If you are not a developer, such words as “back-end” or “front-end” may sound surprisingly weird to you.

The question is. 

If these words even sound foreign, how should you choose the best programming language or framework for your project?

Hold on your hat, no time to lose on writing long intros.

Let’s get right to business and scrutinize top 8 programming languages to help you choose the best backend technology for your app.


After reading this article, you will learn about:

the difference between front-end and back-end

→ top 8 programming languages and frameworks

→ types of projects for every language or framework

→ what backend technology should work best for your app



Front-end vs Back-end

First, let’s get the facts straight with the terms. You should understand what web “back-end” is and why it’s needed.

Front-end is the visual part, graphical interface or the face of any application.

This is what the user sees or interacts with while using a mobile or web app. Front-end development is the process of conversion of the application data into a graphical format easy for the user to view. The front-end part of the app is often called “client” or client side.

Back-end is the server side or everything that happens behind the scenes.

This is a sort of the machine hood invisible until you open it. Technically, the back-end is a bundle for the client applications that help them to communicate with each other.

Example.

Think of leaving a comment to the post. You do it from your device on the front-end of the application. How should your comment be transferred to another user? This is the task of the web backend technology. It accomplishes a function of the bridge: stores common information and transmits your message from user A to user B.

One more thing for you to learn.   

API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of tools for interaction and communication between different independent components.

Just as a socket.

Consider backend as a socket, API as the wires, and frontend as a device. Should you need to power your smartphone, you would plug in the charging device into the socket, and get some energy via wires.

The last but not the least.


Most likely, you will hear from developers such term as the “back office”.

Don’t be disoriented.

The back office and back-end are absolutely different technical terms.

A back office (admin panel, admin dashboard) is a tool where an administrator or any other privileged user can manage their project data. This data may include statistics, content, user list, payments, etc.


Elixir

Language: Elixir
Platform: Erlang
Framework: Phoenix
First appeared: 2011
 
Elixir is the programming language running on top of the Erlang virtual machine. It seems like José Valim who is the creator of the Elixir wanted to build a four-o programming language. José was trying to unite all the benefits and best qualities of the preceding solutions. This has made Elixir almost a perfect language.
 
Elixir is a sort of syntax sugar laid over an older and more difficult programming language. It works like this. The developers write the code with one language, while Elixir translates it into another one – Erlang.
 
Why is it needed?
 
Because Erlang is a super complicated low-level programming language which has a lot of code and is pretty difficult to read. That’s why a sort of the translator was invented.
 
Elixir possesses a lot of great qualities with a high performance being the top one. Applications written with Elixir operate extremely fast and smoothly, need less memory storage. Since the system resources are spent more efficiently, a higher load on servers becomes possible.
 
Elixir has become so popular and accessible when Phoenix appeared. This framework provoked the growth of the language and opened up the doors closed before. Even though Phoenix is a new tool, its idea is so good that its community is growing super fast. As a result, a lot of developer tools appear. This guy is supposed to have a bright future. Elixir could be applied to almost any type of the projects.
 
Of course, there is nothing perfect and Elixir is no exception. Its disadvantage is that some of the tasks need more coding.
 
When to use Elixir?
This language is not intended neither for the MVP development nor projects with sensitive budgets. But it is definitely a great option for the successful businesses with high load traffic.
 


Ruby on Rails

Language: Ruby
Framework: Ruby on Rails, Sinatra
First appeared: 2004
 
Ruby on Rails is a web application framework written in Ruby. It is considered to be one of the best backend technology. Its top 3 advantages are:
 
  • getting to the market fast
  • saving time and budget on the development
  • scalability and easy growth at any point in the future
 
Along with that Ruby is known for:
 
  • better project support and maintenance in case of team change
  • system consistency
  • variety of tools for acceleration of the development process
  • guidelines followed by community
 
It’s worth mentioning that RoR has a large active community which constantly develops and supports the framework. That is why RoR has tons of ready-made solutions. And that is why one can shorten the development time.
 
When to use Ruby on Rails?
RoR is a finding for startups. RoR is used when there is a need to keep the development costs efficient with no damage to quality, get to the market fast, scale up in the future when business becomes successful.
 


Python

Language: Python
Frameworks: Django, Flask
First appeared: 1991
 
Python lies in place with RoR and comprises about the same market share. In some cases, Python could be even more efficient. It is commonly used in those spheres where productivity and performance are key factors. Very often it’s chosen for complicated scientific applications such as deep learning or neural networks.
 
