But first, we’ll answer the basics about backend development and the languages used to create each of the most popular frameworks. Then we’ll move on to the top backend frameworks 2023 has to offer.
So, let’s get down to business: what is a backend framework, and why is it so important?
Let’s talk about backend development
What is the backend anyway?
When it comes to developing any website or web application, there are two main areas of operation: the frontend and the backend.
The frontend, known as the client-side, is the interface that takes care of how we interact with each site or application.
The backend, known as the server-side, is the architecture that delivers functionality. It carries out data management, server handling, database manipulation, and more.
If we compare your web app to a car, for example, with the frontend being the interface, that would be the steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedals, indicators, and all the other switches and levers you use to control it. The backend, the architecture that makes it all happen, is the engine, electrics, and the other mechanical elements that drive it forward and back, speed you up and slow you down.
And just as cars run on different fuel types, those backend frameworks can run on various programming languages.
What does a backend framework do?
The backend framework drives the operation of your website or app. However, there’s an awful lot going on 'under the bonnet', just as you’d expect.
As well as delivering all kinds of content and pages, the backend framework is also responsible for security, integrations, AI, encryption, and more. As a result, countless actions and reactions are happening every second to every request, ensuring that the information each user needs is delivered quickly, safely, and efficiently.
Which is the best backend programming language?
To create the platform that drives your website or web app, you’ll need to choose the best server-side programming language for your project. There are several popular industry options, each delivering advantages and disadvantages.
Each backend framework is built on a particular programming language, just like a frontend framework. Ideally, if both frontend and backend run on the same language, you can simplify your teams and some of the work, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Instead, each development team will choose the platforms and modules most suitable for their application’s needs and deliver the best way for those stacks of tools and libraries to talk to each other.
Python has been growing in popularity at a great rate and is fast becoming one of the most popular development languages for building apps and tech tools, including frontend and backend frameworks. Its popularity stems from both its simplicity and ease of learning, as well as its security and functionality.
With its ease of use and no shortage of reusable code and library options, it ensures projects are quick to completion and launch, ideal for those concerned with development speed.
Ruby is a popular programming language that takes advantage of MVC (model-view-controller) architecture. It’s known for both its efficiency and scalability. Matching the functionality of Java or Node can be done with far fewer lines of code, taking care of the most mundane tasks far more quickly.
PHP is another popular programming language that has given us some exceptionally beginner-friendly backend frameworks and user-friendly interfaces.
Java has been around for years and is still popular amongst many developers for backend frameworks, possibly down to its popularity and the results the leading Java packages deliver.
and so many more…
The list goes on. You’ll find frameworks that run on Golang, C#, Rust, Perl, and more.
There are plenty of great alternatives. One option growing in popularity is Kotlin, designed as a simplified Java that compiles just as quickly and runs on JVM (Java Virtual Machine). Primarily, it’s most often used as an Android development tool but is fast gaining popularity in server-side frameworks.
Node.js is another solution worth consideration, yet it isn’t a programming language as such. Instead, Node.js is a runtime environment, showing popularity in both client- and server-side development, offering frameworks for both, regularly hitting the poll’s top tens because its performance is first class.
What do you need from the ideal backend framework?
This is the question that drives your choice of backend framework. You could ask ten developers which is the best backend framework, and you’ll get ten different answers. It all depends on what your project needs.
Every developer and project manager expects high performance, ease of development, and flexibility from their framework. However, depending on what each application requires, the choice could easily lend itself to one option over the others.
The big hitters in the backend framework battle
Django is an open-source high-level Python framework and one of the most popular in today’s market—unsurprisingly—because it’s so user-friendly and easy to learn. Moreover, it encourages clean, pragmatic design under rapid development. In addition, Django is very fast, super secure, and easily scalable.
Advantages of using Django
- Excellent security.
- Exceptional scalability.
- Function packages allow developers to save time on the standard actions, allowing them to concentrate on the unique, bespoke areas of development.
