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How to chose the right tech stack for your project

Don't just build, build smart! This guide helps you pick a tech stack that ensures scalability, promotes maintainability, and future-proofs your project for long-term success.
Summary

Selecting the right stack: a guide for your dev project

Are you starting your career in development, or do you just want to dive deeper into the topic? Choosing the right stack that best fits your needs and competencies is the first step to a well done project.

The tech stack, the collection of technologies underpinning your project, is your project’s fundamental building block. Choosing the right stack determines your project’s performance, maintainability, and ultimately, success. With a vast array of options available, navigating the selection process can be daunting. This guide empowers you to make informed decisions by outlining key factors to consider, demystifying different stack components, and guiding you through the selection process.

 

What is a tech-stack?

A tech stack refers to the collection of technologies required to transform an app idea into a viable commercial product. It encompasses various elements such as programming languages, frameworks, database systems, frontend and backend tools, API integrations, and operating systems. These components play active roles in both the development and ongoing maintenance of the application.

 

Why is choosing the right stack important?

Choosing the appropriate tech stack is crucial, as it impacts your experience as a developer building the app. Although it’s possible to build an app on a less-than-optimal stack, you’ll be able to write more performant and stable code more easily in the ideal stack. This generally translates to improvements for your users as well.. Moreover, a well-chosen tech stack enables scalability while maintaining robust security measures tailored to your business requirements. The benefits of a well-chosen stack include:

  • Feasibility and marketability: It enables building a functional and commercially viable app.
  • Exceptional value: It empowers you to deliver an outstanding experience for your target audience.
  • Scalability: It allows your app to grow seamlessly as your user base expands.
  • Robust security: It prioritizes data protection and safeguards your business interests.

 

Principles of a tech stack

Imagine that your tech stack is a kitchen. To cook a delicious meal, you need various tools and ingredients, each playing a specific role. Similarly, a tech stack comprises different components that work together to build a web application:

1. Frontend (Client-Side):

  • This is the “front of the house,” what users see and interact with directly. It’s like the ingredients and presentation of your dish.
  • Example: Imagine the user interface (UI) elements of a website, like buttons, search bars, and recipe details. In a web application, these are built using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

 

2. Backend (Server-Side):

  • This acts like the “back kitchen,” handling tasks behind the scenes. It’s where the magic happens, processing data and logic.
  • Example: While users search for recipes on the frontend, the backend (powered by languages like Ruby, Python, or PHP) retrieves data from a database, performs calculations (e.g., calorie counting), and sends relevant information back to the frontend to display.

 

3. Databases:

  • These are like your pantry, storing all the information used by the application. Think of recipes, ingredients, and user information stored in an organized manner.
  • Example: A recipe website might use a database like PostgreSQL or MySQL to store recipe details, user accounts, and preferences.

 

4. Additional Components:

  • Depending on the project’s complexity, other elements like frameworks (pre-built code structures), libraries (reusable code collections), and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces – ways for applications to communicate) might also be included in a tech stack.

 

Understanding these core components will equip you with a solid foundation for exploring different tech stacks and embarking on your web development journey!

 

Beginner-friendly tech stacks

While there’s no single “best” tech stack for all newbie developers, some options stand out for their beginner-friendliness:

Python Stack (Python, Django/Flask):

  • Python: Renowned for its clear, concise syntax resembling natural language, making it easier to learn and understand.
  • Django/Flask: Both frameworks offer structured and well-documented approaches to web development, simplifying the process.

Despite both being written on Python, Django and Flask take different approaches. Django is a larger framework that comes with many more pieces pre-installed and a set of conventions that the community follows. It’s one of the more similar frameworks to Rails (see below).

Flask, on the other hand, comes with very little pre-installed and is a much lighter-weight framework. It’s similar in certain senses to Express (see below) or Sinatra in the Ruby community. For this reason, developers commonly choose Flask when they are building smaller sites or microservices, or when they want to have a greater degree of control over the application architecture.

Considerations:

Finding developers specifically skilled in web development using Python might be slightly more challenging compared to some other languages, like JavaScript.

Reddit: Originally written in Lisp, Reddit was later rewritten in Python and employs Flask for certain web applications and APIs.

