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How to Choose the Right Tech Stack for Your Project: A Step-by-Step Guide

Yaroslav Krutiak

Yaroslav Krutiak

Solution Architect, Back-End

14 min

Are you a startup founder, CTO, or product manager struggling with how to choose the right tech stack? If so, this article is for you.

Here, you’ll learn:

  • What a tech stack is
  • The components of a tech stack
  • Key factors that determine tech stack selection
  • Most common web and mobile app stacks
  • Examples of stacks used by startups
  • Actionable strategies to pick your stack

If you need practical tips to use right away, check out the bonus infographic at the end.

Read on for step-by-step guidance on choosing the ideal technologies for your product.

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What is a Tech Stack?

A tech stack is an aggregation of technologies, either programming language, framework, or libraries, that are engaged in the creation and maintenance of software.

In plainer terms, they’re the tools for creating and maintaining websites and applications.

Each layer is built on top of the one below, forming a stack, which makes the stack technologies dependent on each other.

The tech stack consists of two parts: the server side (how it works) and the external side (what it looks like).

Tech stacks can be grouped based on web and mobile app development.

This picture shows the main components of the technical stack

Let’s discuss each component right away.

Components of a Tech Stack

You can break down tech stacks into backend and frontend components.

Each of these components differs from product to product–based on the type of software and preference of stakeholders involved.

For example, the options of tech stacks needed to create a website differ from the front end of mobile applications.

Let’s help you make sense of this difference.

Website/Web App Tech Stack

As you’re probably thinking, these are tech stacks with the primary purpose of creating websites. You can categorize them into frontend and backend components. And here’s what each entail:

Backend or Server-side Technologies

Backend tech stack refers to the technologies that interact directly with the database.

Although users do not directly interact with these stacks, they’re the backbone of the web app, and they determine the platform’s core functions.

Below is a table containing server-side technologies.

Backend technologyMeaning
Programming languagesBackend programming languages are stacks developers use to create functionalities and features in server-side architecture.

Java, Python, GO, C#Objective-C, PHP, Dart, etc are commonly used to develop backend features and functionalities.

FrameworksThese are sets of common functions in a programming environment that can be scaled to create customized products.

Frameworks simplify programmers’ tasks because they are adaptable coding templates.

They save programmers from having to write every line of code from scratch.

Common examples of frameworks are:

  • Django–for Python,
  • Laravel–for PHP,
  • Node. Js–for Javascript,
  • Ruby on rails–Ruby
  • React Native–for Javascript,
  • Express JS–for Javascript
  • Xamarin–for C#
Operating systemThe operating system of a backend is the platform where the frameworks, servers, and other elements exist and access requisite resources.

The top operating systems are macOS, Linux, Android, Windows, and iOS.

Database languageThe database is a repository for your codes. It also stores, collects, processes, and manages information gathered from multiple sources.

Common database languages such as MySQL, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, Graph SQL, etc., can be efficiently managed and queried using a versatile SQL IDE (Integrated Development Environment) that offers powerful features and tools for database development and administration.

Developers use these languages to structure the database and perform targeted operations.

Web serverThe web server stores, processes, distributes and maintains dynamic and static information. The most prominent web servers are Apache, IIS, and Nginx.

Now that you’re familiar with standard backend technologies.

The illustration shows a stack of website or web application development technologies containing server-side technologies.

Let’s briefly discuss frontend tech stacks.

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Frontend or Client-side Technologies

Frontend stacks are technologies used to create features and functionalities that web application users directly engage in.

Features built with these technologies directly influence user experience and the look and feel of web pages.

Below is a table illustrating the popular tech stacks that exist for frontend development:

Frontend TechnologyDescription
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language).HTML is a markup development stack responsible for the website’s content.

аIt provides the skeletal structure for the platform–in terms of words and images.

Also, it describes the structure of web pages using markup.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheet)CSS is a style sheet language that complements HTML by providing styles to beautify the structure, words, images, and other response features during web development.
JavascriptThis is a programming language that makes the browser web page interactive and dynamic.

