What could be the most difficult yet most important dilemma for any Software development company? Certainly, it is the decision to choose the right technology stack for web application development for its clients. This is because developing a software solution is only about creating a good looking user interface or an enhanced user experience; it is also about developing a secure, stable, easily maintainable, and robust product that will not only keep the end-user engaged and satisfied but also help us to scale it to the next level.
Here it is important to understand that as an enterprise owner, one can elaborate the business idea, define the product, its merits, and demerits, its pricing model, marketing strategy, etc. However, it is important to choose the right technologies to develop the software, as that’s the driving force for any proposed solution. Technology and tools can help us transition the business idea into a fully-fledged solution, it helps us to amalgamate the important features into the solution, which makes the overall process easy for the end-users.
In layman language, a technology stack is an amalgamation of different sorts of tools, languages, and frameworks, that can be used to bring your mobile or web applications to life. A typical mobile and web application consist of a backend (server-side) and frontend (client-side) component.
Every layer of an application is developed and operates on top of one another, which forms a technology stack. It is quite visible that web app stack technologies are dependent on each other and there is an interface between them. The above image shows how different technologies create the basic building blocks of a technology stack. Though, here it is important to know that we have several other associated components involved as well. Let us discuss the basic components of a technology stack in detail.
Table of Content
Frontend web development Tools
It is the most popular markup language used for creating the basic structure of web pages and describing how a web page can present information. We can use the latest version HTML 5, which comes with the latest attributes and elements for the development of web applications. It also offers support for audio and video, which was not available with previous HTML versions.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
It is the most used style sheet language, which is responsible for describing the information of formatting and looks of a web page and other components written in HTML Developers use it for embed tags and annotating text-styled documents. We can use CSS3 along with HTML5 to provide the best development experience. CSS3 also supports responsive design which allows different website elements to act and respond in a different manner when viewed on different devices like smartphones, tablets, or Desktops. CSS3 is consists of several individual modules, that make it easy to work and enhances its functionality. CSS3 also offers seamless support for 3D transformation, animations, and exceptional transitions.
Frontend frameworks are also known as CSS frameworks. These are standardized and prewritten code packages structured in files and folders. They offer web developers a pretested and functional code, which could be changed as per the project requirements. These frontend frameworks assist web developers to build the code rapidly, they can save time and effort as we do not need to write the programs from scratch.
As the name suggests, it performs activity offstage and obviously not visible to the end-users. The backend is a combination of a web server, a database, and a server-side application. We can say that it is the engine or the catalyst that drives the application and its inherent logic to perform the desired function. The web server is the most important component of the Backend, accepts the requests made by the end-user via browser, then processes these requests based on the given logic, and then presents the output to the end-user in the form of relevant content. Here we will look at all the Backend components and the relevant back-end technology stack.
A Backend application runs on the server and it listens to the requests sent by the end-user via the frontend interface. Based on the application logic, it retrieves required data from the database, then transmits the response to the frontend components. A server application could be written in several server-side languages available, which totally depends on the project requirement and complexity. We can utilize Node.js, Ruby, and Golang programming languages to write the backend application.
Typically, a Database is a collection of information, which is organized in a structured manner and could be accessed, viewed, managed, and updated at any point in time by the end user via an application interface. The database is an aggregation of data files or records. These records could be information about several entities, transaction details, inventories, images, demographic details, and customer information as well. The database is the backbone of any web application as it contains the information which is requested by the end-user and upon a transaction, it is the database that records the new set of information.
Currently, we have several popular databases used for web applications.
This is among the most popular databases in the market. It is specifically designed for web development purposes only. It provides unmatched scalability along with exceptionally high performance, and that makes it the best bet for highly scaled web applications that offer massive multi-row transactions, like online retail or a banking application.
This database is known for its unmatched ability to support highly scaled and robust applications used for the manufacturing, financial, research, and banking domain. PostgreSQL offers an excellent analytical capability along with its extremely powerful SQL engine, which enables it to process massive datasets with ease.
