How to Compare Software Products: Solutions, Frameworks and Libraries
Actionable strategy on how to compare frameworks, solutions, libraries and other components for your software development project.
Success of a software project depends on a wide range of factors. Good understanding of the client’s business and needs allows to set the right project goals. Profound business analysis is an essential part at every step of design and development and the basis for building a forward-looking product strategy. UX design process determines how the users will interact with the final product and, therefore, directly impacts its success in the market.
Choosing the right technology stack for the project is no less important. In my experience, it’s worth conducting a detailed analysis and compare software products, solutions, frameworks, and libraries in advance rather than choosing the first alternative in the kit and reaping the results of an ill-considered decision later.
In short, it will save you a lot of time and money. Whether you build a new system from scratch or consider redesigning your applications, migrating to microservices, or moving to the cloud, you need to prepare a toolkit for your project. A solid comparison plan will help you:
- Make an informed, well-reasoned decision on which products should make the cut.
- Better understand expenses and avoid costly mistakes.
- Reduce or avoid technical debt entirely by choosing the right technologies from the start.
- Optimize the research and analysis time and speed up project development.
- Discover features and perks you didn't know about but could use on your project.
Need help with choosing the right tech stack for your new product? Or perhaps you are looking for a skilled web development team to help you speed up time to market? Tell us about your project!
Before comparing software solutions, frameworks, libraries or other components for a project, we should find the most suitable alternatives that could be used to build the required functionality.
At Digiteum, we’ve elaborated a set of 5-step all-purpose plans that help search for relevant alternatives and then compare software solutions to choose the right ones for the technology stack.
Step 1. Analyze project requirements
Make sure you have all project requirements confirmed and understanding achieved. After conducting a detailed business analysis, your project manager should be able to provide you with all the necessary information you need. Additionally, discuss the project goals and stakeholders’ expectations with your client and project manager.
Read: Why and when to build an MVP app in Flutter
Step 2. Break down the system into functional components
At this step, you should decide what the future system will consist of, including frontend that users will directly interact with, backend that will manage the system, data storage, and processing modules, security tools, etc.
Once you determine all the functional elements of the future system, you will be able to search for the right instruments to develop and integrate these elements into your future product.
Step 3. Analyze each element and the system as a whole
Now that you have a general understanding of the system elements, you can start a deep technical analysis in software development. Review available tools and services that could help you implement this functionality. Study each functional element and your system as a whole.
To get a brief overview of tools and frameworks available on the market, you can use the following techniques:
- Use Google to find relevant information and software product comparison for different solutions, libraries and frameworks that could be used to build your functional elements. You may turn to the industry expertise if it’s available.
- Check StackOverflow for discussions on different solutions relevant to your project.
- Go through relevant YouTube guides, presentations, and educational videos.
- Search for the necessary information on platform-specific forums.
- Turn to your colleagues' expertise.
Step 4. Collect the sources with the necessary data
In-depth analysis of different functional elements and your system as a whole gives you a high-level idea of what libraries, solutions, frameworks or other components to move on with. Now you can collect all the necessary information needed to create a profile for each alternative you are looking into.
- Get the documentation (PDFs, articles, diagrams, flows, math models) from the original publisher of the solution you are studying, check the latest versions, and determine which program languages it requires.
- Find relevant open-source and/or proprietary libraries, check their license availability and APIs, search for the test projects, or make your own test to see if the libraries address your requirements.
- Find relevant open-source and/or proprietary web services and check their APIs and important comparison criteria (such as price, availability, and limitations). Perform test requests if possible.
Step 5. Create a report
At this step, you collect all the information into a unified report with the necessary information like availability, usability, cost, limitations, features, support, etc. You can build this report in an Excel sheet and prepare the material for comparing software solutions, libraries, frameworks or other components you are studying.
