Top 10 tools for back end web development

Back end web development is hard, but it doesn’t have to be insurmountable. These 10 tools will turbocharge your productivity.
Adam Smith @HomebrandAdam
Technical Co-pilot
Cover photo for Top 10 tools for back end web development

Make back end web development breezier with these 10 tools.

Front end web developers might get the glory for the experience users have when they land on a page, but back end developers put in the hard work to make sure that beautiful site actually functions. Without back end development, the web would be a boring landscape of static landing pages.

Back end development might not be glamorous, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a slog. We’ve put together a list of 10 tools that will cut down your development time and help you work smarter.

1. Laravel

Laravel is one of the most popular PHP frameworks, and it’s easy to see why. It provides a simple, readable syntax for PHP programmers and keeps development teams on the same page with database agnostic migrations. Its official integrated development environment (IDE), Homestead, doesn’t require you to install a web server on your local machine.

Laravel is great for building secure websites, as it creates hashed, encrypted passwords that aren’t saved in plain text. It also has a rich documentation environment, with its growing library of video “Laracasts” helping new devs learn the Laravel ropes.

2. Ruby on Rails

If you’re just getting started in web development, Ruby on Rails is a great entry point. As the name suggests, Rails is a development framework for the Ruby programming language, and like its namesake, it offers a simple and natural syntax that will cut down on your coding time.

Rails also has a thriving community of developers, giving you access to a vast library of open-source code. Rails itself is open-source, as are most of its libraries. And while detractors argue that Rails lags behind Java or C on speed, it’s quick enough to have gained proponents like AirBnB, Groupon and Soundcloud.

 

 

3. Apache

When you power 46% of the sites on the internet, you probably don’t need much of an introduction. Nevertheless, indulge us.

Apache is free open-source web server software that establishes the connection between your client-side and server-side and delivers files between them. Sure, any web server could accomplish this task. But Apache also offers customization, with modules that administrators can turn on and off as needed.

Apache isn’t great for high-traffic sites, and if you’re building a site that will have to shoulder a heavy traffic load you’re probably better off with a solution like Nginx. But Apache’s customization features and user-friendliness make it a great solution for most developers.

4. MongoDB

There was a time when the data collected and stored by sites was fairly simple and easily structured. Back then, sorting data into tables made sense. With the rise of big data, data is becoming increasingly unstructured and complicated. Enter MongoDB.

MongoDB is a NoSQL database that can store and return huge volumes of unstructured data. It does this by sorting data into documents rather than tables. This allows you to create more complex structures, build hierarchies, define relationships and store arrays.

What this means in practice is that developers can build sites for custom user experiences. MongoDB can use data like demographics, site browsing history and user behavior to tailor-make an experience for each individual user.

5. Stack Overflow

No matter how good a back end web developer you are, it’s doubtful that you’re the repository of all knowledge. When the development task ahead of you throws an uncomfortable spotlight on the gaps in your know-how, Stack Overflow is there to help.

Stack Overflow is the definitive question and answer site for developers. No matter how esoteric a problem you’re facing, someone in the Stack Overflow community has an answer for you. As big proponents of crowdsourcing solutions to problems, Stack Overflow is our kindred spirit.

6. Monitis

Site speed is important. In fact, research shows that 50% of users will drop off a page that takes longer than 20 seconds to load.

There are plenty of page load speed testing tools out there, but we like Monitis. You simply load your URL into the search bar and you get a breakdown of page load speed across different regions of the world. It’s a useful tool for back end devs looking to trim the fat from their websites.

7. Zend Framework

We’ve already touted Laravel as a great PHP framework, but we’d be remiss to overlook Zend. Zend gives you access to more than 413 million PHP packages.

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You can use the components in Zend independently to create object-oriented web applications. Zend creates reusable code that you can deploy across different applications, which is great for multiple projects.

8. Sphinx

Documentation can be tedious, but it’s hard to deny its importance. Thankfully, Sphinx removes some of this tedium by helping you create intuitive documentation.

Originally developed as a tool for Python documentation, Sphinx has grown to encompass documentation for a range of programming languages. It enables semantic markup and creates automatic links for functions, classes, glossary terms, parents, siblings, children and citations. It also provides automatic testing of code snippets so you can document and ensure your code isn’t going to break anything.

9. GitHub

GitHub is many, many things. A vast library of coding knowledge. A platform for open source collaboration. Even a social network, truth be told.

But at its heart, GitHub is a powerful version control software. This web-based tool allows you to share and store code, contribute to open-source projects and keep track of revisions. You can use it to version control your own project, or you can use it to build your profile as a developer by contributing to others’ projects. Perhaps best of all, GitHub provides a community for developers to knowledge share and collaborate. It’s web democratisation at its finest.

10. Redis

If you’re handling large database requests on a regular basis, Redis can take the lag out of your site speed and massively reduce your database requests (and hence the cost of maintaining your site).

Redis is an open-source tool that caches data in a NoSQL database. It supports most programming languages, including JavaScript, Java, Python, PHP and more.

Some big companies have turned to Redis to manage help their data. Organisations like Twitter, Pinterest, Craigslist and the aforementioned GitHub use Redis to get sub-millisecond response times for cached data. If it can handle that load, odds are it’s a great solution for any data you can throw at it.

 

 

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