Choosing the right tech stack is one of the most critical decisions for a startup founder. A tech stack is a set of technologies stacked together to build an application. It determines the type of applications you can create, the level of customizations you can perform, and the resources you need to develop your application. The choice of the tech stack can make or break the product's success and, as a result, the business's overall success. There can be several reasonable solutions for the same product. Still, when making a final choice, it is vital to keep in mind that the primary purpose is to create a product that's not only modern looking but also stable, reliable, and maintainable.
Most tech stacks combine front-end (the client side) and backend technologies (the server side). Client-side tech stacks can also be grouped into web and mobile tech stacks.
FRONT-END TECH STACK
The front end is the client's side interface, which can be a web browser or mobile phone screen that enables the user to interact with the app.
WEB TECH STACK
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) defines the web page's structure, i.e., how the information is displayed to a user in a web browser. For instance, structure sections, bulleted points, headings, tables, links, and paragraphs are created using HTML tags. HTML5 is the latest version of the Hypertext Markup Language used to structure and present website content.
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a style sheet language used for describing the presentation of a document written in a markup language such as HTML or XML. It defines all the styling of the displayed data by controlling layouts, colors, fonts, text sizes, spacing between elements, how elements are positioned, background, etc. CSS3 is the latest version of the Cascading Style Sheets language.
So, the choice of technologies in the front-end tech stack is actually between frameworks and libraries that developers extensively use to facilitate the development process. There are several frameworks used for HTML and CSS. Bootstrap, Foundation and Tailwind CSS are the most popular frameworks used for front-end stylingS.
Foundation is the open-source advanced front-end framework for developing agile, responsive websites. It is customizable, readable, flexible, and semantic. Foundation is suitable for web applications that need a lot of styling.
And Tailwind is a free, open-source, utility-first low-level CSS framework that can be composed to build any design without writing custom CSS and without leaving HTML. Unlike other CSS frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation, Tailwind doesn't offer fully styled components like buttons, dropdowns, and navbars. Instead, it provides utility classes so developers can create their reusable components. It is used for quickly building and customizing applications.
Angular is a TypeScript-based framework developed by Google, used to design a dynamic data structure for large-scale enterprise applications. It is a full package, versatile, well-maintained, and performs well when building apps for different platforms at once.
Mobile app development can follow a native or a cross-platform development path. Native app development means creating a mobile application that is tailored and dedicated to a specified platform, be it iOS or Android. A cross-platform development aims to create an app compatible with major operating systems, such as iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows. The main reason that stands behind cross-platform development popularity is that it is cost and time efficient. With one code required to run an app on several systems, the development costs go down, time to market gets shorter, and an app reaches a broader audience easier. Native development offers higher security measures and allows an app to work offline. It also provides a better user experience, achieved by full access to a device, its operating system, camera, microphone, GPS, and more. Any of the above can be a crucial reason for some businesses to opt for native development despite higher costs and longer time to market.
The programming languages battle in Android native development is between the two most popular languages intended specifically for Android - old and mature Java vs. young and modern Kotlin.
Java is a general-purpose, class-based, object-oriented programming language that has gained incredible popularity because of its performance, simplicity, open-source libraries, and wide range of possible applications. It is the world's third most popular programming language, after Python and C – according to the TIOBE index, which evaluates programming language popularity.
Kotlin is a statically typed, open-source, general-purpose programming language with type inference that can run on the Java virtual machine. In a nutshell, Kotlin is a streamlined version of Java, its advancement, rather than an entirely new language. It combines both acquisitive and functional programming features and focuses on readable syntax, functional code, and interoperability using existing Java libraries.
Both Java and Kotlin are good options for native Android development. Each language has its share of dedicated fans. From the developers' view, both programming languages should be in Android developers' arsenal. From the future application owners' view, Kotlin may seem more modern and offer faster development. Still, there are not so many experienced Kotlin developers now that it can have the opposite effect on the development time.
When it comes to native app development tools, the most common tools for Android are Android Studio and Android SDK.
