February 24, 2021

What Is a Tech Stack And How To Choose What Goes in Yours

For a non-savvy person, the word “stack” is usually associated with vague terms like a short or full stack of fluffy pancakes. Those pancakes are usually placed atop one another to embody one structure, thus making an orderly pile that serves a common purpose.

A technology stack, of course, does not refer to a pile of pancakes. However, they do share some general similarities, like a solid harmonic structure and a shared objective.

What’s more important, investing in the various elements of your tech stack is a salient success factor for businesses. It enables your development team to build and maintain your product, and to ensure it never fails to meet customer needs.

Stay with us to go under the covers of a technology stack and know more about the go-to tools used by worldly-known services, including Netflix, Spotify, and others. 

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Fantastic Tech Stacks And Where To Find Them

A technology stack goes by different names such as a solutions stack, technology infrastructure, or a data ecosystem. But these names add up to the same thing, which is a set of all the technology services that help build, run, and maintain one single application.

Web VS mobile application tech stacks

Web applications are programs that use a network that connects different computers via the Internet or some internal private networks. This means web applications do not need either installing or downloading, since they run entirely within a web browser on your computer.

The web dev tech stack always includes the front-end and back-end. The tools that fuel both sides may differ, yet act in concert. Both front-end and back-end stacks have a binding character.

Mobile applications, on the flip side, can exist and function only within specific platforms like the iOS and Android ones. To access the application, users have to download it from Google Play or AppStore. In this case, tech stacks are different and include platform-based technologies and tools like Swift or Kotlin.

Let’s have a closer look at the tech stacks typical for web and mobile app development processes.

Tech stack for custom web applications

Back-end tools 

The back-end is the hardware and software part of the service. This is the set of tools that implement the logic of the website. In simple words, these are behind-the-scenes processes that fuel the inner workings.

As for the backend developers, they use any tools that are available on the server. In practice, the back-end tools usually include:

  • Programming languages;
  • Frameworks;
  • Databases;
  • Server providers.

Front-end tools 

The front-end is the part the user interacts with. In simple terms, it refers to developing functionality and an intuitive user interface, working on the client-side of the application or website. This includes everything that the user sees when opening a web page. To create a convenient and popular product, frontend developers cooperate with programmers, designers, UX-analysts.

Front-end development includes:

  • HTML is a document markup language used to form the structure of a web page: headings, lists, paragraphs, etc;
  • CSS is a language for styling the look of a document, and its description. CSS allows the browser to understand how to display elements. It also enables developers to set the colors and parameters of fonts, determine the location of blocks on a website, etc. 
  • JavaScript is a language that makes the website more interactive by enhancing the HTML code. It makes the interface to respond to user actions, sends requests to the server, loads data, lets you type messages, and much more.

How to find the best tech stack for your mobile applications

There are quite a few elements that rely heavily on the selection of the right mobile app tech stack. Any wrong, uncalculated decision will result in a bad performance and undermine future growth prospects.

Essentially, the choice is based on the platform you’re aiming for:

  • iOS platform
  • Android platform
  • Cross-platform software

iOS application: tech stack overview

If you want to create a native application for Apple devices, you need to contact a team that is specializing in Objective C and Swift. Also, if developers use Swift for your iOS app, then they’ll need Apple Xcode as the toolkit or JetBrains App code which are integrated development environments. Now let’s have a closer look at the most popular technologies for iOS.

Objective-C

Objective-C, also known as Objective C, ObjC, or Obj-C, is Apple’s compiled programming language based on the C language and Smalltalk paradigms. Unlike C++, Objective-C is fully compatible with C (Objective-C is a subset of C) and C code compiles. This programming language is widely known among developers thanks to its reliability.

Swift

Swift is Apple’s robust and intuitive programming language for creating apps for iOS, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch. With this simple, easy-to-use open-source language, all you need is an interesting idea to create something incredible. Its main advantages include readability, safety, interactive coding, and dynamic libraries.

Xcode

XCode is Apple’s software  that developers use to create applications for Apple products. XCode provides the tools to manage the entire flow of development operations-from creating the app, to testing, optimizing, and uploading it to the App Store.

AppCode

JetBrains AppCode is a new Objective-C environment for creating applications for Apple devices. It is a powerful code editor not only for Objective-C, but also for many other programming languages, including C++, XML, JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. The smart and user-friendly navigation of JetBrains AppCode allows software engineers to create and open Xcode projects, run the application on an IOS device or in a simulator.