Python has its peculiarities which may need more efforts from the developers. Among them are code readability and formatting. At the first glance, everything seems to be organized in a cohesive way, but the code might be a little bit messy. This may lead to possible lowering of the code quality unless you work with talented developers.
 
There are several Python frameworks such as Django, Flask, TurboGears. Compared to Ruby on Rails, they are a bit behind. On the other side, compared to Laravel, Python frameworks hold higher positions.
 
In comparison to Ruby, Python’s community counts less members. Thusly it has less ready-made solutions and tools which can help speed up the development process. That’s why it may take somewhat longer time to integrate the same feature on Python. Generally, one can’t state that the development of the back-end on Python would be much worse. The difference could be hardly tangible.
 
When to use Python?
Generally, Python would be a good choice. Especially for complex scientific and numeric applications.
 

Go

Language: Go
Framework: Gin, Beego, Iris, Echo, etc.
First appeared: 2009
 
Go is an open-source programming language created by Google engineers, The Go Authors, to serve the corporation specific needs. In particular, improvement of the programming productivity at Google. Basically, this was Google’s reply to the variety of emerging programming languages back at that time.
 
Go is considered to be one of fastest programming languages. Some state that this is the second fastest after Elixir.
 
Currently it is widely used in Google, some other corporations and open-source projects. But the point is that it’s not yet fully settled and is still in the development process. The idea is great, but so far there is a lack of frameworks and ready-made tools to help make the development process faster and more efficient. It seems like the language is being developed, but mostly inside of Google.
 
When to use Go?
In the majority of cases, Go is applied for the same types of projects as RoR or Python. Even though it’s rarely chosen for the development of MVPs.
 

Java

Language: Java
Framework: Blade, Dropwizard, Grails, Hibernate, etc.
First appeared: 1995
 
Java is a general-purpose programming language intended to let the applications “write once, run everywhere”.
 
To develop a program on Java or enable computer to run a Java app, one would need to install a Java virtual machine (JVM). This is a tool that processes commands. JVM is a ready-made solution which you have to “plug in” to make it work. Think of an e-commerce website and product list. To bring a sale process to work, one would need to send the product list to JVM for further processing.
 
Java has been on the market for almost 25 years. This is a stable and optimized solution for the projects where these factors are of the highest importance. But, the development of new features takes pretty longer compared to the more modern solutions available on the market.
 
Where to use Java?
Typically, large corporations prefer this backend technology. It’s good for projects where smooth and high performance matters more than the time spent on integration of the features.
 

PHP

Language: PHP
Frameworks: Laravel, CakePHP, Symfony, CodeIgniter, Zend, etc.
First appeared: 1994
 
PHP is a programming language for server-side web development. It was not intended to become a new programming language and serve globally. Created by Rasmus Lerdorf, it was supposed to be a language designed to serve his personal needs and maintain his personal homepage. That’s why the name of the language originally meant “Personal Home Page Tools”. Then other people supported the initiative and there was a community shaped around PHP which led to its organic growth.
 
PHP happened to be one of the first programming languages in the world. It is pretty simple, has a lot of tools for developers and a variety of available frameworks. Tons of the projects have been built using PHP.
 
Some peculiarities of the language:
 
  • This is an old language created 25 years ago. For the turbulent technology sphere which never sleeps this timeline is pretty long.
  • Being one of the first also means being one of the oldest and outdated languages.
  • There are no common style guides meaning that every developer may have its own style of writing code. You might not feel that unless you decide to change the team. Then it might take pretty a lot of time to the new team to understand how to work with the legacy code.
  • A low learning curve attracts a lot of those who would like to get into web development. A large pool of developers makes it difficult to spot really talented ones. Get ready to spend awhile on choosing good talents to work with.
 
Where to use PHP?
Of course, it can be applicable to any type of the projects. But you should consider the above-said.
 

.NET

Language: C#
Framework: .NET
First appeared: 2002
 
.NET is a platform released by Microsoft. Back at that time, Microsoft was one of the leading companies which set pace to trends in software development, electronics, related services and digital products. Microsoft created Internet Explorer, Edge web browsers, Microsoft Windows, etc. There was a lot of noise about their products and it seems like almost everyone was using them.
 
