What Is a Backend Developer In 2023? A Comprehensive Guide

Jerry Wallis
16 min read

Becoming a back-end developer is an exciting journey that opens doors to a world of opportunities in the tech industry. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the essential skills, career prospects, and practical tips to help aspiring developers navigate their way into the world of back-end development. 

We also have tips and recommendations for business owners and hiring managers looking to find the right developer for their projects. So, whether you’re an aspiring developer or a business owner looking to hire one, this article will provide valuable insights to help you get started and excel in your endeavours.

What Is a Back-End Developer?🧑‍💻

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s clarify what back-end development entails. 

Back-end developers are responsible for building the server side of web applications, ensuring they run smoothly and securely. Their work involves operating databases, managing server configurations, and handling the logic that makes websites function.

Backend developers also specialise in creating and maintaining databases and infrastructure that power web applications and other software systems. They work behind the scenes to ensure that the front end of a website or application, which is what users interact with, can communicate effectively with the server and access the necessary data and functionality.

When we asked our CIO Ritesh Shah, a seasoned industry expert with over a decade of hands-on coding experience, for his perspective, he had this to say: “A backend developer is like the architect of a digital city, so to speak, They craft the hidden infrastructure that powers websites, applications, and digital services. They are the masterminds behind the scenes, designing and building the intricate systems that enable data storage, processing, and communication.”

What Do Backend Developers Do?🔑

Here are some key responsibilities and tasks typically associated with backend developers:

  • Server-Side Development: Backend developers are responsible for writing code that runs on the server, handling requests from clients (usually web browsers or mobile apps) and generating responses.
  • Database Management: They design, develop, and maintain databases that store and retrieve data efficiently. This includes defining data schemas, creating queries, and optimising database performance.
  • API Development: Backend developers often create Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that allow different parts of a software system to communicate with each other or enable external developers to access certain functionalities of the system.
  • Business Logic: They implement the core business logic of an application, including authentication, authorisation, and any other complex algorithms or calculations required by the application.
  • Security Enhancement: Ensuring the security of data and systems is a crucial aspect of backend development. Developers must protect against common vulnerabilities like SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and more.
  • Develop For Scalability: Backend developers need to design systems that can handle increasing loads as an application grows in popularity, ensuring that it remains responsive and performs well under heavy traffic.
  • Performance Optimisation: They work to optimise the speed and efficiency of server-side code, database queries, and network communication to minimise response times.
  • Server and Infrastructure Management: Backend developers may be responsible for configuring and maintaining the servers and infrastructure on which the application runs, including cloud services like AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud.

We approached our resident backend developer, Dipak Acharya, to share his insights regarding this subject, and here’s his response: “If we liken a person to an application or website, a backend developer takes on the role of both creating and overseeing the mind behind this entity. Essentially, a backend developer is the one responsible for crafting and executing the entire process of how the application functions, from its inception to its full operation.”

Overview Of A Backend Developer’s Tech Stack 🧰

A backend developer’s tech stack is a collection of technologies and tools used to build and maintain the server-side components of a website or software system. These components need to be capable of handling data storage, processing, and communication with the front end, and as such, appropriate technologies to do so are selected. Here’s a detailed overview of a backend developer’s typical tech stack:

Programming languages 🌐

Backend developers rely on a range of programming languages to power the server-side functionality of websites and applications. The choice of language often depends on the specific project requirements, scalability, and personal preferences, but proficiency in these languages equips backend developers to tackle diverse challenges even with the most complex of projects,. Programming languages commonly used by backend developers include but are not limited to:

  • Node.js: A JavaScript runtime that allows developers to use JavaScript on the server side.
  • Python: Known for its simplicity and versatility and relatively more straightforward learning curve, Python is widely used for backend development.
  • Java: A robust, object-oriented language frequently used for enterprise-level applications.
  • Ruby: Used with the Ruby on Rails framework for web development.
  • Go: Known for its performance and simplicity, Go is suitable for building scalable applications.

