How to build a website with Python (an introduction)

Want to take web development into your own hands? In this post we introduce you to the powerfully capable and easy to learn language, Python
Jun 25, 2020 • 7 minute read
Ruchi Bhargava @RuchiBhargava1
Technical Co-pilot
Cover photo for How to build a website with Python (an introduction)

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An introduction to building a website with Python

Coding a website yourself gives you complete control over its functionality and aesthetics. But the web development learning curve is quite steep which, sadly, prevents many entrepreneurs from building a robust website that can scale alongside their growing business.

But what if there was a programming language that's simple, easy to use, yet provides powerful web development capabilities?

One of the hottest languages of the year, Python is a general-purpose programming language that's ideal for a wide variety of programming tasks, including website building. We'll introduce you to the wonder world of Python web development to help you finally get started on that exciting website project.

Why use Python?

Python isn't really a new programming language; it's almost 30 years old! But in the past few years, Python has seen widespread adoption in a number of fields. 

Ranging from general-purpose programming and machine-learning applications to data science and business analytics, Python has made inroads into every field that requires programming.

Naturally, web development is not outside the domain of Python. Python frameworks have equipped  web developers to build wonderfully complex websites and web applications. Instagram was developed with Python, so that should give you a powerful indication of what's possible with a little elbow (or finger) grease. 

But what makes Python so very attractive for web development? The following are some of the reasons that make Python ideal for developing websites.

Relatively easier to learn

Compared to other programming languages (Java for instance), Python is easier to learn. It uses relatively simpler syntax, doesn't have a lot of semantic ambiguity, and employs commonly used symbols for programming. For example, the following is Python's version of the now-famous Hello World program that all coders begin their journey with.

print("Hello, World!")

Pretty simple, right?

Not just simple but deliciously logical. Even the complete programming novice can deduce what this line of code is trying to achieve. 

Performing the same task in another programming language, say Java, would require multiple lines of code.

All these factors combined together make the language pretty easy to pick up. This means with a bit of experience; a programmer can go from beginner to pro and even use the language to develop a website from the ground up

A vast collection of libraries

Python is open-source and has a strong community backing it. This has resulted in a unique ecosystem where you can find pre-existing Python code (or libraries) for a range of tasks. This helps ease the development process since you can offload the processing to a Python library rather than figuring out how to code the individual steps yourself.

Want to perform the mathematical analysis? Use Pandas or Numpy. Need charting capabilities? Not to worry, Pygal is at your service. There's a Python library for a tonne of processes.

When it comes to web development, Python has a number of frameworks that make the task of development easier. We'll discuss some of the major Python frameworks further down.

Faster development time

A major benefit of developing a website with Python is its superior speed.

Not only do websites built with Python run faster, but they're faster to develop so the time-to-market is quicker. In today's age of cut-throat corporate competition, this is a valuable advantage.

Excellent data visualization capabilities

One of Python's major strengths is its capability to represent data in the form of creative visualizations. This powerful feature of the language can be used to build informative websites that allow for the dynamic representation of complex data items.

Budget-friendly

Since Python is entirely open-source, the language and its associated frameworks are free for all to use. This means most Python development tools don't cost a thing. This ensures that your web development process remains relatively inexpensive.

Secure and scalable

Python is an inherently secure language and is highly scalable. This property allows the language to be used for developing web applications that can be easily scaled up as your business grows.

Now that we know the reasons why Python is a stellar language for web development, let's take a deeper look at some Python frameworks that can be used to build a website.

A closer look at Python web frameworks

Web frameworks are simply pre-built code collections and libraries that help to speed up the development process. Using Python web frameworks, developers can create more scalable and reliable web software. 

This means you can create a professional-looking website, with less work, within a relatively short time. Keep in mind, however, that it's not exactly mandatory for developers to use frameworks. Code can be written from scratch as well. However, for reduced complexity and enhanced time-efficiency, it's recommended that you use a framework.

The following is a brief introduction to some of the more popular Python web development frameworks.

Django

If you're looking for an open-source framework that offers fast development features and an uncluttered design process, Django is the one for you. Apart from being incredibly fast, this framework is also one of the most secure Python web development tools available. 

