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How does mobile app backend development fit in the Software Development Equation?

A capsule study on hiring a Backend Developer!

Developers can think of moulding Mobile App Development in various ways – (1) Native Mobile Applications, (2) Cross-Platform Native Mobile Applications, (3) Hybrid Mobile Applications, and (4) Progressive Web Applications. It majorly involves making use of different software development kits (SDK’s) and different development tool-chains. The mobile app development lifecycle has two interlinked core components – (1) The mobile application “Front-end” that resides on the mobile device, and (2) The services “Back-end” that supports the mobile front-end. While the backend is the foundational piece of a mobile application, the frontend participates equally to give perspective to a software development project. Let’s discuss!

How data sources/databases/backend fits in with Software Development Life Cycle

Mobile Development Lifecycle loops into the systematic cycle of (1) Business Modelling, (2) Requirements Gathering, (3) Analysis and Design, (4) Implementation, (5) Testing, (6) Deployment, (7) Maintenance and Monitoring. It depends upon the specific programming methodology – Agile Software Development, Scrum, Lean Software Development, Kanban, Rapid Application Development (RAD), Test-Driven Development (TDD), Extreme Programming, Rational Unified Process, Spiral Model, and Waterfall Model. In earlier days, mobile applications went through a similar evolution as the first websites. At that time applications and sites were a whole in themselves and resembled a little more than static advertisements for the brand, company, products, or service.

But gradually with the increase in connectivity and improved capabilities, the applications became increasingly connected to the data sources and information that lived outside of the app itself. This made the apps dynamic, enabling the developers to update the user interfaces and content with data received over the network from (queries to data sources) = database.

How front end communicates with the backend?

The mobile app front end obtains data from the back-end through multiple service calls. These service calls occur via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). These APIs may or may not be owned by the same entities who develop the mobile applications. These APIs are often managed by third parties who know the extent to which the permissions have to be granted. The developers are often required to sign contracts with the third-party companies (advertising, social media) to obtain credentials and a key that grants access to the API and governs how that developer can use it, how much will it cost, how frequently it may be called, how much data can be requested over the specified period, and likewise.

Mobile front-end now relies on the back-end services, which provide data. Such data can be in various forms e.g. Medical Prescriptions, Patient History, Flight Schedules, Food Orders, Users Browsing history, list of movies, list of books, episodes – web series, match scores, heart rate, step count, weight, game levels, images and videos, coupons – deals – discounts, etc. Front-end picks the information like – (1) User Sign-up/Sign-in and Management, (2) Social login, (3) Analytics, (4) User Engagement, (5) Push Notifications, (6) Real Device Testing (Real-time)

Front end vs. Backend: How is the front-end different from the backend?

The mobile front-end deals with the visuals on screen, the interactive part of the application catering to the user experience. The mobile front end resides on the device or the catalogue. Once the application is released/published, it is downloadable from the platform app store, side-loaded directly onto the device, or is accessible through the device’s browser. The database is the storehouse of information that all the clients fetch from the server. A developer or mobile application programmer is skilled in the programming languages and technologies for creating front-end applications. The following diagram depicts the basic enterprise integration on Azure.

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The right – side of the diagram shows various backend systems that ‘Azure’ has deployed. It includes SaaS systems, Azure web services that expose REST/SOAP endpoints.

But many different people are involved in designing and developing the front-end of the mobile application. There can be one full-stack developer who is skilled at handling the front-end and back-end of the application, or there can be tens, hundreds of people specialized in different skills.

Backend and Front end of the application work in conjunction allowing the users to use contact forms, and do any interactive activities while browsing a site.

Differences Front-End Developer Back-End Developer
Who are they? Front-end developers can imagine, create, deploy interactive and mobile-friendly applications for the web using the latest web technologies including HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript (ES6+), and React. Front end developers can pair these skills with back-end technologies, developer tools (Bash, GIT, Automated Tests), and databases
They take care of icons, colours, themes, user interface designs, user experience, motion graphics etc.
Backend programmers have a pristine vision to look behind the scenes, mix and merge various technologies-databases-tools-frameworks to solve complex sets of problems, identify performance bottlenecks, propose viable fixes, and make faster-secure-stable-capable applications.
What tasks do they perform? A front-end developer is required to dissect interesting problems and design engaging solutions. They design, create, modify static web pages that comply with HTML5 specifications. They analyze the client-side performance of a webpage to interpret and rephrase consumer experience. They are also proficient in effectively working and collaborating on a software project, and interviewing confidently. Reliable back-end services are required to create a high-quality mobile application, regardless of the front-end platform or development methodology that is being used. They are involved in building code, debugging web applications, troubleshooting, Database management, framework utilization.
What are they focusing on? Front-end programming focuses on the visual elements of a website or app that a user will interact with (the client-side). Back-end development focuses on the side of a website users can’t see (the server-side).
Which programming languages do they use? HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (JS), PHP, Java, Python Ruby, Node.JS, Python, PHP, C#, Java, Perl, Visual Basic, Rust
Which frameworks do they use? Front-end developers also work with frameworks like AngularJS, React.js, jQuery, and Sass. Django, Laravel, Ruby on Rails, express.js, Flask, Meteor, Next.js

Is cloud backend similar to the usual backend?

When mobile developers are not particularly skilled in running a back-end infrastructure, they may prefer to take advantage of a cloud services provider. Latter can be a backend-as-a-service provider. This lets developers focus on their front-end/back-end coding to build the features and functionality that they are building in their app, without worrying about the flexibility of the overall application.

How do Backend Services work?

Backend services can be in form of a database that contains all the information used in the app. Mobile developers need to be aware of the network location of the database, the protocol to access it, the credentials for authenticating and authorizing the data access and the exact commands to extract the required information (processed data).

Alternatively, developers can also make use of specialized API when interacting with the database. At this point, they have to be aware of the parameters needed to call a function. They can also develop such APIs themselves.

Developers use REST API for interacting with data sources on the cloud or cloud database. They use GraphQL API as it eases the integration of backend data in a mobile application, and offers to query support through a single API endpoint, and a data schema that can be used to build data models.

What should be the skills of backend developers?

An ideal backend developer should be aware of Ruby, PHP, .Net, C#, Java as scripting languages; Ruby on Rails, Laravel, Django, Express as frameworks; SQL, MySQL, Oracle as database systems; GIT, CVS, SVN as version control; SOAP and REST as web services.

In Conclusion: Technologies Required to Build Backend

Developers need to consider which technologies they need to build themselves and which ones do they need to hire (leverage third-party services). Besides, they can always leverage cloud-based services – Cloud Storage, Real-time and Offline Data, Application Logic/Cloud Functions, for maintaining backend infrastructure. Ready to jumpstart your career as a UX/UI Designer or Coder?

While front-end and back-end development are somewhat similar, still both are essential for a web application or a mobile application to work well. They create functional, visually appealing applications. If you’re thinking of a foray in development but are not sure about your inclination, you can start will full-stack development, and move ahead with your area of interest from then onwards. Follow this space to know more about Frontend Developers, Backend Developers, or what is Backend Development and Frontend Development!

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