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A Guide to the Back End of a Mobile App editorial staff editorial staff

When building a mobile app, it's important to ask yourself a few questions.

  • When you are designing an app, you must ask questions such as does the app need to display dynamic data, whether the app should authenticate the users, and more.
  • Some widely used backend technology stacks are Ruby on Rails, Django, Google Firebase and more.
  • The backend development process involves creating a strategy, planning and analyzing, UI/UX design, and more.

Does your app need to save anything specific to users? Does the app need to display dynamic data based on user behavior? Should the app authenticate a user or have admin-driven configuration functionality? If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, then most likely you will need to have a back-end application programming interface (API) to access back-end resources for your mobile app. Almost all back-end architectures follow the MVC pattern of model, view, controller.

Let's overview the basics of putting together the back end of a mobile app. 

What does the back end include?

A traditional back-end architecture includes an application server, a web server and a database at the core. If it's a growth-oriented architecture, it could also have a load balancer and a host of service integrations such as email notifications, push notifications, and queuing services. The needs of the back end depend on your business and the type of functionality you want from the app. 

What exactly is back-end technology?

A dynamic application needs data synchronization across platforms, as well as data storage capabilities, the ability to send notification messages and the capacity to support different HTTP methods. The back end of the application determines the extent of these capabilities and helps you manage them. 

How do you handle security for the back end of APIs?

Having a strong secure sockets layer (SSL) is the base for security. If you're unfamiliar with SSLs, consider speaking to an expert who can help with your base level of security. By speaking to someone with more knowledge, you'll ensure all the necessary safety features are properly implemented. API token integration and authentication are other main pillars of security for back-end APIs, and these should be discussed with an expert as well. 

Is it a good idea to deploy a back-end stack in the cloud?

Any application being built in today's age should leverage the power of the cloud. Cloud computing services provide a scalable distributed architecture, which will help in the growth scenarios as you scale the application and add users. There are several growth-based cloud platforms and they offer a myriad of services that help with scalability and growth.

What are some widely used back-end technology stacks?

Most of the open-source options follow the MVC pattern for web architecture stacks, and provide core libraries to access databases, security and session management. Here are a few popular options to help with your back end:

Ruby on Rails: Popularly known as ROR, coding language Ruby and its framework have been around for more than 10 years. Ruby has a large community and has a vast number of gems (third-party libraries) available to build modern web applications.

Express/Koa/Sails (Node.js): Popularly known as Node, this is a part of the MEAN stack coding language JavaScript. These frameworks emulate MVC pattern for Node. Node works on an event-driven model and has a huge community and a vast number of packages shared via third-party libraries. 

Django: This is a programming language to code in Python. Python is one of the most popular languages for data, as well as web applications, and has a huge community around it. Python allows you to write simple, beautiful and explicit code. Django provides a ton of libraries and makes it easy to build fast, secure and robust web applications.

PHP MVC frameworks: One of the most popular back-end options in the world from purely the size of the community. There are several frameworks like Laravel, CodeIgniter, YII, Zend, CakePHP, Symfony and more available to users. 

Google Firebase: This helps you quickly develop applications. It provides several important features needed to get a back end up and running fast.

If you lack expertise in this area but know you want a mobile app, it's a good idea to speak with experts and read articles about the topic. By studying the area, you'll gain a better understanding of what you truly need from your mobile app, even if you still need to outsource some of the work. 

Role of the backend in mobile application development

For those who are wondering the types of things that are handled on the backend of mobile application development, according to Invonto, they are the following:

  • Strategy: The first thing to deal with on the backend is developing a sound strategy that will help you turn your app from an idea to a reality. This involves taking steps such as researching the competition, identifying your target audience, establishing the app’s objectives and goals and selecting the proper platform for your app.

  • Planning and analysis: With the help of use cases, you can begin the necessary planning and analysis to help you achieve progress in the development of your app. This includes doing things such as prioritizing app requirements and defining your minimum-viable-product (MVP).

  • UI/UX design: The UI/UX design process is meant to ensure your app is functional, easy to use and aesthetically pleasing. This process involves information architecture and workflows, wireframes, style guides, mockups and prototypes.

  • App development: An average mobile application process involves three parts: the back-end/ server technology, API and mobile app front end. All of which, are initially developed when working on the back end.

  • Testing: One of the most important aspects of the back end is testing. You must conduct user testing, functional testing, performance testing, security testing, and device and platform testing.

  • Deployment and support: Lastly, you must submit your app to app stores. This involves creating a developer account with the app stores.
Image Credit: REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock editorial staff editorial staff Member
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