Web Frameworks 🕸️

Web frameworks are essential tools for backend developers as they streamline the development process, enhance efficiency, and ensure the creation of secure and maintainable applications. These frameworks provide a structured foundation, offering pre-built modules and libraries for common tasks such as routing, database integration, and user authentication. They promote best practices, reducing the risk of vulnerabilities and errors in code. Some of the most common web frameworks used in the industry are:

  • Express.js: A popular web application framework for Node.js.
  • Django: A high-level Python web framework known for its rapid development capabilities.
  • Spring Boot: A Java-based framework for building production-grade applications.
  • Ruby on Rails: A Ruby framework designed for building web applications.

Database Applications 🗃️

Backend developers use a combination of both relational databases and web servers to store, maintain, integrate and utilise data across their applications to provide rich features for users. Some common relational databases that backend developers rely on include:

  • MySQL: A widely-used open-source relational database.
  • PostgreSQL: Known for its advanced features and strong community support.
  • Oracle: A robust, enterprise-grade database system.

Backend developers also use NoSQL databases for their applications as they offer flexible schema designs, allowing for dynamic and unstructured data storage, making them ideal for applications with evolving data models or varying data types. 

Additionally, NoSQL databases are highly scalable and capable of distributing data across multiple nodes, ensuring optimal performance for rapidly growing applications with high traffic. They excel in handling semi-structured and unstructured data, making them suitable for scenarios involving JSON, XML, and diverse data formats. 

NoSQL databases also offer horizontal partitioning capabilities to enable efficient resource utilisation, while agile development practices benefit from NoSQL databases’ adaptability to changing requirements. Lastly, NoSQL databases can be cost-effective for specific workloads and offer geo-distribution features, making them valuable for global applications. Some common NoSQL databases that are practical tools in backend developer’s arsenal are:

  • MongoDB: A popular document-oriented NoSQL database.
  • Redis: A fast, in-memory key-value store often used for caching.
  • Cassandra: Designed for handling large amounts of data across multiple commodity servers.

Web Servers 🔗

Web servers are another important element of a backend developer’s web tech stack. They use web servers to manage incoming HTTP requests and facilitate the delivery of web content and services to clients, typically web browsers. They are responsible for routing requests to the appropriate backend processes or application logic, executing server-side scripts, and returning responses to the client. 

Web servers also provide essential features like load balancing, security, and SSL/TLS encryption to ensure data integrity and protect against unauthorised access. Moreover, they assist in optimising performance by caching static assets, compressing data, and serving content efficiently. So, what are some of the best web servers backend developers commonly employ in their projects? Let’s find out, shall we?

  • Nginx: A high-performance web server and reverse proxy server.
  • Apache: Another widely-used web server often used in combination with the Apache Tomcat application server.

API Development 📱

Backend developers use APIs to enable interaction between the backend server and various client applications, such as web or mobile apps. APIs abstract the complexity of the backend system, allowing developers to expose specific features or data to external applications in a controlled and standardised manner. This simplifies the development process by promoting code reusability and modularisation. 

Additionally, APIs enhance interoperability, enabling third-party integration and fostering collaboration across different software systems. They play a crucial role in modern web and software development, facilitating efficient data exchange and enabling the creation of feature-rich, interconnected applications. So, with that in mind, here are some common API-based tools that backend developers regularly use.

  • REST: Representational State Transfer, a common architectural style for building web services.
  • GraphQL: A query language for APIs that offers more flexibility than REST.

Authentication and Authorisation 🔏

Backend developers use authentication and authorisation tools to bolster their applications’ security and access control. These tools are essential for verifying user identities, safeguarding sensitive data, and preventing unauthorised access. 

By implementing authentication, backend developers ensure that only legitimate users can access their systems, while authorisation tools allow them to define fine-grained permissions and control what users or roles can do within the application. These mechanisms collectively contribute to a robust security posture and protect against data breaches and unauthorised actions. Notable tools for these purposes include:

  • OAuth: A protocol for secure authorisation.
  • JWT (JSON Web Tokens): A compact, URL-safe means of representing claims to be transferred between two parties.

Version Control 🔓

Version control systems are an important component in a backend developer’s software toolkit to efficiently manage and track code changes in their projects. Such tools offer collaboration capabilities, allowing multiple developers to work concurrently without conflicts and facilitating easy merging of changes. It provides a comprehensive history of code alterations, aiding in debugging and auditing. 

