Web apps must look perfect – inside and outside. Besides creating a web app that looks good and works correctly, it’s crucial to ensure that it solves all business problems efficiently. In the era of fast-paced processes, one never knows what will happen with their product in the future. One day the app’s popularity can grow, dramatically increasing the number of users. People may also start using some peripheral features more actively or ask for more functions in feedbacks. At this point, architecture defines the capability of the app to grow along with your business and solve new problems as it changes.
This article highlights how well-designed architecture is important for fast-growing businesses and mature companies. We’re also going to “let you inside” the developers’ world by explaining modern web application architecture types and approaches.
Why Is Well-Designed Architecture Important?
Web app architecture is a structure that defines how an app is organized on different levels. Experts specify the quality of a web app architecture according to these parameters:
- whether users can solve tasks with a web app correctly;
- whether developers can modify this app easily.
If everything is organized properly inside the app, it’s easier for a developer to keep working with it and ensure a high-quality result. A well-built architecture provides businesses and development teams with these advantages:
- Smooth app performance. The goal of a web app is to perform the intended functions correctly and easily adapt to changing requirements. Based on the app's purpose, an architect can find an efficient solution that withstands various loads and keeps the high performance.
- High scalability and flexibility. As technologies mature, an application must be ready to adopt them to stay competitive. When designing the app’s architecture, a qualified specialist focuses primarily on ensuring easy ways to modify and scale the app. If the app is technically hard to scale, businesses face downtime, which leads to considerable time and money losses.
- Easy integration of new features. By dividing an entire system into smaller parts, a development team can easily integrate a new functionality without affecting the structure and work of the entire app.
- Saved money. Сomputer scientist Brian Foote once said: “If you think good architecture is expensive, try a bad one.” Striving to release a usable product as fast as possible, some companies choose fast development over high quality. Thus, they risk wasting money on fixing their app in the future. By focusing on architecture, companies minimize the risks and cut expenses that the app’s redesign might require.
“If you think good architecture is expensive, try bad architecture.” © B. Foote
- Reduced development time. The app’s architecture must allow developers to do parallel processes in the app. The clean code and understandable structure make it possible to include more software specialists in a team and considerably reduce development time.
- High security. A secure web application architecture by dividing a complex system into several small blocks. Each block is checked and protected separately, which enhances the overall security of the application.
Despite these benefits, architects often face some obstacles when building an application. Some of these advantages cannot coexist perfectly. For instance, improving the app’s security can require much of the development time and reduce the app’s usability. Also, sometimes the available budget is not enough to cover the needs for higher app performance and security.
Architects must find a balance between various aspects of development to help clients solve various business tasks with their product and keep it competitive and profitable. Qualified specialists always build an architecture based on the client’s business needs first, giving all technical aspects the second priority. Only the type of architecture that’s based on the client’s requirements above all will further solve problems in the most convenient way for business.
What’s “Bad” Architecture?
In contrast to a well-structured design, there are also the criteria by which a specialist can define bad architecture:
- Rigidity. A rigid web app is difficult to handle and modify. With every change in one part of the application, too many dependencies can occur in other parts.
- Fragility. A web app is fragile if it doesn’t work correctly or stops working whenever a new change is added.
- Immobility. The immobile structure doesn’t allow programmers to reuse code for creating similar features in the app, which increases the time of development.
Levels of Web App Architecture
Architecture is a way of organizing an app on different levels so that the app could bring the most effective results for businesses. Let’s take a closer look at these levels:
- The system level. On this level, architecture helps to set and regulate the interaction between such components as services and databases.
- The program level. It deals with various modules, files, components, and defines the rules on where writing a specific piece of code in the app is rational and where’s not.
- The business level. An architect must find the balance between all technical aspects and create a problem-solving solution that meets the business needs.
Basic Types of Web App Architecture
All web applications are based on client-server architecture. Within this model, a client is a browser or a program that “asks” the server to make some action possible. The server defines whether doing some action is possible and sends the corresponding answer to the browser. There are a few ways of how architects can organize the client-server system. In this part, we’re going to describe the types of web app architecture and explain how they work.
