Server-side scripts are programs that run on a web server to generate dynamic web pages, creating a unique experience for each user. These scripts form the basic framework for back-end web development.
However, numerous other components work with the scripts to create a functional back-end system. They include web apps written in various programming languages, databases, APIs, cookies, and more.
This article explains how these components work together to form a functional website. Also, read on to discover popular back-end languages and frameworks for web development.
- A quick look at your website’s back end
- Server-side code and databases
- Server-side script basics
- Popular server-side programming languages
- Popular server-side frameworks
A quick look at your website’s back end
Every website splits into two parts: the front end and the back end. The front end, or client-side component, contains all the visuals and buttons that help you interact with the website. The back end controls how each visual and button responds.
This scenario better explains how back-end web development works. When a user visits a website, the front-end code sends a request to the back end for the data it needs. The back end then fetches the requested data from the database and sends it to the front end. The front-end code then renders the data in the user’s browser.
The back end has several key components, each playing an important role in how the site functions. They include the server, database, and web apps.
- The server is responsible for storing and delivering the website’s files. Each time a user loads a webpage, their device sends a request to the server for the files needed to display the page. The server then sends the requested files to the user’s device, which assembles them into a webpage and displays it to the user.
- Databases store all the data that a website needs, such as user information, search history articles, and comments. The database might be relational, like Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server, or cloud-based, like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
- Back-end web applications are codes written in back-end programming language and are responsible for the functionality of a website. They run on a web server to handle user authentication, database management, and server-side rendering tasks. Understanding different languages and software is a big part of web development.
Server-side code and databases
Now that we’ve explained how the back end contributes to making a functional website, the next step is understanding the various microprocesses in back-end web development.
Websites communicate with web servers via a uniform resource locator (URL), which helps the site locate specific codes from the server. Every time a user clicks a button on a website, it translates the command into a web address before communicating with the server to retrieve relevant information.
The URL, or web address, has several parts, each narrowing the search on the server.
- Protocol. This scheme tells how the computer will communicate with the server over the internet. Web servers use the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which allows computers worldwide to share information over the internet. Many web servers add a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol to better secure the interaction by encrypting each session.
- Domain. This part of the web address helps identify which server holds the information the user requests. Usually, each domain registers under the global Domain Name System (DNS), which helps the user’s computer locate the host and location of the server.
- Pathname. This URL section contains the complete details about where the file or webpage resides on the server.
Dynamic resources allow changes in the response content based on user behavior, interests, or preferences. In this case, the server decodes the request and passes the information to the server-side code or web application.
It retrieves relevant data from the database, combines the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) templates, translates the message into an HTML page, and transmits the message to the user.
Server-side script basics
Besides creating a personalized user experience, the server relies on the back-end code to store login details, manage the source code, run relevant analyses on user behavior, and control who has access to information in the database.
Highlighted below are several other functionalities of server-side scripts.
- Manage data in a database. To a large extent, the type of server-side script you intend to use will determine how to build and manage the database. It also helps control who has access to the data on the database and distributes relevant data accordingly.
- Send and receive cookies. Server-side codes are essential for building and sending cookies on the website. Cookies help improve the website experience by storing data like logins and passwords.
- Encrypt and validate data. Encryption is especially important for sensitive data, such as financial information or medical records. Through data encryption and validation, back-end scripts help keep information safe from unauthorized access and misuse.
- Run server-side code on a server embedded in the site’s code. When a user enters a URL into their web browser, the browser sends a request to the server for the specific page. The server then processes the request and sends the HTML code for the page back to the user’s browser.
- Build web apps unique for the database. Server-side codes allow users to build web applications that interact with permanent back-end storage, like databases, and process information from the server to access the database—like a direct line from a user to a database.
- Create dynamic webpages. The code can generate the HTML code for the response page based on user input or other conditions.
- Run on-call. Whether the web servers run an HTTP “GET” or “POST” command, the back-end code helps process the data and send a response.