It is an open-source, freely available, and in-memory data structure store. It can be used as a database, message broker, and cache. It is popular for its exceptional and industry-leading sub-millisecond response time, which helps applications process millions of requests in a second. This exceptional processing power makes it the first choice for real-time applications, mission-critical applications, high-reliability organizations like healthcare and military, and IoT.
This is another massively popular database for its numerous abilities and features. It offers a document-based data model and it comes with class-leading calculation and analytical capabilities, which makes it the best bet for financial, research, banking, and geospatial transactions. MongoDB is also used for e-commerce, gaming applications, and scale enterprise applications.
It is sometimes dubbed as ES as well, which is an Apache Lucene-based search and analytics engine. It is a document-based tool, that is used for data storage and retrieval in a rapid manner. We can use ES in environments where exceptionally quick search results are required for the end-user.
Application Programming Interfaces (API)
An API (Application Programming Interface) is an important component that establishes an active connection between a client and the server. An end-user can make a request via an API, that pulls the data from the server and then transfer the processed information back to the end-user and make necessary amendments in the database.
A Web application is a combination of multiple services, that completely rely on several interconnected Application Programming Interfaces. It is important to test and integrate the APIs properly with the application, as a failure of any API may fail the application.
In a traditional development process, the written code needs to be placed at a server once the initial program is ready, and for that, we have to set up a Server. This is where Server architecture comes into the picture, currently, we have multiple types of server architectures in the market. We have architecture available where the entire environment functions on a single server setup with a dedicated DBMS. We may also have an architecture that is created with the help of distributed and scaled Server setup, that may be spread across geographical areas with multiple DBMS servers associated. We can choose the server architecture based on several factors like scalability, reliability, performance, availability, management efforts, and cost of operation.
We can use Cloud-based computing architecture to host our web projects and applications, as they provide unbelievable reliability, flexibility, and security. Currently, we have multiple cloud vendors like Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure, Google’s GCP (Google Cloud Platform), and several others, which can help us host the application on their cloud infrastructure.
We can use DevOps as a managed service, that executes applications in the cloud, as this practice ensures high speed of operations and development process. We can utilize Nginx, which is an extremely powerful web server, that allows setting up load balancing, reverse proxies, and many more amazing features. We can also set up Continuous Integration (CI)/Continuous Deployment (CD) pipeline for applications. CI (Continuous integration) ensures that developers can keep their focus on continuous development, add and update the code at any point in time and perform synchronous testing. Whereas CD (Continuous deployment) remains responsible for delivering the code to the application server.
GitLab can be used for CI/CD functions, which is a simple application used for the DevOps lifecycle, which stores all the written code. We can also utilize the GitLab CI service, which helps developers to build and tests the application program when the code is moved to the repository.
The Most Popular Technology Stack Models
We have covered the basics of a Technology stack, now it is time to move ahead and explore the most popular Technology Stack available in the market. All these stacks offer different combinations of technology, tools, and framework, that can be selected by developers to build a software product based on the client’s requirements.
Here, we would like to add that we do not need to develop a new stack model, we can choose the old stacks developed years ago. The components of these stacks are being updated on regular basis, though the basic principles and concepts remain the same. The major advantage of using an existing stack is the availability of a knowledge base and dedicated developer communities around them, which can help us find the solution to complex developmental problems at a later stage.
Here we have the list of most popular Technology Stacks
This stack consists of the Linux operating system, Apache HTTP server, MySQL RDBMS, and PHP programming language. Here Python or Perl can also be used.
It is the most basic web application technology stack available for many years, it is unarguably the most used stack globally. Al the components of this stack are open source and freely available, hence it helps us keep the cost in check.
The LAMP stack works really well for the development of dynamic and scaled websites and web applications. LAMP also offers highly interchangeable components and it allows developers to integrate other 3rd party components into the existing system. For example, the WAMP (Microsoft) and MAMP (Apple iOS) can be adopted and integrated with existing components of LAMP.
