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Good Coding Practices For Backend Developers
  • Last Updated : 30 Apr, 2021

API, Authentication, Design Patterns, MVC, Cache, Cookies, Sessions, JSON, Endpoints, Server, Hosting, Postman, CRUD, Curl…

Aren’t all these words familiar to you???

If yes, then surely you’re a backend developer or working on the backend part of the application. 

Clients often underestimate the work of backend developers, especially those who only get impressed by the frontend part and don’t know anything about backend coding. Clients can never get the complexity involves in the backend coding part. 

Ask a developer, and they will let you know that how sometimes it is difficult to join 4-5 tables in a minimal amount of code, what kind of difficulties they face during the implementation of API, how they need to consider all the scenarios when it comes to making the dynamic URL.

Imagine a scenario you’re building an e-commerce site and you need to deal with a complex query where you have to calculate the price for a customer who is going to do some shopping from your website. What will happen if you use = instead of ==. Surely the whole result will be different, a customer may get benefits, or he/she may lose a lot of money. A small mistake on the backend side can generate a lot of bugs and it can cost a lot of money (and of course you will be in trouble in your company when you will have to face your senior engineers…lol).

Backend development involves dealing with a lot of complex stuff. To make an application more efficient, a developer needs to really focus on the logic and code optimization when they are dealing with the backend part of the application. 



When the team is very small for a project developers do not focus much on good coding practices but when the team and application grow it’s good to follow the best coding practices throughout the team. 

Best-Coding-Practices-For-Backend-Developers

Today in this blog we will share some good coding practices from a backend developer’s perspective that is quite useful for the developers who are working in a microservice or mesh architecture environment. 

1. Perfect Your Core Skills

This one is the most important skill to adapt when it comes to working on the backend part of the application. You should have at least working knowledge of server-side languages such as Java, Python, PHP, C#, etc. The stronger you’re in these languages the easier it will be for you to develop the application. 

Also, you should have a strong foundation in SQL or databases. Backend developers deal with a huge amount of data saved in the database. They run multiple queries on it in their day-to-day job. So it’s good to have exposure to some databases such asMySQL, SQL Server, MongoDB, and PostgreSQL as a bare minimum requirement. They all have a similar concept of storing the data in rows and columns but there are some differences in all the databases. It’s good to have a working knowledge of these databases before you start building an application. 

Another important skill for backend developers is the knowledge of JSON and/or XML APIs.  A lot of application requires data retrieval in the form of JSON and the connection to an application programming interface (API). The most popular format for data retrieval in API is JSON format and XML. Knowledge of working on API and these formats will make your journey much easier in backend development. 

2. Validate Inputs and Handle Errors

If you’re writing the backend code for more than a few months then you might have heard the word “Never trust your users” from senior engineers. Being a backend developer make sure that you never trust the data submitted by a user. A hacker may try to penetrate the system when the application goes live on the server. 

To ensure the security of the system it’s good to validate the inputs which are coming to your system. Now the question is…how to validate the inputs coming to your system?

You can validate the inputs at two levels…



  • API Gateway: This can be done via policies, mainly generic validation, schema, format.
  • Microservice: This involves inspecting the existence of entities. You can use the libraries of your development stack for the input validation in microservice. 

Once you’re done with the validation of inputs and errors, you need to take the responsibility of handling it properly. You need to do it carefully in microservice/mesh architecture because the components are interconnected in these kinds of systems. If one of the services crashes then the whole system might get affected. And in that case, you may have to do a lot of troubleshooting.

You should have knowledge of the HTTP error code which gets generated when something wrong happens on the server. To handle these errors return a response without crashing the service. Proper input validation and error handling won’t make any issue on the server. It will also reduce the need for troubleshooting for your software

3. Follow Separation of Concerns

  • How do you organize your code?
  • How do you structure your code?
  • What do you do for the maintainability of the code?

One of the good answers to the above question is….using the separation of concern in your code. Being a backend developer if you follow this concept in your software architecture then surely you will save a lot of time and effort that you put into the maintainability of your code. 

Separation of concern divides your whole computer programs into different sections or different modules for the better organization of the code. This increases the readability of the code and it becomes easier for the other developers to collaborate on the application. 

You can follow any design pattern to structure your code. A popular one for web applications is the MVC framework. Implementing this good practice in software architecture is really helpful for the entire team. It reduces the learning curve for the code and increases the overall speed and efficiency of the team during the development of the application. 

4. Implement Health Check Endpoints and Logging

Health check simply means monitoring the services of your system. We ensure that the database is working and the services are running smoothly in the entire system. It is helpful in resolving the issues in your software if in case a bug or issue is identified. Services of your software may get terminated if the health checks fail. So let’s discuss a few approaches to implement some good health checks in your system.

  • TCP health check: It is a basic health check which ensures that the services are up and running. This health check is done via TCP and it doesn’t monitor the service level health. Most of the cloud platforms have their own solution to implement this health check.
     
  • Service level health check: Service level health checks are the advanced level of health checks. It validates the intended output and ensures that the services are running smoothly.
     
  • Logging: Here we are concerned with the logs actions such as database queries, requests, and responses into a centralized log sink. You can use some logging libraries or log management tools for this purpose.

5. Implement Versioning for Your Services

With time your application needs frequent changes. To handle those changes efficiently you need to implement and test the application while the current version is still running in your system. Let’s discuss the two ways to version your service.

  • URL: For example “/users/v2.1/{id}”
  • Header: included in the header as “X-Version:2.1.”

Below is an example of a URL versioning approach.

Example-of-a-URL-Versioning-Approach

6. Automate Repetitive Task

Scripts are always the same but humans are not…

Being a backend developer you might have experienced some repetitive tasks in your day-to-day job. Learn to automate it. Don’t waste your time doing the same thing again and again. Automating the things will make your life easier and you won’t have to type the same command over and over again. 



7. Write Test Cases and Documentation

Before you jump into the actual coding part if you write the test cases then surely it will help you in planning and visualizing the end product. You won’t have to make frequent changes in your codebase and that increases the efficiency of your work. Also, test cases will help you to identify the downstream impact of the changes you made in your codebase especially when the application grows.

Test-Driven Development (TDD): This is one of the good approaches to write test cases before you start doing the actual coding. There are so many benefits of TDD but it also has some downside. It can take up a lot of time. If services are critical then elaborate on the test cases. 

A lot of testing frameworks are available in the language you’re working with. You can check out the testing framework for JavaScript from the link 8 Useful Testing Tools, Libraries, and Frameworks For React Developers.

Now let’s come to the documentation part.

How would you feel if you don’t understand a part of the code and you need to ask the other developer to clarify that what the specific part of an application is doing in the codebase?

Surely it can be frustrating if every time you will have to mock the other developer to clarify the things in the codebase. You will just spend a lot of time understanding the code and that just hamper productivity.

When the team and the application are small, developers do not understand the importance of the documentation part of the code. In most startup companies, they do not maintain the documentation for the application they are working on. Their primary focus is on building and shipping the product quickly. 

Writing the documentation for the code is very important. It helps the entire team to understand the code properly and build the software smoothly without any hassle. So it’s good to find an approach that works best for your team to write the documentation of the code. Check out the link API documentation with Postman to learn about the various ways of writing the documentation for the APIs. 

Conclusion

Being a backend developer you will have to deal with many complex stuff and issues. Not only you will be developing the apps but also you will be dealing with the backups and servers for hosting your application. Whatever technology you’re choosing on the backend side, make sure that you implement the best practices on it. Being a backend developer, we are sure your life will become much easier…

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