- Build Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). The server-side code is responsible for creating the API, a set of functions and protocols that allow software programs to communicate with each other.
Popular server-side programming languages
If you’re considering getting into programming, you may want to know more about some of the most popular server-side programming languages. This section explores some of the most popular back-end programming languages and frameworks.
Java is a popular language for mobile app development. It enables developers to create robust, high-performance web applications. Web developers also use it to create high-end web applications for rapidly scaling businesses.
Take a look at some examples of brands that use Java to power their back-end system.
Inspired by the ABC programming languages, Guido van Rossum created Python in the 1990s to be an easy programming language to read and write. It’s an open-source, object-oriented, high-level language with a dynamic type system. It is also a versatile language that you can use in any operating system.
In addition, Python has features like data types and dynamic typing, making it an excellent scripting language. Today, Python has become one of the most popular programming languages in the world. Check out these major organizations that use it.
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) is a general-purpose programming language widely used to develop dynamic webpages. It began as a common gateway interface CGI script for taking basic analysis on a website homepage. However, it can now be embedded into HTML code or used with various web frameworks to develop web applications.
PHP has many features that make it excellent for back-end web development. It supports object-oriented programming, has a built-in development server, and can be integrated with many databases. PHP also has a large community of developers who contribute to the language, create helpful resources, and develop extensions that add extra functionality.
Here are some popular websites powered by a PHP back-end system.
Ruby has gained popularity for its straightforward syntax and robust functionality. It combines features of PHP and SQL-based databases, creating a dynamic language focused on simplicity and productivity. Ruby is also highly expressive and useful for writing concise and readable codes.
Those reasons and more make Ruby an excellent language for back-end programming. It helps you write programs that are easy to understand and maintain.
Several very large organizations that serve millions of people use Ruby-powered websites.
Popular server-side frameworks
Today’s developers use a few popular server-side frameworks. We highlight some of the most popular and explore their features.
Ruby on Rails
Rails is designed to make programming web applications easier by making assumptions about what every developer needs to start. It includes everything from the basic structure of a web application to the most advanced features.
Express.js is a web application server framework for Node.js to design single-page web applications and APIs. It’s the standard server framework for Node.js and is hosted by many of the world’s largest web applications and websites, including PayPal, Uber, and Instagram.
Django is a web framework designed to meet the needs of complex, database-driven websites. It is written in Python and has various features, including an ORM system, a template engine, an admin panel, and an extensive user guide. It also includes a powerful template engine that makes it easy to create sophisticated layouts.
Flask is a microframework for Python that allows you to create web applications quickly and easily. It contains numerous features, such as URL routing, request dispatching, HTML templates, and support for unit testing. Flask is also easy to extend, allowing back-end developers to create custom extensions and plug-ins.
Laravel is a PHP web application framework with expressive, elegant syntax. Taylor Otwell designed it for web developers who need a simple and beautiful toolkit to create full-featured web applications.
Laravel has several features, including a Command-Line Interface (CLI) tool called Artisan, a convenient way to bootstrap your application’s database. In addition, it features built-in error and exception handling, caching, and session management.
Spring Boot is one of the most popular Java frameworks for developing microservices. It’s a lightweight framework with various features and functionalities that make it easier to develop, deploy, and run microservices.
Some of Spring Boot’s key features include embedded servers, which make it easy to deploy Spring Boot applications. Spring Boot can also automatically configure itself based on the dependencies it detects in the project.
Hire back-end developers or work as one
The entire concept of server-side scripting involves a web server receiving a request from a web browser, processing the request, and returning the results to the web browser. It lets developers create dynamic web pages optimized for a better customer experience.
As more businesses opt for better web experiences, there is a corresponding increase in the demand for back-end developers. That translates to numerous job opportunities for independent back-end developers.
If you are a recruiter on the other side of the employment pool and are looking for the right talent to complete your website development projects, consider using the Upwork platform to find and hire competent web developers.