Are you looking to build the next big thing in tech but lacking software engineering expertise? You’ll definitely need to find and hire a CTO or Co-Founder with a technology background to make sure you’re moving in the right direction with your software development project from the very beginning. However, some simple tips for choosing the right tech stack for your product development will give you a basic understanding of what it’ll take to bring your big idea to life and how much it can potentially cost you.
So, what’s a tech stack? In simple words, it’s a set of programming languages, frameworks, libraries and other tools that are used together to build a web or mobile application. It allows a software team to develop a system where different functions leverage the same infrastructure. Tech stack determines your future app’s viability and competitiveness as well as its functionality, scalability and further maintenance.
Any tech stack consists of two sides: the client side (aka front-end) and the server side (aka back-end).
The Front End is your app’s interface, or a visual part that users can see and interact with via web or mobile browser. The Back End is an invisible part of the application that enables communication between server and database.
Front-end technologies include:
- UI frameworks and libraries such as ReactJS, AngularJS, React, Node.js, jQuery and others.
Back-end technologies are as follows:
- Web server: Nginx, Apache;
- Programming languages: C#, Java, PHP, Python, Objective-C, .NET, etc;
- Аrameworks built around programming languages: Node.js, .NET, Django, and others;
- Databases: Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, Neo4j, and others;
- Cloud infrastructures and services: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Heroku, and many more.
Since this article is focused on startups, there’re three stages of the startup lifecycle and each may require its own stack.
How to Choose Tech Stack Depending on Your Startup Lifecycle
- Proof of concept
At this stage, startup founders need to validate the viability of their product idea, test it on a small group of target users and get feedback, get buy-in for full-fledged product development from senior management or attract funding to go to market. The most common practice is to build a minimum viable product (MVP).
Most MVPs can be built using inexpensive off-the-shelf tools like CMS software. However, for robust products (e.g., fintech, blockchain, etc), custom MVP development should be considered. In this way, you need to be very careful choosing the right stack as the same stack will have to be used to transform MVP into a market-ready product.
A UK-based startup offering an innovative rebates management solution built their MVP with Evolve’s software development team using .Net, AngularJS and Azure Stack. Having raised almost £1 million from VCs and private investors, the company used the same stack to scale their product and onboard the first paying customers.
- Market fit
At this stage, you analyze target user feedback and identify features that are just right for your audience. It’s critical not to over-engineer your product at this stage and keep a healthy balance of functional and non-functional features. A rule of thumb here is – start small and scale as needed.
If you’ve used CMS software to build your MVP, now is high time to determine what tech stack will be best fitted for your future product and user needs.
- Product scale-up
At this stage, your product starts serving different customer segments with relevant price points. Your product is already an extensive structure with many functions and integrations. Scalable products typically have several modules built in different languages and with different tech stacks. For instance, your core service can be written in .NET, while your payment module is built in Ruby on Rails and your data analytics module is developed with Python or Go.
Tips for choosing the right tech stack
- Take into account your development project size and goals
Remember a rule of thumb: the larger and more robust the project – the more complex the tech stack will be.
For small and MVP-stage projects well-established stacks such as Python-Django or Node.js-React can suit very well.
For medium-size projects (e.g., mid-market applications or an online store), more complex tech stacks like PHP, Java or .NET with several layers of programming languages and frameworks are required.
Large projects (e.g., complex marketplaces, enterprise solutions) typically require a large tech stack to maintain the app’s integrity and performance.
- Consider project runway
Ask yourself how much money you have until you hit the rock button? The answer will have an impact on your tech stack choice. For instance, if you have five years of runway, it might make sense to choose a compiled language like Java or LTS (e.g. Haskel) which adds an overhead of compiling everything before you run your code to test if it works.
If you have a short runway (up to one year), you better stick with a stack that can facilitate “quick and dirty” programming such as PHP.
- Find a middle ground between a tech stack and your current team’s capabilities
New tech stacks are typically pretty raw and glitchy and finding experienced developers can be too time-consuming and expensive. On the other hand, your internal specialists can waste a lot of precious time trying to learn the ins and outs of the new stack, which will result in resistance to change within your team, delayed delivery of milestones, and a long time to market. Make sure you choose the stack that your internal team feels comfortable and can move forward with effectively.
However, it doesn’t mean that you should choose the dated and ineffective stacks just because you have people with tribal knowledge within your team. In such a way, you may have issues with support, scalability and efficiency.
Try to find a middle ground and consider factors such as popularity, support, security and development speed when making a decision.
- Think about scalability and maintainability
Scalability is vital for further product development and evolution, so make sure your application’s architecture is scalable, i.e. if/when your user base increases, your tech stack should allow your application to handle higher volumes of transactions/interactions with your product.
There are two types of scalability in software development:
- Horizontal scalability, or the app’s ability to cope with an increasing number of users and to work across different devices, and
- Vertical scalability, or the ability to add new elements and features to your product in the future.
The application’s maintainability depends on two factors:
- Architecture – should be mobile, scalable and reusable, and
- Codebase – shouldn’t be too lengthy or too short, as long code takes long to process and short code can lead to more bugs and errors.
5. Don’t treat security as an afterthought
User data protection should be on the top of your mind from the ideation stage. Therefore, when choosing a tech stack, it’s important to choose technologies that provide a high level of cybersecurity.
Choosing the right tech stack is the backbone of any successful software project. Before making a decision about the tech stack, take into account your project type and requirements, your internal expertise and resources, speed of development, support, scalability, and security. Although there are ready stacks such as MEAN, MERN or LAMP, they don’t always allow you to meet all of your project requirements, so stick with an individual approach and hire a solution architect or external consultant to help you choose the best bundles of languages, libraries, frameworks and databases.