MEAN Stack Development

What is the MEAN Stack?

The MEAN stack is JavaScript-based framework for developing web applications. MEAN is named after MongoDB, Express, Angular, and Node, the four key technologies that make up the layers of the stack.

MEAN Stack is one of the most popular Technology Stack. It is used to develop a Full Stack Web Application. Although it is a Stack of different technologies, all of these are based on JavaScript language. MEAN Stands for:

  1. MongoDB – document database
  2. Express(.js) – Node.js web framework
  3. Angular(.js) – a client-side JavaScript framework
  4. Node(.js) – the premier JavaScript web server

There are variations to the MEAN stack such as MERN (replacing Angular.js with React.js) and MEVN (using Vue.js). The MEAN stack is one of the most popular technology concepts for building web applications.

Flow of Data in MEAN Stack Application: Here, each module communicates with the others in order to have a flow of the data from Server/Backend to Client/Frontend.

mean stack flow

How Does the MEAN Stack Work?

MEAN Stack Architecture

The MEAN architecture is designed to make building web applications in JavaScript and handling JSON incredibly easy.

MEAN Stack Architecture

MEAN Stack Components

MongoDB

MongoDB is an open source, NoSQL database designed for cloud applications. It uses object-oriented organization instead of a relational model.

In the MEAN stack, MongoDB stores the application’s data. Because both the application and the database use JavaScript, there’s no need to translate the object as it journeys from the application to the database and back. The application can push and pull objects between the back end and the database without missing a beat.

MongoDB is touted for its scalability in both storage and performance. You can add fields to the database without reloading the entire table, and MongoDB is well known for its ability to manage large amounts of data without compromising on data access. With just a few clicks, you can expand the resources available to your database, making it perfect for applications with occasional periods of increased activity.

For a deeper dive into MongoDB, see “MongoDB: An Essential Guide.”

Express

Express is a web application framework for Node.js. It balances ease of use and a full feature set.

Forming the backend of the MEAN stack, Express handles all the interactions between the frontend and the database, ensuring a smooth transfer of data to the end user. It’s designed to be used with Node.js and so continues the consistent use of JavaScript throughout the stack.

Express is minimalist—it’s designed to efficiently handle processes without cluttering your application. But don’t confuse minimalist with featureless. Express offers excellent error handling and templating functionality to aid your development.

Express can also protect you from yourself because it uses the CommonJS module standard to prevent inadvertent overwriting of variables within the shared namespace. You can’t accidentally redefine a variable that you previously created. This enforcement of JavaScript closures can help prevent a time-consuming and costly error.

AngularJS

AngularJS—Google’s JavaScript frontend framework—isn’t the only frontend framework in use, but it’s exceedingly popular. It is effectively the default for frontend JavaScript development. If you’re developing a web application in JavaScript, you’re using AngularJS.

The MEAN stack includes AngularJS to help developers build the user-facing side of the application. Because the backend, frontend and database are all built on JavaScript, there’s a smooth flow of information between all parts of your application.

AngularJS didn’t become the most popular JavaScript frontend framework by mistake. Its ability to simultaneously develop for desktop and mobile use, its well-tuned performance and its easy-to-use templates make it the ideal front end to build cloud-native applications.

Node.js

Node.js is an open source JavaScript framework that uses asynchronous events to process multiple connections simultaneously. It is an ideal framework for a cloud-based application, as it can effortlessly scale requests on demand. You’re likely to find Node.js behind most well-known web presences.

Node.js is the backbone of the MEAN stack. Express is purpose-built to work on top of Node.js, and AngularJS connects seamlessly to Node.js for fast data serving. Node.js comes complete with an integrated web server, making it easy to deploy your MongoDB database and application to the cloud.

The greatest strength of Node.js is its scalability. Cloud applications are best when they can respond quickly to usage spikes. What good is virtually unlimited processing power if it’s only available after your users time out? By expanding your resources as they’re needed, you’re able to serve more users while the framework’s single-thread architecture allows the application to effectively provide a smooth user experience across numerous connections. Node.js can support as many as a million simultaneous connections.

Use cases

While the MEAN stack isn’t perfect for every application, there are many uses where it excels. It’s a strong choice for developing cloud native applications because of its scalability and its ability to manage concurrent users. The AngularJS frontend framework also makes it ideal for developing single-page applications (SPAs) that serve all information and functionality on a single page. Here are a few examples for using MEAN:

  • Calendars
  • Expense tracking
  • News aggregation sites
  • Mapping and location finding
mean stack use case

An example architecture for a Node.js runtime with MongoDB on a MEAN stack.

What Does a MEAN Stack Developer Do?

With MEAN development, developers can build dynamic web applications and websites through free, open-source technologies.

MEAN stack developers use the four technologies that make up a MEAN stack to develop web applications. This role isn’t all that different from a full-stack developer, meaning they also work on front and backend systems.

  • Other common responsibilities and expectations include:
  • Experience working with each layer of the MEAN stack: MongoDB, Express, Angular, and Node.js.
  • Comfort working with jQuery, PHP, and Symfony
  • Testing web applications
  • Deploying web applications
  • Creating modules
  • Designing databases
  • Integrating APIs

The Benefits of MEAN Stack Architecture

MEAN applications can be used in many ways with a cross platform write once approach. While MEAN is particularly suited to real-time applications, particularly those running natively in the cloud and single-page (dynamic) web applications built in Angular.js, it can be used for other use cases such as:

  • Workflow management tools.
  • News aggregation sites.
  • Todo and calendar applications.
  • Interactive forums.

