The Duties for a Back-End Web Development Coding Job

By Nikhil Abraham

Back‐end web developers code everything that is not visible on the web page but is necessary to support the front‐end developer’s work. Back‐end development happens in the following three places:

  • Server: The server is the computer hosting the coding files that include the website application and the database. When you visit www.google.com, for example, your web browser requests the web page from Google servers, which respond with a copy of the web page you see in your browser.

  • Application: The application handles the content in web pages sent to users and the changes made to the database. Applications are written using programming languages like Ruby, Python, and PHP, and only run on the server. Proficiency is one language is usually sufficient.

  • Database: The database stores website and user data so it is available for future browsing sessions. The simplest database is an Excel spreadsheet, which is ill suited for web development. Databases such as Postgres and MongoDB are optimized for website use; usually only one of these databases is used per website.

As an example of back‐end web development, suppose that you visit www.amazon.com using your web browser. Your computer makes a request to the Amazon server, which runs an application to determine what web content to serve you. The application queries a database, and past purchases and browsing show that you have an interest in technology, legal, and travel books. The application creates a web page that displays books matching your interests, and sends it to your computer.

You see a book on bike trails in New York, and click to purchase it. After you enter your credit card and shipping details, the application stores the information in a database on the server for easy checkout in the future.

For back‐end developers, one major part of the job is writing code for the application and database to render web pages in the browser. Employers are interested in additional skills such as these:

  • Scaling: Back‐end developers must change and optimize application code, servers, and databases to respond to increases in website traffic. Without the right planning, a mention of your website on a morning talk show or in the newspaper could results in a “website not available” error message instead of thousands of new customers. Scaling involves balancing the cost of optimizing the website with leaving the configuration as‐is.

  • Analytics: Every online business, whether large or small, has key website performance indicators, such as new user signups and retention of existing users. Back‐end developers can implement and track these metrics by querying information from the website database.

  • Security: Websites with a substantial number of users become a target for all types of security risks. Attackers may automate signups, in which fake profiles post spam that promotes unrelated products. Additionally, you may receive a massive amount of traffic in a short period of time, called a denial of service attack, which prevents legitimate customers from accessing your website. Or attackers might try to detect weaknesses in your servers to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information such as email addresses, passwords, and credit card numbers.

    In 2014, major data breaches were uncovered at large corporations including Sony, Target, and JP Morgan. Prevention of these attacks rests, in part, with back‐end developers.

The back‐end developer is a part of the product team and works closely with front‐end developers and product managers. Unlike front‐end developers, back‐end developers do not interact frequently with designers because the job is not as visual or based on website appearance.