When developing an application, a major factor in your app's success is your choice of tech stack and how you plan to use it for the growth of both the product and your organization. Your tech stack has a large impact on scalability, and a poor choice can needlessly increase your costs or constrain development down the line.

In this post, we are going to explore how to choose a tech stack and which major factors to consider for long-term success on a given stack.

Tech stack as a growth factor

The term "tech stack" is used for both mobile and web applications. It is defined as the combination of different technologies, frameworks, and digital tools that can be used together. A thoughtfully assembled tech stack enables you to build efficient applications in terms of requirements, scalability, maintenance, and security.

A typical tech stack includes the frontend of an app (the client-side or the user interface of the app), a backend (the server-side) to make requests and handle responses to the database, and other optional digital tools and frameworks. The optional tools may include third-party integrations, CI/CD infrastructure, or an image or a video hosting service.

Frontend technologies are responsible for handling everything related to how a user sees and interacts with the app. It is important to note that an app's frontend should be configurable, should be optimized as per the app requirements, and should be able to handle operations through interactions.

Backend technologies manage and store the data required by the app's frontend. The backend is also where key security decisions are made regarding user permissions and data storage.

A tech stack is the foundation of an application as well as a business. It is what a developer or a team of developers uses to build the whole architecture of the application.

Your tech stack can also prove to be key factor for the growth of your business. For example, if you primarily do business as a software agency, it is only possible to build a product that supports low code or build white label apps if you select a tech stack that supports these goals. In other words, it's important to know how you intend to grow your business so that you do not choose a tech stack that will constrain or prevent that growth strategy.

Overall a tech stack includes:

  • Programming languages (such as Python or JavaScript)
  • Frameworks (for example, Ruby on Rails, Django, or React Native)
  • Databases (for example, MongoDB or MySQL)
  • Server providers (for example, Apache, Nginx, AWS, Google Cloud Platform Services)

How to choose a tech stack

When it comes to choosing a tech stack, it is important to consider the size and purpose of the application to be built. The complexity of a tech stack is directly proportional to the size of the application project. If the size of an app is large, then the tech stack used to build in that app could be complex in terms of architecture.

A large app is generally required to manage a vast amount of data. In this particular scenario, it's likely that your tech stack is going to have multiple levels of frameworks and digital tools.

For a small or a medium-sized project, it is most important to consider whether the tech stack you are considering is scalable and maintainable or not. At the initial release of the application, there might not be a large amount of data to deal with. However, if an application grows–for example, by adding more users–a tech stack should either be capable of absorbing new users on its own or flexible enough that you can add on any other digital tool or a framework.

There are a few other factors that you should consider when choosing a tech stack:

Go with what you know

It is necessary to use a tech stack that your development team is familiar with. Using experienced developers who are working with a set of technology they are familiar with is going to reduce the potential cost of time and effort needed to build an app. You should not choose a new programming language or a framework just for the sake of the "new" technology.

Take advantage of modern tech

At the same time, do not give preference to outdated and ineffective technologies. You might find efficient people to work with older technologies. However, this particular scenario comes with a cost by making it harder to maintain a project and or integrate with other tools.

Consider scalability at the architectural level

The architecture of the application should be scalable, as this determines whether the app can handle the load of an increase in the number of app users or not. Your tech stack should enable the app to absorb your planned growth. For scalability, it is better to use programming languages and tech stacks that are popular, such as JavaScript or Python. Such languages are flexible and have huge community support.

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Vet your cloud hosting

Scalability also depends on the cloud servers that you use to host your product. When including a cloud server provider in your tech stack, ensure that it is capable of handling reverse proxies, load balancing, multi-tenancy support, and other crucial scaling processes. Overall, a server provider should provide an environment that ensures stable uptime and on-demand provisioning of hosting resources. This detail is particularly crucial if you have a dedicated DevOps team, as they can leverage cloud services for optimal performance.

Plan for regular maintenance

Maintainability is another major factor when it comes to choosing a tech stack. Your programming language affects the codebase of the app, its architecture, and, by extension, your maintenance costs. To avoid potential costs related to app maintenance, using open source technologies is a great choice. Open-source technology often follows reusability principles that help the tech stack to remain dynamic, flexible, scalable, and maintainable.