Beyond this, it helps to integrate APIs from the backend.

FrameworkClient-side frameworks provide components and templates for core frontend languages like CSS, and Javascript.

Developers can choose between a slew of frameworks, depending on their preference.

For CSS, we have Bootstrap and Tailwind as the most common.

Javascript has React JS, Backbone, angular.js, Vue js, and Angular as its most common frameworks.

Illustration shows front-end technology stacks

Just like websites, mobile applications also have their distinct tech stack. Let’s discuss this right away.

Mobile App Tech Stack

An app development tech stack is a group of technologies used to create a fully-functional mobile application.

The only significant difference between this and web applications is on the client side.

Let’s help you with how to decide tech stack for your mobile app:

Mobile app technologyMeaning
React NativeThe react native stack is an open-source mobile development framework that allows you to create cross-platform mobile applications suitable for different operating systems.

Through a single codebase, you can create apps for iOS, Android, macOS, Web, Windows, Android TV, etc.

You can host apps built with React Native on Google’s PlayStore and Apple’s App Store.

KotlinKotlin is a general-purpose, open-source programming language that developers use to create mobile applications for the Android operating system.
SwiftSwift is an Apple Owned programming language designed primarily for developing mobile applications for Apple’s App Store.

This programming language is rated the most common tech stack for iOS apps.

Now you know the different options you have. The next question on your mind is probably: What factors do I consider before choosing a tech stack?

How to Choose the Right Tech Stack for Your Project: A Step-by-Step Guide

Let’s discuss this in detail.

Factors Influencing Tech Stack Choice

Before opting for a preferred tech stack, there is a barrage of things to consider. The most prominent factors influencing how to select a technology stack are:

  • The complexity of the business logic,
  • Website/ Mobile app size,
  • Deliverable timeline,
  • Growth expectation,
  • Level of security expected.

Let’s delve into each of these factors.

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Factor 1: Complexity of Business Logic

The complexity of business logic refers to the number and level of interaction between the codebase and the business goals.

It’s necessary to consider the complexity of technology from the business viewpoint.

Choosing a technology that doesn’t align with your needs might result in problems such as poor user experience and avoidable technical debt.

Before choosing your tech stack, you should first highlight your goal and objectives, then use that to determine the functionalities and the technologies they’ll require.

For example, if your aim is to create a single-page informational app or you want to build an MVP to test-run your product, then a cross-platform app written in React Native and Tailwind CSS does the trick.

Another factor to consider is the size of the product you’re creating.

The illustration shows the main factors influencing the choice of technology stack, namely, the complexity of the business logic

Let’s also touch on this briefly.

Factor 2: Project Size

Small projects usually require lesser tech stacks, especially frameworks that prioritize ease.

If you’re creating an MVP for feedback, use simple open-source stacks like WordPress to attain that goal.

Mid-sized and large projects, on the other hand, require more advanced tech stacks.

Depending on your technical and business requirements, you may need multiple languages to create a suitable solution.

For medium-sized projects like a business app, or eCommerce platform, you can use Swift for iOS, Kotlin for Android, and React Native for cross-platform mobile applications.

Large projects like enterprise applications or complex marketplaces have sophisticated business logic.

Thus, they require a robust, scalable, and secure tech stack to maintain the performance and integrity of your application.

For example, a blockchain-based fintech web project may require HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Web3 JS for its front end.

At the same time, may require Java for fast backend architecture, Python for AI features, Solidity for Ethereum smart-contract, Rust for other blockchain-related smart contracts, etc.

They’ll use either Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, or both for cloud hosting.

The tech stack here is huge due to the multiple features it needs to support the core functions of the project idea.

Illustration shows one of the factors influencing the choice of technology stack, which means the size of the project

Factor 3: Time-to-Market

Your time-to-market is a crucial factor to consider before choosing a tech stack.

