Building and maintaining a website takes a lot of specialized work. This is one of the reasons why web developers are in such high demand today.
Web development is usually divided into three categories: front-end, back-end, and full-stack. Front-end developers specialize in user-facing functions — all of the elements that you interact with when you visit and navigate a website. Back-end developers specialize in the submerged architecture of the website, everything happening behind the scenes to support the user interface. Full-stack developers work with both the front end and the back end.
Though all developer specializations are important, many people associate web development with the front end specifically. Aspiring web devs often begin by learning how to build the user-facing side of web pages and web applications using front-end programming languages like HTML and CSS. As you might guess, back-end development is a very different task, and it requires a different set of tools. Today, we’ll discuss seven languages for back-end development that every developer should know about for this specialization.
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Back-end development is also called “server-side development.” It includes all the behind-the-scenes elements of the website that power the front-end user interface. The interactive components of the front end are dependent on structures and processes that you, as the user, don’t see.
Back-end developers are responsible for a number of essential tasks, including but not limited to the following:
This work is essential to creating a modern functioning website.
The relationship between back-end and front-end development is important. Back-end development is about creating the website’s underlying architecture, and it needs to be combined with front-end development in order to create a product that users can actually interact with in a browser. Front-end development is also called “client-side development” because it involves building the side of the website that users actually engage with on an end-user device, or client.
The front end of the website is designed to receive and respond to data input by the user, while the back end works with data from servers and databases. Together, the front end and back end make functioning websites and web apps.
Front-end and back-end development complement each other, but they depend on distinct, specialized tasks. Front-end developers are responsible for:
Let’s take a look at some of the top languages for back-end development. First, though, keep in mind that there are tons of back-end languages, and they all have strengths and weaknesses. This isn’t an exhaustive list, nor should the numbering be understood as a definitive ranking of these languages. Instead, it’s a collection of coding languages that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with as you start exploring the world of back-end development.
Python is one of the most popular programming languages thanks to its versatility and its user-friendly syntax. Python programs are also highly portable. As a platform-independent language, Python can run on a wide range of platforms including Windows, MacOS, Linux, and Unix. Python also has tons of applications: it’s a general-purpose language that lends itself to a variety of growing fields such as machine learning and data science. Using Python, you can perform tasks that include:
Python is one of the more popular back-end development languages. The simplicity of its syntax makes it easy to use, and there’s an abundance of Python libraries and frameworks available to facilitate a wide range of tasks for programmers. The Flask, Django, and Pyramid frameworks are particularly useful to back-end web developers.
Java is another popular choice for back-end development. It’s a fast, high-performing, object-oriented programming language, and while it’s not quite as friendly to beginners as Python, it brings tons of useful functionalities to the table that make up for this. Java’s sophisticated memory management and its support for multithreading, for instance, make it a highly efficient language. You might use Java for tasks including:
Like Python, Java features cross-platform compatibility, enabling it to run on a wide range of operating systems such as Windows, Solaris OS, Linux, and MacOS.
Java frameworks like Spring and Struts are powerful tools for back-end web development.
PHP is an open-source scripting language, and while it’s technically a general-purpose language, meaning that it can be used for a wide range of programming tasks, it’s designed for back-end web development. So, if you want to build a desktop application, you can use PHP to do so, but server-side scripting is where the language really shines. You might use PHP for tasks including:
Ruby is an open-source programming language. It’s great for automation, web scraping, and data processing, but web development is the function it’s most well known for. Like Python, Ruby was designed to be user friendly, so it’s a bit easier to learn than many programming languages. Frequent uses of Ruby include the following tasks:
Ruby has some powerful frameworks for back-end web development. Ruby on Rails, for instance, is an influential server-side framework that many companies, including Hulu and Shopify, have used to develop web applications. Sinatra is another useful framework. It doesn’t have as many features as Ruby on Rails, but it lends itself to developing smaller web applications. Grape is an API framework for Ruby that can be used in conjunction with Ruby on Rails, Sinatra, and other frameworks.
Go (known colloquially as Golang) is a fast, high performing language that’s great for building efficient web applications. Go was created at Google by a group of developers who were dissatisfied with other programming languages. The goal was to create a language that was fast, efficient, and user-friendly. Go has relatively simple syntax and, like Java, it has great garbage collection capabilities that enable efficient memory management. You can use Go for tasks like:
Go is often associated with Google, but many other major tech companies use it as well, including Dropbox and Netflix. It can be useful to learn Go for your career. Like the other languages on this list, Go provides plenty of frameworks for back-end web development, such as Beego, Echo, and Revel.
SQL is a bit of an outlier in this list insofar as it’s a domain-specific language. SQL is used to access and manage data in relational databases, which structure data by storing it in tables, simplifying access to related data points. Relational database management systems generally use SQL, including Oracle Database, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL Server.
Managing and interacting with databases is a major part of back-end development, so SQL is a crucial tool for back-end developers to learn.
Try one of our 400+ courses and learning paths: Web Development with PHP.
Back-end web developers are in high demand in today’s job market. If you’re a novice coder contemplating a programming career, learning how to become a back-end developer is a great use of your time.
Fortunately, we’ve created some great resources to help you get started. Consider taking the course Web Development: A Primer for a more in-depth discussion of front-end and back-end development, databases, frameworks, and the software development process. The learning path Web Development with PHP course is also worth exploring. It provides a helpful introduction to one of the most popular back-end web development languages.
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