What Is Backend Development? Full Guide with Definitions & Tips

Website Development
What Is Backend Development? Full Guide with Definitions & Tips
Last Updated: July 02, 2024

Backend development is a vital area of web development. It ensures that everything works behind the scenes — from database interactions to server transmissions.

Curious about what goes on behind this digital curtain? Let’s delve into the world of backend development, exploring what it entails, the skills you need, and how to get started.

What Is Backend Development and What Does It Entail?

Backend development is the type of web development that takes place on the backend, or backend server, of a website. It encompasses all processes and programming languages used to ensure the backend server functions appropriately and provides a service or product as intended.

The backend is responsible for integrating separate parts of existing software and services while providing support to front-end systems like databases and servers.

Ultimately, backend development involves building APIs (Application Opening Interfaces) to allow interactions between different software components, organizing databases, managing servers, enhancing performance and scalability, and providing security measures against hackers and other online threats — all to ensure optimal functionality that the website's users can enjoy.

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What Is a Backend Developer?

Person coding on a computer, illustrating what is backend development in a professional
[Source: Unsplash.com]

Backend developers are integral to the success of any software project. Simply put, backend developers bring websites and applications to life through diligent coding.

Unlike front-end developers, back-end developers focus solely on programming the backend of a website or application — making sure it runs smoothly and efficiently.

This includes writing specialized software code (such as Custom APIs) and managing databases that store vital information like customer records, product catalogs, etc. Backend developers may also be responsible for tinkering with existing systems to increase efficiency or performance; commonly referred to as debugging.

Ultimately, backend developers ensure that all parts and elements of a website or application run together flawlessly so it can function properly.

What Does a Backend Developer Do?

Backend developers are responsible for the ‘behind-the-scenes’ server-side coding of applications. These developers use back-end programming languages to create functional backend components that process incoming and outgoing data.

They write code, maintain databases, and work on backend frameworks while ensuring systems are working properly and efficiently. Furthermore, backend developers may need to design database schemas, troubleshoot issues, and debug codes to ensure a system works as it should.

In other words, backend developers are specialists who use their skills and expertise to build essential backend components of applications.

What Type of Skills Do Backend Developers Need?

Backend web developers play an important part in the functionality of web apps. They handle everything from server-side logic to database management and API development.

The following are the must-have skills every backend web developer needs:

  • Programming languages: Proficiency in JavaScript, Python, Java, and other languages.
  • Web app development: Ability to create web applications that process data from front-end users.
  • API development: This involves being skilled in developing APIs.
  • Database management: Competence in using databases to store user information securely.
  • UI/UX understanding: Knowledge of UI/UX principles to ensure web applications are easy to use and accessible for users.
  • Server-side application build: Understanding all components of server-side application development to connect server requests with the correct functionality.

What Does a Backend Developer Roadmap Look Like?

A backend developer roadmap is a structured guide that provides an outline of the essential skills and technologies one needs to be good in backend development. It guides you through the essential skills and technologies you must learn to make the journey less overwhelming.

Here’s an overview of such a roadmap:

  • Learn a programming language: Popular choices are Python, Java, and Node.js. Backend developers focus on writing clean, efficient, and scalable code.
  • Understand databases: Developers are comfortable with SQL databases like MySQL or PostgreSQL and NoSQL databases like MongoDB or Redis. They know how to design database schemas, optimize queries, and manage transactions.
  • Master server management: Learning about server environments, particularly Linux, and basic networking concepts is part of backend development. Knowing how to deploy and manage applications on servers is crucial for backend developers.
  • Dive into APIs and web services: Backend developers have a deep understanding of RESTful APIs, GraphQL, and SOAP. They learn to create, document, and secure APIs, which allow communication between different application parts.
  • Master version control and collaboration: Every backend developer knows that Git is essential for version control. They leverage platforms like GitHub or GitLab to work with others effectively.
  • Focus on security practices: Developers study common threats like SQL injection and XSS, as well as best practices to protect applications. Implement strong authentication and authorization mechanisms.
  • Develop testing and debugging skills: Expert backend developers are proficient in writing unit and integration tests. They also use debugging tools to ensure code is reliable and maintainable.

What Is a Typical Backend Developer Salary?

Backend web developers' salaries can range from entry-level junior to mid and even senior-level professionals.

