What’s the most important thing you need to take care of when it comes to developing a top-notch software product? Founders, especially those without a tech background, have a hard time finding out which technology stack they should use for their product. The frequently asked questions related to the tech stack, by non-technical founders are:
- Should we use Python or Java as the programming language?
- What would be the right choice for the web framework: Node.js or Flask?
- What will be the perfect front-end option: React, Angular or Vue.JS?
- What about the database: MySQL, or MongoDB?
- Should we self-host the app or go with Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud?
Here’s a quick guide to help founders with a non-coding background in choosing the right stack for their startup.
What is a tech stack?
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In very simple words, the technology stack is a set of tools and frameworks used in software development. In other words, it’s the combination of programming languages, frameworks, and tools used to develop web and mobile applications.
A typical web or mobile application is divided into two parts:
Backend (concerning server side)
Although the backend of the application is not visible to the users, it powers the front end, just like a power station that generates electricity for your home. The choice of backend technology for developing the web or mobile application is of vital importance.
“LAMP”, an abbreviation for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP, was always one of the most popular back-end stacks. PHP is used as the scripting language, MySQL as the database, Apache as the web server, and Linux as the server’s operating system.
But nowadays, “MEAN”, which stands for MongoDB, Express.js, AngularJS, and Node.js, has become one of the more popular choices for tech stack for MVPs.
Front end (concerning client side)
Front-end development includes everything a user sees on their screen such as a website, web app or a mobile app. There are three major frontend technology stack components:
- HTML: defines the structure of the information presented in the browser.
- CSS: determines the style of the application content such as fonts, colors, and layouts.
Google’s AngularJS and Facebook’s React.js are two of the most popular front-end stacks used by the developers today.
Benefits of choosing the right stack
Choosing the right tech stack for your application can be beneficial to your business in many ways. The benefits of choosing the right tech stack are:
- The base performance of your product or software will be solid.
- Your developer will able to code better and faster, and you’ll be able to retain the same developers for future projects.
- Your software’s codebase will be easy to maintain while choosing wrong stacks leads to additional maintenance costs and technical debts.
- The stack will be well documented and it will be easy to fix common bugs and/or performance issues.
Drawbacks of choosing the wrong stack
Choosing the wrong tech stack can prove expensive, and you may face the following troubles:
- A new stack will require additional time to adopt and the build time from ground up is equally long.
- Some of the latest tech stacks have frequent update cycles that will require frequent changes to keep the app running with the latest codebase.
- You may face trouble finding experienced developers.
- The tech stack may become unsustainable.
Now that you know the possible advantages and disadvantages of choosing the right stack, how can you choose the right stack every time?
1. Stage of your business
Your technology stack plays an important role at every stage of your business. If you’re just starting out, your primary goal must be launch the MVP as quickly as possible. Any language/framework/CMS tool that lets you put together a working prototype in the shortest possible time should be a good fit.
WordPress is the ideal choice for a customer facing website or building a landing page as you do not require heavy programming knowledge. If your business is in the finance or banking space that requires security from the onset, opt for Java from the beginning.
2. Project requirement
Before choosing any tech stack, understand the requirements of the project. Does your app require real-time functionality, such as a chatbot or live chat? In such cases, go with a tech stack that is good at concurrency, such as Node.
If you’re a blogger who requires a functional website to increase conversions, WordPress or Drupal will work best. Is your frontend UI full of complex interactions? Then React or Angular may be good front-end tech stacks. Complete understanding of the project goals and business objectives along with the right selection of tech stack plays an important role in long-term success. Wrong selection may lead to financial loss.
3. Availability of resources
The availability of developers who will create your product is one of the most influential factors defining your company’s technology stack. Look whether your developers are willing and able to work within your chosen tech stack. Suppose you select a programming language not in common use such as Lisp, you will be hard-pressed to find programmers who know how to use it. If they do, they’ll charge a premium.
Pick a tech stack that has a dynamic developer community. Commonly used programming languages will thrive in the near future and as a business owner it is easy for you to add new developers to the team.
4. Development and maintenance cost
The technology stack directly influences development cost. There are a couple of factors to consider before picking up the right tech stack:
- The cost of hiring a developer: Developers must be skilled professionals and the cost of hiring them varies based on the technologies they work with.
- Maintenance cost: The job doesn’t get over with the development completion of the MVP. Take into account the maintenance and upgradation cost. Consider sticking to open source technologies because they are cheaper and can be updated and changed without any restrictions.
5. Time to market
Time to market is perhaps the most important for all startups. The faster you develop and launch your application, the more exposure you’ll get. Also, the less the time you spend developing initially, the more time you get to learn from the feedback of the users.
Here is a list of the common issues you must consider while choosing a suitable tech stack:
- Third-party integration: Make sure the technology stack you choose allows third-party integrations, to integrate the features you need into your web or mobile application without reinventing the wheel.
- Developer availability: To turn your idea into a great web application, you need to have an experienced team of developers that can use the tools you choose and work with you in the long-term. Ask them if they will offer post-launch support.
- Testing: Make informed decisions based on how easy it would be to run tests on the chosen platform. No software product is developed perfectly the very first time. The chosen tech stack should allow you to fix bugs or tweak features easily without eating up a lot of time.
6. Scalability and security
Products require a well-defined scalability matrix that works on both the scenarios either vertically or horizontally.
- Vertical scalability: lets you add more features on top of the core value proposition of your product.
- Horizontal scenario: lets you handle increased volume of users and transactions on the platform.
Always make sure the application is developed keeping the best practices of security and threat mitigation in mind. Run security tests both on client and server side to eliminate the common security threats. The more robust your product is, the easier it becomes to sell in the market.
At the end, make a choice that works best for your business. You can choose the technology to go with, based on your business goals, requirements and the resources you can afford.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)