MEAN allows JSON for data transfer and free access to the module library, which helps developers to build highly scalable and agile software products. We can develop highly dynamic websites and web applications using MEAN stack components.
It consists of MongoDB NoSQL DBMS, Express.js web application development framework, React library, Node.js runtime environment. MERN technology stack is quite similar to the MEAN stack, except for a vital difference, that is the use of React.js library, which replaces Angular.js (in MEAN stack) for frontend and user interface development. React is smaller in size and more convenient and flexible than Angular, and that is the basic reason for the growing popularity of the MERN stack in recent times.
The components of the MERN stack are also open source and freely available, which makes it a cost-effective solution. MERN also offers React building block integration, which enables developers to use code on browsers and servers at the same time. MERN also offers MVC architecture support, full-cycle development options for both front-end and back-end), testing tool integration ability, and an exceptional and feature-rich library. MERN is known for its high degree of flexibility and scalability, which helps developers to create complicated web applications.
This stack is a combination of Python programming language, Apache web server, and MySQL DBMS. This framework was developed for those who prefer a readable and robust Python as a primary programming language. Python helps developers to speed up the overall software development process. It also offers inbuilt SQL injection protection and Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) protection.
However, it is recommended to have an optimized server architecture in place, else the websites and web applications developed using Django may perform inferiorly.
The .NET stack offers an unbelievable level of interoperability and portability across several languages and platforms. This enables the developers to implement their existing knowledge and approaches for solution development. .Net stack also offers class-leading hacker protection abilities and it does not compromise at performance front.
Ruby on Rails
It is an MVC (Model–View–Controller) server-end web app framework in Ruby language. It is a programming environment developed to simplify the overall web application development process. This framework is written in Ruby language and thus it requires less knowledge to work with, as it enables developers to use existing structures for web pages, web apps, and database arrangement.
Factors to keep in mind while choosing a Technology Stack
Now, this is an important aspect, we should keep multiple factors in mind while choosing the right technology stack for our project. While selecting the components of the technology stack, we must conduct a fair analysis of the proposed web application based on the given parameters and criteria, as this will help us to zeroed on the best contender. Always consider the current web application development technologies, tools, and frameworks that could be used in different pairs, and it is important to decide the programming language first.
Here are a few factors, that we must consider before making the final decision.
Well, these are the basic criteria to choose the technology stack. We can classify the projects based on their size and complexity. It is a known fact that the complexity of a project is directly proportional to its size. We can classify our project per below mentioned three basic categories:
Small-sized projects –
These are simple projects, like single-page sites, single-page applications, digital portfolios, dynamic presentations, and small web-based software, that can be executed via design tools like Webflow and Readymag.
Medium-sized projects –
These are projects which demand a complex technology stack with multiple layers of technologies and tools with multiple programming languages, as such projects offer better features and complex functions. Financial application scaled enterprise applications or financial applications can be clubbed under this category of projects. Such projects also require a higher degree of cross-platform integrations ability as these projects involve multiple complex systems.
Large projects –
Large scale online marketplaces, Social networks could be considered as large projects, that demand more speed, scalability, robustness, and serviceability. These projects generally demand the involvement of a complex amalgamation of programming languages, tools, instruments, and technologies to develop highly scaled web applications. While choosing the technology stack for large projects we must assess and consider both non-functional and functional requirements of the system.
Time to market capability –
This is an important factor for any product’s success. It is critical to develop the product and launch an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) as quickly as possible. We may use the off-the-shelf solutions, which will certainly help us reduce the time spent in overall solution development and its entry into the market. For example, we can use Ruby on Rails, which ensures direct access to a vast set of libraries, which will help us saving significant development time.
Third-party integration abilities –
As we suggested earlier, we must use 3rd party components to reduce the overall development process, hence it is important to have a stack that offers seamless 3rd party integration capabilities. We can integrate 3rd party components to add extra functionality without coding them from the scratch. Apart from that, it is also advised to choose the popular technology stack, which will also save our effort and time to hire developers.
