You might've heard of such concept in software development as "Tech Stack." Do you know what is it and how does it relate to your project?
Well, it actually IS your project - technology stack defines what tools are used to implement every element of your project, like the ingredients for a dish you're cooking.
Let's dive deeper into the definitions and advice on how to choose the ideal mix for your project.
Tech Stack is a set of tools that are used to construct and power an application. It consists of a combination of software applications, frameworks and programming languages that realize certain elements of the program.
In a way, app stack can be interpreted as a full package — a set of tools, the construction itself and the strings of its operation.
Structure-wise tech stack consists of two equal elements. One is frontend AKA client-side, the other is server-side AKA backend. Combined they create a stack.
The key thing to understand about backend tech stack that it is all about the intestines of an application. As such, the backend stack is required to operate smoothly, especially if your project has any features other than simple HTML-coded static pages.
Structure-wise, the backend side consists of the following elements:
- Frameworks (for example Ruby on Rails, Flask, Django)
- Databases (for example, MongoDB and MySQL)
- Server providers (Apache, Nginx, etc)
All of them are tied in a tight knot and do some synchronized swimming thing i.e. the operation.
Backend tech stack is bound by business logic. There must be no spare parts like “because it is a cool tool.” It is designed to provide an effective set of tools for operating an application. Also, you should consider the fact that it's rarely a good idea to choose a backend solution that is written in a programming language that only 5 people in the entire world understand. Once those people stop working on your project (the reasons might be different), you will face the situation when you'd have to rewrite your entire project from scratch.
The frontend is what the users see when they interact with the program, therefore the frontend stack primary concern is convenient user experience, accessible user interface, and clear internal structures.
Usually, there are two major elements in the frontend stack.
One of them (HTML) is responsible for the structuring and placement of the content. It covers the way content is organized and where exactly it is positioned on the page in whatever case. It is a backbone.
The other element (CSS) responsible for the representation of the content. It includes colors, fonts, background stuff, peculiarities of a layout, etc.
The strategic importance of the tech stack cannot be underestimated. The tools that are used to create a program define what the program will be. And if one or more of them is chosen without a thorough analysis — it may complicate the things along the way. (Hence, you should listen to your business analyst and developers who can advise which tools would work best.)
Most of the time, in the APP Solutions' experience, our clients did not have a specific tech stack they were looking for and we were free to advise and choose the ones we had the most experience with (or look for new technologies that would make the project do what's expected).
This works well if you are developing a product from scratch. If, however, you have an existing product already, it is a good thing to know what tools were used in the past and to adapt.
There are cases when the client wants a specific technology and that's fine as long as you have weighed all the pros and cons so that the project doesn't go awry.
Here’s the list of criteria that make an effective Tech Stack.
The most important thing in the construction of the tech stack for the project is a clear understanding of the expectations for the project. After that, tech stack documentation can be solidified.
For example, if you have a web application, there is one set of tools and frameworks that can be used. However, the technology stack for mobile application is completely different and requires a different approach. In addition, there is a distinct separation between the requirements for Android and iOS platforms.
Basically, the platform can be easily defined by the value proposition and the target audience. If the target audience is more active on mobile — you should focus on mobile. If there is a segment that might use it on a desktop — include that as an option too.
Targeting is an important thing to decide early on. The whole research on whether the project will be focused on one platform or it will be multi-platform might save a lot of time and resource in the long run.
However, when it comes to launching an MVP — it is better to go with the main platform only as developing additional version will be economically unjustified.
MVP is the most important thing in the mobile & web application development process of the product. As a bare-bones set of essential elements, MVP is specifically designed for an experimental proof of a viability and competitiveness of the product in the real market situation. Because of that, it is important to understand what matters to an app and what is just an evening gown.
MVP's requirements are a good starting point. You only need a certain set of tools to accomplish projected goals. The rest of the stack can grow out of it.
Another important thing is the long-term plan for growing the project. That must be built-in the configuration from the get-go, otherwise, it may cause some needless complications.
What is the role of the tech stack in the scalability of an application? It is a solid foundation. Sure, it can be tweaked here and there according to the performance results but there must something to improve upon.
It is important to understand that there are two types of scalability — vertical and horizontal.
- Vertical scalability means adding more elements to an application.
- Horizontal scalability means the capability of running on more devices.
Both are equally important to an efficient operation and growth of the product. For example, in the case of ecommerce technology stack scalability is a matter of retaining flexibility and prowess of the business operation.
Team expertise on a certain technology is one of the defining factors in the configuration of the tech stack. No matter how good, hot or preferred the technology is — it all comes to those who will use it.
In case the team can’t hold a firm grasp on a certain technology, there is no point in applying it, especially if there is a technology with which the team is more familiar with. Another way to solve this is to add a specialist to your developers' team who is proficient in the given tech (for example, you can outsource a team extension for such cases, so you don't lose time to look for a person for your in-house team.)
Process-wise, this means there must be an airtight collaboration between the client and the team (or project manager, depending on the scope of the project). It takes a fine look at the portfolio, hours upon hours of conversation and plain sober realization of one's capabilities to determine the best fitting configuration.
If anything, performance is something of a holy grail in the development process. It is something to be desired, something to strive for, something that is constantly eluding the hold. It is also the thing that really matters in the end.
The influence of the performance stats comes from two sources. One from the business requirement, the other is what the technology is capable of in the situation.
The thing is — the product might be really useful concept-wise, it might be oriented at the right audience, it even might look as Richard Branson, but if it is barely operating and crawls instead flying — what was the reason for all that?
Basically, performance requirements depend on how fast the system can react and how many requests the system can process at what rate.
The importance of maintaining strict performance requirements is especially visible in the process of Ad Tech Stack definition. Since the whole operation must react to thousands of events at millisecond speed - it makes sense to pick the most reliable option.
Performance is something of a voice of reason in the whole process of defining of the tech stack. If it ain’t work — move on to another option that will show better results. Usually, it takes a bit of comparison in order to determine the best fit.
The last but not the least thing that defines the tech stack is rather simple to describe — it is all about the money. Budgeting the tech stack is probably the trickiest thing in the entire development process.
Why? Well, software development is not exactly writing on a piece of paper with a pencil — it demands a significant financial resource in order to get the job done. There are:
- Hosting costs for keeping the product
- Developers' salaries
- Technology education & licensing costs
- Subsequent maintenance costs
The trick is to manage to balance things out, avoid bloating and overspending wherever possible. However, due to its open-ended nature and the fact that technologies are rapidly evolving — it is very hard to predict the exact costs of the whole affair.
While we do not recommend simply copying someone's tech stack blindly, sometimes it might be good to know what technological stack is used by similar services. We've collected several examples of the worldwide known services.
These are the essential things you need to know about Tech Stack as a concept and how it affects the development of the project and defines its future prospects.
With these tips, you will be able to navigate in the vast sea of options and don’t get caught in the shuffle and lose sight of your goals.