If only there were an analogy of Hogwarts’ sorting hat for software development… Imagine: you enter your idea of the product, how much budget you have, and get the list of the technology stack and contacts of the development team that would work ideally with your niche!
In the real software development world, choosing a technology stack requires planning, discussions, and analysis. Some technologies will work better with your project, and our task is to detect which ones. However, you also need to understand that the tech stack is not something fixed. As your product grows, there comes the need for new and better tools. This way, software development requires flexibility. Thus, prepare that your initial technology stack may not stay with you forever. You may need to scale your project or implement new features and store more information. There may be better versions of some tools available. Prepare to be flexible. Prepare to change and alter things when the upgrades require it. That’s what will make you competitive from a technological standpoint of leading an E-Commerce business.
In this article, we will tell you about the most popular technologies that power E-Commerce products. Next time you communicate with your development team, you will know all the essential information and, most importantly, you will ask the right questions.
Frontend tech stack
The web application consists of two sides – client-side and server-side, or frontend and backend accordingly. What is the difference between the two? Visit the website: everything you can see and click (from pictures and headings to videos and animations) is the frontend. The backend is behind the hood, making all these visual elements work and deciding how well the app performs. If you need an analogy for better understanding, look in the mirror. Your eyes, nose, legs, and hands – everything you can see would be frontend if your body were a software app. However, it all functions due to the work of inside organs. Your heart, liver, and lungs would be a backend part because you cannot see them without special ultrasound, X-ray, or tomography procedures. So, the frontend and backend coincide and complete each other, making your app usable, functional, and appealing.
- HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). It is a standard web language that contains and interprets basic elements that constitute the website to the browser. Different kinds of headers ordered lists, pictures, and texts – all of it appears due to HTML’s work. Basically, it is a skeleton of the website.
- CSS – HTML’s soulmate. They complete each other, as CSS gives style to HTML’s elements. It includes fonts, colors, shapes, and sizes.
- CSS preprocessors. They give CSS more functionality. You can choose between SCSS, SASS, and LESS to add more functionality to CSS. SASS and LESS allow the use of variables, nested rules. It also keeps the structure of the code more organized. SCSS is an additional file for SAAS. It provides extra style sheets for a browser that brings the app’s organization to a whole different level.
These are technologies that help you to create the front-end part of the application. Besides, you will also need to use various tools for testing or hire a QA manager. However, it all will not work without backend development, and here we will have to choose technologies even more carefully.
Backend technology stack
As we’ve mentioned in the previous chapter, the backend is not accessible to users. It is responsible for storing and manipulating data, which basically makes the app functioning. To make this happen, the backend development community has created so many that it seems they aim to create their own computing world! Here, it’s harder to choose than in the case with frontend tech stack. However, a careful choice is viral because it defines additional tools, the quality of the app, and how much it will costs.
Programming languages and their frameworks
There are many programming languages that, in turn, have numerous frameworks. Here are the most popular: PHP, Python, C#, Java.
We will write about PHP first because we use it and know the most about it. It is a very adult programming language that has been developing for 20+ years. For a long time, it was number one on popularity charts. Even nowadays, most websites use PHP or its technologies. Facebook, Yahoo, Wikipedia, and Tumblr are created with its help.
But why are we using this language?
First of all, we love it because of the freedom it gives to our coding. There is no issue that PHP cannot solve, and there’s also no just one standard method for one problem. We can develop creative solutions that will look like no other. It gives enormous flexibility that, in turn, plays a vital role in the projects` scalability and improvement. It is easier to grow the product and bring it to international markets. It is easier to implement new things and change the structure. Also, PHP’s community is highly developed. There are many additional tools available that improve the work.
