Choosing a technology stack for a website, mobile app, or any type of software isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.
It serves as a foundation for tailoring the product to meet your customers’ needs, improving its performance, and achieving business objectives that matter to your company.
A tech stack, also referred to as the solutions stack, refers to the suite of technologies a development team uses to build an application. It consists of elements such as the web server, operating system, database, programming language, and frameworks, among many others.
These components are categorized as either frontend or backend. The frontend or client-side technologies power what users see on the website, while the backend or server-side technologies support the inner workings of the app.
In this article, we’ll be going through the key factors to consider to help you choose the best technology stack for websites. We’ll also point out some languages, frameworks, and other technologies that you should think about when building your next web app.
Why is choosing a tech stack important?
Choosing the best technology for a website is one of the most important decisions when building a digital product. Each individual technology you choose contributes to the quality of your web app. A tech stack that isn’t suitable for your project will likely have an adverse impact on how it delivers value to your customers.
Your technology choices will have an immediate and long-term impact on:
- How users experience your app
- Its speed and performance
- The capacity of your infrastructure and server systems
- The scalability of the product (and in effect, the scalability of your business)
- The security and privacy of user data
- The cost of building the product
- Project timelines and speed to market
Reassessing your technology stack in the middle of development or even after product launch isn’t as simple as a small iteration merely requiring some tweaks here and there.
Realizing you’ve made an error on the technologies you’ve chosen has a consequential impact that could be expensive and timely to fix. To avoid this, here are the key factors to heavily consider when choosing a web stack for your website.
Purpose of the app
While choosing the technology for your app is one of the earliest decisions you’ll have to make, keep in mind that product development doesn’t begin with the solution, but rather with the problems you want to solve.
What will your product need to deliver to your customers to solve their problems? What’s the purpose of your app? What are the features and functionalities that can best deliver this value? The tech stack will follow from these requirements. The technologies should ultimately flow from the product idea that best serves the user.
It’s also important to recognize the industry you’re going into because your competitors can serve as benchmarks on both the business technology side.
While not an exhaustive list, some of the most used web and mobile apps today belong to these categories:
- Fintech (e.g. mobile wallets, banking, investments, crypto)
- Retail and eCommerce (e.g. online shopping, marketplaces, virtual try-on)
- Healthcare (e.g. telemedicine, mental health, medical records)
- Education (e.g. languages, university courses, student management)
- Utility (e.g. calculators, weather, reminders)
- Information, media, and entertainment (e.g. news, tourism guides, video streaming)
- Social media
- Messaging and communication
What sector or industry does your product belong to? Which apps out there are your product competing with? Is there something you can learn from the technology choices they’ve made?
Another key business decision you’ll have to make is the type of app best suited for your product idea. Is it a mobile, web, or desktop app (or a combination of these)? This business decision branches into a variety of technical decisions you’ll have to make next. For instance, mobile and desktop applications require different frameworks and narrows the solutions you can choose from.
Some of the most popular mobile frameworks today include React Native and Flutter. Your stack will also depend on whether you want to build a native or cross-platform mobile app. For desktop applications, you may consider Electron JS (node.js-based) or Swing (Java-based).
If you want machine learning elements in your app, consider Python for your tech stack. Python has an extensive selection of libraries and frameworks specific to machine learning, which simplify complicated algorithms and can help shorten development time. Some examples of these frameworks include Pytorch, Tensorflow and or Azure ML.
In addition, the simplicity and readability of Python’s syntax allows for quick testing of complex algorithms, while also making the language accessible to non-programmers.
You may also want to consider Java if application performance is a key priority. While Java is recognized as a standard in enterprise computing, it can also be used in a wide range of digital products, such as web apps, desktop apps, and other types of custom software. It’s a preferred programming language when it comes to applications that require high memory, have a big number of users, and other factors that influence speed and performance.Building the fintech platform that revolutionizes private equity.