Here’s a compact illustration of the whole process in one scheme:
As mentioned earlier, choosing the right solutions and frameworks for building system functionality has a direct impact on the success of the project. In practice, it’s always more reasonable and cheaper to choose the right tools in advance than to rebuild the whole system later.
Therefore, we need a strategy on how to compare software products, libraries, solutions and frameworks and choose the right components for the future system.
Now that you have found the most relevant tools and services that potentially could be used in your system, you filter them out, leave a dozen or so, and start a detailed software comparison.
By the way, this process can be performed at every stage of your project, starting from the software development discovery phase to solution architecture to building new features at different iterations.
Here’s a quick step-by-step plan for comparing different solutions:
Step 1. Define the alternatives
Based on the previous search process, your experience and the briefs with your client and project manager, you can define a compact list of alternatives you will be choosing from. You can use the report from the search process described above.
Step 2. Analyze the alternatives
At this step, you should use different analytics techniques to get a complete description of each alternative.
- compare the alternative against the given specifications and requirements
- collect the feedback on each alternative from the internet, your colleagues’ experience, teams
- learn how the solution is used in the related industry and among competitors
- verify the health, activity, and support compared to other alternatives (regular updates, live support, forums, etc.)
- create a test project (if not created/analyzed before at the search stage)
Step 3. Ask questions to create a complete image of each alternative
- What is supported?
- How can be used?
- Are there real examples?
- How good is the codebase?
- How easy is it to customize?
- Where was it used?
- Is it used by other developers?
- What are the scenarios?
- Is there an active community?
- How does commit activity look?
- How good is performance, flexibility, and reliability?
Step 4. Make a result sheet
You already have abundant information on each alternative. Before comparing each alternative against your project requirements, you can outline the major comparison criteria to save time and effort at the final step of the analysis.
- Describe capabilities
- Define limitations
- Estimate the effort needed
- Determine risks
Step 5. Define pros and cons and make your choice
At the final step of this analysis, you can already define and weigh the pros and cons for each alternative and check the results against your project scope and requirements. Often, you end up with more than one alternative and suggest stakeholders choose between these options depending on their product vision and project goals.
Here’s a compact scheme that shows how to compare software according to our all-purpose step-by-step plan:
As you can see, both search and compare strategies imply extreme detailing and require in-depth research and analysis. In my practice, the time and effort spent on these studies usually pay off, because both of these approaches will help you choose the best possible software solution or framework for the project. This choice, in turn, will directly impact the performance, cost, flexibility, support, and other aspects of the final software product.
These actionable plans are very straightforward and easy to use if you have relevant experience. If, however, you are in over your head and realize you need help with selecting the right solutions for your software project, you can always ask for expert advice from our tech team.
Over the years of working with clients in retail, energy, logistics, agriculture, and many other industries, we have used these methods countless times and saw how extensive research helps companies optimize their development costs and reach even the tightest delivery deadlines.
Our tech specialists will help you:
- Start with in-depth research to analyze your requirements and business objectives to choose only relevant solutions, platforms, and services
- Tap into our decade-long experience in custom software development to make a shortcut and choose the right tech stack faster
- Save tons of time and money from the very start and get off on the right foot
- Bring in relevant industry expertise
To get expert consultation, fill in our quick contact form and tell us about your project and needs.
In this post, we went through two actionable plans that will help you find, analyze and choose the right technologies, platforms, frameworks, and service packages for your software project. You can use them as is, add new steps or tweak them to better address your research needs.
This post was originally published on October 25, 2018 and updated on May 27, 2022
- Choose your alternatives
- Analyze each alternative against your project requirements, review support, regular updates, feedback, etc.
- Analyze performance, flexibility, community, quality of codebase, reliability, costs, etc.
- Define risks, limitations, and capabilities
- List the pros and cons for each alternative
- Review frameworks against your requirements
- Gather all necessary data, including updates, support, community, feedback, peer experience, real-world cases, etc.
- Check each framework for features, tools, scalability, flexibility, reliability, etc.
- Make a result sheet
- Evaluate results