Android NDK(Native Development Kit) is a set of tools that allows developers to implement parts of an app in native code, using languages such as C and C++. It provides platform libraries to manage native activities and access physical device components, such as sensors and touch input.
Android Studiois the open-source official Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Android app development, based on IntelliJ IDEA. It offers build automation, dependency management, and customizable build configurations. The tool provides an auto-generated code editor for Kotlin, Java, and C/C++. Android Studio offers such functions as a flexible Gradle-based build system, a rapid emulator for different configurations, an efficient visual layout editor, built-in profiling tools, built-in support for the Google Cloud Platform, etc.
Jetpack Compose and Android UI kit are the most common UI frameworks for Android.
Jetpack Compose is Android's recommended modern framework for building fast, beautiful, and reliable native user interfaces. It simplifies and significantly accelerates UI development on Android using the declarative approach.
Android UI kit is a components-driven library for Figma. It consists of responsive application templates made of constrained UI components. A must-have design system to prototype mobile layouts faster.
The iOS programming languages battle is mainly between Objective-C and Swift, as Apple backs up both languages.
Objective C is a general-purpose programming language that is safe for different data types and focuses on objects. It is a predecessor of Swift, and if compared to it, it lacks modern tools and properties.
Swift is a compiled programming language for iOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and Linux applications. Swift achieves a faster development process via its simplified syntax and grammar. The language uses LLVM as its compiler framework for programmatically creating machine-native code. Swift has many modern features, including type inference, option types, modules, closures, generics, tuples, extensions, argument labels, and collection literals, simplifying common patterns used in Objective-C.
So,Swift is the apparent winner in the iOS programming languages battle. It has undoubted benefits over its main competitor Objective-C. It is your right option for iOS native development in 2023.
The most common development tools for iOS - are Xcode and AppCode.
Xcode is Apple's open-source integrated development environment for iOS platforms. It contains SDK, tools, compilers, and frameworks to design the user interface, write app code, compile code, test the code, and debug to receive great quality products.
The most common UI frameworks for iOS are UIKit and SwiftUI. UIKit and SwiftUI are open-source frameworks providing various features for creating UI for iOS applications.
Still, SwiftUIis declarative in contrast to UIKit, an imperative framework, and the former is regarded as a much more robust library.
UIKitwas developed and released based on the Objective-C language. SwiftUI is written in Swift, which is currently the recommended language for building iOS applications. Therefore, SwiftUI will likely continue to evolve with time, while UIKit will receive less support from Apple.
In our article "Top programming languages for native apps" you can check our detailed analysis of native development programming languages if you opt for this path.
As for cross-platform development tools, there are a huge number of them, but React Native and Flutter are the leaders in 2023.
Flutter is the newest technology launched by Google. The framework is a complete SDK, including a rendering engine, ready-made widgets, testing and integration APIs, etc. Flutter applications are written in the Dart language. Since Dart compiles directly to native code, it doesn't require any additional bridge to communicate with mobile platforms, as does React Native. It considerably improves deployment times and speeds up overall application performance.
If you are building a mobile application in 2022, choosing either React Native or Flutter would be a great option because of the mix of performance, robust community support and positive future outlook. In one of our previous articles," The State of the Mobile Market: React Native Supremacy, the Fall of Ionic and What To Expect from Flutter?" we have analyzed the most popular cross-platform development tools. Please check it out for more details.
BACK-END TECH STACK
Back-end development is a server-side development covering anything that relates to the under-the-hood functionality of web applications, including app performance, security, scalability, ease of maintenance, etc. Developing the back end of your application is the most essential part of your project. The back-end development includes:
The operating system: macOS, Linux, Windows, as well as Android, and iOS.
The web server, providing data on request: Nginx, Apache, or Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS).
The application code that transmits it,
Various frameworks built on top of programming languages for faster and easier development: Spring, .NET, Django, Flask, etc.
The database that contains and organizes the information: MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, Oracle, etc.
A back-end's OS (operating system) is the interface where the frameworks, runtime, servers, and other components exist and access resources required to perform their functions. The top operating systems are macOS, Linux, and Windows, as well as Android and iOS for mobile. Usually, any stack may be equally well employed in Linux, Windows, or macOS without compromising the quality of the resulting application.
