What Is a Tech Stack? Learn What It Is and Why You Need One

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What Is a Tech Stack and How To Choose the Right One?

Selecting an appropriate technology stack is essential for any software development project, laying the foundation for your app’s functionality, scalability, and future growth.

Alongside this critical decision, the expertise and experience of the software developers you partner with play a significant role in navigating technical challenges and ensuring the project’s success.

Having a clear idea of which technologies you will use your your app is vital to identifying the best and most experienced software developers.

While some aspects of a technical stack may seem complex at first, it’s no different than deciding what kind of materials you will build a house with.

What Is a Tech Stack?

A tech stack is simply a collection of software technologies and services that are used for application development. 

There’s more than one way to build a web or software application, and so there are different tech stacks that you can use, or put together your own.

Some tech stacks are so popular that they have taken on clever acronyms to describe their makeup.

One common example of a technology stack best suited for Linux distributions is known by the acronym LAMP. LAMP stands for the following four open-source software components:

  • Linux
  • Apache
  • MySQL
  • PHP/Perl/Python.

Linux is the operating system. Apache is a web server. MySQL is a database management system. Finally, PHP is the programming language for the application. Altogether, this software stack is capable of building highly functional web applications.

LAMP is just one of many stacks that point developers in the right direction when it comes to programming software.

Another open-source software stack for building websites is called MERN:

  • MongoDB
  • Express.js
  • React and
  • Node.js

Together, these technologies make up the MERN software stack. 

This particular stack has two main advantages – it does not rely on an operating system nor does it stray far from JavaScript as the primary programming language of the stack. This makes MERN and LAMP solid options when building web applications.

By using deliberate frameworks like LAMP and MEAN, software developers can be prepared for what lies ahead in any development process.

With research, software teams can make calculated decisions to pick the stack technology most beneficial for their needs.

It’s up to you and your team to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each and one makes more sense for your application.

Why Is a Technology Stack Important?

A technology stack is the backbone of any software application, serving as a critical determinant of its functionality, performance, and ability to scale. By carefully selecting a combination of programming languages, frameworks, databases, and tools, developers lay down a foundation that ensures the application can meet current requirements while remaining adaptable to future needs.

A well-chosen tech stack not only facilitates smoother development processes but also enhances the efficiency and security of the application, directly impacting user experience and satisfaction.

The choice of technologies can also influence the ease of maintenance and the potential for integration with other systems, making it a central consideration in the strategic planning of software projects.

In short, tech stacks should make planning and developing an app easier.

For instance, the MEAN stack depends almost exclusively on JavaScript as its programming language. MEAN’s strict reliance on JavaScript removes a layer of complexity in many parts of the application-building methodology.

As an illustration, employing developers who know JavaScript should be fairly easy as JavaScript is a well-known language and developers would only need to be familiar with the one.

JavaScript also has numerous libraries and structures that promise some ease in flexibility in scaling your business when the time comes.

On the other hand, every stack comes with its disadvantages. Many people flock to JavaScript entirely because of its popularity.

Unfortunately, less experienced developers are not always adept at learning and managing the new libraries and frameworks that JavaScript has to offer. A skilled team of software developers must keep all these considerations in mind to build the optimal tech stack.

What Are The Differences Between Mobile and Web Apps Tech Stacks?

Mobile and web apps might seem similar, but their tech stacks reveal a world of differences. While web apps typically revolve around server, database, and operating system layers, mobile apps have additional considerations. They need to play nice with various smartphone features like GPS, notifications, and more, making their tech stacks a bit more complex.

Web applications have a pretty standard setup involving server-side software, but the real magic happens when you dive into the specifics. The choice of programming languages and tools can vary widely, yet the structure of the tech stack remains consistent.

To compare, mobile applications tend to have some choice concerns to take into account:

Cross-Platform Functionality

Mobile applications need to be optimized for multiple devices and platforms. Though websites have the liberty to simply be websites, mobile apps are typically expected to be accessible on a variety of platforms.

The average smartphone user in the United States spends about three hours per day on their phone and 90% of that time is faithful to mobile apps.

But in a world of tablets, laptops, and smart TVs, people merely move on to another mobile device.

API Integrations

Similarly essential is how your mobile tech stack interacts with the background APIs of a smartphone. 

An API, or application programming interface, defines a set of protocols for integrating miscellaneous programs with internal software.

In a smartphone environment, the tool that enables touchscreen detection is an example of an API. Mobile app developers have to build tech stacks that have collaborative abilities for this level of integration.

Core Smartphone Services

Mobile apps also have to work with the day-to-day features of a common smartphone like geographic mapping, offline support, pop-up notifications, and security.

These features go beyond the scope of what a web application would ever request from a user. So developers have a responsibility to enhance their mobile tech stack to work alongside these features.

Front-End Tech Stack

A front-end tech stack includes the technologies that developers would use to build user interfaces.

Front-end development, often called client-side development, ultimately determines the visual elements of the app.

Front-end developers use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build web apps. 

These programming languages, particularly HTML and CSS, are used to style colors, fonts, images, graphs, and all visual aspects of the application. JavaScript helps to provide the interactive nature of the app.

Back-End Tech Stack

Back-end development, also called server-side development, calls for a back-end tech stack.

On the server side, back-end developers typically manage business logic, APIs, data storage, and all the other internal operations of a given app.

Back-end web developers favor languages like Node.js, Python, and Java. 

Front-end developers work together with back-end development to make certain that an application can reach peak performance for its users. There are also full-stack developers as well who have the skills to work both on the client side and the server side in app development.

