As you engage with a website, what you’re seeing and interacting with is the front-end. But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to a website – and it’s called back-end development.
Back-end development, often called the “server-side”, is the part of an application that the user never sees. As the front-end code is what the user interacts with on a site, the back-end is responsible for what’s going on behind the curtain. Things like business logic, calculations, database interactions, and performance are included in the back-end.
Behind the pretty face developed by the front-end code is the back-end code that makes the application work – creating a dynamic site that changes and updates in real-time.
The back-end normally consists of an application, server and database. As you interact with a site by entering information, this information is stored in a database that resides on a server. Results are then returned to you to be displayed on the site as front-end code.
One example of back-end development at work is the scenario of buying a plane ticket on a website. Everything you see on the site is the front-end. After you enter your request for flight options, the back-end takes over by sending the request to the database to look up the flight information, then puts together a web page that lists all the flight options and sends this page back to you. Once the data reaches your computer, the information is passed to the front-end to be displayed on the site.
All the information you entered is stored in the database on the server, where it can be accessed and changed at any time. For instance, if you decide to change the date of the flight or cancel the order, the items in the database are changed to reflect this. If you log back into the application later on to print your ticket, all your information will still be there in your account.
The server, application, and database all need to communicate smoothly in order for a function, like buying a plane ticket, to work. Back-end developers use server-side languages like Python, Ruby, Java, and PHP to build applications. They use tools like MySQL, SQL, and Oracle to connect to the database to find, save, and modify the data that is sent back to the user.
As a back-end developer, you’re responsible for building and maintaining the technologies around the application, server, and database – ensuring that what the user interacts with on a site actually performs the functions it’s designed to do.