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Micro Frontends: The New Approach to Modular Web App Development

January 4, 2024 699 Views
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In the last decade or so, technological advancements have completely transformed the web application development process. In the past, web applications and pages used to be static, meaning users could only view the website content but not interact with it. Fortunately, the introduction of JavaScript in the 1990s paved the way for dynamic and interactive websites. Today, all modern websites and apps contain interactive elements, providing an outstanding user experience. JavaScript frameworks have also gained immense popularity in the last decade. Many developers prefer using a popular front-end JavaScript framework to quickly and easily create a responsive and highly interactive UI quickly and easily.

Recently, an architectural approach called Micro Frontends has been making waves in the web development industry. Micro Frontends play a pivotal role in modular web application development and offers numerous benefits.

In this article, we’ll discuss the core concepts of Micro Frontends and their advantages. We’ll also explore some popular tools and technologies for Micro Frontends.

The Core Concepts of Micro Frontends for Web Application Development

What are Micro Frontends?

 Web Application Development with Micro Frontends

Micro Frontends is an architectural approach for front-end development based on the principles of microservices. It breaks down or divides a web app’s UI (user interface) into smaller and independent sections or modules. We can build, test, and deploy these modules separately, and each of these modules is responsible for a specific functionality or feature of the app. Micro Frontends can also be considered smaller, self-contained apps.

Micro Frontends vs. Monoliths

In the past, web apps used to be monolithic, meaning the apps’ components or functions were tightly coupled. This means an error in one module will affect the whole app. Moreover, even a small change in one part of the app requires the redeployment of the entire codebase. We also can’t scale a single component independently in a monolithic app. In other words, scaling of a monolithic app involves the entire architecture. In monolithic architecture, integration with new technology is also quite challenging.

Micro Frontends provide solutions to various issues developers face with monolithic apps. For instance, the modular approach facilitates flexibility and allows us to scale individual components of the app as needed. Moreover, the changes we make to one module don’t affect the other modules or the entire app. This helps with faster and more efficient app development.

The Micro Frontends approach for web application development also allows various front-end developers’ teams to work on different parts of one app independently. Each team can utilize their preferred tech stack, such as web technologies, web application frameworks and JavaScript frameworks. For instance, one team can use the Ext JS front-end framework to build their module with pre-built components provided by the framework, whereas another team can use React or Angular to build their module.

Also read: Everything you need to know about web application development.

The Micro Frontends Architecture

Components and Composition

As aforementioned, the Micro Frontend approach involves splitting the UI into multiple independent modules or components. Each component or module is called a micro frontend that can be built, tested and deployed independently. Moroever, we can modify or update a module independently without impacting other components of the app.

Composition can involve combining several micro frontends to create a single bundle or package at build time. You can also dynamically load and integrate various micro frontends during the runtime. This on-demand loading improves the initial loading time, speed, and overall app performance.

Moreover, it’s crucial to efficiently handle the routing and navigation in micro frontends. We can leverage techniques like path-based routing or URL routing to deliver a seamless and consistent user experience across various micro frontends.

Communication Strategies between Micro Frontends

 Web Application Development- esuuring seamless communication and data sharing between micro frontends with APIs

To integrate various micro frontends of a single app efficiently, seamless communication and data sharing between micro frontends is essential. We can use APIs, event-driven architectures and techniques like shared state management to ensure effective communication.

Advantages of Adopting Micro Frontends

Independent Development and Deployment

The biggest benefit of micro frontends is that we can develop, test, and deploy each micro frontend or module independently, where each module is responsible for a specific UI functionality or feature. This modular approach allows developers to make changes in one component or module without impacting other modules. For instance, teams working on different micro fronts can release bug fixes and updates without affecting other parts of the application.

Moreover, independent development and deployment of micro frontends mean various teams can work on different parts of one app simultaneously. This accelerates the web application development process.

Enhanced Scalability and Flexibility

The micro frontend approach offers high flexibility, allowing developers to scale a single component individually without impacting other components. Hence, micro frontends make scaling of the front-end easier.

Improved Team Collaboration and Specialization

In micro frontend architecture, multiple developer teams can work simultaneously on one app. Each team can work separately on their micro frontend using their preferred tech stack, programming language, and web application framework. For instance, one team can utilize the React frontend framework, while another can use the Ext JS framework. Hence, each team can choose the best tools and technologies for their module or micro frontend. This flexibility and autonomy also allow for faster development.

User Experience and Performance Benefits

Building web applications with the Micro Frontend approach can also improve the performance of the apps. We can develop individual modules/micro frontends and optimize each micro frontend according to its unique features and functionality. This results in faster load times, leading to enhanced app performance and user experience.

