When it comes to application development, selecting programming languages is an important decision that rests with the engineers. More specifically, a solution architect or team leader chooses the programming language identified as the most suitable, a decision based on multiple key factors – solution budgets, future business needs, and technology environments.
First and foremost, it is important to understand the implications of this decision, as well as the main considerations associated. Prior to collecting requirements, analyzing project characteristics, creating specifications, and building a project architecture, choosing a programming language is an essential first step before important development officially begins.
At present, the number of programming languages available in production environment varies between 400-600 worldwide. And with so many options to choose from, making the right choice is paramount. Engineers must ensure the language will be beneficial rather than a hindrance, enabling end-users to enjoy it in everyday usage, instead of recurring problems or restrictions.
Yet as recent history conveys, many developers make the same mistake: choosing programming languages more popular and trendier, instead of those most suitable to specific business needs. And crucially, this is something that must change.
For engineers tasked with choosing programming languages, it is imperative that the solution they approve will accommodate for the future. Before making a final decision, key considerations should be taken into account: Is the solution accompanied with continuous servicing and support? To which environment is this specific solution most suited?
Furthermore, those responsible must question their provisioning needs for essential tools, libraries, and repositories that will drive project success. They should also examine the levels of performance and security needed, as well as consider non-technical capabilities of the language, such as consumer preferences, budget, time, resource limits, and the availability of developers on the market.
With help from my fellow expert engineers at CME, I’ve categorized these considerations under specific themes to provide valuable support during the application programming language selection process:
Type of Application
No matter the project, selecting the programming language depends on the type of service application being developed: Is it a web application, mobile application, gaming application, or something else? At the same time, it’s equally important to have a clear idea of how big the application will be.
Let’s take an enterprise building a customer relationship management (CRM) software solution, as an example. Here, the best course of action for the solution architect or team leader would be to check several important areas before making this decision.
They would consider the huge user community and support the language has, which helps enterprise applications gain competitive advantages. Low maintenance cost and faster processing would also be key, and engineers must ensure their applications can run on any hardware infrastructure. Moreover, they must check that language assets include a huge number of libraries – which are the building blocks for any enterprise solution. Finally, the solution must be interactive under different programming languages and platforms.
For enterprise applications, the most popular languages for achieving these outcomes are Java and Python. For instance, Java or Python are the best choices if enterprises want to go bigger on their web apps or develop an e-commerce website. But generally, using an object-oriented programming language for web applications is the best approach. Sometimes it is very easy to choose the language when you figure out the type, simply because it’s obviously the best suited choice.
For native Android Applications, the best language to use is Kotlin. For Native iOS application, everyone uses Swift. For system programming, engineers develop with C language. And for hardware devices, the languages of choice are C/C++.
To make it easier for you, we created a table detailing the recommended languages used and for which type of application:
|Type of application||Recommended languages|
|3D Gaming||C# – C++|
|Machine Learning/Data Science/Analytics||Lisp – Python – Clojure- R – Julia|
|Math and Scientific Computing||Matlab – FORTRAN – R – C++|
|Big Data||Java – Python – Scala|
|Operating Systems||C – C++|
|Distributed System||C – Go – Rust|
Maintainability, Support, and Resources Availability
For selecting programming languages, any language chosen for a service application must have maintainability and support. When a language’s most recent release date is becoming more and more outdated, it is highly likely that the language is not highly maintained and will become more and more prone for developing bugs issues or other forms of limitations in the future. The language of choice should be backed by community support, with documentation and tutorials to help guide the maintenance process. Here, Reddit, Github, and StackOverflow are all prominent examples. Furthermore, constant availability of resources is important, namely access to the most proficient developers for the selected language. After all, opting for a “niche” language will make it more difficult for companies to find qualified resources to maintain and evolve the application.
Scalability and Performance
During every project, engineers must consider how many users will access the application, as well project how many use the application in the future as word of mouth spreads and popularity grows. After all, user numbers may increase gradually over time or more suddenly. Anticipation is essential, and as such, engineers must assess how each possible scenario would affect application performance. At CME, various performance measurements are regularly conducted on projects with different programming languages, with some of the popular, high performance stacks being Ruby on Rails, Java Spring, and Net.
For engineers, it is essential they review programming language security guidelines before making a final decision as some applications require different kinds of security measures. For example, if a banking application is undergoing financial executions, the application should be PCI compliant. Moreover, the engineer will always be required to protect the application from cyber threats, hacking, cross site request forgery (CSRF) using the language of choice.
Finally, every application requires comprehensive protection from hacking and all other forms of cyber threats, while budgets should revolve around open source and licensing. Selected software should be verified as open source software or licensed software. If open source, approval is required from the company’s software license committee. If licensed software, prices should be checked and approvals gained from upper management and customers beforehand.
Selecting the most suitable application
When developing applications, projects leaders must select a programming language after verifying it is practical, feasible, and sustainable. Business requirements will always vary with each project, and every consideration above must be addressed to avoid issues, build a capable solution, meet performance demands, and ensure long-term sustainability. In doing so, the choice of the language will be narrowed down to fewer options best suited for the application in question, and a final decision can then be made when suitability is verified.