On average, a junior backend developer’s salary averages $50,000 annually, while mid-level backend developers typically earn around $80,000 - $100,000 per year. At the senior tier backend web developers can make upwards of $140,000 a year.

Of course, these salaries vary depending on experience and location; for example, San Francisco's backend salaries are higher than most other cities in the U.S. but can still be lower than unexpected suburban or rural areas with a high demand for talented full-stack developers.

What Is the Difference Between a Back End, Front End, and Full-Stack Developer?

A back-end web developer specializes in the back end of a website. They focus on ensuring functionality, server-side scripting, coding databases, and proper security structures. They enable sites to function correctly and efficiently by constructing back-end components such as servers and applications.

On the other hand, front-end web developers directly work with user interface design and create HTML/CSS markups and JavaScript code that determines how users interact with the website.

Full-stack developers combine the skill sets of back-end and front-end development and encompass both back-end and front-end technologies like HTML5, CSS3, JQuery, JavaScript, AJAX, API integration, back-end frameworks such as PHP and Ruby on Rails to develop a website.

In brief, back-end developers provide the infrastructure and underpinnings for websites while front-end designers handle aesthetics and interactivity.

3 Main Benefits of Backend Development

Person typing on laptop, highlighting what is backend development and its benefits
[Source: Pexels.com]

If you're considering investing in a new website or app, here are some reasons why backend development could prove beneficial for your business:

  • Integrate seamlessly: Backend development allows for seamless integration between different web technologies. Whether you're looking to integrate a new payment system, add new features to your website, or optimize your site's efficiency and speed, using backend technologies allows you to do so easily.
  • Meet compliance requirements: Backend development can help businesses meet their compliance requirements. Many companies are now required to ensure that their data is secure and that customers' information is stored safely. This can be achieved by using a range of open-source tools and technologies to build out your backend, allowing you to store data securely and meet any regulatory requirements.
  • Customize web experiences: Backend development enables businesses to create customized web experiences for their customers. Great user experience is now essential if you want to succeed online, and this can be achieved through backend development. By understanding the needs of your target audience, you can build a backend that is both effective and efficient, enabling customers to be satisfied with their experience of using your website or app.

3 Most Commonly Used Programming Languages for Backend Development

A recent global survey of 87,585 software developers found that 63.61% of respondents use JavaScript, 49.28% report using Python, and 30.55% code with Java. These statistics highlight the widespread adoption and trust in these languages within the developer community.

With that said, let’s take a closer look at the three most popular backend development programming languages below:

1. JavaScript for Its Versatility

JavaScript is now almost ubiquitous on the web, allowing developers to create fully-fledged web experiences. It is also one of the most used programming languages in the world, which means there are plenty of online resources available that explain how it works and provide solutions to common problems.

But it's not just a popular choice; JavaScript is also highly versatile, enabling developers to integrate many different technologies into their websites.

2. Python for Its Flexibility

Often praised for its machine learning capabilities, Python is highly flexible, which enables it to be used for a wide range of tasks. It's also easy to use and has a user-friendly syntax that allows developers to create more complex applications with less code.

This makes Python an ideal choice for those starting in backend development, as well as experienced developers who want to try their hand at something new.

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3. Java for Its Scalability and Performance

Java is extremely popular when it comes to developing large-scale systems and continues to be a powerful warhorse among the programming language community. It is also widely used, with applications running on every computer in the world at one point or another.

While it's not as flexible as Python, it's a great choice for backend development because of its speed, scalability, and reliability. This means that websites powered by Java can handle large amounts of traffic and remain stable when high levels of activity are expected

Popular Backend Development Frameworks

Backend development frameworks are essential tools that streamline development by providing pre-built components and libraries. These frameworks help developers build robust, scalable, and maintainable backend systems more efficiently.

Here are some of the most popular backend development frameworks used today:

  • Express.js: A minimal and flexible Node.js web application framework, Express.js provides a solid feature set for building single and multi-page apps. Its simplicity and ease of use are also ideal for hybrid app development.
  • Django: This is a Python web framework that encourages users to develop clean and pragmatic designs quickly. Django includes built-in features such as authentication and an admin interface that make it ideal for building secure applications.
  • Ruby on Rails: Often referred to as Rails, this server-side framework is written in Ruby and uses the convention over configuration (CoC) and don't repeat yourself (DRY) principles. It is great for building database-backed applications.
  • Spring Boot: A project within the larger Spring framework, Spring Boot makes creating stand-alone, production-grade apps easy. It simplifies the configuration process and supports a wide range of enterprise-level features.
  • Laravel: A PHP framework that is known for its elegant syntax and extensive ecosystem. Laravel makes common tasks such as routing, sessions, and caching easy, which makes it well-suited for building modern web apps.