If you’re starting with an MVP, which usually requires quick delivery, then it’s best to use React Native to create a cross-platform application.

React Native allows coders to use a single codebase for Android and iOS devices. Thus, the time spent on coding is shorter.

You can use the Ruby on Rails framework for the backend, as it gives access to a set of backend libraries, making backend development shorter.

The illustration shows factor that affects the choice of technology stack, which means the time to market

Factor 4: Scalability

Do you think of scaling your web or mobile application in the future?

Then you should align your development goals with your chosen tech stack.

Your application’s architecture should be scalable from the onset, as the cost of making modifications at the advanced or post-development stage is exorbitant.

In considering scalability, know how you want to scale your product. Here, there are two types of scalability, which are:

  • Vertical
  • Horizontal.
Vertical ScalabilityHorizontal Scalability
  • Vertical scaling refers to the possibility of adding a new range of features and functionalities to a framework without distorting the codebase’s effectiveness.
  • Programming languages that easily support vertical scalability include Node.JS, Python, and Javascript.
  • Horizontal scaling means improving access to a platform through user increment and launching on different operating systems.
  • Use tech stacks like React Native for your mobile apps for top-notch scalability, as it allows for cross-platform usage.
The illustration shows one of the factors affecting the choice of technology stack, which means scalability

Factor 5: Security

Apps handling highly sensitive information need to be very secure.

In Healthtech and Fintech, for example, numerous compliance laws mandate startups to secure user information appropriately.

A single security breach due to an insecure codebase, either at the front end or back end, can expose your product to legal litigations and affect the integrity of your brand.

For a secure architecture, use programming languages Ruby, Java, Python, Javascript, and Typescript.

The illustration shows the last factor affecting the choice of technology stack, which means security

Now that you know the things to consider before choosing a tech stack, let’s help you get started on how to pick a tech stack.

How to Choose the Right Tech Stack for Your Project

Figuring out how to choose the right technology for your application is as important as the actual coding process. It ensures that you have the right tech stack to support your technical and business goals.

Here are tips on how to choose a tech stack for a project:

  • Define the platform,
  • Think through the project type,
  • Highlight the core scope of the project,
  • Choose tech stacks that align with business complexity,
  • Consult with a knowledgeable development team of a software development agency.

To help you get started, we’ll break down the process into three failure-proof steps.

These are:

Step 1: Define if it’s an MVP or Full-Scale Application

The first step to choosing an appropriate tech stack is identifying whether it’s a fully-scaled or an MVP. Both have different business and technical requirements and the project scope.

Creating an MVP is the best move when creating a new product in the market, particularly one that you haven’t explored before.

The main aim of an MVP is to have a presentable application with core features built for gathering timely feedback.

It requires a quick time-to-market, scalable tech framework, and high responsiveness.

Another product type to create is a feature-rich product.

This is a development process where you create a fully-scaled product to guarantee an optimum user experience. The user interface here is well-branded.

Creating feature-rich products for a new company is acceptable when creating a solution for your company’s internal use.

Poor UX can easily be fixed internally, as no external parties are involved.

Once this is sorted, the next thing is to think through the project’s scope.

The illustration shows the basic components of the first step of choosing the right technology stack for a project, which means determining the platform

Let’s delve into this.

Step 2: Consider Project Scope

The project scope entails identifying requisite deadlines, tasks,  roles, and expected deliverables.

Doing this helps you identify your business’s intricate needs, software functionalities, and the best architecture you’ll need to support your objectives.

This, in turn, helps you understand the preferred tech stack that’ll suit your product development and maintenance.

To think through your project scope, do the following:

Identify the functional requirementsThe functional requirement describes the software’s features, functionalities, and workings to meet needed standards.

To identify the features and functionalities in your application, do the following:

  • Describe your target market,
  • Highlight the features that support the core functionality of the product,
  • Identify features to improve user experience, security, and performance.
System documentationThe system document is a written piece of information that explains the stakeholder’s expectations and shows the features and functionalities that should be on the application.

