In case you haven’t realized the internet is a big thing and loads of stuff happens on it. The reason why I’ve decided to write this post is that I have lost count at a number of doctors who have come to me stating that they want to build a website, only to reveal that they know little to nothing about the structure of a website. If you’re one of these people then don’t worry, the anatomy is fairly simple. Even if you have no desire to code the thing yourself, spending 5 minutes reading up on the basics can do wonders. Let’s start from the back to the front:
There’s a range of different databases. Most of them are some form of SQL. These consist of tables. For instance, we can have a user table that has the following fields:
They can link with other tables by foreign keys. For instance, we could have another table called Company. Setting Company as a foreign key in the user table will let us group users together by the company, and save us replicating data and making errors. If we had to enter the company details for each user, it would take a lot longer to make an entry, there would be a higher chance of error, and we would have to store a lot more data. With the foreign key method, we only have to enter the details of the company once. Also, if we had to change the details of the company, it would change for all instances that are linked to that company again saving time.
When a web page makes a request, the data is pulled from the database. The first port of call is the backend, this is where the data is processed. The backend is a framework that can be coded in a range of languages. I prefer Python but Ruby, C, C++ and many others are used. It’s not just processing data, allocation of data to the views, and allocation of the views to URL addresses are also done in the background alongside the user profile and login functions. If you want the website to send an email, or use a third-party application such as a payment process then it usually gets done here. The data from the backend can be directly injected into the front end, however, this is old fashioned and not recommended.
Native smartphone apps are also a sort of front end framework. It pulls the data via an API, processes it and presents it in a series of ways, and then posts the outcomes to the backend.
As a side note, there are some people who have issues with the front end framework React, stating that Facebook’s licence behind it could be a problem for start-ups. I’m not a lawyer but if you want to check this out read the following article [link].
I help clinicians get to grips with coding and tech, I also code for a financial tech firm