Python is one of the most in-demand programming languages. It is because of its ease of use and easy-to-read syntax. As it is a popular and easy language, Python is used in several fields to develop various kinds of applications such as desktop applications, Machine Learning models, and so on. One such field is Web Development.
Python is one of the widely used languages to build web applications. You can use it to perform several tasks; you can even do Web Development by using Python. You can use Python to build web apps in several ways, such as for server-side web apps, RESTful web APIs, etc. As there are so many ways that you can use Python to build web applications, it can be a bit difficult and overwhelming to get started. Hence, in this blog, we will, first, discuss Web Development and then move on to understanding how to use Python for Web Development.
Here is what we will be discussing in the blog:
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What is Web Development?
Web Development is a very vast field, but in general, it means developing applications that can be accessed via the internet on a web browser. A web application has two components, frontend, and backend.
The frontend is the part of a web application that deals with what users can see and interact with and how those interactions should appear. It is what the users see on their web browser when they visit a URL to access a web application. The front-end developer of a web application is concerned with managing interactions with web servers, fetching data, displaying it in the web application, and sending it to the webserver to be saved or manipulated such as a tweet, blog post, etc.
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The backend is the part of a web application that deals with its server-side aspects. It is the aspect where Web Development using Python really shines. The backend handles storing, retrieving, and formatting data in an agreed-upon format so that the data can be parsed and understood by other applications. Since, in a web server, data is exchanged via HTTP, the backend of a web application needs to be able to parse an HTTP request, understand its content, and operate accordingly on the data. These operations may include storing, validating, updating, deleting, and retrieving data, and more.
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What makes Python suitable for Web Development?
In this blog, we will be making heavy use of Python because apart from being incredibly versatile and easy to use, Python has some distinct advantages that make it suitable for developing web applications. Let us now discuss web application development using Python.
Short Learning Curve
One of the reasons for Python being so popular is that it is very easy to learn. Python, as a programming language, was designed to be clear and concise. Its syntax is considered the primary reason for its readability. It emphasizes clarity over convention. Unlike other programming languages, such as Java, C#, or C++, where you have to write significantly more code, Python accomplishes something similar in less code, mainly because of the differences in syntax. Python favors indentation and natural English-like words, such as “and,” “not,” “none,” etc., as opposed to symbols and words, such as “&&,” “!” and “null,” that make other languages less readable and difficult to learn.
While developers build applications, there are some common problems that they face. They need to write code to solve several tasks, such as data validation, reading data from a CSV file, making a network request, etc. These tasks are common and also repetitive. Many developers end up writing libraries that are bundles of code that allow them to accomplish such tasks easily. These libraries are usually distributed on the internet so that other developers trying to solve similar problems can use the same.
Python has a large number of ready-made libraries for developers to use to solve numerous problems; developers can distribute their libraries as well. All these things allow developers to not focus on issues that are already solved but to use their time and energy to build applications and solve problems that are unique to them.
Since Python is easy to learn and understand, it rapidly increases the speed of development. As Python offers a lot of libraries, developers can invest more focus in building applications. Python’s syntax and tooling also enhance development speed. This edge in the speed of development has been one of the major factors that have led to Python’s popularity.
However, Python is not suitable for the development of certain kinds of applications, such as device drivers, graphics software, etc., because Python is a high-level interpreted language and is slower than low-level languages, such as C, C++, etc. Nonetheless, for most software applications, the development speed is much more important than a small difference in execution speed. Hence, Python has gathered more popularity and is used in a variety of fields.
Python has a large community of developers using it, which is because of its wide acceptance. The community has a lot of Python veterans and developers who have been using the language for quite a long time. Because of such a large community of developers, any questions that new developers have can be answered by these professionals with varying levels of proficiency in the language, which can help you learn web development with Python. Moreover, the issues that developers face when developing applications are either already resolved or will be resolved quickly as there are a large number of developers who are willing to help.
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Python Web Frameworks
A framework is a collection of pre-written packages and modules that are bundled to work together to solve a bunch of common problems. These common problems usually involve a lot of tedious tasks, such as logging, validation, persistence, etc., for which developers need to write code in their projects. In this scenario, a framework offers a set of packages of code that allow developers to solve these problems consistently across all projects.
In Python web application development, Python is mostly used for building the backend. Python frameworks take care of dealing with tasks that are related to backend application development, such as parsing HTTP requests, generating HTTP responses, accessing the database, authentication, authorization, etc. These tasks are so common that they are implemented in various backends.
