What Is a Tech Stack and Why Do I Need One?
A tech stack is a top-down combination of programming software, front-end and back-end tools, and frameworks that are used to create web, desktop and mobile applications. The end-product application consists of the front end, or the client side, and the back end, or the server side.
It is easy to visualize a normal stack, an arrangement of something in top-down layers, with the layer at the bottom being big or strong enough to carry the weight of the whole stack. A technology stack works in pretty much the same way. Code and hardware modules help to merge software applications to form layers. The different layers or components provide different functionality for the complete application stack.
When it comes to web development, tech stacks are a dime a dozen. The entrepreneur who wishes to develop new software or a minimum viable product (MVP) is inundated with choice – they have a multitude of tech stacks to choose from. For small businesses and those who are just starting out, choosing the right tech stack is crucial to their ability to place an MVP into the hands of customers.
Therefore, the selection of the tech stack that will power your application isn't a child's play and shouldn't be treated as one. Founders who come from a non-technical background might just be overwhelmed by the options on offer. However, by knowing what to look out for while mulling over your decision, you can quickly narrow things down to a manageable set of technology choices.
Why Do I Need a Tech Stack?
If you're the brains behind the business operation rather than a developer, it might be intimidating just thinking about things like tech stacks. You might even wonder why you even need to bother about it. After all, one tech stack is as good as another, right? Why not leave these things to the developers you hired to do the job?
Not so fast, boss. You see, the type of tech stack you choose can have a big effect on app behavior. Using a particular server system rather than another can have an impact on how efficient your finished product turns out to be now and in the future. If you create cloud-based software but utilize a server system that favors local-based storage, the consequences might prove disastrous.
Another reason you need a tech stack that works for you is scalability. A stack that allows you the flexibility to scale the operation based on current trends is better than a rigid stack that leaves you with few choices apart from dismantling the whole structure and starting all over again.
For these reasons, it is better to accustom yourself to the strengths and weaknesses of each stack category so you can make the correct choices for your operation.
How to Choose a Tech Stack
For entrepreneurs with a non-technical background, web development technology might prove a headache. Most just want to get their ideas transformed into the finished product and are willing to grab the nearest developer to make this happen.
However, the developer's expertise must be tempered with the founder's business acumen. Many developers tend to favor certain tech tools over others purely for personal reasons rather than business needs.
Thus, as a founder, getting a tech stack crash course presented in this guide isn't a bad idea. You will be able to evaluate different technology options and zero in on the perfect combination for your business ideas.
Factors in Choosing a Tech Stack
Because there are many types and combinations of tech stacks, the one to go for depends on several factors. Here are some broad guidelines that will give you a better idea of which technology stacks are suitable for your business plan.
- Type and Size of Project
Some tech stack components are suitable for small-scale projects but won't work for complex applications. The type of stack you choose should, therefore, be based on the type of project or product you wish to create.
For small projects that need to be delivered within a strict timeline, simple tech software like CMS and WordPress can be considered.
For mid-range projects, you need more complex programming languages and technology to accommodate more functionality and integrations across multiple platforms. Java and C# are popular for projects that involve building apps for banks, the government and eCommerce sites.
Large projects need yet more complex technology to support them. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter obviously couldn't have been created without complex tech stacks. Marketplaces like Amazon and eBay and giant streaming sites like YouTube and Netflix obviously required the use of programming languages and web technology that could support their existence.
After you present your business plan, your developer team should be able to choose the right technology based on the size and type of the project.
- Team Expertise
Which brings us nicely to team expertise. It is a fact of life that most professionals belong to certain schools of thought or practice within their industries and are accustomed to using some tools rather than others. Therefore, if there are competing technologies for a particular task, the makeup of your development team will play a role in which tech is eventually used.
Moreover, the level of industry expertise in the tech stack you want to use should be a factor. Imagine that some members of your team suddenly left; being able to find experienced replacements would be important since the software needs to be maintained after launch.
You can use sites like Github and Stackoverflow to monitor the developer community for different programming languages. It is better to settle for a programming language with a huge developer community and rich documentation. Moreover, you can take intensive courses to leverage your practical skills via coding bootcamps.
- Time to Market (TTM)
In most cases, there is a direct correlation between product development time and cost. The less time is taken from conceptualization to product creation, the cheaper it usually is. Hiring the best developers will obviously speed up things, but you should also consider the Time to Market factor. Once you have set a tentative launch date, you should choose a tech stack that can help you finish the app within the allotted time.
