I love giving a short answer to these: yes, 100%, Python is a great tool for web development.
I often run into a lot of developers who think they have to pick between Python or web development. I am always happy to do my best impression of the Old El Paso girl.
In this article, I’ll give you the longer answer: why is Python good for web development? What does web development in Python look like? Where should you start?
Let’s dive in.
🔗 Definitions first
Python is a high-level, interpreted programming language known for its readability, simplicity, and versatility. Beginners love it because it reads like English. Seasoned pros love it because it does what you need it to do in a simple, elegant way. Experimental programmers love it because if it can’t do a thing, someone’s probably written a library that lets Python do it.
Python was created by Guido van Rossum and first released in 1991. Python emphasizes a clean and concise syntax that makes it easy to write and understand code. It is widely used in various domains, including web development, data analysis, scientific computing, artificial intelligence, automation, and more.
OK, now what’s web development? As you are reading this article, you’re on a website. Someone developed it, start to finish. Someone designed what it would look like, and someone decided what should happen when you press a button on the website. Someone made sure that you can securely log in, and leave comments on this blog post, and that if for some reason a million people land on this website at the same time, it doesn’t crash.
- Front-end development to create the user interface and user experience (UI/UX) of a website.
- Back-end development to build the server-side logic and functionality that powers the website.
- Web designers to create visually appealing and user-friendly layouts, color schemes, typography, and graphic elements for websites.
- Web hosting and deployment to allow websites to be hosted on servers and made accessible on the internet.
- Security and optimization to protect websites from cyber threats, protect data privacy, and ensure scalability.
It’s a wide world out there. Ultimately, web development is the process of creating and maintaining websites and web applications that are accessible through the internet. It involves a combination of programming, design, and technical skills to build functional and visually appealing websites that cater to the needs of users.
🔗 What makes a language good for web development?
Almost any language can be used for web development. But thanks to that long, varied laundry list of tasks, some languages are better for certain aspects than others.
When you’re choosing a language for web development, you’re looking for a few key things:
- Wide Adoption. The larger the developer community, the more resources are available to learn, improve, and handle weird edge cases.
- Web frameworks and libraries. These robust and feature-rich frameworks make your life easy.
- Easiness. You want simple syntax and clear documentation.
- Performance. Can the language build or support a website that can handle high traffic and process data quickly?
- Scalability. If your website isn’t huge now, you hope it will be tomorrow. You may want the potential for easy horizontal scaling and load balancing.
- Security features. This includes libraries to implement secure coding practices
- Future-proofing. This helps you keep up with the digital Joneses with modern web development trends like cloud hosting, container deployment, and more.
You should decide what you’re trying to do within web development, then see what languages are available for that, then make sure that language fits the requirements above, or at least the ones that are relevant to you. For example, if you’re a pro programmer, you can probably venture into some of the less user-friendly languages.
🔗 Why is web development in Python good?
Python is one of the rare versatile beasts of a language that can do almost anything but doesn’t sacrifice a whole lot for being a jack-of-all-trades. It’s a widely adopted, beloved language with over 30 years of additional development, libraries, and frameworks added to make it do anything you want. It fits all the points I mentioned above and then some. It’s easy to write, easy to read, and easy to do web development, especially for the backend side of things.
I also find the frameworks for Python are pretty good. Quick side note – our founder at Boot.dev has a very particular view of when it’s OK to use frameworks. If you’re a total beginner, frameworks can be a trap that lets you get stuff done quickly without actually understanding how any of it works. Then things break and you’re SOL because you lack the foundational understanding. For example, Django has great authentication modules. But if you don’t really get how auth works, then that’s a liability.
I recommend understanding how the underlying function works, then using a framework to speed that process up, rather than simply relying on it blindly.
Frameworks in Python are robust and versatile for web development. Here are a few I recommend:
- FastAPI: a modern, high-performance web framework that is particularly well-suited for building APIs quickly. It’s known for its speed, automatic validation of request and response data, and built-in support for asynchronous programming.
- Django: one of the most popular and comprehensive web frameworks in the Python ecosystem. It follows the “batteries-included” philosophy, providing a wide range of features for building complex web applications, including an ORM (Object-Relational Mapping), authentication, admin interface, and more.
- Tornado: web framework and asynchronous networking library. It’s designed for handling long-lived connections, making it a good choice for building real-time applications like chat applications or web sockets.
- Bottle: a minimalist micro-framework for building simple web applications. It’s lightweight and easy to use, making it suitable for smaller projects or prototyping.
Finally, it’s silly to pretend every web developer is doing it out of the goodness of their heart, or pure passion for the skill. Python is great for web development because of the high availability of Python web dev jobs. Plus, if you know Python, you can learn anything you need to do web dev with Python, making you functionally hireable for any web dev job.
🔗 What tools should you learn to use Python for web development?
Where to even begin? If you’re going to use Python for web development, there are a few supporting languages, frameworks, and tools that pair well together. Let’s break them down.
🔗 Web frameworks
As mentioned, web frameworks in Python can help you automate and reuse code, making you a more effective web developer. Web frameworks provide a structured approach to building web applications. They offer guidelines, best practices, and predefined patterns that help developers organize their code and create maintainable projects.