- Easily optimized for SEO.
- Simple and swift to develop, Django is quick to MVP, making it great for startups and eager-to-progress operations.
- Vast support through a vast community of contributors.
Advantages of using Express.js
- Scalable at speed.
- Enhanced performance with far fewer errors due to Google V8 Engine support.
- Template engines help developers build dynamic content on the server side.
- Express’s ‘middleware’ accesses client requests, databases, etc. to streamline the organization of its functions.
- Standard features can be reused around the package, saving development time.
Another Python-based framework that is famed for delivering robust and modern web apps. Considered a ‘microframework’, it omits specific tools, libraries and other features; it becomes a super simple, highly flexible option that’s easy to learn and very user-friendly.
However, Flask covers particular URL arguments, in-built dynamic URL parameters, templates, and HTML attributes that make it both flexible and responsive. It also features an in-built development server that aids debugging.
Despite not being the all-in, heavy-hitting Python platform Django is, it supports a wide variety of extensions, enhancing its utilities and features and delivering well-developed dynamic applications.
Advantages of using Flask
- Easy to learn.
- WSGI toolkits and templates.
- Its lightweight framework is ideal for creating MVPs quickly, with less code.
- Minimal for simple server setups.
- Its RESTful extension simplifies REST API creation and requests.
- Jinja2 templating
Laravel is both popular and effective. As one of the renowned backend frameworks, it’s well suited to larger corporations, based on PHP, and follows the MVC architecture (model-view-controller).
Laravel’s interface is user-friendly and suitable for beginners; it offers an extensive library and excellent API support, simplifying backend development while delivering modern, secure apps.
Advantages of using Laravel
- High performance.
- Simple API.
- Testing friendly with PHP Unit support.
- Lightweight template engine.
- MVC Architecture support.
Ruby on Rails
‘Rails’, as it’s most popularly known, is, as the name so obviously suggests, built on Ruby under the MIT License. It’s one of the longer-standing framework options and is still very popular with eCommerce providers.
As another MVC framework, Rails generates compact, elegant and powerful code. Moreover, it’s open-source and free and unrestricted for those who’d like to modify and redistribute updated and amended versions.
Advantages of using Ruby on Rails
- Simple programming language.
- Swift development with ready-made modules and plugins.
- Fast build times.
- Automated testing promotes excellent error handling.
- Utilizes convention over configuration design.
- Ruby syntax eliminates the need for writing SQL code to develop queries.
- RSpec unit testing.
Spring & Spring Boot
Spring is one of the leading and most popular Java backend frameworks in the industry. Why? Spring produces production-grade packages, and when you use Spring Boot—a stripped-down extension—it doesn’t involve the typical time-consuming setup and configuration many frameworks do. It provides flexible XML configurations, database transactions, batch processing, development tools and simple workflows.
These well-planned features help reduce development time and increase efficiency, offering a simple route to building and testing Java applications.
Advantages of using Spring
- Built-in and in-memory databases.
- A wealth of plugins.
- Default settings for unit and integration testing.
- Spring Boot is a Spring extension designed to make backend development, testing, and deployment simpler and even more convenient.
Who’s using which backend framework?
- Washington Post
- Google Chrome browser
Ruby on Rails
So, what have we learned about backend development for 2023?
With backend development being so heavily dependent on frameworks right now, it’s essential to understand how each operates and which offers the functionality and operation you need for your project and team.
There’s no doubt that they’re all more than capable of delivering exceptional applications in their variety of programming languages, making them all sensible options. However, depending on how quickly you need to build, your project’s functionality, security, complexity or simplicity, your choice of framework could make or break your project.
If you’ve got any questions or you’re still not quite sure where to start, give us a call or drop us a line. At Apptension, we’re here to help with every project, and we’d love to help run you through your options.
Just check out our case study with backend development service to make sure we know what we're talking about.