Every application is made with an objective of scalability in the future, as everyone wants that more people use their applications and services in the future. Hence while planning to choose a Technology stack, we must assess the scalability potential and ability of that Tech stack to ensure we will not be facing any sort of challenges in the future.
Also, the technology stack must offer the ability to scale both horizontally and vertically. We should be able to add additional logic and code to fulfill a new set of tasks in the future, add computing power or database at any point in time. For example, Node.js, React, Ruby on Rails, and Golang offer excellent scalability and should be selected for application development.
In today’s world, security is the prime concern for any application user, hence it is important to have adequate security in place for better prospects of our application. For example, if we are developing an application for the healthcare domain, then we must ensure it complies with available security compliance parameters and standards. The same goes for financial and banking applications, that demand a different set of security protocols and frameworks.
How to select the best Technology Stack?
We have explored the Technology stack and have covered the factors to consider before choosing an appropriate Technology stack for our software product. Now we will cover certain aspects that need to be considered while selecting a technology stack. It is important to consider these factors as there are certain pitfalls that may expose our project to commercial risks and failures. Hereby, we recommend you to not rely on the following factors while choosing the technology stack.
Dependence on Online reviews and research
A technology development stack can have different forms and combinations and they are developed for a specific purpose and objective. However, we have a couple of technology stacks, and we may have thousands of reviews on each of them. Certainly, we may have different pros and cons regarding any specific technology stack, and we must never rely ‘only’ on online reviews and research for making a selection of technology stack. We must always engage with our developers and team to assess the choice based on their experience and have practical knowledge of a specific technology.
Experience from Previous projects
Normally people prefer to take leverage of their previous projects and experience, which they may have used in their previous project. However, with time these technology stacks have been changed a lot, as far as their features and capability is concerned. Hence, here the right approach is not to rely on previous project experience but involve technology specialists who have a constant eye on recent changes in stacks and their component updates.
Dynamic Project requirements
Project objectives and requirements are also quite dynamic and complex these days. To offer a class-leading solution, we must involve the technology experts to work on neoteric solutions. We must invest some time and effort in the assessment of technology changes and follow a practical approach while choosing the technology stack and we must ensure that project requirements should be aligned with the technology changes happening in the world.
This is considered a safe strategy to observe your competitors move and learn from their experiences. Usually, we may observe and assess the challenges our competitors may have experienced during their product development. We may observe their challenges with the software development process, marketing strategy, product modernization, and monetization policies, as these are often considered as helpful. However, we would recommend you refrain from any such tactic, as your competitor might have chosen their technology stack under certain circumstances, which may not be applicable in our case. In such a scenario if we replicate the strategy of our competitor, then it may lead to a massive failure for us.
Rely on Personal preferences
In some of the cases, an organization selects the technology stack based on the personal preferences of their CTOs and other Senior Leaders. However, we would recommend having a consensus of technical experts and developers, rather than rely on the personal preference of a specific person of your organization. We must engage Technology experts to choose the right tech stack based on their scalability, cost, flexibility, security, complexity, and ease of use.
Web application development is growing like anything and the future is quite vibrant. For any web application development company, it is extremely important to choose the right set of technology to develop custom solutions for their clients. It is important to ensure the application must use flexible and robust architecture which could be optimized at any point in the future.
Different web applications can use a different set of development tools and technologies, based on their objectives and features. To fulfill all those objectives and visions, we must choose the right set of tools and frameworks while keeping in mind the specifics of the proposed project. We also consider the maintenance and support factor while choosing the technology stacks, as this helps the web application users in long run.
Rahul Mathur is the founder and managing director of ARKA Softwares, a company renowned for its outstanding mobile app development and web development solutions. Delivering high-end modern solutions all over the globe, Rahul takes pleasure in sharing his experiences and views on the latest technological trends.