Backend development is that area of web development that focuses on how a website or web application works. It is what happens behind the scenes, the same way that a restaurant’s chef and his/her staff handles all orders without the customers sitting at their tables seeing them. Instead of cooking food, though, backend developers write codes that enable web browsers to communicate with databases and servers.

The primary role of a backend developer is to ensure that end-users get the data or services they requested without a glitch and on time. As such, backend development requires a comprehensive set of programming skills and knowledge.

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Backend Development Languages

When a job post says a company is looking for web developers, they most likely refer to backend developers who are also called “backend engineers” at times. Backend developers should be familiar with different types of web development languages such as:

  • Java: Known as the king of all programming languages, Java is used to develop popular websites and web applications, including Netflix, Uber, Google Earth, and Tinder.
  • Ruby on Rails (RoR): RoR has become a favorite among programmers as it makes the web development process a breeze. Developers used the language to create several reputable websites and applications such as Airbnb, Slideshare, Goodreads, Groupon, Askfm, and Kickstarter.
  • Python: Python is one of the most commonly used programming languages in the world. Aside from website development, it also figures in network programming, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML). Among the web applications that use Python are Spotify, Dropbox, Google, Reddit, and Instagram.
  • PHP: The advantage of PHP as a backend development programming language is that it is easy to learn. It also supports various content management systems (CMSs), such as WordPress and Joomla. PHP was also used to develop web applications, including Facebook, Wikipedia, Tumblr, MailChimp, and Flickr.

However, it wouldn’t hurt for backend developers to also be familiar with frontend development languages such as HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). In fact, several backend developers started as frontend developers.

Backend and Frontend Development: The Difference

While backend development focuses on what happens behind the scenes, frontend development handles the design and interface of the website or web application. Frontend developers take care of everything that end-users see on their browsers or applications. Backend and frontend development, therefore, work hand in hand to deliver seamless user experiences.

Backend developers should be able to work well with other teams. They are, in fact, encouraged to contribute ideas during the initial stages of the development. If backend developers do not get involved in the early development stages, they could face problems later on.

In recent years, frontend and backend development have been combined in what is now called “full-stack development.” In this case, the web developer can do both frontend and backend development.

Skills a Backend Developer Should Have

Backend development is done for three devices—servers, databases, and application programming interfaces (APIs). That said, a backend developer should have a working knowledge of the programming languages these systems typically use. These languages include Python, Java, .NET, Haskell, Clojure, Structured Query Language (SQL), RoR, and PHP.

Backend developers should also know how servers, databases, and APIs work. Without that, they won’t know how to develop one. They should also:

  • Know about accessibility and security compliance
  • Understand frontend web technologies like HyperText Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and JavaScript since they’ll be working with frontend developers most of the time
  • Be able to manage a hosting environment, including database admin and app scaling when workloads change
  • Have experience with version control and documentation so other developers can pick up where they left off without getting confused and make unnecessary changes or updates

Backend developers would also do well if they can:

  • Build system architectures
  • Handle web and mobile app development
  • Secure data storage
  • Configure payment processing systems

How Much Do Backend Developers Earn?

A backend developer can make between US$49,000 and US$99,000 a year, making backend development one of the top programming careers that pay well. The figure is about the same for frontend developers. A full-stack developer, on the other hand, understandably earns more as they do both frontend and backend development.