What’s caused MEAN Stack to go from a LinkedIn group favorite to the top choice for web application development across the globe? This tech stack doesn’t just have a couple of pros. It has several advantages that have fueled its success:

Open Source

Each layer of the MEAN stack is made up of free, open-source technologies. As a result, developers can make use of publicly accessible libraries and repositories during the development process. One of the benefits of open source technology is that the stack is updated regularly. Developers can also tap into developing communities to ask questions, get ideas, and find solutions to issues they may come across.

Easily Swap Between Client and Server

The MEAN Stack is written in one single programming language: JavaScript. Because the web applications are only built in one language, developers can easily switch between the client and server. There’s no need to use a stand-alone server; instead, they can easily deploy web applications on a server.

Flexibility

One of the greatest advantages of MEAN development is its flexibility. The use of a single programming language (JavaScript) and MongoDB make the stack particularly adaptable. The universal code will run on both the client and the server. That offers developers greater flexibility if they decide to change frameworks during development. You can also host the project to the cloud through MongoDB.

Additionally, developers can easily add new features and modules during or after development. You can create prototypes, customize to meet requirements, and build scalable web applications without a lot of headaches.

Cost-Friendly

We’ve mentioned that MEAN is free, which is a definite advantage to businesses. Developers only need to know a single programming language to build effectively with the tech stack. Organizations that choose to build with the MEAN Stack can also focus largely on hiring JavaScript experts.

Time-Saver

MEAN is especially useful for tight schedules. Developers don’t need to create modules from scratch. Instead, they can lean on the directory of module libraries within Node.js. Plus, you won’t have to hunt down errors. You’ll be automatically notified if a feature is broken, giving you more time to fix it and move on to the next step in your project.

Another time-saving feature? MongoDB, AngularJS, and Node JS all use JSON to store data, so there’s no need to reformat data. Need to make changes in real-time? You’re in luck. Traditional web applications require you to hit refresh every time you want to see the results of a server request. MEAN uses single-page applications, so you don’t have to constantly refresh web pages for each server request.

Who is a MEAN stack developer?

A MEAN stack developer is a full stack web developer. However, a full stack developer has a broader scope and knowledge on various programming languages and stack-based frameworks.

A MEAN stack developer is an expert in MongoDB, Express.js, Angular.js and Node.js. They are proficient in Javascript and use HTML, CSS and Javascript to handle front-end operations and back-end server scripting.

The MongoDB database does not use javascript but uses commands that are similar to javascript. This is why MEAN stack developers are also called Javascript full-stack web developers.

Typical MEAN Stack Developer Requirements

MEAN stack developers must have a strong understanding of JavaScript. It is also recommended they have deep experience with each layer of the MEAN stack. It’s beneficial for developers to be familiar with the MEVN stack, which replaces Angular.js for Vue.js, a front-end JavaScript framework. Likewise, it’s helpful for them to understand MERN, where Angular.js is swapped out with React.js. React.js is a front-end JavaScript library.

Skills of a MEAN stack developer

  • HTML, CSS and javascript programming languages.
  • CSS and Javascript based frameworks.
  • Basic understanding of the client-side processes and requirements.
  • Basic understanding of the server-side processes and requirements.
  • Basic understanding of the architecture and workflow.
  • MEAN stack expertise – ability to work with Angular.js, Node.js, Express.js and MongoDB. If not Angular, then you need to know ReactJS or VueJS.
  • Familiar with package manager-npm.  
  • Familiarity with Git and design framework like MotionUI is desirable.
  • Time-management, critical thinking and communication skills are expected.

The Average MEAN Stack Developer Salary

What can MEAN stack developers expect as far as pay? According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for MEAN Stack Developers is $89,817 per year in the United States. The salary distribution ranges from $66,000 to $122,000 annually.

When Can the MEAN Stack be Used?

MEAN follows the traditional three-tier stack pattern, including the display tier (Angular.js), application tier (Express.js and Node.js), and database tier (MongoDB).

If you’re building a JavaScript application, particularly in Node.js, then you should give MEAN a serious look.

MongoDB stores data in a JSON-like format (BSON, a binary JSON extension), the MongoDB Query Language (MQL) is defined in JSON, and its command line interface (CLI) is a JavaScript interpreter. Not only is MongoDB essentially a JavaScript/JSON data store, but it’s full of advanced features like indexing and querying deep into JSON documents, has powerful native Node.js drivers, and is designed for horizontal scale-out. It’s even easier to develop apps in the cloud using MongoDB Atlas, the cloud-native Database-as-a-Service from the creators of MongoDB.

Whether you’re building a high-throughput API, a simple web application, or a microservice, MEAN is the ideal stack for building Node.js applications.

Disadvantages of the MEAN Stack

JavaScript is a great modern language, but it wasn’t initially designed to build back-end servers. Since the foundation of the MEAN stack is JavaScript, including the back-end server, it might come with concurrency and performance problems at scale due to JavaScript nature.

Additionally, since the development opportunity is so rapid, business and server logic might suffer from poor isolation, making potential spaghetti code and bad practices a reality along the way.

Finally, although there are many guides and tutorials out there, they generally will not include concrete JS coding guidelines appropriate for this stack. Therefore, something that worked really well for one application might surface issues for another.

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