Quick Web Development

4 minute read


I am fresh new to Web Development, which means, I haven’t developed any application related to web before. However, due to research reason, we could not always let researchers download our Python or R package, and run data themselves. For one, our simulation consumes a lot of CPU cores which not every researcher owns; for another, there are plenty installation issues due to different OS. Fortunately, I have experience in programming, especially in Python and Java. Then, why not having a try?

Step 1: Choose a Framework

Web development mostly could be divided into front-end, back-end and full-stack. Thanks to those GREAT Open Source contributors, there are lots of frameworks to choose from, such as Django, Flask, RoR. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Since my project would be quite tiny, I chose Flask as my Web Framework.

From my perspective, Flask would be more tiny and lightweight. For a beginner, if you don’t want to waste too much time on learning how a framework works, then I think Flask would be a good choice.

Step2: Learn Basic Knowledge

Take Flask as an example, the only thing you need to know is:

  • How to run an app

    # hello.py
    from flask import Flask
    app = Flask(__name__)
    def hello():
        return "Hello World!"
    $ FLASK_APP=hello.py flask run
    # "Hello World!" gonna show on localhost:5000
  • How flask routes

    @app.route('/') # localhost:5000/
    def index():
        return 'Index Page'  
    @app.route('/hello') # localhost:5000/hello
    def hello():
        return 'Hello, World'
  • How flask uses variables through URL

    @app.route('/user/<username>') # localhost:5000/user/<username>
    def show_user_profile(username):
        # show the user profile for that user
        return 'User %s' % username

    Note: URL is used for the website, not equivalent to a file path. If you need URL variables to generate a file path, do it inside the function by using the parameters passed by the URL.

    Here is a small example on passing URL to download file. I am not sure if there is a better way, but it works.

    from flask import send_from_directory
    # URL: /download/123___a.txt
    def download_file(userkey_filename):
        user_key, filename = userkey_filename.split('___')  # user_key: 123, filename: a.txt
        download_path = os.path.join(user_key, 'download')
        return send_from_directory(download_path, filename)

    In this case, it does not matter what name is your function, since I do not call it from other part. What I do is to bind the URL with the file path. Then when I pass the result containing both of them to the html, when the URL is clicked, it will directly goes to my file path, and download the file.

    from flask import render_template
    @app.route('/result', methods=['GET', 'POST'])
    def show_result():
        results = {'url_file': ['/download/123___a.txt', 'a.txt']}
        return render_template('result.html', results=results) # passing values to html

    Therefore, in thise case, href = related to the url, and `` will show file name.

    When the link is clicked, it will trigger the @app.route('/download/<userkey_filename>') to find the file directory, and sent the file from that directory.

  • How the project package looks like

    A project should looks alike flask layout, however, since I use file instead of database and I do not focus on those fancy demonstrations, I compress it into this:

    ├── __init__.py
    ├── frontend.py         # only do things related to frontend
    ├── do_*.py             # do things related to backend logic
    ├── templates/          # html
    │   ├── base.html
    │   └── error.html
    ├──static/              # static files
    │   └── style.css
    ├── db.json             # file storage
    ├── venv/
    ├── setup.py
    └── MANIFEST.in

Step3: Use Open Source Templates

Bootstrap is a GREAT template for those who don’t want to spend much time on how to adjust demonstration. You even don’t need to download the package, just use BoostrapCDN and it will access the network resource to retrieve the style.

Pick one of the Boostrap examples, right click View Page Source. Select all, copy, paste it into one of your templates.

Change the local resource

<!-- Bootstrap core CSS -->
<link href="../../dist/css/bootstrap.min.css" rel="stylesheet">

into CDN resource:

<!-- Bootstrap core CSS -->
<link href="https://stackpath.bootstrapcdn.com/bootstrap/4.1.2/css/bootstrap.min.css" rel="stylesheet">

Step4: Start Building Your Own

This is a passage which not only a tutorial, but also a reminder. Skills could be forgot easily without use. I hope when I finish my current project on Find the Transcriptional Binding expectedly before October due to server reasons, I will publish a full link here. Let’s just get it!

Special thanks to Jiaying Lu who taught me these quick web development skills and gave me technical instructions with no reservation.