A web server processes the requests submitted from the client side, i.e., application users. It stores, processes, distributes, and maintains dynamic and static information. According to the below statistics published by Web Technology Survey, almost all web apps are developed using Nginx and Apache. There is also a Microsoft IIS Server, which has a significant market share, but it can only run on Windows operating systems. IIS is used mainly when it is necessary to host a .NET or ASP-based web application.
Apache server is free and open-source and can be used on any operating system. It is suitable for low-traffic websites with highly dynamic content. It is very flexible, so it is also a go-to option when configuration and customization are the main priority.
Nginx is a free, open-source, high-performance HTTP server and reverse proxy, as well as an IMAP/POP3 proxy server. It is preferred when it is necessary to improve performance for static content. It is also a go-to option for high-traffic websites. On top of that, Nginx is regarded to be slightly more secure than Apache.
Python is an open-source and platform-independent language. It can run on Windows, macOS, Linux, and Unix. It is also compatible with advanced technologies like Machine Learning, Deep Learning, IoT, data science, etc. It has plain syntax, a vast collection of rich libraries, a low learning curve, and a great community, but it is relatively slow and has big memory consumption. There are many Python frameworks for back-end development, but Django, Flask and FastAPI are the most popular in the list, and both are actively used as they serve various purposes.
Django website calls it a solution for perfectionists with deadlines. It is a full-stack web framework that provides all of the necessary features by default. It is excellent for developing large and complex web applications.
Flask, on the contrary, is a lightweight micro-framework. It offers only the basic tools and capabilities and is brilliant for simple websites or developers who do not want to go into the complexities of Django. In Flask, almost everything has to be built from scratch, offering developers more flexibility when projects require greater customization.
FastAPI is a fast and scalable micro framework dedicated to creating back-end APIs. It can be recommended when building RESTful APIs.
Regarding PHP frameworks, Laravel is one of the best PHP back-end frameworks. It is free and open-source and offers an immense development environment without installing PHP, web server, or third-party software. It follows an MVC (model-view-controller) design pattern and allows reusing available framework elements, making applications look more organized and practical. Its extensive set of features dramatically enhances the web development process, saving time for the project.
Java is an old and mature object-oriented programming language. It has constantly been evolving and adapting to suit the latest market trends. It has gained incredible popularity because of its performance, simplicity, open-source libraries, extensive documentation, and wide range of possible applications. Its main drawback is its steep learning curve. Although it is currently not as popular as it used to be, for an enterprise-scale application heavy on the CPU, Java will be an excellent go-to option. Whereas for a startup, other lighter and easier languages are preferable.
There are plenty of Java frameworks, but Spring is one of the best and most popular. With lots of documentation and an active community, it is used to create enterprise-level applications. Modules like Spring Boot, Spring Cloud, Spring Core, Spring MVC, Spring Security, etc., add numerous useful functionalities like configuration management, transaction management, monitoring, security authentication, authorization, etc.
Express.js is a lightweight and minimalist framework with many HTTP utilities. It is the most common Node.js web framework and an ideal option to take advantage of high-speed operations with a straightforward architecture.
Nest.js is one of the most advanced and powerful back-end frameworks appropriate for constructing enterprise-level projects. In fact, its approach to architecture is similar to that of Angular's front-end framework. Like with Angular, NestJS fully supports TypeScript, which facilitates writing bug-free code. NestJS is a go-to option for launching projects that are supposed to be scalable and easily maintainable.
C# is a general-purpose language created by Microsoft in 2001. It provides fast compilation, scalability, and interoperability and is one of the most widely used languages for creating system back-ends. C# has a simple syntax and powerful development tools. Although there are more modern languages nowadays, C#, backed by Microsoft, is one of the fastest-evolving programming languages. It is one of the most popular programming languages for game development, as it's used in the Unity game engine, which is the most popular game engine today. It is undoubtedly the best option for building pure Windows apps.
The most widely used C# framework for back-end development is ASP.NETCore. It is fully open-source and provides libraries and reusable elements to speed up application development and enable building the back-end for modern, cloud-based, Internet-connected applications.