However, we must be honest PHP itself tends to be too free. PHP’s biggest problem is that it allows irresponsible programmers to ignore formatting. Its unstrict structure provides a two-sides-of-the-coin effect. You can use its freedom to produce beautiful things with clean code and best practices. Or you can just hardcode and blow off the structure. That’s where the frameworks come into the game. They organize PHP’s code with formatting rules and provide ready-made solutions. We use three: Symfony, Laravel, and Yii. Each of them enough functionality to improve different kinds of high-scale and small-scale projects. We have an article about how to choose a suitable PHP framework here.
To put it shortly, Laravel fits products that you need to be ready AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. This framework provides efficient solutions for accelerated development without sacrificing quality. However, developers who can do such magic to your project are highly-paid.
If you understand that your product will have to grow intensively (with an increase in traffic, number of users, and data), then consider Symfony. It is a highly elaborate and adult framework. Although you will have to wait for the end result for more time than with Laravel, Symfony handles enterprise-scale projects and ensures further growth.
As for Yii, it is easy to use, accurate, and intuitive. Choose it for your small- and medium-size product that requires simplicity and speed.
Why do we recommend choosing PHP?
First of all, it is really adult, and its frameworks contain ready-made solutions, which saves time, money, and energy. Using Laravel, Symfony, or Yii makes PHP structured. Second of all, we want to highlight the professionalism of certified PHP developers. The task of development companies like ours is to find them, fitting the best candidates for your project. Also, PHP’s time-effectiveness makes it cost-efficient, and in development, time is money.
C# (pronounce as “C sharp”) is another general-purpose programming language. Its parent is Microsoft’s developer Anders Hejlsberg. It is easy to start coding with C# as it has a low learning curve. That means your development team can find new candidates easier if you need replacement or just additional people for the project. C# is a priority choice if you want to create a Microfost app or webpage. Also, C# fits game development. If you need to create a small game to attract customers to your store (interactivity is a new black on the web), this programming language is great! As for the frameworks, C# most popular one is .Net (pronounce as “dot net”)
.Net is a multi-platform framework (fits web, mobile, and Microsoft-based apps). It is universal for such languages as C++, C#, and COBOL. It was specifically designed to fit so many niches. .Net utilizes pre-written class libraries and supports all kinds of data structures. Thus, developers don’t have to write much redundant code, but rather use a ready-made one and save much time.
Java is a cross-platform programming language used to create various games, social media apps, and websites with complex systems. In retail, it’s a great tool to create and implement billing applications for your store. Also, Java helps to deal with great amounts of data, which makes it a great choice for E-Commerce giants. So, if you intend to become one, put an eye on it.
Java is simple, portable, and secured. It has a strong memory management system, making it dynamic and increasing the speed of apps. However, if you want to develop a basic E-Commerce website, this language will be way too complex and expensive.
Python is famous for its simplicity, libraries, and readability. It allows us to focus on actually coding rather than on maintaining all syntax rules. Python code is working great with other languages. For example, although we are working with PHP, we have experience performing some tasks with Python because it provided suitable solutions. It fits not only E-Commerce but also IoT, artificial intelligence, and data science. Potentially, it can have a broader application for E-Commerce businesses if they use automation tools, face recognition, and 3D visualization of products. Python has a lot of frameworks. Some of the most popular include Django, Flask, CherryPy.
All the information relevant to your website has to be saved somewhere nice, reliable, and protected from the ill-willers. That’s why the specially created to secure databases exist. They store, categorize, organize, and process the information about everything that happens on your page. All clicks and orders, cart filling ins, and abandonments – database have it. It is one of the most important constituents of your E-Commerce application. Depending on how well your database works, your website will be either slow or fast, updated or containing old info.
Imagine that you have 10 T-Shirts available on your website. 11 people want to purchase them within 10 minutes. Your database ensures that when 10 people buy 10 T-shirts, and there’s no other left, the 11th user will instantly obtain the information that the product is not available. That will save you much time and energy you would otherwise spend on customer support issues.
Often, problems with the database affect the performance of the whole app. That’s why the successful implementation of them into the project is vital. Usually, there are APIs compatible with different programming languages, which improves the collaboration of the two.
