There are many metaphors to represent the construction of software: a car, an iceberg. Each of the comparisons is meant to help understand the divided role of the frontend and backend during application development. In the most simplistic terms, the frontend is what we see, and the backend is what is hidden from software users. How does the situation look when we look at it a little closer?
What is the backend?
To understand what the backend is, it is worth starting by explaining what the frontend is. The frontend is what the application user sees and interacts with. Any buttons, slide-out menus, animations, navigation elements – the entire client side is the frontend. It strongly influences the user experience, including aesthetics because the frontend works closely with UI/UX designers. Even the most beautiful interface, will not be satisfying if the application hangs and does not respond to calls for interaction. The backend is responsible for preventing such problems.
The backend plays a key role in software development, the effects of which are invisible but definitely felt. The backend consists of the server, databases, and application. The server side processes the user’s data when he or she wants to initiate some action such as sending a message, opening something, or downloading. The backend focuses on the entire architecture, logic, infrastructure, and performance of the application, and without it, the pages would be just visual boards, with no responsiveness. For the application to work, it is necessary to have continuous and efficient interaction with the database and constant calculations.
It can be said that the backend is responsible for the most crucial stage of coding, so it is important to select the right technologies for the software. The technologies used for the backend are sets of separate components (such as web server, operating system, language, framework) that make up the development environment.
In order to decide on the right technology, one should take into account such factors as the specifics of the market, as well as business goals. Most importantly, you should also analyze the specifics of the technology you intend to use.
Below are three languages and their frameworks which, in our opinion, are currently the best solutions in the backend world.
Python is at the top of the most popular languages for programming, on platforms such as Github and Stack Overflow, and in 2020 it was named TIOBE programming language of the year. Implemented in 1991, it has become the leading language for the backend in virtually all areas. The main reason for this is its simple syntax, which has made Python very popular among programmers around the world. Python’s code resembles English, making it understandable even to beginners in programming, and each unit of code works separately, making it very easy to use. That’s why Python is often considered the easiest programming language to learn.
Most often Python is used for building websites, software, artificial intelligence, data science, and machine learning. Python can also be successfully used for complex AI projects. In addition, the language features simple integration with other languages, GUI support, as well as automatic garbage collection, and rapid prototyping. An extremely important aspect of Python is its scalability and the availability of frameworks and libraries that are powerful in their capabilities.
Among the best-known frameworks are:
Django is an open-source framework for developing web applications. It is designed to perform web development tasks quickly and easily, simplifying the process of creating complex, database-driven applications.
Tornado is an open-source framework that is primarily known for its very high performance. Its structure allows it to handle 10,000 connections at the same time. Tornado is used as a tool in building web applications focused on handling large numbers of users. The framework allows the implementation of third-party authentication and authorization systems and offers the highest quality of service in real-time.
This is a micro-framework used mainly for building web applications and any microservices, as it is very lightweight. Thanks to its minimalist architecture, it easily adapts to the environment of our needs, and successfully allows us to build a strong foundation for a web application.
Python’s help has been used, for now, by such IT companies as Spotify, Instagram, Facebook, IMB, and Lyft.
Node.js is most often chosen for creating chat, games, or streaming services. Due to its lightweight nature, it is also well suited for developing software that is meant to be divided into separate functional modules in containers.
Node.js is also known for its great libraries such as mongoose, express, jwt, or Socket.io.
Among the biggest advantages of Node.js is the powerful and flexible nature of the language, which works especially well for building fast, small, and scalable real-time applications like messengers. Rich networking is also an undoubted advantage, as the use of a single thread makes it possible to split messages and take advantage of many concurrent connections (up to 1 million concurrent connections!).
Node.js also has several valuable frameworks/solutions that further extend its (already impressive) capabilities.
NestJS is an open-source framework for building server-side applications, written in TypeScript. NestJS not only provides the toolkit needed for building projects but also introduces some rules that guarantee best practices. It includes a strong dependency injection mechanism, and uses abstractions, which makes it very flexible in terms of selecting and connecting the necessary dependencies.
Electron is a cross-platform solution that allows you to create applications, consisting of the main thread running on the server (Node.js) and rendering threads, running in Chromium. Electron has many ready-made modules, with the help of which you can build a functional application using code previously written by someone else. Not only does it provide thread separation, but it also uses tools to help with debugging and analyze site performance using Chrome DevTools.
Express.js is an open-source framework for building solid single and multipage web applications. It allows dynamic rendering of HTML pages, setting up intermediaries to respond to HTTP requests, as well as efficient routing and a very useful debugging feature.
Node.js is used by companies such as Netflix, NASA, Trello, PayPal, LinkedIn, Walmart, Uber, Twitter, Yahoo, and eBay, among others.
Ruby is very strongly considered in the development community as one of the best backend languages. It can be said that Ruby has balanced functional programming along with imperative programming. The language is used to develop web and mobile applications and contributes greatly to faster development. Instead of focusing on individual actions, Ruby focuses on data and objects, which are then treated as units between which interactions take place. Ruby is most often used to build e-Commerce and social networking sites.
Developers using Ruby, follow TDD or Test-Driven Development methodology. This means that tests are performed before the code is written, so the number of possible errors is greatly reduced.
TDD is not the only advantage of Ruby. The language is very flexible, as it allows its users to modify parts of it at will. Moreover, Ruby uses a minimal amount of syntax elements and often uses English keywords. Other advantages include error handling through exceptions, and effortless writing of extensions thanks to the C language API, which allows the Ruby interpreter to be embedded as a scripting language.
Among Ruby’s most significant advantages, however, is the presence of powerful frameworks that perfectly complement Ruby and with which it is most often inseparable. These include:
Ruby on Rails
Ruby on Rails is a free framework for creating web applications, whose main advantage is the transparency, simplicity, and intuitiveness of creating code without its repetition in different projects (thanks to the DRY principle, that is, Don’t Repeat Yourself). The framework is also characterized by great ease of configuration, thanks to several default settings following the Convention Over Configuration rule. The framework works on the basis of the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) model, meaning the use of a minimum amount of functionality in an extremely fast product. Ruby on Rails makes it possible to write simple and clear code in a modular and extremely fast way, thanks to numerous built-in extensions.
Sinatra is a simple DSL (Domain Specific Language) web microframework written for Ruby. One of its biggest advantages is its lightweight nature, as Sinatra has all the components needed to create an application. It is a great choice for small and less complex projects. Another of its benefits is the ability to create web applications with a single file, which reduces the effort to a minimum and is very easy even for novice programmers.
Roda is a framework that is used to build web applications using Ruby. It is designed according to the concept of a “routing tree,” which means that it allows you to operate on the current request during all routing. Among Roda’s biggest advantages are its performance (the load on each request is much lower than with other Ruby frameworks) and the fact that it is extensible through very extensive plugin support. Using the Roda framework is also very easy thanks to its routing tree, which allows you to write simpler code.
Companies that have used Ruby for their backend include Apple, Groupon, Dribble, and Airbnb.
Do you want to find out more about backend technologies?
Develop your software consciously
Preferences for backend technologies may differ from company to company, but our subjective opinion is that Python, Node.js, and Ruby are currently the best solutions for the software backend, and we appreciate each of them on a daily basis at Applover. Since companies will certainly want to grow even faster in 2023, it’s worth keeping up to date with current trends in the world of code languages that are capable of enabling this rapid growth.