A guide to choosing the technology stack for your web product

What is a discovery phase and why is it so important?

If you are reading this, you probably have an idea for a web product and you are going through the process of selecting the technology to build your web platform or application and even a website. This is one of the most important decisions for the success of your web product. In this blogpost we share some guidelines to help you choose the best tech stack for your web product and website.

More than having an amazing look and feel and great user experience, you need to make sure you have a solid technological base to maintain and grow your digital product. The technologies you choose will have a direct impact on your product's speed, performance, scalability and reliability.

What is the technology stack?

A technology stack is the selection of technologies you use to build your website or web application. In technical terms, it's a compilation of frameworks, tools, programming languages, software and servers used to build and run your web product.

In general, a tech stack has 2 main layers: the back-end (formed by programming languages like Python, PHP or others, a web server and a database) and the front-end (HTML, CSS, JavaScript).

There are many options out there and selecting the right tech stack can be a challenging task. There are a series of factors that you should have in mind when choosing the technologies you will use. Your business goals, your audience, the functionalities that you are envisioning, the size of the platform you want to build and others will have a major impact on the technology stack.

Below we present some basic guidelines that we, as a web development company, have in mind when building a web product to a client.

1 - Have a clear idea of what you want to build and for whom

This may sound simple to do, but it's not always as straightforward as it might seem. It's important to have a general idea of what you want your web platform to do, but you will have more success if you have an idea of the details as a set of functionalities and features that are needed to achieve your goals.

This alone is not enough, have your business goals well set and your audience defined. More than that, make sure there is a place in the market for your product. This is the first step before starting to think about your tech stack and would help you a lot in the process of finding the best tech options for you.

You should try to prepare a document with all the specifications your website and product should have. Detail the features you want to have, the pages you are envisioning and the functionalities. Look out for inspirations and select examples of other websites and platforms that will help you and your team to visualize the product.

Make sure you do not start building your website and product if you don't have a clear idea of what you want. This will save you time and money and your development team won't be frustrated to build something that is not going to be used.

2 - Start small

Start your project with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) before you dedicate time and money on a complete web product. A MVP does not necessarily need to be a minimal version of your website. It can be a social media page, a Google Spreadsheet, whatever helps you to build an audience and to make sure there is a need for your web platform.

Start by building an audience around your product and as you move forward increase your understanding of who your target audience is and how they act and how you want to interact with them. Use tools like social media and other existing services to interact with your audience and to build a better idea for your product.

When you feel you are ready to start building your product, again, go small. You don't need to build the whole platform you envisioned, with all the features and functionalities you would like your product to have. Try to come up with the minimum that you can offer to your audience that will enable them to use your product and for you to continue improving it based on their direct feedback.

There are a series of companies that are great in helping companies and people creating new products with service/ product design and find that sweet spot for your product's first launch. They will help you build user flows and journeys and set all the minimum features you need to start with an MVP. In cases like this, we at Marzee Labs work in close partnership with Major. Check out their website and see the amazing projects they have delivered.

3 - Use services and tools that already exist

Make the best use of existing tools and services out there to build your MVP. There is no need to build everything from scratch if your first step should be to test your product in the market.

For instance, if you need an eCommerce functionality you could rely on services like Shopify to power your product. In case you need a comment section in your blog, you can use a third-party service like Disqus to deal with that.

As you scale your product you will see if you need to change the third-party services to a customs built solution. And you will be in a better position to do that since you will already have user feedback.

4 - Prepare to scale

This can be tricky. You should start small and begin with a MVP, but it's important to have in mind an overview of where you want your platform to go. When you choose the tech stack for your platform, even when we are still talking about building a MVP, it's important to have in mind that you will need to scale at some point.

If you have a solid technological base you will be able to improve your digital platform as your business grows. So, make sure your tech stack can handle the scalability you are expecting.

Imagine you have a small brand of clothes and you want to launch a new collection. You do some marketing around it and on the day of the launch you have an unrepentant increase in traffic of your eCommerce store and your server can't handle it and your website goes down for the whole day. Building your MVP with the right tech stack will avoid things like this to happen that could harm your brand and product.

5 - Explore all your options

There is a wide range of tech options out there, so you should explore them as much as you can, having in mind your product specifications, of course.

This means that you should be open to new technologies. It's not because you heard something is good that it will fit for your specific case. Quite often clients come to us with a clear idea of the technology they want for their website and sometimes this is not the best option for them. So, before committing to a tech stack, make sure you have considered the pros and cons of the different options you have.

Consider asking for expertise support during this phase. Share the product specification documents you have prepared with a developer or a web development company. They will be able to help you outline the best tech options for each one of your goals and, better yet, support you in understanding the pros and cons of using one or another technology.

In case you are considering outsourcing the development of your web platform it's worth considering to pay for a discovery phase where the development team will dissect the requirements for your platform, explore the technical options together with you and elaborate a project roadmap with rough estimations to build your web product and a preliminary timeline.

This discovery phase will allow the development team to compile and review all the available information before starting the project and will result in a more realistic approach for building the web platform or application.

It reduces uncertainty by providing purpose and direction to the project as well as contributing to a clear technical overview of the web platform to be built. It minimizes risks and reduces overall cost.

6 - Develop a Proof of Concept

In addition to the exploration of the different tech options you have, a discovery phase can also include a Proof of Concept (POC). This exercise will potentially prove that your web product will work and demonstrate that the overall functionality can be built using the chosen tech stack.

A Proof of Concept will make sure you have a valid way to build your new web platform or application and It will enable the dev team to find the pain points and test functionality.

You are ready to start building your web product

With these guidelines in mind, you will be ready to start the development phase of your web product. Whether you want to create a website and online presence for your company or institution or build a complex web platform or application, following these steps will put you in the right position to make an assertive choice.

Make sure you have a good development team working side by side with you that will enable you to achieve the success you deserve.