Android application: tech stack overview

Java

Most Android apps are developed using the Java language. It is a very popular programming language developed by Sun Microsystems (now owned by Oracle). Developed much later after C and C ++, Java incorporates the powerful features of these powerful programming languages and eliminates some of their shortcomings. Java is a safe bet for Android, since Android consists of its own APIs and Java libraries.

Kotlin

Kotlin is an open-source programming language that can run on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). It is a language that combines object-oriented programming and functional programming on an unrestricted, self-contained, and distinctive platform. It has gained an astounding amount of popularity among developers, as it allows writing less code and alleviates developing pains.

Android Studio

Android Studio is an Integrated Development Environment based on JetBrains’ IntelliJ IDEA software specifically for developing Android applications.

Hybrid app development technologies

React Native

This one is a JS framework for creating natively rendered iOS and Android apps. It is based on the Facebook-developed React JS library for creating user interfaces. But instead of browsers, it is geared towards mobile platforms. React Native ensures a sleek, smooth, and responsive user interface while cutting load time.

Now, let’s see what other essentials you should take notice of while pondering a tech stack for your project.

Examples of stacks and programming languages in 2021

Software projects are like fingerprints. No two companies have ever been found to have the same ones (we’re not talking about copy-pasting and other dirty play). However, it can sometimes be useful to do some competitive research and find out about the go-to technologies used for similar projects. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of leading services and their tech stacks.

Dropbox 

Dropbox is a file hosting service from Dropbox Inc. that includes personal cloud storage, file synchronization, and client software. Its tech stack consists of the following solutions:

  • Python
  • NGINX
  • MySQL
  • Amazon S3
  • Amazon Cloudfront
  • Memcached
  • Rust

Airbnb

Airbnb is an online marketplace that connects people who want to rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests with travelers seeking accommodation. Its tech stack includes:

  • Javascript
  • React
  • NGINX
  • Java
  • MySQL
  • Redis
  • Amazon S3
  • Amazon EC2
  • Sass
  • Ruby
  • Rails
  • Hadoop
  • Druid, and others.

Uber

Uber is a ride-hailing company that has literally taken the industry by storm. Among the technologies powering the famous app are:

  • JQuery
  • Python
  • Node.js
  • React
  • NGINX
  • Java
  • MySQL
  • MongoDB
  • Redis
  • Swift
  • Objective-C
  • Cassandra
  • Apache Spark
  • Hadoop, and others.

Netflix

Netflix is a streaming service that has reached international popularity due to the low-price, high-revenue philosophy. This reliable source of fun includes a whole set of powerful technologies that guarantee a seamless experience:

  • Python
  • Node.js
  • React
  • Java
  • MySQL
  • PostgreSQL
  • Amazon S3
  • Cassandra
  • Hadoop
  • Oracle
  • Presto
  • Pig, and others.

Yelp

Yelp is a local business review and social networking site used for browsing the local service market, such as restaurants or hair salons. It is powered by the following technologies:

  • Amazon CouldSearch
  • MySQL
  • HTML5
  • Storage Gateway Bugsnag
  • EC2
  • Elastic Load Balancing
  • Mobile Hub
  • Cloudflare
  • Django
  • Fastly
  • RBCommons
  • jQuery
  • DigiCert
  • New Relic
  • Lambda
  • NGINX
  • OpenSearch

Zillow 

Zillow is the leading real estate and rental marketplace that empowers consumers with data, inspiration, and knowledge. Its tech stacks and solutions involve:

  • Python
  • Rabbit MQ
  • Android SDK
  • Objective-C
  • SQL Server back end
  • Mongo
  • Linux

Spotify 

This digital music service gives access to millions of songs, podcasts, and audios. Spotify tech stack includes:

  • Google Analytics
  • G Suite
  • Amazon S3
  • New Relic
  • Apache Storm
  • Kafka
  • Amazon CloudFront
  • Cassandra
  • NGINX
  • Bootstrap
  • Hadoop
  • Python
  • Postgre
  • SQL

Wrap-up

As you see, there is no uniform technology stack that can easily implement your business idea. Web development projects and mobile apps require different approaches, which is the paramount criteria when choosing a development team. Sometimes, time-proven technologies may fall short of filling your tech needs, and you may need to tap into rare programming skills like Rust or Haskell.

In any case, technology isn’t the only thing that matters. Your product needs a sleek design, specific requirements, the right testing procedures, and so on. When your development team combines all these aspects into one powerful application, your product will be set up for success.

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Tatsiana Isakova

Author’s bio: Tatsiana Isakova is a Belarus-based content writer who authors in-depth industry insights, opinion pieces as well as reviews, and blog posts at The App Solutions. Tatsiana loves to stay au courant with tech trends which helps pack her copies with value and relevance.

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