 Best Practices for Micro Frontends Development

  • Focus on creating self-contained modules that can be reused without requiring heavy modifications.
  • Select tech stack for micro frontends carefully. Ensure the tools, frameworks, and technologies you choose are easy to integrate and compatible.
  • Ensure effective communication between different Micro Frontends. Use contracts and APIs for communication.
  • Develop robust versioning strategies to maintain versions and ensure compatibility between various modules.
  • Automate deployment/ CI/CD pipelines for micro frontends to streamline the process.
  • Monitor the effectiveness and performance of each micro frontend continuously and make changes where needed.

Overcoming Challenges in Micro Frontends

A graphic of a person working on a desktop PC

Here are the common challenges developers can face while adopting the micro frontend architecture:

  • Implementing the micro frontend architecture makes the development process a bit complex. Managing the communication and data sharing between various micro frontends built using different tools and technologies can be challenging. Ensuring design consistency (styling, theming, etc.) across multiple modules can also be difficult. However, meticulous planning and continuous monitoring can help overcome these issues.
  • While micro frontends can enhance the performance of the app, they can also cause performance issues because of a high number of network requests. Each module has its own files that need to be loaded, affecting the initial load time. However, we can utilize techniques like caching, code splitting, and lazy loading to optimize each module and enhance the app’s performance.
  • Since different micro frontends can be built using different tech stacks and dependencies, managing cross-browser compatibility can also be challenging. Rigorous testing and maintenance can help overcome this issue.
  • Testing micro frontends is a complex process. Creating a robust testing strategy and utilizing comprehensive test tools and automation tools can help with thorough end-to-end testing.
  • Security is also a concern with the micro frontend architecture, as it can cause vulnerabilities at different integration points. These vulnerabilities can lead to cyber attacks like cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks. Implementing strong security practices, such as security audits, code reviews and penetration testing, is crucial.

Also Read: A Comprehensive Guide to Step-by-Step Error Handling in JavaScript

Successful Implementations of Micro Frontends: Real-World Examples

Netflix

Netflix is a widely used on-demand video-streaming service with thousands of subscribed members from all around the world. The platform is known for adopting microservices to enhance performance, and it has now also implemented Micro Frontends for its UI. Each micro frontend is designed to provide a specific functionality. This enables teams at Netflix to add or modify features in their module independently without affecting other parts of the platform.

Spotify

Spotify is a well-known music streaming platform used by millions of people every day. The platform has adopted micro frontends for its UI, allowing each team to work independently on different modules and release updates for their module as needed without impacting the entire platform. Each module or micro frontend is responsible for a specific feature like search, playlists, etc.

Ext JS for Micro Frontends Development

 Sencha Ext JS framework for web application development

Ext JS is a robust front-end development framework for building high-performance enterprise-level web and mobile apps. It offers over 140 pre-built UI components, including icons, buttons, carousels, menus, text fields, sliders, and many more. All these components are fully tested, customizable, and designed to work across web browsers.

Key features of the Ext JS framework include:

  • 140+ pre-built UI components
  • Blazing fast JS grid
  • Two-way data binding
  • Cross-browser compatibility
  • Cross-platform support
  • Highly secure
  • Blazing fast JS grid
  • Cost-effective
  • Powerful layout system
  • Robust event handling and data management mechanisms
  • Extensive documentation

Ext JS is a modern JavaScript framework that also supports micro frontend development, allowing you to split a large enterprise-grade application into multiple independent (end-to-end) applications.

Learn more about building Mirco-Frontend using Ext JS here.

Sencha: Empowering developers to build cutting-edge, responsive web applications effortlessly

 Conclusion

Micro Frontends is an architecture approach that allows us to divide the UI of our web app into various independent and self-contained modules, where each module is responsible for a specific feature or functionality. Micro Frontends offer various benefits, such as:

  • Highly flexibility
  • Independent development and deployment of each component
  • Ability to scale a single component independently
  • Faster development
  • Enhanced performance of the app
  • Ability to use different tools and technologies for different micro frontends

Banner: C-Level Guide for Enterprise Application Development

FAQ’s

How can developers get started with Micro Frontends?

Getting started with micro frontends involves understanding the core concepts of the Micro Frontend approach, selecting appropriate tools and frameworks, and implementing best practices for web application development with micro frontend architecture.

How does Micro Frontends impact user experience and performance?

In micro frontend architecture, we can optimize each micro frontend according to its unique features and functionality. This improves overall app performance, leading to enhanced user experience.

What challenges are associated with Micro Frontends?

Common challenges associated with Micro Frontends include:

  • Managing effective communication across various micro frontends that may be built using different tech stacks, programming languages, and dependencies
  • Ensuring consistent styling and theming across micro frontends
  • Managing versioning and compatibility across micro frontends
  • Testing micro frontends
  • Ensuring security

 

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