Version control tools can also act as a reliable code backup system, enabling the restoration of previous versions in case of issues. Developers can create branches to experiment with new features or bug fixes, and the system supports structured code reviews, enhancing code quality and early issue detection. Additionally, these tools aid deployment management by organising different code versions, ensuring a more controlled and organised development process. The most widely used version control system for tracking changes in the coding industry is undoubtedly Git.

Containerisation and Orchestration 🫙

Containerisation and orchestration are integral to modern backend development for several reasons. Containerisation, often facilitated by technologies like Docker, ensures consistent and portable packaging of applications and their dependencies, minimising compatibility issues and easing deployment across various environments. Orchestration platforms, such as Kubernetes, automate container deployment, scaling, and management, enhancing resource efficiency, scalability, and fault tolerance. They enable developers to quickly scale services up or down based on demand, perform rolling updates without downtime, and ensure high availability. 

Real-time Data Communication ⏲️

Real-time data communication in backend development enables instantaneous and interactive experiences in applications. It allows for immediate updates and notifications, enhancing user engagement and productivity. 

In scenarios such as messaging apps, online gaming, collaborative tools, and financial trading platforms, real-time communication ensures that users receive timely information and can interact seamlessly with each other or with data sources. It also facilitates real-time monitoring and analytics, enabling businesses to make informed decisions based on up-to-the-minute data. 

Real-time capabilities, often implemented using technologies like WebSockets and server-sent events, are crucial for modern applications to deliver dynamic and responsive user experiences while keeping users informed and connected in a rapidly changing digital landscape. Some of the most widely renowned real-time data implementation technologies are:

  • RabbitMQ: A widely-used message broker for handling asynchronous communication.
  • Apache Kafka: A distributed streaming platform for building real-time data pipelines.

Collaboration & Adapdation 🤝

Backend developers often customise their tech stack based on project requirements and personal preferences. Staying up-to-date with new technologies and best practices is crucial in this rapidly evolving field to ensure developers are aware of emerging tools that can help them achieve better results in their projects.

Backend developers often collaborate closely with frontend developers, as well as with system administrators, database administrators, and DevOps engineers, to ensure the smooth development of a software system. 

Essential Technical Skills for Back-End Developers 💻

To succeed in this field, you’ll need to acquire a range of technical skills, including:

  • Programming Languages: Mastery of languages like Python, Java, Ruby, or Node.js is crucial if you want to be a top-notch back-end developer.
  • Database Management: Understanding databases, SQL, and NoSQL is essential for storing and retrieving data efficiently, as your technical skillset will never be complete without mastering these fundamental technologies.
  • Server Management: Proficiency in server configurations, hosting, and deployment tools is also a must-have if you want to develop phenomenal web applications.
  • API Development: Learning to create and consume APIs is vital for connecting your application to external services. This has become an essential skill in today’s technological landscape, as without it, you won’t be able to build applications that interact with other technologies, thereby inhibiting the full capabilities of your application.
  • Security: Knowledge of security best practices to protect data and prevent cyber vulnerabilities is also an important skill set that aspiring backend developers should aim to learn and eventually master.

Educational Pathways That Backend Developers Follow 📖

Most backend developers start their coding journey through relevant courses or programs, such as those offered by online learning platforms like Coursera, edX, or Udemy. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field is also a commonly trodden academic pathway.

Things To Look Out For Before Hiring A Back-End Developer🖋️

When hiring a backend developer, there are several key factors to consider to ensure you make the right choice for your project:

Experience: Look for developers with a solid track record of relevant experience. Consider their years in the industry, the complexity of projects they’ve worked on, and whether they have experience with the specific technologies and frameworks your project requires.

Skills and Expertise: Assess their technical skills and expertise in backend development, including proficiency in programming languages, databases, and frameworks. Ensure they are up-to-date with current best practices and trends in backend development.

Communication Skills: Effective communication is essential for a successful partnership. A backend developer should be able to understand your project requirements, provide clear updates, and collaborate effectively with other team members. Good communication skills also help in troubleshooting and problem-solving.