There are multiple Python Web Development Frameworks for backend development, ranging from small, focused, and micro frameworks to big and batteries-included frameworks. Let us now take a look at some of the most popular Python web frameworks.
Flask is one of the most popular HTTP Python Web Development Framework. Since it is a micro framework, it does not have a lot of features baked into it that the other web frameworks might have, such as templating, account authorization, authentication, etc. However, this does not mean that Flask is a poor choice for you to use as it gives you the freedom to use any library or even custom code to deal with those concerns. For example, you can choose a custom ORM library to handle the database, and at the same time, you can use your code to deal with validating data. In other words, you are no longer tied down to always use a pre-built solution; rather, you can also choose to build your solutions.
Flask also allows you to build backend applications by mostly using those components that you wish to use. It only gives you the components that you need to build an app so that you have more flexibility and control and can make changes to the code base, such as switching to a different library, creating a custom package, etc. Flask is one of the most popular and powerful web frameworks, and it is used by huge companies including Netflix, LinkedIn, Uber, etc.
Django is a Python HTTP framework for building the backend of web applications. It is a batteries-included framework that includes a lot of components, such as ORM, templating engine serializer, etc., for implementing various tasks. One of the reasons for Django’s popularity is that it is quite easy to learn and use, especially because of its pluggable architecture. Django allows you to build small decoupled apps that can be included or plugged into larger projects. In Django, you get apps and projects, where an app is a small self-contained codebase, while a project is a collection of multiple apps.
Django ships with some very powerful libraries for performing several tasks. One of the most popular among these libraries is the object-relational mapper (ORM.) An ORM is a software package that takes care of making database queries and mapping the results back to Python objects, which can be used inside a Python codebase. An ORM is easier to use with other Django libraries, including templating engine, validation, admin panel, etc. Django boosts developer productivity by allowing them to focus less on trivial low-level details and more on solving business problems. This is exactly what has made Django extremely popular.
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Flask vs Django: Which one should you use?
Although both Django and Flask are quite popular and useful, it can be a little difficult to figure out when to use them. In general, you can use both of them for building the backend of your web application. However, these frameworks are well suited for particular use cases.
If you are an experienced developer who has built a lot of web applications and would like to build one with a framework that is a little bare-bones, then you should use Flask. You can also use it if you know a few libraries and only need a framework to deal with common webserver tasks such as HTTP communication, request parsing, etc.
Now, if you are a developer with not much experience in web development or if you are tackling a big project and do not wish to deal with annoying low-level details, then Django is the right choice for you. You can also use it if you do not wish to deal with managing individual packages and integrating them later as Django comes with many packages by default so that you do not have to work on a lot of integration and configuration.
How to build a Python Web Application using Flask?
Now that you have got an idea of how Python can be leveraged for web development, let us try and build a Flask application that will respond to a simple URL with Hello World. Before you start building the application, you need to install Flask using python-pip, which is Python’s package manager.
To do this, you need to, first, make sure that Python is installed using the following command:
Then, you have to open the command prompt and type in the following command to install Flask:
pip install flask
After installing Flask, type in the below code in a file, and save it as app.py.
from flask import Flask
app = Flask(__name__)
return "Hello World!"
if __name__ == "__main__":
Now, let us try and understand the code line by line:
- Line 1: You import a class named Flask from the Flask package, which you will use to create the app.
- Line 2: You create an object of the Flask class and assign it to a variable named app. You also use the __name__ attribute to give your app a name.
- Line 4: You configure a route to “/” so that when you get a request for localhost:5000/, the code that is in Line 5 will get executed.
- Line 5: You define a function named hello.
- Line 6: You return Hello World! as a string response.
- Line 8: You make sure that the right script is being executed.
- Line 9: You run the application by using the Flask app object that you created in Line 2. Now, when users visit your application’s homepage, you can serve them with the correct response.
Now, to run the app, you need to open the command prompt or terminal in the same folder in app.py and run the following command:
set FLASK_APP=app.py && flask run
If you prefer watching video tutorials, you can check out our tutorial on Using Flask to build a web application:
With that, we have come to the end of this blog. We have hopefully whetted your appetite to explore more on Python and web development. Python is an extremely useful language to learn, and we hope you continue on this Python journey.