It explains to the development team the things that have to be created and why it’s necessary.

Create UX designThe UX design is a prototype depicting users’ experience when using the product.

This step is often accompanied by creating a UI design, as both work hand-in-hand.

The deliverable here is the UI/UX design that developers use as a guide to determine what features to create.

This picture demonstrates the necessary steps you need to take to think through the project scope needed to select the right technology stack for the project

Once this step is over, the next step is to highlight and gather the requisite tech stack.

Step 3: Evaluate Tech Stack Options

Once every team member properly understands the requisite features, functionalities, and overall scope, it’s time to think through the tech stack.

You can opt for legacy tech stacks or new ones. Or you can opt for frameworks and libraries instead of a core programming language.

Before you finally settle on a tech stack, some things to consider are:

  • The pain points you’re trying to resolve,
  • Your business requirement,
  • The skill-set of your team members

If you’re creating a product you want to use internally, ensure the solution is compatible with existing software and product.

However, if you’re creating MVPs, you need a tech stack to either scale an existing solution or rebuild your solution from scratch.

Depending on the objective of your MVP, create tech stacks to fit your goals.

This picture describes the main steps to focus on before, think through the technical stack

Popular Web & Mobile App Tech Stacks

To get you acquainted with the array of options you have, we’ll break down some popular tech stacks that are currently in the market.

The tech stack options you have differ based on the kind of software you want to create.

Let’s discuss each.

Web App Tech Stacks

For web applications, the options available include:

Tech Stack 1. LAMP

This is the most mature tech stack, and it’s suited for top-notch performance in functional web applications.

This tech stack is centered around four open-source components:

  • Linux (Operating System)
  • Apache (Server)
  • MySQL (Database)
  • PHP/ Python / Perl (programming language)

Here are some benefits of this tech stack:

  • LAMP is open source, which means the software source codes are available to troubleshoot development issues easily.
  • Users can replace every LAMP component with other open-source solutions per technical requirement and preference.
  • The LAMP community is huge, making it easy to find support.
  • It’s easy to set up.
The illustration shows LAMP technology stack component classification

Tech Stack 2. MEAN

The MEAN tech stack contains several tools to aid the creation of dynamic websites and web applications. The components of this tech stack are:

  • MongoDB (Database)
  • Express.JS (For backend framework)
  • Angular.JS (frontend framework)
  • Node.JS (JavaScript runtime environment)

This stack primarily focuses on using a Javascript framework for all developmental activities.

Here are some advantages of this tech stack:

  • Since users build the application with a single programming language, they can easily deploy the project on a server.
  • You can hire a single full-stack developer with knowledge of Javascript frameworks,
  • It’s cost-effective as components are all open-source and free,
  • Javascript has large community support,
  • It’s easy to add new aspects while developing and post-development.
The illustration shows component classification MEAN technology stack

Tech Stack 3. MERN

This slight variation to MEAN swaps angular for React as its frontend framework. The new technologies here are:

  • MongoDB (Database)
  • Express.JS (Server-side website framework)
  • React (Frontend framework)
  • Node.JS (Javascript runtime environment)

This tech stack relies on the advanced UI elements of React to create high-end web applications.

Like MEAN, it uses Javascript as its primary programming language to create frontend and backend functionalities.

The benefits inherent in this tech stack are:

  • It’s easy to find full-stack MERN developers because of their affiliation to the Javascript programming language,
  • It’s cost-effective to develop with MERN as its technologies are open-source,
  • It has large community support,
  • This tech stack aids quick scalability.
This picture describes component classification of the MERN technology stack

Now that you’re acquainted with the popular web development tech stack let’s consider mobile app technologies as that might be your area of interest.

Mobile App Tech Stacks

As with websites, some technologies are only used to create and maintain mobile applications.

These technologies can be grouped primarily into Native and Cross platforms stacks.

Let’s discuss each in detail.

