You have an idea for a killer app, you have created the wireframe, you have created a comprehensive list of features that similar apps have or don’t have, you have written blog posts on it, and all with whom you have shared your idea think that it is going to be a game changer.
You are restless.
You are desperate to start coding and working on the interface.
Even if you’re not an individual app developer but an organization desiring to tap into the power of the mobile app, it is a challenging exercise to give shape to what has been drawn upon the whiteboard.
After ideation comes technological feasibility. Most of the creative and management teams are adept at coming up with great ideas – in the context of digital products – but when it comes to implementing those ideas and creating real-world solutions, even a small wrong decision can build up big disasters.
It’s time to decide what is the right tech stack for the development of your mobile app. The choice of the tech stack can have a big impact on how your mobile app eventually fares.
Please keep in mind that the tech stack that you choose for your mobile app development project is not just going to have a bearing on how you develop and create the first version of your mobile app, but also affect your future upgrades and expansions.
Below you are going to learn what is a tech stack, how to select the right tech stack for your mobile app development project, and what is the long-term effect that the tech stack is going to have on your project.
What Exactly is a Tech Stack?
A tech stack is a complete group of programming languages, interface design tools, database technology and scripting technologies that you’re going to use to give shape to your mobile app.
The choice of the tech stack is going to have a direct impact on
- The front-end of your app – The interface that people use to interact with your app
- The back-end of your app – The processing part that takes in user input, processes it and then gives the needed output
- The development platform – A collection of code-editing interface and libraries that makes it easier for you to design and develop your app
- The Non-functional Requirements – The backbone of a successful app in terms of performance, security and robustness
Why is it Important to Start With the Right Tech Stack, in the Beginning, Itself?
The more compatible the various parts of your tech stack are, the easier it will be for you to develop the app.
Instead of going with the coolest tech stack, do your research, take your time and settle upon a tech stack that gives you the following:
- A Faster Mobile App: There should be no lag time when your users use your app. Some programming languages and interface development tools can be very bulky because even to achieve the smallest of tasks, they need big libraries. Some might be very fast and self-reliant. Make sure the tech stack that you pick allows you to create a very lean and fast-interface mobile app.
- Better Iteration: Most probably you will be developing your mobile app in stages. Every major mobile app is developed over years of iterations and the same will happen with your app. Does your tech stack allow you to seamlessly modify existing features? Or is it an elaborate process? Remember that you should be able to add or improve upon existing features very fast.
- A Better Overall Development Speed: You should be able to build your mobile app faster so that you can quickly launch it, or at least, you should be able to launch it as early as possible. If a lot of time is taken by your tech stack, the delays will percolate into even other aspects of development.
How to Choose the Right Tech Stack for your Mobile App?
The tech stack technologies divided for two main aspects of mobile app development, namely, front-end and back-end. Listed below are various technologies you can use at different stages of your mobile application development.
Front End Tech Stack (Client side)
The tech stack for building Front-end depends on the type of mobile app you are going to build. Listed below are various types of apps and their respective technologies which you can use for your mobile application development.
Native Mobile App
A native mobile app solely depends on the mobile phone and the operating system it uses. For example, you will build a native mobile app solely for the Android environment or the iOS environment. In the native mobile app, you can access features like the camera, the GPS technology, the gyroscope or the accelerometer.
You can also incorporate various gesture controls available with your device. Apple these days offer is 3D touch and you can make it available in your native mobile app.
Tech Stack for Android Mobile App Development
Java is the official language for Android. The official and the most preferred IDE for Android development is Android Studio. It allows you to make mobile apps according to Google’s Material Design and it also allows you to access all the advanced features of the Android platform.
Android Studio also allows you to program in C++ and Kotlin, in addition to Java. SQLite is the most popular database used by Android developers.
The IDE also provides you a “design view”.
After creating your app, you can generate an APK file.
Another prevalent toolkit for Android is Android Developer Tools for Eclipse.
Tech Stack for iOS Mobile App Development
The preferred languages for iOS app development are Objective-C and Swift. The toolkit is used by the iOS app developers are Apple Xcode and IntelliJ AppCode. SQLite is also a database of choice among iOS developers.
Progressive Web Apps
A progressive mobile app can be used through a mobile browser. It is often a platform-independent mobile app. It doesn’t matter whether you are using an Android mobile phone or an iOS mobile phone, as long as you have a functional browser, you can use a web-based mobile app.
Hybrid Mobile Apps
Popular programming languages for developing hybrid mobile apps are Swift, Ruby on Rails, HTML 5, Python, Java, Swift, and Objective-C.
The preferred development environments for building hybrid mobile apps are: Git, Sencha Touch, and Unity.
Backend (Server Side) Tech Stack
The tech stack for building the back-end for most types of mobile apps is basically same because, as everything happens in the background.
3) Mobile App Development Platforms
A mobile app development platform is a set of services and tools compiled under a single interface, for developing mobile apps. Since most features required to create an app are already there in a platform, it speeds up your overall development life-cycle and each time you need to create a function that already exists, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
How to choose a mobile app development platform for your next project?
