Flask

The Micro-Framework You Didn't Know You Needed

At some point, your business is going to have to migrate at least a portion of your website to host web applications. Why? Because consumers have come to expect more. They want to visit sites that include something other than the traditional flat menus and smattering of dynamic content. They want interaction, functionality, shopping carts, online forms, word processors, spreadsheets, video and photo editing, file conversion/scanning, and the tools to communicate.

Although your business might not offer your customers and clients all of the above, you certainly will want to give them a certain level of functionality within your website’s ecosystem. Most often that comes in the form of a shopping cart system and product recommendation/reviews. With those added features you can sell more products and do more business.

It’s simple math.

But how do you get to this point? Obviously, you need developers adept at building such features into a website. But what are the tools your developers will need?

One of the most important tools in a developer’s toolkit (aside from their language of choice) is frameworks. A framework is a collection of objects, functions, and libraries that make it easier for developers to not only build easier but faster. Frameworks make it possible for your developers to use those prebuilt objects and reuse code. So instead of always having to reinvent the wheel, they can just employ other wheels for a more efficient process.

But what framework should your developers make use of for web applications? One option is Flask, which is a micro web framework for Python. Flask doesn’t require specific tools or libraries, nor does it use a database abstraction layer, form validation, or other pre-existing, third-party libraries. Flask is also more commonly referred to as a Python API used to build web applications.

Flask Developers Hiring Guide

  • How to choose the best
  • Interview questions
  • Job Description

History of Flask

Flask was originally created by Armin Ronacher as an April Fool joke that wound up becoming so popular it became a respected and well-accepted tool for building web applications. The name is a play on the Bottle framework. Soon after the Pocoo team disbanded, Flask (and all related libraries) were passed on to the new Pallets project.

Fast forward to now, and Flask has become one of the most popular web development frameworks among Python developers (just barely behind Django).

Flask Features

Flask includes several important features for web application development, including:

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    Development server and debugger
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    Integrated support for unit testing
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    RESTful request dispatching
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    Supports Jinja templating
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    Support for secure cookies
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    WSGI 1.0 compliant
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    Unicode-based
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    Extensive documentation
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    Compatible with Google App Engine
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    Robust extensions available

Why "Micro?"

It’s not often you see a web framework described as “micro.” So why is that so with Flask? You might think it implies an entire web application must fit into a single Python file or that it lacks certain functionality. Neither is the case (although you could certainly fit a full web application into a single Python file). 

What the “micro” implies is that the developers have gone to great lengths to keep the core of Flask very simple. Flask makes very few decisions for the developer. Unlike some frameworks that decide everything from database engines to templates, Flask limits the decisions, but even those can be easily changed.

Instead of including the necessary abstraction layers for things like databases and form validation, Flask depends on extensions to add the necessary functionality. So think of Flask as an almost bare-bones framework that allows you to add functionality via extensions.

What is Flask Used For?

You might be surprised what can be created with Flask. And because Flask was created to make building web applications very easy, you’ll find it not only useful but widespread.

The types of web applications you can build with Flask include:

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    Blogging apps
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    Commercial websites
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    Social networks
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    Standard content sites
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    Weather apps
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    Portfolio websites
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    REST APIs
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    Feedback forms
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    Machine learning models
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    Bots
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    E-commerce systems
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    Wiki
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    Online scheduling application

What Do You Need to Know to Use Flask?

Outside of Python, you’ll need to have a solid foundational understanding of certain website building tools and languages, such as:

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    JSON - for configuring things like language files.
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    HTML5/CSS - for writing the actual web pages.
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    PIP - the package manager for Python, which allows you to install Flask and whatever extensions you might need.
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    URL routing - allows you to configure an application to accept request URLs that don’t map to actual files.
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    Databases - you'll probably need a database for dynamic content.

However, if you’re just looking to getting started with Flask, you can get by with the essentials:

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    Python
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    HTML5/CSS
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    Database

What Companies Use Flask?

You’ll find quite a large number of major companies employing Flask. That list includes Netflix, Reddit, Airbnb, Lyft, Mozilla, MIT, Uber, Red Hat, Rackspace, Mailgun, Patreon, Samsung, NGINX, 2market, B2W, and Sieve.

Benefits of Using Flask

There are a number of benefits to using Flask. Because this is a micro framework, you’ll find it’s incredibly lightweight and easy to get started with. Because there are so few dependencies, you’ll find there’s not much to have to update, which translates to heightened security. 

Other benefits include:

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    High compatibility with new technologies.
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    Inspires experimentation.
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    Easy to employ for simple use cases.
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    Very small codebase.
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    Scalable (for simple applications).
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    Easy and quick prototyping.
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    Simple URL Routing.

However, if you’re just looking to getting started with Flask, you can get by with the essentials:

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    Python
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    HTML5/CSS
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    Database

Conclusion

If you’re looking for the best framework to help your developers build and deploy web applications quickly and reliably, you’d be hard-pressed to find a framework better suited for the task than Flask. Although you might find it a bit limiting when working with highly complicated websites and web applications, Flask is the place to start for the simpler bits and pieces you want to add to your site.

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