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Our Tech Stack Breakdown and a Look at the 5 Most Popular Options

by | Mar 16, 2022 | All Posts

Before you develop any software, you need to choose the right tools to do it. Introducing: tech stacks! We’ll comprehensively break down the different parts of tech stacks, as well as including our top five recommendations for the best web tech stacks. 

What is a tech stack?

A tech stack is a collection of different technologies that will be used by the development team. Think of it like a mechanic’s toolbox: the mechanic has an assortment of tools at their disposal and no two tools are alike. Each tool serves a different purpose during the mechanic’s task, and the mechanic can switch out what brand or style of tool they want for their box at any time. Your tech stack is the defining foundation of your application; it is not the components of the stack that matters most, but how you apply the tech to your product. This toolbox also has two main compartments, one for aesthetic improvements and the other for internal fixes the customer cannot see. In reference to a tech stack, these two compartments are called the front end and the back end, respectively.

Front End

The front involves what you see when you open the application and is often made up of three major pieces: Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and JavaScript (often abbreviated JS). In web development, these tools are used in this order to make your application look inviting and function properly. Let’s look at the front end like the process of building a hotel. First, you would build the frame and foundation of the hotel, which in tech stack terms would mean using HTML to outline your application’s pages in a structural support system. HTML gets the basic building blocks of your front end in place, but adds little functionality; that’s the job of CSS and JavaScript.

Like its name implies, CSS brings the style and character to your “hotel.” After HTML finishes the building, CSS plays the role of the interior decorators. Details like the general placement of items on the webpage, as well as color and font choices. Your “hotel” now has its own identity, but what is going to keep it running and executing the correct commands? JavaScript is the workforce, more specifically the head manager, of the hotel. Once JavaScript is in use, your users can interact with the app, similar to how a hotel can start taking guests once they have the staff to man the operation. The client-facing side of your tech stack is ready to go, but what about the tech that takes place behind the scenes?

Back End

The back end is typically made up of a server, frameworks, and a database that are built from a programming language. A comparison to the back end of a tech stack is a book store. Servers can either be virtual or a physical machine that hosts your app’s information. More importantly, a server is able to send this information to other computers and oversees the communication between nodes, much like a bookstore employee would help and guide a customer in need. For software development, your development team will create a server which responds to users when called and provides the users with the requested data. Equally important, the server also connects the front and back end of the tech stack. This allows the front end to access any information in the back end’s database. These “employees” are only as good as the technology they have to help them, which brings us to frameworks.

Frameworks in software development are like the technology that helps the bookstore workers to make the job more efficient. In the software sense, frameworks are pieces of code that perform a specific job. To start with, the code is generic, but developers can take the code’s foundation and rewrite it to suit their own needs. While the employees at the bookstore could take the time to manually look for a specific book, they can instead use a computer to locate the specific book they need. Likewise, developers can add large portions of functionality to your app and then later customize it to work as planned. This tool saves time, as your development team can focus on coding smaller details instead of building the basic structure of the app from scratch. All the code, customized or not, is stored in another tool, called a database.

Databases store your code for your project while storing the data so that related data is connected with each other. For our book store analogy, databases would be the bookshelves; the books, like code, would be stored in an organized way, allowing it to easily be found when it is needed. There are many databases to choose from, such as Microsoft SQL Server, MongoDB, CouchDB, and PostgreSQL. Both databases and book stores would have nothing to store if there wasn’t any writing or books, which is why programming languages that make up the code are an important part of your tech stack.

Every part of your application is written in code. If no one wrote books, book stores could not function (and would have nothing to sell); if developers had no languages to write code, the application would have no basis to work off and the other pieces of the tech stack would be irrelevant. Like humans, programming has many languages to use. Some of the most popular are JavaScript, Python, C#, and C++. Other languages that are not as prevalent but still important are R, Swift, and Golang (Go). One thing to consider when deciding which language is the skill set your development team has. Languages like C are known for being tough, while ones like Python are noted for their easy usability. Even more important factor in deciding what language is supported by your chosen technologies. If a system only supports Java, your only option is to write your code in Java. All of the languages mentioned are usable and have elements to offer to your project. These are just some of the options you need to consider when building your tech stack.

A simple web application architecture

Factors to Consider During Tech Stack Building

Once you understand tech stacks, you can outline the other resources for your project. With the help of your team, lay out approximations of the project’s cost, timeline, and functionality ,as well as your teams’ skill set needed for your product.

Budget can be a constricting factor, but fortunately, most web-based technology is open source and free-to-use. Technologies like MongoDB, Express.js, AngularJS, and Node.js are all free and easily accessible on the Internet. As a nice bonus, these four pieces make up the MEAN tech stake, leaving you with one convenient package.

If you are on a strict time limit, more complex tech stacks may slow you down. You should consider  that once you start building with a certain tech stack, it is difficult to switch to another. Not only does this take extra time and money to execute, switching your foundational tech stack will cause a major portion of your development to be redone.

Functionality is important; it is the main factor to look at when picking your tech stack. At WynHouse, we use the MERN stack for fully custom applications due to its flexibility. When picking a tech stack, you want a stack that is flexible, or usable for multiple purposes, as well as scalable, or the ability for the components to function normally if their size or user volume is changed according to user requirements.

When choosing a programming language, you want to choose one that is more hireable and that will have a stable workforce for future development. The more common a language is, the more resources are available about how to use said language. Another factor to think about is how green the person using the tech stack is. More seasoned individuals are fluent in several different languages, but if someone doesn’t have much experience with programming, chances are they don’t have far-reaching experience with the popular languages, especially older and tougher languages like C.

No matter your resources, there is a tech stack that suits your needs. If popular stacks like MEAN, MERN, and ASP.NET don’t work for your requirements, you can create your own custom tech stack. You can create your product with any of these components and they can accomplish any of your milestones when the right skill set is applied. But, if you find pre-packaged stacks work fine, there are plenty to choose from.

The 5 Most Popular Web Tech Stacks

The more commonly used tech stacks are:

  1. MEAN = MongoDB, Express.js, AngularJS, and Node.js: 
    • As previously mentioned, the technologies in this stack are free to use 
    • It is open source, meaning the community of coders and developers are able to sustain and create constantly
  2. MERN = MongoDB, Express.js, React.js, and Node.js
    • In MERN, AngularJS is replaced with React.js, which is the best tool for building applications with single pages and high-functioning UIs
    • Besides its flexibility for coding, MERN’s library is expansive and helpful to users
  3. ASP.NET = AngularJS, SQL Server, and .NET with C#
    • This is Microsoft’s tech stack and has the ability to be run on both Windows and Linux
    • The technology behind ASP.NET is featherlight due to this stack being open source
  4. LAMP = Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP
    • LAMP is one of the original tech stacks
    • It can run on any operating system and simply needs to be modified such as the cases of MAMP (for MacOS) or WAMP (for Microsoft Windows)
  5. Ruby on Rails
    • RoR does not need much experience to be workable, especially for back-end developers
    • UIs are easy to create in RoR, when moving data between various parts of the tech stack

With many options to choose from, finding the right technology stack is easy to help propel your project forward. Whether you are building it yourself, hiring your own team of developers, or working with a development agency, choosing a tech stack is an essential step in creating any software. If you’re feeling out of your depths, it is always wise to consult an expert on the subject. This will lead to the most efficient and helpful solutions for your product.

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