Jun 21st, 2024

From Clicks to Code: Mastering the Architecture Behind Web Applications

Author - Arun Subramanian
From Clicks to Code: Mastering the Architecture Behind Web Applications
Jun 21st, 2024

From Clicks to Code: Mastering the Architecture Behind Web Applications

Web application architecture is about more than simply organizing your files and code. The structure of your application includes the technology stack and underlying systems and affects things like the deployment lifecycle, how easy it is to maintain code and onboard people, security, and performance.

Understanding the key components of web app architecture and the various types of architecture out there is critical to building your own well-managed, highly performant app. In this article, we’ll take a brief look at what web architecture is and why it matters, as well as dive into the specific components of web app architecture and the types of architecture you might use for your own application.

What is web application architecture?

Web application architecture defines the layout of all the software components of a web app and how they interact. This includes databases, middleware, server-side components, and front-end components, including the UI. It also allows us to understand how data is transferred between components and ensures that the data sent and received is valid and properly formatted.

Web application architecture also defines how records and logs will be created and managed, how user permissions and authentication are handled, and where and how security measures are implemented.

Why does the architecture of your application matter?

Choosing the right web app architecture affects the speed at which your app is built, its scalability, its performance and maintainability, and its security. It may end up dictating what technologies you can and can’t use, and affecting the overall growth of your company as you hire and onboard people to work on the various components.

Types of software architecture approaches

These days, most web applications are built using 3-tier application architecture. In this method, data and processes are separated into three layers: the presentation layer, business layer, and data layer. 3-tier architecture is sometimes also referred to as Model/View/Component architecture.

Presentation Layer

This is the client-facing portion of the app, typically called the user interface. This layer should be concerned primarily with how data is rendered for users to consume, and with capturing user interactions to manipulate data. Very little actual data manipulation should occur at this layer, beyond what is needed to display it in the UI.

Commonly used frameworks and languages in this layer include Javascript, HTML, CSS, and Javascript frameworks like React, Vue, and Angular.

Business Layer

Also called the Application Layer. This is where the majority of data manipulation happens. It is responsible for handling user requests and transferring data between the presentation layer and the data layer. This is part of the back end of the app and usually resides on the server, although it is not uncommon for some application logic to happen on the front end.

Commonly used languages at this level are Javascript (Node), Python, Ruby, C#, Go, and Java.

Data Layer

This layer is concerned with storing data. This is where databases and DBMS (database management systems) reside. External APIs and cloud storage buckets can also be considered part of this layer.

Languages found here include MySQL, Postgres, MongoDB, and S3.

Components of web application architecture

Beyond the three primary layers of web application architecture are many other “layers” of complexity—things like caching layers, APIs, Graphs, etc. Let’s take a look at how those break down.

Client-Side Components

  • Browser: Handles the presentation of the UI and capturing user input.
  • Cache: There are several caching layers that can be utilized in web apps. Some exist in the browser, some can be configured on the server, some sit between the server and databases. In the browser, cookies and local storage are examples of caching.
  • DNS: Resolves the incoming request and routes it to the proper address.

Server-Side Components

  • Server: Handles incoming requests from the front-end, databases, external APIs, etc. Responsible for formatting and transferring data.
  • API: An external service that receives network requests, performs a specific task on a piece of provided data, and returns the result to the main service. APIs can be used to handle anything you don’t want to code yourself. Things like authentication, validation, and image manipulation are common uses of APIs.
  • Load Balancer: Responsible for managing the volume of requests sent to different server instances.
  • Job Queue: For background tasks or tasks that need to be performed asynchronously.
  • CDN: Content Delivery Network. Sends static content, like images and files, from strategically located servers in geographical regions close to where users need to receive them. Increases performance by shortening the length of time it takes to deliver these assets.
  • Database: Stores and maintains data.
  • Microservice vs Monolithic Architecture

    Microservices are specialized, segregated systems that each handle a component of logic, as opposed to a single monolithic codebase responsible for everything. Microservice architecture is highly flexible and scalable, as separate components can be swapped out or upgraded as needed.

    Multitenant vs Single-Tenant

    Software architecture is now being offered as a SaaS service, and as such it can be beneficial to know the differences between these terms. Multi-tenant architecture is established within a cloud environment, where multiple software applications and organizations share space and resources.

    Single-tenant architecture is the name given to a single, standalone environment where a single organization utilizes the hardware and software resources available.

    How to choose the right architecture for your app

    Choosing the right architecture for your app will depend on a number of factors. First and foremost, you should choose an architecture and tech stack that your engineers are familiar with, or at least willing to learn. There is no point in building arcane, bespoke systems that future hires will find impossible to understand.

    Where possible, you should aim for a microservice and serverless approach. This will allow you to reap the benefits of microservice scalability and serverless code efficiency.

    Choosing a multi-tenant environment can be much more cost-effective than building a single-tenant solution. often, multi-tenant environments are managed by outside services like AWS, so they also come with a certain degree of tech support.

    Ultimately, well-considered architecture is the foundation upon which successful web applications are built. If you’re seeking a reliable software product development company, we can assist you in building and designing secure and compliant web application architectures that meet all your business requirements.