For every backend developer knowing at least a few database technologies is crucial. Now, if you think “databases? how many people do I have to hire?!” don’t worry, you won’t have to add a new person to the team with every new technology. IT guys are highly skilled and get to the grips of many different technologies, including databases, to fulfill their projects’ needs. Here are examples of databases.
- MySQL. It’s a relational database management system most often used to work with warehouse, retail, and logging information. It can be used to store any information (from one single record to thousands of items in the shop). MySQL is open-source, meaning that it’s free to use. We use MySQL together with PHP. Our experience with this database showed that it is secure, flexible, and has great performance.
- MongoDB provides JSON-like documents with data. It provides flexibility, as later the structure of information can be changed to fit new project’s requirements. The documents may contain different information and be structured in unique ways. This system is suitable for the product with many functionalities. Also, MongoDB is great for scalable projects.
- DynamoDB – an Amazon’s child that provides fast work with complex and high-load information. It offers encryption to protect sensitive data. DynamoDB is a fit for big E-Commerce stores with millions of entries.
- PostgreSQL supports both SQL and JSON querying, meaning that it can be both non-relational as well as recognize the relations between the items in the store. It is among the LAPP stack (Linux, PostgreSQL, and PHP) that we are also using to create dynamic websites. Apart from storing product listings and orders, it can also be of great help to E-Commerce stores that provide GPS-tracking of parcels.
Your website is just an application that won’t work on all of your users’ desktops if you don’t have a hosting provider. To put it simply, it’s a computer where your site is always turned on, allowing people to reach it through the Internet. When you start an offline retail business, you have to rent a building and then sell items. Hosting services is a technological analogy of renting a place. These companies also provide you with a unique address or domain (nameofyourstore.blabla). There are different types of hosting services:
- Cloud hosting (Google Cloud, Alibaba Cloud, Oracle Cloud, IBM cloud, Hetzner, Cloudinary). This solution is the most reliable because you store your website in a cloud rather than on a disk of a single server.
- VPS Hosting or Virtual private server (Hetzner, AWS, Bluehost) is when you purchase or rent a virtual machine to store your website. Only you control and use them.
- Dedicated hosting is similar to VPS, only it’s not virtual but a real physical machine.
- Shared hosting is when you use some hosting service together with other people or clients, based on an agreement. It’s the least secure method.
Hosting services are constantly developing and growing to be able to handle as much data as possible. Their physical storages turn into enormous buildings, and there are so many of them they create a small town.
Technology stack of famous E-Commerce companies
However, you need to understand that because there are so many businesses, the technologies that fulfill their needs are born every day. Very often, E-Commerce giants create their own solutions as they grow. Doing so, create standards for other players in the industry.
Here are examples of technologies stacks that world E-Commerce giants use.
Below is the tech stack of eBay – an online store with 1.3 million listings.
Below is an example of BestBuy’s tech stack. It contains numerous products in 18 categories.
Below is the tech stack of Target – an online store with thousands of listings in 30 categories.
In our experience, when a potential client refers to our development services without a pre-planned technology stack, we schedule a phone call and explain what we specialize in. To choose the best fit among the development tools, we need to hear from you. We need to know your business needs. It is important to understand what functionality is going to be crucial and what budgeting frameworks you are going to fit.
We worked with E-Commerce projects that had a great selling influence over the whole of Europe and began targeting the whole world. Their products weren’t delivered only to Antarctica (maybe just yet). We worked with small niche stores that valued great design and simplicity of usage. The atmosphere that lived on their websites provided such cozy feelings as though you are in brick-and-mortar stores with the nicest consultants. We developed medium-sized web stores whose aim was to continue growing and filling in new markets. Each of them required a different technology stack, and we knew it was a fit after a series of discussions. You can find out more about our E-Commerce experience via this link.
Be sure to write to our managers if you have offers or questions. Let’s change the face of online retail together!