Portfolio: Review their portfolio to evaluate the quality and diversity of their previous work. Ensure that their past projects align with your project’s goals and requirements. A strong portfolio demonstrates their ability to deliver results.

References: Request references or testimonials from past clients or employers. This can provide insights into their work ethic, reliability, and how well they work in a team. Don’t hesitate to contact references to gather firsthand feedback.

Problem-Solving Abilities: Backend developers often encounter complex challenges. Assess their problem-solving skills by discussing past projects where they had to overcome obstacles or optimise code for performance and scalability.

Teamwork and Collaboration: Consider how well the developer works in a team. Backend development is often part of a larger project, so their ability to collaborate with front-end developers, designers, and other team members is crucial.

Coding Standards and Best Practices: Inquire about their adherence to coding standards and best practices. Clean, maintainable code is easier to work with and maintain over time.

Security Awareness: Backend developers handle sensitive data and must be knowledgeable about security best practices to protect against potential vulnerabilities and data breaches.

Availability and Commitment: Ensure that the developer can commit the necessary time and attention to your project. Discuss their availability, project timeline, and any potential conflicts with other commitments.

Cultural Fit: Assess whether the developer is a good cultural fit for your team and organisation. Compatibility in terms of work culture, values, and communication style can contribute to a harmonious working relationship.

Testing and Quality Assurance: Inquire about their approach to testing and quality assurance. Backend developers should be committed to delivering reliable and bug-free code and be willing to participate in testing and debugging processes.

Scalability and Performance: If your project requires scalability and high performance, discuss their experience with optimising backend systems for these aspects. This is particularly important for applications with potential growth in user numbers or data volume.

Cost and Budget: Finally, consider your budget and the developer’s compensation expectations. Ensure that their rate aligns with your project’s financial constraints.

Taking the time to thoroughly evaluate these factors will help you make an informed decision when hiring a backend developer who is not only technically competent but also a good fit for your project and team.

Our Tips For Aspiring Backend Developers 🙋🏼

Becoming a proficient backend developer is an exciting journey filled with learning opportunities and challenges. Whether you’re just starting or looking to advance your skills, these recommendations and suggestions will provide valuable insights and guidance to help you excel in this dynamic domain.

Build a Backend Development Portfolio 🎨

In our opinion, for young backend developers, practical experience is going to be invaluable. Work on personal projects or, if possible, contribute to open-source projects to build a strong portfolio. Showcase your skills and create a GitHub repository to demonstrate your coding abilities to potential employers.

Networking and Community Engagement 🫂

Join developer communities, attend meetups, and participate in forums like Stack Overflow. Never underestimate the power of networking, as it can lead to mentorship opportunities and job referrals.

Prepare for Interviews 📹

When it’s time to start applying for positions, practice coding challenges and interview questions. Companies, including ourselves, often assess candidates through various challenges that test problem-solving skills, data structure knowledge, and coding abilities during the interview process.

Stay Updated With Industry Trends 📲

Goes without saying, but if you want to become a successful backend developer, then you need to be on top of things when it comes to this ever-evolving industry. Stay up-to-date with the latest trends, frameworks, and tools in back-end development to remain competitive in the job market.

Major Takeaways – What Does A Backend Developer Exactly Do, And How To Become One? 😎

If you are an aspiring developer looking to become a back-end developer, then that is certainly an achievable goal with dedication, continuous learning, and the right resources. By acquiring the necessary skills, building a strong portfolio, and actively engaging with the developer community, you can pave the way for a successful career in back-end development. So, start your journey today and unlock a world of opportunities in the tech industry.

For companies, collaborating with back-end developers is a strategic move for business owners aiming to thrive in today’s digital landscape. By understanding their role, defining clear project expectations, and maintaining open communication, you can leverage their expertise to create robust digital solutions that drive your business forward. 

To harness the full potential of backend development and leverage it for your unique projects, we invite you to take the next step. Book a discovery call with us today, and let our experienced team of professionals help you navigate the intricacies of backend development, ensuring that your digital endeavours not only meet but exceed your customers’ expectations. Together, let’s build tomorrow’s digital landscape.

Published On

September 22, 2023