How to select the right technology stack for web application development
How to select the right technology stack for web application development
Before developing any digital product, be it a mobile app or a web app, the most crucial task is to select the right technology stack your app will be built upon.
The technology stack directly affects the performance of your application. It is important that the technology stack perfectly suits the type of application that you’re building.
If you don’t have a team of full-stack web developers, you cannot easily identify the right technology stack for your development needs. In this blog post, we reveal the process of what actually needs to be considered when selecting a technology stack.
You’ll learn everything you need to know, including, what is a technology stack and it’s structure, factors to consider while choosing a stack, and key pitfalls to avoid to guarantee your digital product’s success.
Let’s dive right in!
What is a technology stack?
Technically, a tech stack is a combination of components like tools, frameworks, programming languages, and technologies used for software development.
In layman’s terms, web application development requires a front-end, a back-end, and a database. All these layers form a technology stack.
Structure of a technology stack
As mentioned above, the technology stack has three components:
But what are they? What do they do? Why are they needed?
Let’s dig deeper and understand each component thoroughly.
Front-end development (Client side development)
In the simplest terms, front-end is where all the user interactions happen. In a web app, users can only see and interact with this part of the app.
For a web application, this user interaction is carried out in a web browser such as Safari, Chrome, or Internet Explorer.
For front-end development, the following three technologies are used:
HTML is a Hypertext Markup Language used for describing the structure of content presented on a webpage.
CSS is called Cascading Style Sheet which is mainly used for formatting the content written in HTML language.
For a majority of web applications, Bootstrap is a commonly used framework for HTML and CSS. Its exhaustive library has garnered a massive user base for itself. Foundation is another framework that a lot of developers prefer for HTML and CSS.
Back-end development (Server-side development)
The back-end component basically powers the front-end and allows users to perform certain actions. Unlike front-end, the back-end part in a web app is not visible to the users.
When choosing a technology stack, the biggest challenge lies in choosing the back-end technologies.
Back-end is basically used for creating logic around the entire web application using server-side programming languages.
Web developers can choose from a variety of different programming languages to code for the application. In addition to that, there are many frameworks available for each programming language that make the process of coding faster and easier.
Following are some of the commonly used programming languages along with the frameworks available for them mentioned in the brackets:
- Ruby (Ruby on Rails)
- PHP (Laravel, CodeIgniter)
- Python (Django, Flask)
- Scala (Play)
Although it’s possible to build a web application without a database, such an app will have limited functionality. The database is necessary to store data for a dynamic web app particularly if your application asks for data from its users.
In the current times, almost every web application at least asks for the users’ contact details. So the database is a vital part of every technology stack for web application development.
There are two types of database technologies useful in web app development: relational database and non-relational database.
Some of the most common databases for web development are:
A server is where requests from the client side’s computer are received, processed, and acted upon. Therefore, the technology stack for web application development must have a server to host the application.
The two most popular servers for web apps are:
In addition to these, back end development for web applications also requires developers to choose an operating system and back end frameworks for their projects.
Factors to consider when choosing a tech stack
Keep in mind that the type of app you’re developing influences the technology you should select. A medical app, for example, will require high security, while audio/video streaming and file sharing apps will need programming languages and frameworks that can handle high load.
While deciding on the components of the tech stack, also analyze your web app based on the criteria mentioned below to narrow down the options:
All projects can be classified depending on their complexity, which will affect the choice of technology stack. As the size of a project grows, the complexity of the project usually increases as well.
You can broadly classify your project according to these three categories:
Small projects – Single page sites, portfolios, presentations, digital magazines, and other small web solutions can be implemented with the help of design tools like Readymag and Webflow.
Medium-sized projects – Online stores, financial, and enterprise web apps require a more complex stack with several layers and a combination of languages, as these apps have more features and are developed with the help of frameworks.
You should also consider cross-platform integrations, as medium-sized projects typically involve multiple systems. For example, there may be a connection between a web app and a company’s backend systems.
Large projects – Social networks and marketplaces are considered large projects, and may require much more scalability, speed, and serviceability. First, identify the features you need to implement.
Then prepare a list of relevant questions to ask your development partner to understand if their technology and solutions fully support your idea. You may also analyze other similar solutions on the market and technologies they’ve used so as not to reinvent the wheel.
This kind of project development usually involves a complex combination of instruments, languages, and technologies to build individual parts of the app. Deciding on a tech stack for a complex project requires consideration of both functional and non-functional requirements.
Time to market
When your product needs to be developed and launched as soon as possible, you may consider starting with a minimum viable product, or MVP. If you do, we recommend using ready-made solutions that help to minimize the time spent preparing to enter the market.
For example, the Ruby on Rails framework, which provides access to a set of basic libraries, will save significant time. There’s a gem available in the RubyGems repository for practically any feature you may want to implement. And if there isn’t, it’s easy to find an expert in the Ruby community who can create the feature quickly.
Third-party integrations will help to add functionality without writing it from scratch. Sticking to a popular technology will also save time on seeking out developers. And to top it all, well-documented technologies facilitate the development of excellent features.
If you plan for rapid growth, don’t forget that the tools you choose for your tech stack might not have the potential to scale sufficiently. You can scale either vertically, adding additional software for new tasks, or horizontally, adding processing units or physical machines to your server or database.
React, Node.js, Golang, and Ruby on Rails have excellent scalability. Your app will also scale well on AWS, as it uses advanced Ethernet networking technology designed for scale along with high availability and security.
Pitfalls to avoid while choosing a technology stack
The following strategies will help you prepare better for web development and ensure that you do not lose a fortune along the way:
Make sure your specification is clear and understandable. If you outsource your project to an offshore web development team, make sure you have a clear project specification to help your developers prepare a precise estimate, which will allow you to plan your expenses. Any ambiguity will lead to a higher price. A detailed specification will allow you to avoid this risk.
Create an MVP first and then test it. Keep in mind that in certain cases a landing page can serve as an excellent and inexpensive MVP. Make sure your product will be in demand and consider all the errors that occur while testing. Only then should you develop a complete solution.
Use ready-made solutions when possible. Keep in mind that you don’t have to build all features from scratch, as similar solutions may already exist in the form of community-built libraries or third-party integrations (registration via Facebook or Google, for example). Ruby on Rails offers many libraries that accelerate web application and website development. ActiveAdmin is one of them. Using ActiveAdmin, developers can enable powerful content management functionality for their web apps.
Save on cloud hosting solutions. We use Amazon Web Services as the primary service for hosting web projects we create. AWS offers flexible pricing, with each service priced a la carte. This means you pay only for the services you use. This makes a lot of sense for server infrastructure, as traffic is unpredictable.
Think in advance. When selecting technologies for your web app, think about how you’ll support the app in the long run. Support will be easier if the app has a good architecture and optimized code from the very beginning. Any unsolved problems will appear later on and cause even worse problems. Support and maintenance should be considered when choosing the tech stack, as their consideration will simplify updates even if you decide to change software development service providers.
At the end of the day, there are no universal solutions to web application development. Every web application demands a unique approach to its creation, including a custom technology stack.
Choose your technology stack wisely based on a careful evaluation of your project specifications, your team of developers, budget and terms, as well as your personal experience and skills.
If you’re looking to develop scalable and high performing web applications, talk to our team of expert developers. From ideation and design, to prototyping and market fit, we serve as your end to end technology partner and help your business stay ahead of the curve.