Third-party compatibility

Compatibility with other tools and services is another great point to consider when choosing a tech stack. When building an app, often you will find yourself using additional tools that can play a key role in your product, and you'll want to directly access their features within your own product.

For example, when on a low budget or tight time frame, using an image hosting service for the images in your app could be beneficial. However, if the support for a specific image hosting service is not available as an SDK (Software Development Kit) in a programming language that your tech stack relies on, then it will eliminate that service as an option. This is why popular or open-source programming languages are always a better choice.

Long-term security

Secured apps bring sustainability to a tech company. They generate a consumer's trust in the company itself. The consumer always wants to be sure that their personal data is safe. When architecting a tech stack, keep in mind that your set of technologies should be configurable enough to evolve with changing security demands.

Affordability ensures scalability

The potential cost of developing an application is also a factor to consider. Your cost increases when you deviate from best practices or neglect to adopt tools that enhance the developer experience. For example, using a continuous integration and deployment pipeline makes continuous development, codebase refactoring, and synchronous testing possible. All of these practices product time and cost savings.

Scalable Tech Stacks to Choose From

In the competitive world of software development, it's best not to reinvent the wheel. There are a few tech common tech stacks that should fit your needs with only a few minor tweaks. An advantage of using a well-known tech stack is the community support that stack has gathered over the years. This is quite helpful for developers when they're searching for solutions to problematic issues.

Choosing a tech stack or shifting to one described below is going to reduce your potential development costs and simplify your developers' lives. When assessing a given stack, look for the following critical factors:

  • Open-source technologies
  • Huge community support for problematic issues
  • Flexible enough that popular third party services provide SDKs
  • Ease of hiring a knowledgeable and experienced team
  • Compatibility between different set of tools

Though we have discussed a majority of these points in the previous section and how they affect a tech stack, below you are going to find a list of stacks that check all of these boxes.

MEAN Stack

MEAN Stack is a JavaScript-based set of technologies that are used to develop web applications. Using one programming language across the entire development stack has the advantage of less context switching, which improves teamwork, simplifies the process of development, and speeds up production. It includes:

  • Angular on the frontend
  • Node.js/Express.js for the backend
  • MongoDB as the database

A strong advantage of MEAN is that all of the technologies is it is composed of are open-source. If you encounter a problem during development, you can always count on community support.

MERN Stack

MERN Stack is another open-source collection of technologies that use JavaScript as the programming language. It includes:

  • Reactjs on the frontend
  • Node.js/Expressjs for the backend
  • MongoDB as the database

Given how vast and rich the React ecosystem is, the MERN stack provides greater flexibility and ease of use compared to using Angular on the front end. It is also easy to find and hire capable frontend developers and full-stack developers who use these technologies.

RAD Stack

This popular tech stack is used by companies such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Spotify. It is based on React Native and Django, or as we like to call it, RAD Stack. It includes:

  • React Native on the frontend
  • Django as the backend framework
  • A configurable layer of APIs for cloud services
  • PostgreSQL for the database

React Native enables you to build frontends only once, then release for Android and iOS. And with new technology like React Native for Web (used by Twitter), and React Native for Windows (from Microsoft), you can use the same frontend components that you’ve built simultaneously on the web and on desktop.

Django is a proven framework that provides high security for APIs, including a broad class of cross-site scripting and SQL injection attacks.

Both are open-source frameworks and both come with a large ecosystem of vetted, open-source libraries. RAD stack's API layer enables your app to access data and third-party services through a single interface. This stack is well tested by our team of developers in healthcare, finance, business intelligence, and technology contexts. This approach simplifies communication between systems, provides greater scalability, and eliminates the cost of adding new services.

Conclusion

At Crowdbotics, we have a strong preference for RAD stack when it comes to building apps with cloud hosting and automated DevOps (both of which are built into our Crowdbotics App Building Tool). Our preference is based on the factors described in this article.

When advising clients, we always recommend prioritizing scalability and simple codebase maintenance. That said, we do offer managed application development to suit a wide range of use cases. Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help you optimize your tech stack.