 

Ruby on Rails (Ruby, Rails):

  • Rails: This framework acts as a pre-built toolkit, offering a streamlined approach to web development, reducing the initial learning curve compared to building everything from scratch.
  • Ruby: The language itself is known for its readability and developer-friendly nature, making it enjoyable to learn.

 

Considerations:

  • Community and Resources: Boasts a large and active community, providing ample learning resources and support for beginners.
  • Rails has a particularly extensive set of “gems”, or external packages. As a result, developing common features like authentication (user sign in and sign up) can be significantly faster than with other frameworks.
  • In Rails 7, Rails takes a unique approach to JavaScript, using the importmap-rails gem to manage JavaScript modules without a build step. Turbo and Stimulus, which come pre-installed with Rails, also make it significantly quicker and easier to build complex front-ends than it had been previously. That being said, these technologies are fairly new, so it can sometimes be more difficult to find code samples and answers to questions than with more common JavaScript frameworks.
  • Relying solely on Rails might limit flexibility in the long run.

Le Wagon’s web development bootcamp uses Rails because it’s based on Ruby, a language with clear and easy-to-read syntax, ideal for beginners. Rails is a mature framework with a rich ecosystem, used by companies like GitHub. It has structured conventions, making it easier for new developers to learn good code organization. Plus, with Hotwire’s recent introduction, Rails is regaining popularity, offering a simpler front-end approach compared to complex JavaScript frameworks.

Want to go further with Ruby on Rails ? look at this article Learn Ruby on Rails.

 

Popular tech stacks for more experienced developers: 

After some years of experience as a developer, you may opt for other tech stacks, depending on the needs of your projects. Here are some popular options:

 

LAMP Stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP): 

While not particularly beginner-friendly due to setup complexities, it offers a solid foundation for understanding core web development concepts. Like any classic kit, it might not be the coolest or newest, and setting it up can be a bit tricky.

Wikipedia: The largest online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, runs on the LAMP stack. It’s built on open-source software, including MediaWiki, which is written in PHP and uses MySQL as its database.

 

MEAN (MongoDB, Express.js, Angular, Node.js): 

This stack is a high-tech toolkit for building modern apps. Everything works together because it’s all based on JavaScript. But, learning all these tools at once can be a bit overwhelming for beginners.

One of the big differences versus the other stacks we’ve discussed is the addition of Angular. Angular is a front-end framework that lets you develop SPAS (single page applications). Instead of navigating to different web pages each time the user clicks on a link, SPAs work more like native apps to build complex front-ends. It’s entirely possible to install Angular or an alternative on top of a Rails or Django app. But, it integrates tightly with the other tools in the MEAN stack.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn, the professional networking platform, utilizes the MEAN stack for certain components of its infrastructure, particularly for real-time messaging features.

 

MERN (MongoDB, Express.js, React.js, Node.js): 

Similar to MEAN, MERN uses JavaScript throughout, but instead of Angular, it uses React, a popular framework for building user interfaces. Think of it as the same power tools, but with a different attachment for building the app’s visual elements.Just like MEAN, MERN can be challenging for beginners due to the number of tools involved. Additionally, while trendy, it might be overused in some situations, leading to similar-looking apps. In particular, React is powerful for building interfaces that require a high amount of interactivity, but it is often overkill for “regular” applications, and so using it can increase workload for developers and load times for users.

WhatsApp: WhatsApp, the messaging app, which is also owned by Facebook, has employed the MERN stack for certain development projects and experimentation.

 

In a nutshell, we recommend the followingk step-by-step approach to choose the perfect tech stack:

  1. Define your project requirements and goals clearly.
  2. Research potential tech stacks based on your project and team needs.
  3. Evaluate trade-offs: Each stack has its strengths and weaknesses; weigh them against your project priorities.
  4. Experiment and prototype (if possible) to get a feel for different options.
  5. Seek feedback and advice from other developers or tech mentors.

 

By following these steps and carefully considering the factors outlined above, you’ll be well-equipped to choose the right tech stack and build a solid foundation for your project’s success. Remember, the “perfect” stack doesn’t exist, but a well-informed choice based on specific needs and long-term vision can empower your project to thrive

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