Web applications - what technology should my software be built with?
You should talk about the technology stack when you decide to ask a software company to develop a bespoke web application. A lot of clients miss this because their supplier has only one preferred technology and so there’s never really a serious discussion about its advantages and disadvantages.
Here are some reasons why you should be interested in the programming languages and other technologies that are going to be used to build your application:
- Hosting costs. Web applications built with the Microsoft technology stack will almost certainly cost more to host because you’ll need to run your web application on a Microsoft Windows server. The Microsoft server operating system and - if you’re using it - the Microsoft SQL Server database come with additional licensing costs. Web applications built with an open source technology stack such as PHP & MySQL generally cost less to host.
- Developer availability & long term maintenance. Some of the newer technologies - Node.js for example - come with a smaller pool of developers. That might make it harder in the long term to maintain your application if you decide to switch supplier. Established technologies such as the open source PHP programming language and Microsoft ASP.NET have been around a long time - there are lots of companies that can support applications built with these technologies.
- Compatibility with other systems. There’s an argument that a web application built for the enterprise - one that’s used in a corporate environment - might be better if it’s built in the Microsoft technology stack. It won’t perform any better, but it might make sense if there has some integration with other Microsoft applications. It’s not always the case but it is something else to think about. Have you got particular requirements around integration with other third party systems?
- Speed of development, scalability and performance. Established technologies such as PHP come with big libraries of code, components, advice and support that address many of the common challenges that developers face when they are building large scale web applications. Developers don’t always have to reinvent the wheel - someone somewhere else has already solved the problem. This can be a big time saver during the development and it can also help later if your user numbers grow and you hit performance problems - tweaking performance is much easier when there’s plenty advice available on the web from people who’ve already done it.
It’s worth talking about the technology your supplier will use to develop your application and you absolutely don’t need to be particularly technical to ask a few relevant questions. What you’re looking for is reassurance that further down the line - after the development is finished - you’ve got an application that is relatively inexpensive to host, easy to support and scalable.