The ABCs of Web Application Architecture
For most of us, using the Internet is like driving a car. We give little thought to how the various parts and systems interact. We simply learn how to operate the vehicle, memorize a few rules of the road, and log on to get where we want to go. But without web applications, our Internet journey would be far less satisfactory or utilitarian.
Web application architecture encompasses all the major and minor components of an app, along with external interchanges that enable your web application to perform as intended, making your ride along the information highway smooth, carefree and enjoyable.
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What are Web Applications?
Web applications are such a common part of our daily lives that we take them for granted. We simply expect them to perform instantaneously, without missing a beat or hitting a snag. We use web apps almost every time we go online, yet most people cannot explain how a web app differs from a mobile app.
To clear that up, a web application is a type of software that is accessible using an online web browser, like Explorer or Safari. Unlike a mobile app, you do not have to download a web app in order to use it. Web applications can be accessed from any browser, and found via search engines like Google, Bing or DuckDuckGo.
Some commonly used types of web applications include:
- Shopping carts
- Payment systems
- Online forms
- Email servers
- Photo and video editing suites
- Content management systems
- Music and video streaming services
- Google services like Maps, Drive and YouTube
- Messaging services like Skype and Zoom
- Social media platforms
- A plethora of other online tools that facilitate daily tasks, provide entertainment, and open doors to a world of knowledge and information.
Unlike local computer software stored on your device’s operating system, web applications run on a web server and require an active Internet connection to access them.
Types of Web Applications
We can subcategorize web applications based on their designated function and presentation. Common category types include:
- Static web apps. Static apps are simple web pages that are presented to the user exactly as stored. They have limited functionality, and are not personalized for the individual user. Static apps use simple programming languages like HTML and CSS. They are relatively simple to develop but difficult to modify, and doing so can be costly. Static applications can be downloaded to your device, and they can function without a web connection. Examples of static web apps include simple web pages, e-readers, portfolios and online curricula.
- Dynamic web apps. Dynamic apps are where the action is. They are constantly updated, every time a user accesses them. Dynamic apps are technically more complex, making their development a more in-depth process. Developers can choose from a variety of programming languages when building dynamic apps. They are relatively easy to modify, fix and upgrade, and are capable of capturing user data via engagement analytics. Netflix, Amazon and Facebook are examples of popular dynamic apps.
- E-commerce web apps. E-commerce applications are used for online stores to manage inventory, keep track of shopping carts and process electronic payments. Depending on the platform and its requirements, e-commerce web apps can be complicated to develop.
- CMS web apps. A content management system application enables a website’s administrator to modify and update content and information. A CMS app is generally user-friendly and intuitive. CMS applications are used for news, articles, blogs, media and other types of content. Examples are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla.
Web App Architecture
As its name implies, application architecture lays out a blueprint for a web development architect to design web applications that deliver desired functionality. It outlines the app’s necessary components, and how they will relate to and interact with one another. It provides the software architect with a roadmap to navigate the complexity of the system and coordinate its components.
To better understand application architecture, we can look under the hood to see what happens when you merge onto the information highway.
- You open your browser and key in your destination URL
- Your browser sends a request for the desired URL to the server
- The server returns files to your browser that satisfy the request
- Your browser renders the files and displays the desired webpage
- You interact with the webpage
Web application architecture encompasses all the necessary components and external application interchanges that make a software application accessible to users from their electronic devices.
All the websites you browse from your device, including social media, your bank’s website, your email server and other sites, are based on client-server architecture. It is fundamentally a request-response model where you send a particular request to the server, and the server responds by delivering the desired files.
Client-server architecture requires two code bases that run simultaneously. Client-side code runs in the browser and responds to the user’s events and requests. It communicates via HTTP or HTTPS, and cannot directly read files delivered by the server. As the user, you are able to see client-side code and modify it.
Web server architecture executes code in the server, enabling the server to receive and respond to the browser’s HTTP(s) requests. It renders the page requested by the user, and collects and stores data on user behavior. Server-side code is invisible to the user and cannot be altered by them.
Other less common types of web application architecture include:
- Peer-to-peer architecture
- MVC (model-view-controller) architecture
- Event-driven architecture
- Layered architecture
- Microservices architecture
Why Application Architecture Matters
Web application architecture provides a foundation for the application design. In the same way that a building needs a solid foundation before its structural components can be added, a high performing web application needs well-thought-out architecture in place before the development process can begin.
Failure to lay out a solid architectural foundation before proceeding to the first stage of development can create headaches down the road. The need for major design changes and code refactoring later on can turn your project into a train wreck that takes dozens of hours to rectify.
If you want customized software that meets the specific requirements of your business, it is important to consult with experienced professionals who understand the various models of web application architecture and their appropriate use cases.
Web Application Development at Tateeda
One of the smartest moves for growing your online venture is to improve your website’s functionality with customized web application software. User-friendly websites that offer high functionality are more likely to attract new clients who become loyal long-term customers. At Tateeda, we work closely with our clients to ensure you get the exact custom software you need to help your business prosper. Contact us today, and let our software architects and developers create the perfect custom software to meet your needs.