For example, if your software relies on third-party integrations, it is better to use a tech stack that lets your product seamlessly integrate with other apps across a wide range of fields. At the very least, it will save time and costs that would have otherwise been spent on adding some of those features to your own app.
If your app is a roaring success, it is going to experience a lot of use. You should have scalability in mind when choosing a tech stack. Scalability allows you to expand the capability of the application or website to handle work.
You must think of both horizontal scalability and vertical scalability. Horizontal scalability involves the ability to add more servers to run the software. As the app witnesses more traffic influx, adding more servers ensures that the app doesn't experience a crash or significant slowdown.
Vertical scaling, meanwhile, occurs when you add more programs and software to process new data. With vertical scaling, you increase what the application can do. When used in combination, vertical scaling and horizontal scaling, therefore, increase both an app's functionality and its traffic-handling capacity.
However, to minimize costs and risks and maximize returns, use your Minimum Viable Product as the starting point when assembling your development team. Choose a tech stack that gives room for scalability if needed, and you will be able to grow both horizontally and vertically.
It is best to choose a programming language that uses short code that can be easily maintained and reused. Long, complicated code makes it a chore to maintain the software or search for bugs. Also, a software architecture that supports scalability, reusability and portability should be prized over a rigid architecture in most cases.
- Development Costs
It is important to have an idea of how much you are willing and able to spend on the project and make decisions about development personnel and infrastructure based on your budget. You can plump for free and open-source tools to reduce costs, although you might have to pay for advanced features. Moreover, you need to factor in possible license fees for technology stacks into your calculations as many of them can only be used with a license.
The developers likely won't come cheap either, especially if you go for the veteran heads with years of coding and web development behind them. You might even have to outsource some aspects of the work to freelance professionals.
Not to mention, there can be unforeseen costs that can increase the overall budget needed to complete the project. You can cut down on costs and maximize efficiency during work hours by using Traqq, an efficient task-monitoring tool, to track the activities of your development team throughout the project.
Components of a Tech Stack
We noted earlier how a tech stack consists of multiple components. At a minimum, a tech stack is made up of the front end and back end.
Front-End Tech Stack
The front end is the part of an app that the user sees and interacts with. The front end of the Facebook app, for example, is the Newsfeed, from which the user can access numerous buttons, links and toggles.
The user can interact with an app's front end through a desktop app, a mobile app, or a web browser. Irrespective of the platform of interaction, the front end is where the battle to attract users is won or lost.
The front end for the web version of apps consists of
HTML — the markup language
CSS — the stylesheet
For the mobile version, the front end uses Objective-C/SWIFT or Java to write an app for iOS or Android.
Your decision at this stage should be influenced by the habits of your target user base. Whether they are more likely to utilize your product on their phones or while sitting behind a computer should help you decide whether to go for a mobile-first, mobile-later, or mobile-only design.
Back-End Tech Stack
Apart from a mobile, standalone app, basically, every tech system utilizes some kind of backend infrastructure. Without a back end that controls things, most apps and software won't be able to run.
Server-side software or backend services manifest themselves as different things depending on the app or service. Huge networking sites like Facebook and search engines like Google ultimately have their backend servers in huge data centers across the globe. Back ends can act as remote storage, gather diagnostic information or push updates.
Unless you have unlimited resources at your disposal, it is recommended to use a popular cloud provider like Google, AWS or Azure to host your backend system. Trust us, it is much cheaper, better and safer than trying to run a data center yourself.
- Backend Stack
Examples of backend stacks are:
- LAMP, consisting of Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP
- MEAN, consisting of MongoDB, Express.js, Angular.js, and Node.js
You don't need to develop your software yourself, especially if you are a non-technical person. You do, however, need to do some thinking about the kind of tech stack that will give you what you need. This guide presents an overview of what to look for, and you can talk with your developers to make sure the right decision gets made. You need to think about the scalability, flexibility and maintainability of the app. You also need to balance the books. After all, you can't blow all your budget purely on app development. The wages of developers and other contract workers are an important aspect of this. To eliminate leakage, you can use Traqq to keep track of work done on your project. Finally, make sure the team you assembled and the product they are going to develop align with your broader business goals.