A mobile app development platform should facilitate easy integration with the needed database, APIs, and other back-end systems. Ideally, it should also support the development of multiple types of mobile apps including native apps, progressive apps, and hybrid apps. To extend it further, it may also help you develop cross-operating system mobile apps within a single interface.
Basically, the platform should allow you to integrate all the aspects of development into a single interface including architectural design, development, testing, deployment and in the later on, even support.
4) Non-Functional Requirements
The non-functional requirements of your tech stack are like scalability, performance, usability, accessibility, data delivery, security, compliance, extensibility, portability, disaster recovery, documentation, robustness and other attributes.
Most of the above-mentioned attributes are easily understandable, so let’s understand the importance of meeting non-functional requirements in terms of your mobile app being able to launch on a CDN (Content Delivery Network).
CDN systems allow you to store your mobile app data and other components of your mobile app on a local server that is near to the user, instead of storing everything on a distant server.
Suppose your main mobile data is stored somewhere in Russia and someone needs to access your app along with the data in Brazil. It may take lots of time for the data to travel all the way from Russia to Brazil, but if you are able to store your data and the required libraries locally somewhere in Brazil, using a CDN system, your app will function faster.
This is a non-functional attribute of your tech stack.
The Questions You Should Look Before Settling On Your Tech Stack
#1. Do you have developers for it?
No matter how snazzy a tech stack seems, finally it rests on your development team. Can your present developers work on the tech stack or will you need to hire a new team, and if you need to hire a new team, is it worth the cost?
#2. How much time do you need to launch your app?
If you have a time constraint then you may like to choose a tech stack that allows you to quickly assemble pre-made features into a quick app. They may not be very flexible, but you will be able to prepare an app that you can quickly launch (and later on you can expand upon it).
If you have a flexible timeline then you will choose a tech stack that allows you to get your hands dirty and stretch your limits.
#3. Will your mobile app allow third-party integrations?
Once your user base increases, you will have enough data and important features that other app developers may like to integrate with their own apps or even someday you may also like to integrate data and features of third-party apps? Will your tech stack allow these integrations in the beginning, or later on?
#4. Is it open source or commercial?
There are pros and cons of going with the commercial or an open source tech stack, in case it is available. The pros of a commercial tech stack are that enough support will be available, and you won’t have to depend on the whims of the community members. The cons are that your overall development expense will go up and there might be many proprietary restrictions.
The pros of an open source tech stack are that there is a large community constantly adding new features. There will be minimum propriety restrictions.
#5. Is documentation available?
During the programming and design phase, you will need to refer to the documentation all the time. How easily accessible is it?
#6. Is there a community?
While you are developing your app, a big part of the support may come from the community already working with your chosen tech stack. How effective is the community? How responsive are its members? Do they normally create noise, or do they add value to the knowledge base?
#7. Are you going to target a single platform or multiple platforms?
You must have noticed that many apps that are available on iOS, are not available on Android, and vice versa. Why is it so? Don’t people using all the mobile phones want to use certain apps? Not necessarily. If you think users of a certain mobile environment wouldn’t be interested in your app, then don’t invest your time to explore tech stacks for that environment.
#8. What experience do your end-users expect?
iOS app users are accustomed to using very sleek, graphically appealing and smooth app interfaces. There are many inbuilt features in Apple devices that allow you to create very attractive-looking interface elements without breaking the fundamental architecture of the UI.
Android users on the other hand, since most of the apps are free, unlike iOS apps, as long as they get to use the basic functions they are looking for, are not very picky about the aesthetic part.
While choosing your tech stack you will need to take into account what sort of interface you need to provide to your core audience.
#9. Who will be supporting and maintaining your mobile app?
Do you have a permanent in-house team of developers who will always be available to use the tech stack to make quick changes to the interface or the basic architecture of the mobile app or will there be a temporary team that may leave after developing your app?
In the absence of the development team, your in-house staff may have to maintain the app and, in that case, does the tech stack have the scope of being tinkered around by people who might not be as adept at using it as the original development team?
#10. How does your tech stack interact with supporting technologies?
Apps these days often interact with each other. Even if you don’t have a cross-platform app, your users might want to use the data from one app through another app, from one device to another. For example, they may like to access their contacts that they have created in an iOS app, and another Android app. Does your tech stack provide this level of compatibility?
#11. Does your app have a unique feature that is available only to a particular tech stack?
Generic features can be handled by almost every tech stack, but what about a particular feature, something totally unique, that your mobile app is going to have? Suppose there is an app that interprets hieroglyphics; does your tech stack have the abilities to process complex patterns?
What about an app that predicts weather patterns? Does your tech stack seamlessly handle big data analytics?
Choosing a tech stack for your upcoming mobile app development project is a long-term, serious decision. Remember that once the development begins, you will be committed to the tech stack you have chosen.
You need to take into consideration the comfort level of your development team, your development plans, the short-term and long-term goals of your mobile app, the unique features it is going to have, the environment you have chosen for the app and the team that will be responsible for its upkeep once the app has been developed and launched.
What do you think? Have you recently chosen a tech stack for your mobile app project? Are you contemplating selecting the right tech stack? We would love to get your take on this.
Dhananjay (DJ) Goel is the CTO at Alphalogic, passionate about technology, startups, game of thrones and coffee. He enjoys working on challenging problems with innovative startups.