists with a proven track record in backend web development, consider cooperation with the DDI Development team. For questions on possible cooperation, head on over to this page to give us a call or send us a message.