6 Examples of iOS and Android Tech Stacks

Now that you know how mobile apps and web apps differ, you should not be surprised that the tools used to build each type of app differ.

Just like web applications have a dependable set of programming languages, mobile application developers opt to use a few of the many mobile programming languages and toolsets available to them.

1. XCode

XCode is an IDE, or Integrated Development Environment, used to develop mobile and web apps for Apple iOS and macOS.

IDEs allow programmers to consolidate the numerous facets of writing, running, and debugging code into one application.

XCode is free and the preferred toolset for Apple products. It is compatible with quite a few programming languages such as C++, Python, Objective-C, Ruby, and more.

2. Swift

Swift is an open-source programming language used both for iOS and Linux applications. It is self-proclaimed as being multi-purpose.

However, its real benefit is its inline support and dynamic libraries which can be stored in memory, decreasing app size. Swift is compatible with Objective-C.

3. Android Studio

Android Studio is an IDE credited to Google which permits the creation of high-quality Android applications. Android Studio also works with all PC operating systems.

The aforementioned IDEs and programming languages are integral in developing mobile apps for iOS and Android, the leading platforms in smartphone use.

Building applications for iOS and Android in turn for just one or the other will give your mobile app an easily acquired advantage.

4. Kotlin

Kotlin is a recently developed programming language for Android. It is both open-source and object-oriented, open-source denoting that the code is available for others to edit.

The syntax for Kotlin is notably efficient, causing fewer errors. Kotlin is compatible with Java projects. Paired with Android Studio, the IDE of choice for Android development, developers can build Android apps for a variety of Android devices.

5. Java

Java at one point was the most widely used programming language for developing Android applications. It is class-based and object-oriented.

Although Java’s biggest downfall is its bulkiness and memory consumption, it is famous for its open-source tools and appreciable libraries.

That being said, Java is still used in heavier applications in government-regulated sectors such as Healthcare. As an extremely stable technology, with high-grade security features, it’s the definition of “enterprise” app development.

Most startups will avoid this technology, unless there is a good reason to, usually related to performance or security.

6. React Native

An extension of the React library, React Native specifically targets mobile devices. It’s a cross-platform solution for those looking to save on developing for both iOS and Android.

Many startups typically go with React Native to keep dev costs low and it can give you the best bang for your buck if you can scale your team with React (front-end developers) who also know React Native.

How To Know What Tech Stack a Website or an App Is Using

To learn more about what tech stacks other companies are using, you don’t have look much further than open positions on their careers page.

This can give you some ideas when it comes to your own app. And if you’re looking to find out how companies are evolving their tech stacks over time, here are some ways to find out.

Facebook, for one, has a whole website that dives deep into the software details of its various engineering pursuits. This includes not only Facebook the social media network but Meta as well.

Tumblr regularly updates its engineering blog and features it on its very own website.

Netflix, PayPal, Walmart, and other big companies even have Medium accounts where they routinely update readers on what’s going on inside their engineering teams.

In short, the best way to know what’s going on in another company’s tech stack is to do some heavy research and stay tuned in to the companies you care most about.

There are also less reliable ways to get your answers. StackShare, for example, is a website that lists the tech stacks of various companies, but there’s no way to verify their legitimacy.

Similarly, you can take to your local search engine and browse the hypotheses of Redditors and Quora posters.

And then there’s Wappalyzer, a Google Chrome Extention that is able to scan sites you visit and tell you what they are built on.

How To Choose the Right Tech Stack

Choosing the right tech stack starts by evaluating certain characteristics of your business and the app you have in mind. The consequence of choosing the wrong stack is wasted time and effort. However, choosing the right stack will help you and your developers be productive and successful.

Make sure you have carefully considered the details of your project to choose the right stack:

  • Project requirements

The larger your project is in terms of scope and features, the more intricate your tech stack will be. Could you identify the size of your project first and foremost?

Small projects can be built with the most popular stacks. You should seek out professional expertise if your project size is medium or large.

  • Scalability

Scalability can be both horizontal and vertical. Horizontal scalability outlines the app’s versatility for use on different devices and with an increasing number of uses.

Vertical scalability relates to the addition of new features to the app. Use powerful programming languages to achieve the ideal scalability.

  • Resources

Your ability to find developers who are proficient in the technologies included in your stack can either make or break your project.

Pick commonly used languages to avoid this problem.

  • Maintenance

Hiring a developer is a given, but you will need to have a way of providing support for your app once there’s a need for troubleshooting or an upgrade.

Using open-source software will warrant the changes and updates to your project without any undue restrictions.

  • Security

An app that is not secure is detrimental to the app’s users as well as you and your business. Run security tests on a recurring schedule to mitigate threats.

  • Speed

The faster your app is out on the market, the faster you will get user feedback and profit from the development. Again, using common tech stacks will reduce the overall time spent developing the project.

How To Build a Technology Stack

Being familiar with technology stacks, their purpose, and their execution is the first step in developing your mobile app. 

For the average developer, developing an app can take many months. It necessitates intensive research and learning, not to mention writing the code and freeing it of any errors that arise.

Unsurprisingly, for those launching a tech startup with little to no coding background, developing an app is even more difficult.

Tech stacks play a crucial role in the development of your project and it is vital to have qualified developers on your side, guiding your project toward prosperity.

Trio can help you find the developers that are right for your project. Learn more about hiring remote developers here.

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With over 10 years of experience in software outsourcing, Alex has assisted in building high-performance teams before co-founding Trio with his partner Daniel. Today he enjoys helping people hire the best software developers from Latin America and writing great content on how to do that!
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