Please check one of our previous articles "5 top back-end languages in 2023" for more details about back-end development languages and their frameworks.
SQLite is a top lightweight database that works great for low to medium-traffic websites. Because of its lightweight, it is perfect for embedded applications on mobile devices.
MySQL and PostgreSQLare the leading open-source relational database management systems. When comparing MySQL and PostgreSQL, the former is more user-friendly, and building a project from scratch takes less time, but the latter is considered a more advanced database. PostgreSQL supports a broader range of data formats. Replication in MySQL is one-way asynchronous, while PostgreSQL supports synchronous replication. Postgres performs better because it supports concurrent writes without the need for read/write locks. It also implements transaction isolation and snapshots and is entirely ACID compliant. MySQL performs better only for read-intensive processes. Still, both DBMSs are reputable solutions that can compete with such enterprise solutions as Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server.
Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server are commercially supported enterprise-level RDBMSs. Oracle Database is more complex to manage than MS SQL Server. It has a higher learning curve and is more expensive to license. For startups and modern companies, Oracle is too burdensome to manage. Oracle charges additional for their tools, while Microsoft tools are free with the SQL Server license. But with this, Oracle also has an advantage over Microsoft in terms of core database features and functionality. In other words, both databases are for large organizations, but Oracle is for larger organizations where a larger database is needed.
Our NoSQL databases leading list contains MongoDB, Redis, Elasticsearch, and Firebase.
MongoDB has enhanced scalability, increased caching, analytics in real-time and great speed, providing dynamic performance. It is an excellent option for apps such as product catalogs or analytic platforms.
Redis is great for caching, gaming, real-time analytics, chat/messaging, and media streaming apps.
Elasticsearch is used massively as a search engine meant for working on large datasets in real-time, for instance, for eCommerce products and the observability of applications. It's also very helpful when creating or updating a customer's profile regarding the workload that real-time engagement usually demands. Developers often pair it with other SQL & NoSQL databases.
A Firebase database can be a good option when your software deals with real-time data that needs to be synchronized between different browsers and devices, for instance, messaging apps, social media apps, and gaming apps.
And finally, if we speak about the server, which is a structure that hosts applications, nowadays, a physical server is most often opposed to a cloud-based server. A cloud-based server is a virtual server that runs within a cloud computing environment. Such servers perform the same functions as traditional physical servers - deliver processing power, storage, and applications, but do it over the Internet. There are three leading players in the cloud market. They are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). In one of our previous articles, "AWS vs. Azure vs. GCP: Which cloud platform should you choose?" we provided our detailed analysis of each cloud service, so you pick not by random but deliberately and be sure that it goes with all your needs.
It is worth mentioning that serverless back end is getting increasingly popular these days. Serverless development is a cloud-native model allowing developers to build and run applications without managing servers. There are still servers in serverless, but they are abstracted away from app development. Generally, "serverless" means focusing on building app functionality without spending time managing the servers and infrastructure. The cloud provider takes care of the setup, capacity planning, and server management instead of you. Amazon AWS Lambda and Cloud Functions for Firebase are some of the most popular implementations in this Serverless Service Architecture.
Cloud Functions for Firebase is a serverless framework from GCP that lets you automatically run backend code in response to events triggered by Firebase features and HTTPS requests. The code is stored in Google's cloud and runs in a managed environment. There's no need to manage and scale your own servers.
There are popular combinations of technologies already stacked together. Some of the most popular of them are:
So, what are the factors to consider when choosing the right technology stack? Please find below our helpful tips to consider.
Summarizing all the information above, choosing a tech stack may be challenging. An in-depth analysis of your project, its objectives, and growth potential is required. For example, for small projects, like MVP or single-page apps, such stacks Python-Django or MERN might be ideal. Bigger projects, such as online shopping of medium complexity, or enterprise applications, may require more complex technical stacks that have multiple levels of programming languages and frameworks. ScrumLauch will help you choose the best tech stack for your startup, considering all your requirements and industry trends. Feel free to contact us to let us help bring your idea to life.
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