Whenever your company chooses to develop a web solution, quite a few consideration points arise that require a business leader’s attention. One such factor, regardless of whether you build your software in-house or opt to outsource, is picking the right web application architecture.
Chances are, your web development partner or internal Head of IT will guide you through the entire process and advise you on the best architecture for your needs. However, it’s still important to have a high-level understanding of what constitutes a web application structure. After all, it plays an important role in the success of your tech project.
So, today, we’re going to cover architecture fundamentals and hopefully demystify the seemingly complex topic.
Understanding Web Application Architecture
At this point, you might be asking yourself, “what is web architecture anyway?” In essence, it refers to the interactions between servers, databases, user interfaces, and other components within a system. All of these elements constitute an application, and architecture is what helps define the relationship between them.
If you’re still a little confused — don’t worry. It might be easier to grasp the idea by looking at a web application architecture diagram:
If we take website development as an example, architecture would refer to what goes on “behind-the-scenes” when you type in an URL and interact with a web page. Specifically, how the browser communicates with the server and showcases the information to you.
As you can see, architecture is the backbone of every app’s functionality. Whether you’re searching for something on a browser or managing customers in your CRM database — the structure of the web application is what makes it all work.
At this stage, it’s important to mention that there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” architecture. Rather, one that best suits your needs.
Main Components of Web Application Architecture
Now that you have a better understanding of web app architecture, let’s take a closer look at how everything works.
As you may have noticed from the diagram in the previous section, web apps are made up of two main components:
Server-side (backend): part of an app that’s inaccessible to users. It serves to store and manage collected data. Languages like PHP, Java, C#, and Python may be used for this component. Depending on the size of the application, the backend might consist of one or many databases.
Together, these two categories make up a fully functioning web application.
Web Application Architecture Models
There are two main server-side web app architecture models that developers use. In this section, we’ll take a quick look at each of them.
Monolithic architecture is the most traditional way of developing a web app. Some might go as far as to say that it can be a little outdated.
Monolithic applications are built as single, inseparable units. Thus, whenever developers want to update an app and make changes to the code — they’ll have to overhaul the entire file.
If you’re building a small app then monolithic architecture can be a great fit. However, be aware that it might create a challenge if you ever want to scale the solution into a large one.
Contrary to monolithic architecture, with microservices, the functionality is split into various chunks, with each responsible for a single operation. Hence, a separate microservice is in charge of every individual function of your system.
As you can imagine, this architecture design is great for complex web applications as it allows for easy scalability and simplifies the maintenance of your solution.
A term that’s often used alongside microservices is web services. In essence, the two go hand-in-hand. While the former is an independent application, the latter is a method of communication between software.
So, keep in mind that there’s a difference between microservices and web services, but an experienced development team can inform you about the nuances of each.
After an architecture model is picked, you’ll likely have to decide whether you’ll store your web app information on-site or serverless, in the cloud.
If you choose on-premises storage, your company servers will be hosted within the infrastructure of your organization. Often, physically onsite. This means that your business will need an in-house IT team that will control and maintain the servers.
On-site hosting is often viewed as a safer option for storing and processing data. However, the associated costs and the advances of current cloud solutions are steadily shifting preferences towards serverless computing.
On the other hand, in case of serverless architecture, a web app is hosted via the cloud by a third party. The main advantage of such an approach is that it allows you to avoid using a physical server, thus bypassing hardware maintenance costs.
With serverless architecture, the IT team can focus on software development, not server management. Hence, your web app can be created at a faster speed as long as you quickly choose a vendor. The most popular providers are Microsoft and Amazon, but the choice often depends on your specific needs.
Layers of Web Application Architecture
Regardless of whether you go with the monolithic or microservices architecture model, it will further break down into the following three layers.
The data layer of a web app manages and retrieves all user data related to an application. It consists of data storage and data access. Overall, it covers all the operations that are carried out for a piece of data to be fetched.
The business logic layer is also known as an application layer. It refers to the ability of an app to accept requests, process them, and determine what information to give back. In short, it coordinates the actions of an app like log-in attempts, order placement, or messaging.
Usually, business logic is closely related to the main functionality of an application. For example, in a financial trading platform, it can be the action of completing a trade. In a healthcare PMS, the process of managing daily administrative tasks.
The presentation layer relates to the front end of an application. It’s all about the user interface. Basically, the presentation tier facilitates the interactions between users and your web page. Its main purpose is to collect and display relevant information to the user.
Types of Web Applications
Now, it’s time to take a closer look at the different types of web application architectures that exist in client-side development.
Single-page applications refer to, as the name suggests, systems where all functionalities take place on one page. Thus, a web page is never entirely reloaded. Instead, only a certain area is, which leads to faster performance.
Single-page apps are great when you require a tool with frequent interactions. For instance, an online photo editor, or even a CRM platform.
Multi-Page Web Apps
Multi-page applications are more suitable for organizations that need to display a lot of information on their sites. In this case, every time a user completes an action — it’s reported back to the server. Thus, triggering the page to reload.
Despite the slower performance at times, these apps are likely the most common today. They offer higher levels of customization and can be optimized for better SEO performance.
So, if you’re looking to create a blog, media outlet, or another platform with a lot of static content — you’ll likely turn to multi-page application building.
Progressive Web Applications
Lastly, progressive web apps (PWA) are the latest trend in client-side architecture. In fact, these applications can be considered a mix between a website and a mobile app.
PWAs are developed as pages, but the user experience is significantly higher. Without having to download anything to the device, users can receive push notifications or even access the app offline.
Excellent examples of PWAs are Pinterest and Twitter, as they provide fluid and scalable experiences.
Most Popular Programming Languages and Technologies For Web Applications
We have covered the main aspects of web application architecture and have briefly touched on the programming languages and technologies that help create structures. However, let’s take a quick look at the most popular ones.
The most widespread programming languages that your developers might turn to are:
The most common technologies that your team will likely use for building a web app are:
The truth is, choosing the right tech stack can seem complicated, but it all comes down to what your project requirements are and what the developers recommend.
Attributes of a Well-Made Web Application Architecture
Hopefully, the web app architecture subject is a little less murky for you now. However, we are pretty sure you want to know what are the benefits a well-made web application architecture can bring.
If your web app structure is created specifically to suit your unique business needs, you will observe improvements in:
- Search engine optimization
Sure, it may at first seem expensive to build a truly suitable architecture. Especially if you want to develop a complex web app. However, in the long run, you will save time and money by getting it right from the beginning.
Choosing The Right Web App Architecture
Architecture is integral to the performance and functionality of a web application. It determines how secure and fast your web solution is, what experience the end-users receive, and how well the app ranks in search engine results.
Hence, the structure is a subject that will likely be brought up during meetings with your development team. So, having some basic knowledge about it will help you make sound decisions and stay in the loop during project discussions.
At Velvetech, we understand the importance of being on the same page with our clients regarding their needs. Thus, when working on web application development we always stay in close contact with you and make sure we’re delivering a tool that will enhance your business processes.
If you are ready to discuss a web application project with us — don’t hesitate to reach out. We’ll be happy to work together and help pick an optimal architecture for your app.