The frameworks above provide developers with the blocks they need for efficient backend development. Each of them offers unique strengths that allow users to handle different project requirements.

Top Backend Development Best Practices

Following best practices in backend development is crucial to ensure a secure, robust, and efficient system. They are the foundation of successful backend programming and play a vital role in the overall architecture of website backend development.

Consider the tips below to maximize success:

1. Secure Your Code

Code security is the most important aspect of backend development. Protecting your code ensures sensitive data remains safe and user trust is maintained. This entails performing regular security audits, input validation, and data encryption. Likewise, keeping dependencies and libraries updated helps prevent vulnerabilities.

2. Ensure Scalability

Scalability is crucial for handling increased loads without performance issues. You should design your backend to scale horizontally by adding services or vertically by upgrading existing ones. Also, consider using load balancers that efficiently distribute traffic across multiple servers.

Backend programming needs to be scalable so it can accommodate growth while ensuring a seamless user experience even during traffic spikes.

3. Manage Databases Efficiently

Efficient database management maintains data integrity and performance. The first step is to choose the right database system to accommodate the needs of an application.

Meanwhile, regularly optimizing queries and indexing can significantly improve response times. You should also implement backup and disaster recovery plans to guarantee data availability and reliability.

Examples of Backend Development Projects

Backend development projects are the backbone of many popular platforms we use daily. Understanding how these complex systems work can provide valuable insights into the importance of secure and robust backend infrastructures.

The following examples explore how the backend development systems of three major platforms work.

Netflix

Netflix’s backend development is designed to manage a vast library of video content. It uses a microservices architecture to break down complex tasks into manageable services. Each microservice is responsible for specific functions like user authentication, content recommendations, and streaming services.

The company also employs adaptive streaming technology to deliver high-quality video content based on the user’s internet speed for optimal viewing experiences.

Amazon

The backend development of Amazon supports an enormous range of functionalities to manage millions of products, user accounts, and transactions daily. It leverages a highly scalable infrastructure using Amazon Web Services (AWS) that guarantees reliability and performance even during peak traffic times.

Its backend system includes powerful algorithms for inventory management, order processing, and logistics. These procedures ensure that products are always efficiently stored, packed, and shipped.

Facebook

Facebook’s backend development is engineered to handle billions of user interactions every day, such as messages, posts, and comments. It uses a distributed architecture to ensure scalability and availability. It also leverages data centers worldwide that allow it to provide fast and reliable access.

Moreover, their backend system incorporates real-time data processing that supports instant notifications and updates to help maintain an engaging user experience.

Setting Up a Development Environment on Your Local Machine

As you can see, there are many different programming languages and tools that can be used for backend development. Whether you're just getting started or have a lot of experience in this field, it's important to carefully consider your needs and choose the right combination of technologies to create top-quality applications.

Setting up a development environment for your local machine entails creating a space on your computer to build websites from, so you don’t have to use web hosting platforms like WordPress to create one. For this purpose, you could use a framework such as AngularJS.

AngularJS is an open-source JavaScript framework used in backend development. Developed by Google, AngularJS provides developers with a platform for creating dynamic and interactive web applications efficiently and quickly. It enables them to create single-page applications (SPAs) without having to write complex codes. By allowing HTML code to be extended with additional attributes, AngularJS simplifies backend development and ensures a more user-friendly experience for website visitors.

Other popular tools used by developers include Node.js (used by 47.12% of developers), React.js (used by 42.62% of developers), and Express (used by 22.99% of developers).

There are a few key benefits to setting up a local environment on your machine, some of which include:

  • You can freely customize your setup without the worry of it affecting your live site,
  • You can make a test site before pushing your site live,
  • You decrease the risks of your site bugging out for unknown reasons, which makes the development process less stressful,
  • You can avoid the dreaded “refresh” button that comes with a hosting platform and focus on the fun coding aspects of your site in a straightforward manner,
  • You don’t have to have an internet connection to work on your site.

