What is Backend Development?

Instructor: Lyna Griffin

Lyna has tutored undergraduate Information Management Systems and Database Development. She has a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters degree in Information Technology.

In the lesson, we will be examining closely the components that comprise backend development and how they relate to each other. We will examine the general activities that comprise its significance and their contribution to an application as a whole.

Understanding User Applications

We are all familiar with applications. They may be corporate applications at our workplace or web-based applications like our social media apps. Applications generally comprise two main parts. The first part is the frontend which is accessed by the user or client. It is normally referred to as the user interface (UI). It is the interface the user interacts with and/or through which he processes requests. It presents the user with an aesthetic platform, branding and the main message the application carries. The second part is the backend. This serves as the 'engine' or 'backbone' to the frontend of that application. The backend is not seen, directly interacted with, or accessed by the user.

Every click on a link, button or menu item on the user interface is a user request. Whether you are viewing a friend's profile on social media or selecting an item for purchase on a shopping site or checking your bank balance, your clicks are generating requests from the frontend, or UI. For every user request, there is a vehicle to execute the request (application programming interface), a source from which that request must be serviced (database), and a storage facility to house it all (server). These three components comprise the backend.

Backend Development

Backend development is the process of developing a database that holds all the necessary information, an application programming interface (API) that communicates user requests with the database and outputs to the frontend as dictated by the user request. The backend configuration is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1


Let us think about our favorite free social media networking platform, smileatme.com. All works of life are signed on. People use the platform to connect with friends, family, business associates, school mates and so on. They share their thoughts, videos, pictures, products and many more. They use the platform to promote from businesses to religious organizations. Everything social under the sun is done on smileatme.com. To compound it all, smileatme.com has 45 million users. Just like you, each person has a unique login detail and a unique custom themed profile, with timelines showing their respective posts.

Each user's login details, individual profile settings, photographs, video and any data they might have saved or uploaded to their profile is stored in the database developed in the backend through the API.

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