Plus, popular web frameworks like Django and FastAPI have large and active communities, like all of Python. This means developers can access a wealth of resources, documentation, tutorials, and third-party packages that enhance their development experience.
The four I mentioned in the section above are a good place to start. In addition, web frameworks like Django and Flask support template engines for dynamically generating HTML pages with data from the backend. Learn how to use template engines like Jinja2 (Django) and Jinja2/Flask for rendering dynamic content.
If you’re doing web development with Python, you will stumble across its one and only weak point: front end. Python is great at almost every component of web dev, bar what things look like.
This mix will balance you out and make you a more well-rounded web developer.
🔗 Version Control System
This should go without saying, but in case it doesn’t, I’ll say it: you need version control to manage your codebase efficiently, collaborate with others, and keep track of changes. Git is the normal option.
🔗 Relational Databases
Relational databases make the web go round. Familiarize yourself with SQL and how to work with relational databases like PostgreSQL, MySQL, or SQLite. ORM libraries like Django ORM or SQLAlchemy for database interactions are also important.
You don’t have to be a total SQL wizard, but you should have a pretty good understanding of how to query databases and why it matters.
🔗 Asynchronous Programming
The modern web needs concurrent tasks and has real-time apps. That is another minor weak point of Python, which is single-threaded. Luckily, libraries like
asyncio or web frameworks like Tornado can boost Python to handle concurrent tasks and build real-time applications.
🔗 API Development
You should know what a RESTful API is and how to program one using web frameworks like Flask, Django Rest Framework, or FastAPI.
🔗 Deployment and Hosting
Learn how to deploy Python web applications on web servers like Apache or Nginx. Be familiar with cloud platforms like Heroku, AWS, or DigitalOcean, and when and why to use them. These will help you make your web apps to be accessible to users worldwide.
Testing is a necessary hassle to smooth out rough spots in your web app. Luckily, frameworks like unittest or pytest can write and run automated tests for your web applications.
No matter how unimportant you think your project is, you should get in the habit of understanding common web application security vulnerabilities and best practices for securing your Python web applications. I recommend OWASP as a place to start learning.
🔗 Package Managers
Familiarize yourself with Python package managers like pip and virtual environments to manage dependencies effectively. Managing packages with pip ensures that you have access to the latest versions and updates of libraries that your project depends on. Virtual environments provide isolated environments for Python projects, allowing you to keep project-specific dependencies separate and avoid conflicts between different projects.
🔗 Frontend Libraries and Frameworks (optional)
OK, that’s a lot of homework. Let’s add just one more optional take-home task. You will probably benefit from learning popular frontend libraries and frameworks like React, Vue.js, or Angular to complement your Python web development skills.
I like to think of this as when the back-of-the-house chef knows what the menu looks like in the front of the house. It’s not critical, not really, but it rounds out her understanding and gives her a better big picture of the whole restaurant.
🔗 Comparison to other languages
Python is great for web development, sure. But how about compared to other languages? Let’s do a quick comparison to four other popular web development languages. Spoiler: I think they’re all pretty good and have their place.
Python, as you hopefully understand by now, is known for its simplicity and readability. It comes fully equipped with a rich ecosystem of libraries and frameworks for web development like Django and Flask. But as I mentioned, there are some weak gaps.
Go fills out some of those weak gaps in performance and concurrency. Go is great for building scalable web applications and microservices, and is commonly used in cloud-native applications.
Python is definitely easier to learn and read. It has stronger support for data analysis and scientific computing, and it’s well-suited for backend development and data-centric web applications.
However, if you’re not limited by only choosing easy languages, PHP has its strengths. While it’s not as syntactically pleasing, it was originally designed for HTML template web development, widely used for server-side scripting, and extensively integrated with CMS platforms like WordPress.
🔗 Python vs. Perl
Python emphasizes code readability and maintainability. It has a larger and more active developer community, often used for web development, data analysis, and automation.
But Perl, by contrast, is known for its text-processing capabilities. It’s commonly used for CGI scripting. However…its popularity has declined over the last two decades in favor of other languages like Python and Ruby.
This might be the only language I’d feel comfortable saying Python is definitively better than in almost every case.
Python comes with a strong focus on simplicity and versatility. It’s widely used for web development with popular frameworks like Django and FastAPI, and it’s extremely popular in the scientific community, as well as for data-driven web applications. A lot of COVID dashboards were written in Python, to give an example.
Ruby is a language built to be a beautiful language. It emphasizes developer productivity with clean and elegant syntax, and it was popularized by the Ruby on Rails framework for rapid web application development. You can’t really compare Python vs Ruby for web development – really, it’s Python vs Ruby on Rails, and they are evenly matched there.
🔗 Final thoughts on web development with Python
Many would-be developers learn to love web development and worry that they’ll never be able to use Python for it, even though Python is consistently the most popular language, and is universally beloved.
Elsewhere, Pythonistas worry they need to know PHP to do web development, or that Ruby on Rails is the only possible choice.
Neither is true. Like all languages, Python isn’t perfect for everything. But its strong community, simple syntax, and huge catalog of libraries and frameworks make it pretty darn good for web development. I recommend bolstering your knowledge with other skills, languages, and frameworks to make yourself a competitive web developer, but aside from that, Python is a solid choice for any web developer.