When using Django, you get access to all essential web components such as admin capabilities, database integration, and authentication features. The framework operates on an app-based concept, where each app is an independent code unit that executes without external dependencies. The following example shows some of the many Django apps.

 

 # helloapp/settings.py

INSTALLED_APPS = [

    'django.contrib.admin',

    'django.contrib.auth',

    'django.contrib.contenttypes',

    'django.contrib.sessions',

    'django.contrib.messages',

    'django.contrib.staticfiles',

]

Because of its high degree of flexibility, Django is being used by some of the biggest names on the internet, such as Spotify and Dropbox.

Flask

Compared to Django, Flask is a minimalistic framework, which means it lacks certain features such as authentication and authorization capabilities. However, it offers greater flexibility, in that you can add libraries and extensions as and when you need. The following code example shows the hello world version of Flask:

 

from flask import Flask

app = Flask(__name__)

@app.route("/")

def home():

    return "Hello, World!"

    

if __name__ == "__main__":

    app.run(debug=True)

Flask gives you the bare minimum that's needed to build a website and allows you to proceed from there. This unique approach to web development has made Flask the preferred framework for multinational giants such as Uber and Netflix.

Apart from the above, there are other frameworks that you can also use such as:

  • Pyramid

  • Bottle 

  • TurboGears

With so many different frameworks available, which one should you use? The answer is that it's entirely dependent on your level of skills as a programmer. 

If you're a newbie who needs more support, go with Django. On the other hand, if you're a more experienced developer who prefers greater flexibility and control, Flask might be the better option.

However, it's important to remember that no matter which one you use, the primary step to take is to start coding. Only then will you be able to get a handle on the intricacies of the process.

A step by step guide to web development with Python

Till now, we've discussed the individual components of Python web development. In this section, we'll put it all together and create a guide that'll give you all the pieces of information you need to succeed as a Python web developer.

Step 1: Get a grip on HTML and CSS

For any web developer worth their salt, having a handle on HTML and CSS is a must. These two languages form the backbone of the web development process. Without HTML and CSS, a developer won't be able to create the front-end i.e., the part of the website that's actually visible in the browser.

An example Of HTML Code:

<!DOCTYPE html>

<html>

<body>

<h1>My First Heading</h1>

<p>My first paragraph.</p>

</body>

</html>

Step 2: Master the basics of JavaScript

Next, you need to master the basics of JavaScript, the essential client-side scripting language that no website can do without. Using JavaScript, developers can create powerful elements such as form validations, client-side animations, and much more.

A JavaScript Code Sample:

<!DOCTYPE html>

<html>

<body>

<h2>What Can JavaScript Do?</h2>

<p id="demo">JavaScript can change HTML content.</p>

<button type="button" onclick='document.getElementById("demo").innerHTML = "Hello JavaScript!"'>Click Me!</button>

Step 3: Master the document object model

Once you've got a good grip on the above, it's time to learn the Document Object Model (DOM), manipulating which you can build powerful, dynamic web pages. In this context, it's beneficial to learn jQuery, a JavaScript library that simplifies the process of working with DOM.

Example Of DOM Code Accessing A Single HTML Element:

var x = document.getElementById("myCode");

Step 4: Backend development with Python

Once you've covered the above steps, you're ready for back-end development. Now comes the fun part, we have to use Python to design the backend i.e., the part of the website code that runs on the server.

Start by learning the syntax of Python, and then move onto a framework like Django or Flask. After learning the basics of JavaScript, Python will be a breeze.

Step 5: Choose your framework and database

Finally, you need to select on the right framework for your needs, along with the backend database that you're going to be using. It's here that you need to craft the business-specific logic, along with the data manipulation functions of your website.

Final words

Python is truly one of the best languages that can be utilized for web development. It's simple to learn, logical, and can develop websites that are secure, scalable and budget-friendly.

Now you can begin your journey into Python web development. However, if you can't wait until you've mastered Python before building your website, you can always hire a professional Python developer to do it for you now. This leaves you free to focus on your core business functions.

Python is one of the most powerful web development languages available today. By getting a good grip on this language, developers can create stable web applications that meet a wide variety of business needs.

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