The two-tier model is a traditional web app structure consisting of two main parts:
- the client side - a browser that receives the needed data provided by a server. It displays a user interface, sends requests to the server, and processes responses from it.
- the server side - a web server that sends data to the client side that enables the client to accomplish a specific task.
The Internet ensures communication between a browser and a web server through HTTP requests and answers. This type of architecture is the most relevant for small web applications intended for less than 100 users. Within this model, the higher number of users and requests is undesirable. A single server might not withstand a considerable data load. If it crashes, the entire app becomes impossible to use. Pic 2
The most common way to create a client-server app is building a three-tier web application architecture. By using three tiers, it’s possible to distribute the app’s load between the client, the server and the database in the most convenient way and ensure its high speed and smooth performance. The high-level architecture diagram for a web application below depicts the elements of every layer from the inside. Its main parts include:
- A presentation layer - used for displaying data to a user (UI) and data entry (a web browser).
- A business logic layer - a level of the app’s main functions and data processing (made possible by various back-end frameworks for PHP, Python, Java, etc.).
- A data layer - responsible for data storage and access (database).
Compared to traditional server-client model, multitier architecture is characterized by:
- Higher scalability. All functions are divided between the servers of the second and third layers. The two-tier model is simpler because it offers to use a single server. Yet, it requires more productivity of the server because it must withstand considerable loads.
- Increased configurability. Layers don’t depend on one another, so instead of reworking the entire app, a developer can simply modify a tier.
- Improved security. The tiered structure makes it possible to provide protection carefully for each layer or service.
Monolithic App vs. Microservices
A monolithic web app is indivisible and runs in a single process. Adding something new to a large web app becomes tricky because changing only one part of it often requires changing the entire app’s structure. The system’s rework takes a lot of development team effort and an entrepreneur’s time and money. However, the consistency of simple monolithic apps makes them fast and highly responsive.
Within the microservices approach, specialists divide complex apps into parts called web services. Each block is responsible for one functionality. If specialists got to modify or add something to an app, they can change one block without affecting or interrupting the work of the entire system. The app becomes easier to scale, as your business needs grow.
Within this model, a developer uses third-party cloud solutions for the server-side part of a web app. Such tools as AWS Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and IBM OpenWhisk handle every aspect of web app hosting – from computations and security to data storage and distribution. More precisely, serverless architecture offers these advantages:
- Focus on the app’s functions. A cloud service provider takes full responsibility for monitoring, scaling, and server maintenance. Thus, developers focus on the quality of features rather than spend time figuring out server-related risks and maintenance.
- High app performance. Cloud solutions make web apps highly flexible. Regardless of the changing number of users and requests to be processed, they scale an app dynamically and balance load automatically. As a result, a web app can withstand heavy traffic loads while keeping its performance high.
- Fast time to market. Since developers don’t have to develop a dedicated server, a considerable part of the job is delegated to a cloud provider. Consequently, the development teams work faster on the app’s release.
- Reasonable cost of maintenance. Using serverless computing solutions and databases is more budget-friendly than owning a dedicated server. Companies cut costs because they don’t have to use any hardware and pay for proprietary software licenses. Typically, they pay exactly for the consumed space and used services.
Many people consider cloud hosting to be less secure than owning a dedicated server. First, developers entrust the server location on the Internet, which is vulnerable to hacker attacks. Second, a cloud provider becomes responsible for the total control of the server.
With a dedicated server, developers take control of its performance and security. Although it can be more time-consuming, you get the guarantee that your trusted development team handles all problems directly rather than rely on third parties.
A piece of advice: Besides the mentioned approaches, there are many ways how a software specialist can organize an app based on its purpose characteristics. The main purpose for business owners here is to find a reliable team that would understand their business first and create a perfect structure for an app.
A well-structured architecture is a guarantee that your system will be technically prepared to meet the changing business requirements. What architects generally do is organize and develop solutions able to solve users’ and clients’ problems in the most efficient way for business. A great part of the app’s success also depends on whom you trust the development process. If you plan on creating a web application for your business, contact us and our architects will build an efficient solution to suit your ideas.