Technology Stack Dilemma Explained for Non-Technical Business Owners
There is a popular belief that a technology stack can either make it or break it when it comes to building your software product. That before even a single line of code gets written, you need to carefully select a technology stack that is bound to determine your product’s success.
With a wide selection of tech stacks in the development world today, choosing one that works the best for your project might seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to. There are only a few aspects worth factoring in when you are caught in a technology stack dilemma.
What’s a Technology Stack?
To refresh your memory, a quick overview of what is a technology stack.
The technology stack is a combination of programming languages, frameworks, and tools that developers use to build a web or mobile app. The two main components of any app are client-side (front-end) and server-side (back-end). Each layer of the application is built atop the one below, thus creating a stack.
Client-side is everything users see on their screens and where the interaction is happening. The three main technologies in front-end are:
- HTML (the markup language)
- CSS (the stylesheet)
Server-side is not visible to a user. But its programming languages power the user side and create the logic of websites and applications. Frameworks for programming languages are time savers. They provide vetted implementations of common features (data access, user authentication etc.).
The only challenge is in choosing server side technologies. But is it that tough of a decision? Let’s dive deeper.
How to Choose a Technology Stack
Choosing a technology stack that will work the best for your project might seem like a real challenge, especially if you are a non-technical founder. The easiest way out would be to rely on your personal preferences or previous experience. But personal preferences are subjective and can lead to wrong decisions. You can only count on it if you have a strong background in web development. Trusting your competitor’s experience or going online to find a myriad of opinions and arguments isn’t a smart choice either. In reality, there are a couple of aspects to be taken into account.
Type of the Project
Sometimes the type of a product you are building determines the stack. Depending on the scope of your project, it makes sense to settle for a certain technology.
If you are launching a startup or want to build quick MVP, Ruby is your match. However, lately, Node.JS have come into play and seems like it might take over sooner than we thought. Both can get you in development by 30% quicker than anyone else. Rapid development is achieved thanks to expressive and concise nature of the language and its flexible syntax, as well as dozens of open-source libraries.
With libraries like Pandas, SciPy and NumPy, Python works perfectly for projects connected with Big Data, Machine Learning. It is a universal language when you need to calculate huge volumes of data. Python is capable of doing it quickly and sufficiently. You can use Python for any kinds of projects, but academic and scientific programming are preferred ones.
Java is a general-use programming language that is a universal solution for on-going, big projects. It can do virtually anything with a decent amount of efficiency. Java offers a myriad of tools, libraries, making it easy for developers to design and implement any feature they want. It is also a choice of 90% Fortune 500 companies.
But when it comes to choosing a tech stack based on the project type, it is mostly a matter of how big it is. If the project is big, you need more competent human resources and a community to have your back.
Deciding upon a niche or new technology can make a recruiting process a nightmare. Before making a final decision, you need to consider if you can find another developer familiar with this technology stack. If the skills are easily transferable and there will be no problem training a junior developer in the desired technology.
Some of the reports suggest that the demand for enterprise mobile apps is about to outstrip the available development capacity by 500%. In this respect, Java seems like a sensible choice for it is widely popular and given a multi-million community of engineers, it shouldn’t be a problem to find a professional. However, it is also one of the most in demand programming language in 2017.
What shouldn’t be taken into account when looking for resources is cost. It is a popular misconception that when choosing between technology stacks, the cost of a developer is detrimental. In reality, you have as many chances finding an expensive Ruby developer as you can find a cheap one.
Technology Stack Ecosystem
The ecosystem is a community and tools around a technology. When choosing a technology stack that suits your project, it’s important to check out if there is big enough community around the technology, sufficient information. Whether if you stumble upon a problem or an issue, you will be able to find enough information and a solution. For instance, pretty much every big city around the world has a Ruby community that runs regular meetups. It is also one of the most popular languages on Github, a social coding site. Sometimes even a closed ecosystem like .Net has a massive knowledge-base via MSDN, StackOverflow and numerous forums and blogs.
Another important factor is the maturity of the technology. The earlier in its lifecycle, the less reliable the technology is. After several years of iterations, Ruby is considered a reliable and low-risk technology. But it’s not only about the lifespan. Mature technologies also have more tools to make developer’s life easier (like continuous integrations, bug tracking). But they only exist for tech stack where there is a market of developers. A large amount of these tools suggests how safe a technology is. The logic behind the importance of maturity is pretty simple. The more mature a language is, the bigger is the community and the more resources it has.
Can a Wrong Choice of Technology Stack Kill your Project?
Now that we’ve covered aspects to consider, the question whether a wrong choice of technology stack can ruin the project still remains, and the answer is – no, it can’t. The reason projects fail is not a technology stack or a language, the cause is in the wrong architecture solutions. Whichever language you choose, it doesn’t mean you are stuck with it for good. Yes, there are some limitations, for instance .Net is limited to Microsoft stack. But it won’t be why your product failed. You can always start a project in one language, say Ruby, and if at some point it doesn’t work for your product anymore, you can go on working on another. One of our in-house projects is exactly the case where two programming languages, Java and Python, were used at the same time to build a chatbot.
Another popular solution for big projects is microservice architecture. Microservice is a service-oriented architecture that structures an app as a collection of loosely coupled services. So the project is not a single application but a set of independently deployable, small services where each can be written in a separate language. For instance, if one part needs to process a large amount of data, engineers choose Python. Another part needs proof of concept where Ruby is a right choice. And one part which is big and stable is written in Java. Thus you choose a language not for a whole project but for a particular task where it’s the best fit.
In the end, whichever technology stack you choose, it all comes down to one – finding a right and trustworthy software vendor that has the experience and expertise you need. Trying to pick one perfect technology stack or a language is like embarking on a holy war where no one is a winner. But with the right, competent team you can make a technology stack perfect for your particular project.