Size and complexity of the app
Let’s say that you’ve decided on developing a weight loss app. If it only collects the users’ weight across time and provides basic analysis and recommendations, then the app would rather be a simple one.
However, if you want to offer a suite of offerings such as meal and workout planning, real-time chat with a nutritionist or dietician, the ability to view your friends’ progress, and payments for a variety of in-app services, then these would make your project way more complex.
The tech stack also depends on an app’s size and complexity. The stack for the more complex weight loss app would likely be different from the simpler one. It’s also not just about the additional features but how complex they are, and the level of effort and resources required to build them.
To be clear, any feature can be as simple or as complex as the business wants it to be. For instance, a user dashboard could be as basic as one that displays a couple of data points, or it could be as complex as enterprise-grade control panels. When creating a plan for your app, be aware of how complex you want each and every feature to be.
|Simple features||Mid-level features||Complex features|
If you already know that your website or mobile app will be relatively small or simple, then choose a framework that provides a lot of ready-made solutions like Symfony or one that’s known for rapid application development such as Ruby on Rails.
With bigger projects, pay more attention to performance, scalability, ease of maintenance, and the likelihood of introducing new features. You’ll inevitably have to consider looking into cloud solutions like AWS or Azure known for providing an infrastructure suitable for big and complex applications.
Furthermore, it’s important to acknowledge the dynamic nature of product development. You may have set on a certain path, but your validation, user testing, and iteration may lead you into another. For example, when building towards a prototype or MVP, you may have used a particular microframework that may not reflect the needs of the end product.
After assessing feedback from a representative set of test users, you shouldn’t be afraid to pivot to another solution realizing that the size and complexity requires a different set of technologies for your technology stack. While this might set you back, both in time and resources, it’s ideal to adapt to what suits your project best as early as possible.
There’s no technology that guarantees absolute protection from data leaks, malicious attacks, and other forms of security and privacy risks. However, this shouldn’t excuse you from being discerning about the technologies and practices that protect users and their data as best as possible.
When it comes to selecting frameworks, choose those that regularly provide updates and additional support. For example, React and Ruby on Rails usually release new versions every few months. Further, the technology stack will also determine the setup of security tools that your development and security team will apply to the project, such as static vulnerability analysis tools (SAST), vulnerability scanners, containers analysis, and dependency analyzers, among others.
Creating improved tools for healthcare professionals, clinics and governmental organisations
However, the technologies you use for your project is just one consideration, albeit a critical one, when it comes to privacy and security. There are other security standards and best practices that businesses must pay attention to, such as the capability of your security specialists, testing and auditing, and practices in DevSecOps. Further, you must incorporate legal compliance such as GDPR and HIPAA depending on the jurisdiction.
Budget and resource constraints
Businesses generally spend the most on talent that constitutes a development team. Nevertheless, budget and resource constraints also influence the technologies you choose that go into your tech stack. Frameworks and languages that are easy to learn and recognized for rapid development are the most cost-effective ones.
Language popularity plays a big role in the ability to assemble a competent development team. The more popular a language is, the easier it is to hire because of a wider talent pool.
You can also save some money by using cloud services such as AWS or Azure as you no longer have to set up and maintain your own server. They also offer databases (e.g. DynamoDB, Azure Cosmos DB, and others) that are relatively affordable.
Popular tech stacks for website development
While businesses can certainly tailor their technology stack to their unique requirements, there are bundles or combinations popular with developers. The technology stacks below have a wide pool of specialists capable not only in the individual technologies but also how they work together within these stacks.
|The LAMP stack||
|The MEAN stack||
|The MERN stack||
|The MEVN stack||
|Python - Django||
Proper planning for your tech stack is key
Choosing the best technology stack for websites is a delicate process with a myriad of factors to consider. There are already a number of proven options and combinations to consider, but it's important to plan thoroughly and ahead of time. This can help your team be more efficient on spending on resources and meet project timelines.
While your in-house team can handpick the individual technologies for your app, you may also want to engage an external team of experts who can help your company on the business and technical decisions you’ll have to make for your product.