How To Set Up a Local Development Environment in 3 Steps

Having a basic understanding of Terminal would be beneficial, but following along with its easy-to-navigate commands should create a simple development process. The Terminal is mainly there to help you install all the necessary components before you get to the meat of it

1. Identify Source Code and All Its Dependencies

The first step in setting up your backend development environment is to identify the source code and all its dependencies. This includes any libraries, frameworks, or packages that your project needs to function properly.

2. Configure Your Local Environment

Once you have identified these dependencies, you can configure your local machine to include them in your project. This typically involves installing the necessary dependencies, software packages, and developer tools on your machine, so that you can work with your chosen programming language and framework effectively.

3. Test Your Configuration

Once your local environment is configured, it's important to test it for any errors or issues. You should run a series of tests on your code and configuration to ensure that it works as expected so that you can proceed with development without any major issues.

These are just some of the steps involved in setting up a local environment for backend development. As you gain more experience with different programming languages and tools, you will develop your approach to this process and learn to troubleshoot any issues that may arise. Ultimately, this will help you create better applications more quickly and efficiently.

Creating a Basic CRUD Application Using PHP and Mysql

If you're looking to get into custom software development, knowing how to make a basic CRUD (Create, Retrieve, Update, Delete) application with PHP and MySQL (a popular SQL server) is a great start.

It is an essential skill for any backend web development role and can be surprisingly simple to achieve. With the right tutorial and guidance, anyone can become a pro in the art of CRUD in PHP and MySQL in no time!

Step 1: Choose Your Programming Language

The first step to creating a basic CRUD application is to choose your programming language and development environment. For PHP and MySQL, we recommend using an open-source framework like Laravel or CodeIgniter.

Step 2: Create Database Schema

Once you have set up your development environment, the next step is to create your database schema. This simply involves defining the structure of your database and the fields needed to store the data. This can be done using a simple SQL command, or by manually creating your tables in phpMyAdmin or another database management tool.

Step 3: Add Application Logic

Next, you can start adding your application logic — this is what will power your CRUD functionality. In PHP, this usually involves writing a series of functions that interact with your database and perform different operations, such as saving data or retrieving it from the database.

Step 4: Set Up Frontend Interface

Finally, you will want to set up your front-end interface using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code. This can be done by creating static pages or using a server-side templating language like Twig or Blade, depending on your preferences.

Once you have completed these steps, your basic CRUD application should be ready to go! While this may seem like a lot of work, it will become much easier and faster with experience, and the result is well worth the effort. So, if you're looking to get started in backend web development, be sure to give it a try.

Tips for Beginner Backend Developers

Fundamentals such as understanding coding language syntax, debugging techniques, and the right libraries are key components any developer should be familiar with. Additionally, getting tips from experienced developers or taking part in Hackathons can help you maximize tutorials and exercises that test your aptitude.

Familiarize yourself with these tips and tricks from the start to guide you:

  • Start with a simple programming language, like Python or Ruby, and learn the basics of syntax, data types, and control structures.
  • Practice your coding skills by building small projects or working on pre-made exercises that test your understanding of concepts like loops and functions.
  • Spend time reading tutorials and online guides to learn more about tips and tricks for debugging code, as well as best practices for working with libraries and other tools.
  • Join an online community or forum where you can get feedback on your work from experienced developers, ask questions, and find inspiration for new projects.
  • Take part in hackathons or coding challenges to test your skills, gain exposure to new technologies, and connect with other developers.
  • Set aside time for ongoing learning and professional development, such as taking online courses or attending developer conferences.
  • Find a mentor who can help you improve your skills and guide you through the early stages of your career.
  • Be open to learning new technologies and adapting to changing trends in the field.
  • Build a strong portfolio of projects that showcase your technical skills and demonstrate your ability to deliver results.
  • Keep practicing, stay motivated, and enjoy the journey of becoming a skilled backend developer!

Backend Development: Key Takeaways

Being a backend developer is not as scary as it sounds. Sure, there’s a lot of code involved, but with the right tools and some practice, you’ll be churning out CRUD applications in no time. And who knows? Maybe you’ll even enjoy it. Happy coding!

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