Because of Microsoft popularity, a lot of projects were built with .NET. Their idea was to release a generalized framework which would serve any needs. This worked pretty well at that time.
 
.Net is considered to be a stable solution because of being proprietary. Whenever you pay, it should work. But the point is that with .NET you pay a lot. That includes various extra services such as visual studio for every developer, Azure, Microsoft server, and a lot of other services. If you are about to develop an MVP, think twice whether you need to spend money on all those extra services.
 
Altogether, get prepared to pay more with .NET. Compared to more modern solutions, the efficiency of development on .NET may be lower. Think of the date of its creation and consider that there has not been much new added since that moment.
 
Here are some more peculiarities the framework for you to think about:
 
  • there have not been significant optimizations introduced to the framework;
  • the development process takes longer;
  • dependency on Microsoft infrastructure.
 
C# is an old programming language which was released at the end of 1990th. Productivity of its work is low. Since .NET is a framework of C# language, with .NET one would need to write more lines of code to bring a feature to work. The more time it takes a developer to integrate a feature, the more you will have to pay.
 
Both language and framework are pretty difficult to master and have high entry barriers. For you this means that you would need to find a super talent with ages of experience. These people are pretty expensive on the market. Typically .NET developers work for never-ending enterprise projects where it’s difficult to change a tech stack.
 
Where to use .NET?
Enterprise projects which have already been developed on .NET and require further support and maintenance.
 

Node.js

Platform: NodeJS
Programming language: JavaScript
First appeared: 2009
 
Node.js is a kind of interpreter which translates and executes commands on the server side. This is an open-source platform made for the cross-platform development.
 
To understand whether Node.js could be a good option for your project, let’s see how this backend technology appeared. The idea of this platform was to apply JavaScript to programming of the server side. JavaScript intends for web front-end development and work with dynamic content. Many people liked the idea of JavaScript becoming a full-stack language. That’s why Node.js became popular right at the bat.
 
But the point is that Node.js had some issues as the platform was created in just a couple of weeks. Surely, they were fixed at later stages. But this doesn’t change the fact that Node.js looks pretty messy and has a poor code readability. There could be thousands of unstructured lines in the code. This makes it difficult and time-consuming to maintain the project.
 
The entry threshold is pretty low. Since almost everyone can contribute, there are a lot of low-level tools and solutions available to choose from. So be ready for “surprises” unless you find a really good talent. The talent pool is large which makes it difficult to choose the right people to work with. The competition among companies that specialize in Node.js is high. That’s why the price for the development service on Node.js is pretty low.
 
Where use Node.js?
The ideal use case of Node.js could be a project which needs a low-quality and cheap back-end.
 

Bottomline

Since backend is what brings your application to work, the solution used for its development plays a crucial role in the project feasibility. There is a variety of options to choose from. The point is that you can use any of them. It’s like driving a car. You can drive any car, right? The question is “how”.

So be careful while choosing the right backend technology for your application.

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5 Comments

  1. Carlos Eduardo Salvador says:

    I liked your article and shared with my college friends. Will be of great help to choose the right backend languageto study. I’m a beginner and learner and choosed learn Java with OOP at Udemy website and next course I’ll learn about Hibernate, Spring Boot and Ionic. What you think??
    Greetings from Brazil,
    Greetings from a Brazilian programmer.

    • Lilia Udovychenko says:

      Honestly, I would not dare to take responsibility for advising a language to study because this is an individual thing one should be comfortable with. However, I’d recommend taking a closer look at the more modern solutions. Elixir becomes all the rage now and they say it has a bright future. I personally would be looking in that direction.

  2. Raul Aillon says:

    I’m a backend software developer ( Django or NodeJS mostly) but I’m aware about Java as the most confident backend programming language to face big projects for sure. Then I’ve heard great comments about Elixir/Erlan( which I’m keen to learn this year) they say is really strong and ready to handle high amount of transactions and simultaneos users. This is a good article even though many people will probably say the one they work with is the best. I do agree that we should use the on we feel more comfortable with but without losing the consideration about some other technology will be much efficiente for the job and also may require less trouble to scale .

    • Lilia Udovychenko says:

      Thank you very much for your feedback, Raul.
      I think every language is a good solution for certain types of projects. Besides, it greatly depends on how skilled a developer is.

  3. Oscar says:

    Elixir is all the range now. Nothing can be better

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