Why You Need a Backend Service for Your No Code App

Did you know you need a backend service for your no code mobile app? Find out why, what that means, and how our friends at Xano can help!
Written by
The Thunkable Team
Published on
May 6, 2022

Quick Summary:

Who is this for?

  • I am starting my first mobile app.
  • I need more information about a backend service for my no code mobile app
  • I am on a time budget and need to do a lot in a small amount of time

What will I get out of reading this?

  • Understanding of a backend service for mobile apps
  • Decide whether your app will need a backend
  • Tools you can use to create a reliable backend

Getting Started with No Code App Creation

  • Where should I store my no code app’s data?
  • How can I be secure when I’m building my app?
  • How can I protect my users’ privacy?
  • How do I validate a phone number or email?

When it comes to no code app development, it doesn’t matter if you’re building an app for personal use, your business idea, or clients – you will need access to data. That data can live in various places, and it is up to you to determine the best place to store, retrieve, update, and delete it. When choosing where to store your data, you will need to consider three main things:

  1. Data Privacy
  2. Data Storage
  3. App Speed

These top three aspects are crucial for any mobile app development efforts depending on the volume of users, type of data, and where it is needed in the user experience. To help you think through these three aspects, let’s dive into what a backend database is and how it can help you.

What is a Backend Database?

frontend backend database thunkable illustration app builder no code app builder app creator

Any platform today, such as Amazon or Netflix, is powered by databases. However, as the user, you’ll never see the technical mechanisms occurring behind the scenes. Instead, you simply search, sort, and find what you’re looking for.

Software systems are broken up into two systems: the frontend and the backend. The frontend is what the user sees, such as the webpage or a “1-click-to-purchase” button. The backend is where all the data is stored, accessed, and retrieved; this happens behind the scenes. The backend is made up of three parts: the server, the database, and the advanced programming interface (API). The server is the engine that holds your application. The database is where all of your data is stored. Finally, the API is the messenger that runs back and forth between the frontend and backend, delivering relevant data to the user. This video also explains this in terms of a restaurant where the waiter is the API, and the kitchen is the server and database.

Backend Database Example in Action

Users’ data flows from frontend to backend. For instance, let’s say you are building a social chat app where a user - we’ll call her Alejandra - will need to create a log-in and password. Alejandra goes to your app and decides to create an account. On the frontend, she creates a username (alejandra) and password (alejandra22) in the appropriate fields. Next, the app triggers the API to create this new record in the backend. Then, the API call is made to send that username and password data to the database to check if they are available and create a new account with those credentials. Once the verification is complete, and the username and password are registered in the database, account creation information is sent back through the server to the fontend user where they see that their account is now created. 

Why Do I Need a Backend Database?

It all comes down to data. Data powers mobile apps, and the success of an app depends on its ability to access and collect data quickly. For example, let’s dissect the user experience on Netflix. When a user signs into their Netflix account, they gain access to thousands of movies and shows to watch any time they want. However, Netflix doesn’t store thousands of their available movies and shows on the user’s device. Instead, all their videos (data) live in a database for users to access when they want to watch something. Furthermore, Netflix account sign-ins, profiles, and “My List” selections are the user-generated data collected and stored securely in the database; we’ll get more into database privacy in the next section.

Another example we can look at is Yelp. Users can load the top 20 Mexican restaurants within a 5-mile radius. Yelp doesn’t expect all that data to live on your phone. Instead, that data lives in a database and is retrieved and delivered to the user quickly and easily. There are millions of restaurants to search through, and you cannot expect to store all that data on your phone. A database can store all that information and do heavy processing based on users' criteria.

Between Netflix and Yelp alone, can you imagine users having all that information stored on their phones? Definitely not. Successful apps properly and efficiently manage their data without the user ever knowing. This is what a backend service can provide, effortless management of the privacy and security you need, speed for your users, and efficient storage abilities. Let’s dive into why each of these aspects is so important.

Data Privacy 

Returning to the example of Alejandra creating an account, these types of verification requests occur almost instantaneously to tell users whether or not a username is available and if so, to make the account. Your mobile app will need to guarantee a fast verification process and incorporate a single source of truth for all data to be stored. With a shared data repository, privacy is needed to ensure your user’s data can only be accessed by them. Without a backend database, this process is not possible. A fully operational database should provide your users with only the information they need securely. 

Laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for EU residents and Consumer Data Privacy Laws for the US need to be considered while creating your mobile app. In short, the GDPR and Consumer Data Privacy Laws each have key guidelines that need to be followed to protect a user’s data. According to GDPR, a data processing agreement (DPA) is required to maintain compliance. All businesses rely on third pirates, like Xano, to process personal data, and “you must have a data processing agreement with each of these services to achieve GDPR compliance.” Having a secure and separate backend like Xano will ensure you meet the requirements and satisfy the data processing agreement, which is critical to staying compliant. 

Nothing is more important than the privacy of your users. If you plan to build an app requesting user data, you will want to ensure you are providing a secure space to store that data. Much like you strive to keep your information secure, your mobile app users expect the same. Similarly, if your app has any type of authentication for login, signup, and passwords, you will need a backend to conduct the authentication calls. Depending on the number of users, type of data you’re storing, and information users are accessing. There are various data storage options available to meet your security requirements. 

Data Storage

Where you plan to store your mobile app’s data is just as important as designing your app. You don’t want to build a beautiful and functional app only to realize all your users’ data is not shareable with a network. For example, think of Instagram versus Camera Roll. Both apps access the phone’s camera, but with Instagram, users share that photo with their friends. The image isn’t directly loaded onto other users’ phones; instead, it is passed to a database and retrieved on the feed for others to find. 

Even though there are some things you’ll want to store locally, it is much more efficient and scalable to keep a bulk of data on the backend.  No code backend services like Xano can store and retrieve large amounts of data using flexible query builders, and the data comes from one or more tables or external sources. 

App Speed 

Speed can make or break an app. Just recall your experience with a website that took too long to load. Did you wait? Or did you just move on to the next website? According to a study from Microsoft, people have an attention span of eight seconds. A majority of users expect a mobile app to load within three seconds.

When you create an app, you want your users to have a good experience, and part of that experience is ensuring you invest in a quick and reliable backend that can send and retrieve data in as little time as possible. Depending on how much data you store, you should select the proper backend to meet your speed needs. For example, simple spreadsheets will work to get started, but they are not suited to handle mass data. Finding a backend suited to handling, sorting, and passing along the correct data is a consideration you should make early in the development process. 

It’s easy to think, “I don’t need that right now,” or “I’ll worry about data needs after getting more app users.” But you can quickly outgrow a simple database, and if lag times happen, you risk providing a bad experience, potentially losing users, or stalling business growth.

Don’t worry! There are many tools available that can provide the backend services needed to scale your business. 

How do I Select a Backend Service?

Selecting the right backend service for your no code mobile app development needs can be relatively simple. The four things to keep in mind are: 

  1. What type of data needs to live with the app, and what should be stored in the backend? 
  2. What type of data repository will fit you now? 
  3. What type of backend system will you need as you grow? 
  4. How do you provide speed, security, and scalability to provide your users the best experience? 

Final Thoughts about Backend Service

Thunkable works with numerous different database types, from Google Sheets to Xano. We know each app is unique, and so are your data needs. So we encourage you to go ahead and get started, but always plan for the future.

You can learn more about our integration options at Thunkable.com/integrations or jump right in and start developing your app

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Written by
The Thunkable Team

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