Native Tech Stacks

Native tech stacks are programming languages and other supportive technologies used to create mobile applications for a specific OS.

The most popular Operating Systems for mobile apps are Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.

Developers use tech stacks that create solutions that work primarily on each operating system.

As mentioned, developers use Swift or Objective-C to create iOS applications, while Android native apps are created using Kotlin or Java.

Are you thinking about choosing native tech stacks? You should first know its pros and cons before settling for it.

  • Apps offer broader functionality,
  • Fast and responsive performance,
  • High-quality user experience
  • Native apps are more secure as they use native APIs and frameworks.
  • It requires multiple codes as each operating system has a different app version,
  • Cost is high as startups have to maintain separate developers for each platform.
Illustration shows native mobile app technology stacks

Next, let’s discuss cross-platform technologies:

Cross-platform Tech Stacks

As the name suggests, these are technologies designed to create a single mobile application that is interoperable across multiple devices. i.e., a single application you can host on both Google PlayStore and Apple’s App Store.

As mentioned earlier, the common examples of cross-platform applications are React Native and Flutter.

As with any other technology, cross-platform stacks have their pros and cons. Let’s discuss them briefly:

  • Faster development cycles,
  • Drastic cost reduction,
  • Wider audience reach,
  • Uniform UI/UX across all platforms.
  • Certain uniqueness and individuality of individual platforms are lost,
  • The development team must master different languages and tools.
The illustration shows cross-platform mobile application technology stacks

Now you know the options you have. Let’s discuss how popular tech companies currently use them.

Examples of Popular Tech Platforms & Their Tech Stacks

To help inspire your tech stack choice, we’ll discuss some prominent technologies that major brands are currently using:

 1. Spotify Tech Stack

Programming languagesHTML 5, C++, Javascript, Python
DatabasesCassandra, Hadoop
ServerApache Storm, NGINX

2. Airbnb Tech Stack

Programming languagesJavascript, Ruby
FrameworkRuby on Rails
DatabasesHadoop, Amazon RDS, MySQL

3. Facebook Mobile Tech Stack

Programming languagesC++, Linux, JavaScript, Hack, GraphQL, PHP
FrameworkReact Native, Swift, Xamarin, Tornado
DatabasesMySQL, MariaDB, HBase, Cassandra

4. Uber Tech Stack

Programming languagesC++, Node.JS, Java, Python
FrameworkApache Thrift, Node.js
DatabasesM3, Twemproxy, Redis, Hadoop, Cassandra, Riak, PostgreSQL, Schemaless
ServerNGINX, Apache Mesos

5. Dropbox Tech Stack

Programming languagesC, Objective-C, Java, Kotlin, Swift, Go, and Python
DatabasesMemCached, MySQL
ServerHA Proxy, NGINX, Apache

6. Netflix Tech Stack

Programming languagesJavaScript, Swift, Kotlin, Python, Java
FrameworkWinJS, NodeJS, React
ServerRDS and Amazon EC2

This section shows that tech stacks differ from platform to platform, and the primary factor determining what technologies to adopt is the preference and type of software you’re developing.

What’s more?

Struggling to Pick the Perfect Tech Stack?

As a non-technical founder, choosing the right tech stack can still be tricky, even after understanding the process. Incorrectly predicting costs, scalability, or return on investment can delay or derail your entire product.

At SpdLoad, we offer full-service consulting to guide startups through app development. Our experts manage software builds end-to-end, overseeing scoping, launch, maintenance, and everything in between.

We account for all technical and business factors, allowing you to focus on your customers and product vision.

Don’t just take our word for it – read reviews on Clutch and explore our portfolio.

Ready to turn your app from idea to reality?

Contact us to learn how we can help build, launch, and scale your tech product.

Bonus Infographic

In order to save you time, we have decided to make a summary of our detailed guide. In it you will learn not only how to choose the right tech stack, but also the main factors that determine the choice of your tech stack.

This infographic shows the basic steps to choose a technology stack for project

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