Web Application Architecture: Types, Components & Best Practices

by | November 22, 2023

Whether shopping for the latest fashion trends, managing your finances, or simply catching up on the latest news, you’re likely doing it through a web app.  

But have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes to make these apps run seamlessly?  

That’s where web application architecture comes into play. It’s the invisible force that powers everything you see and do on the web.  

Let’s explore the various types of web app architecture, delve into their essential components, and uncover the best practices that ensure top-notch performance and user experiences.

What is Web Application Architecture? 

Web application architecture is a structural framework that outlines the interactions and connections between various software components, including databases, middleware, and user interfaces.  

It establishes the means by which data is exchanged over HTTP, ensuring seamless communication between client-side and backend servers.  

Web app architecture also helps with: 

  • Maintaining data integrity 
  • Providing permission-based access 
  • Facilitating authentication processes within web applications  

Let’s explore some of the most common web app architecture models.

Common Types of Web Application Architecture Models 

Web application architecture isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept. It’s a vast landscape with multiple architectural models, each designed to cater to specific needs.  

Let’s take a closer look at the two main web app architecture models: 

  • Microservices: In this model, applications are broken down into smaller, independent services that communicate with each other through APIs. These microservices are easy to develop and implement as each of them has its own database and business logic. They’re ideal for large, complex systems where scalability and flexibility are paramount. Microservices enable easier maintenance, quicker development, and the ability to adapt to evolving requirements. 
  • Monolithic architectures: Unlike the distributed nature of microservices, monolithic architecture keeps all components of a web application software tightly integrated. This means the software is developed as a single piece of code. The downside? In order to change a single feature or component, you’ll need to change the entire code. Monolithic architectures are well-suited for smaller projects with simpler requirements. While they are easier to develop and test, they can become less efficient as they grow. 

Frontend Architecture of Web Apps 

The frontend is the part of the app that users see and interact with, making it a crucial element of web application architecture.  

There are various approaches to designing the frontend architecture, each with its own set of advantages and best-fit scenarios. Let’s explore three fundamental types: 

  • Single Page Applications: These are like a digital one-stop-shop. SPAs load a single HTML page and dynamically update the content as the user interacts with the app. They excel in providing a fluid, app-like experience. This makes them ideal for complex applications like Gmail, where constant updates and interactivity are key. 
  • Multi-Page Applications: MPAs are more like a series of interconnected rooms. Each user interaction triggers a request to the server, which returns an entirely new HTML page. MPAs are excellent for content-heavy websites or situations where SEO is a priority, as each page can be individually optimized. 
  • Server-side Rendered Applications: SSRs aim for the best of both worlds. They initially render a basic HTML page on the server and then enhance it with client-side interactivity. This approach combines SEO-friendliness with a dynamic user experience. SSRs are often chosen for e-commerce sites, news portals, and blogs. 

Key Components of Web Application Architecture 

When you interact with a web application, you’re navigating a digital ecosystem built upon a carefully orchestrated architecture. This structure is composed of various key components that work harmoniously to deliver seamless user experiences. 

Here is a breakdown of the main web application components: 

Client-side (Frontend)

These elements constitute the visible and interactive part of the web application that you directly interact with. 

This includes elements like: 

  • HTML, CSS, JavaScript: At the core of web development are three foundational technologies – HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and JavaScript. HTML provides the structure, CSS determines the styling, and JavaScript adds interactivity. Together, they are responsible for rendering web pages and enabling user interactions. 
  • Frameworks and libraries: To streamline the development process and enhance functionality, developers often turn to frontend frameworks and libraries. Examples include React, Angular, and Vue.js. These tools offer pre-built components and code reusability and facilitate the management of complex user interfaces, ultimately contributing to a smoother, more efficient development workflow. 

Server-side (Backend)

While frontend components ensure the user interface runs smoothly, the server-side components (often referred to as the backend) are the powerhouse behind the scenes. They manage data, process requests, and perform the heavy lifting to deliver content to users. 

  • Hosting platform: Modern web applications often leverage hosting platforms that extend beyond traditional web servers. This is crucial, especially for applications that utilize IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) with multiple embedded on-demand services. The hosting platform can significantly influence various aspects of development, including the selection of server languages and the overall architecture. 
  • Server languages: The choice of server language plays a pivotal role in backend development. Developers can opt for languages like Node.js, known for its speed and scalability, Python, prized for its readability and versatility, Ruby, valued for its simplicity, or PHP, renowned for web development, and many more. These languages allow developers to write server-side logic, handle data, and manage requests from clients. 
  • Frameworks: Backend development is made significantly more efficient with the use of frameworks like Express.js for Node.js, Django for Python, and Rails for Ruby. These frameworks offer pre-built modules, routing capabilities, and libraries that expedite the development process. They are the scaffolding that supports the structure of the backend, ensuring robust and organized code. 

Persistence Layer

Persistence layer is a term used to describe both databases and data stores. For example, consider a web application that stores user-uploaded photos. These photos aren’t typically stored directly in a traditional database but rather in a data store like AWS S3, which specializes in efficiently handling large binary objects like images. 

Here are the main components of such databases and data stores: 

SQL vs.NoSQL 

SQL (Structured Query Language) databases, such as MySQL, are relational databases that use tables to organize data. They excel at handling structured data, making them a solid choice for applications that require complex queries or data relationships. 

NoSQL (Not Only SQL) databases like MongoDB are non-relational and are ideal for applications dealing with large volumes of unstructured or semi-structured data, making them a favorite for content-driven platforms or real-time applications.  

In traditional web-based application architecture, one of the fundamental steps is deciding between SQL and NoSQL databases. However, modern web app architectures are designed for greater flexibility and decoupling, making the choice of database type less critical.  

Modern applications can reuse server-side components, allowing for seamless use with various client types, including web UIs, mobile apps, desktop apps, and more. Additionally, modern applications can employ different storage types simultaneously for different purposes. 

Database Management Systems  

Database systems enable you to interact with and manage your databases.  

MySQL is a popular open-source relational DBMS known for its stability and widely used for traditional applications. It excels in managing structured data, making it a preferred choice for e-commerce platforms, content management systems, and financial applications.  

On the other hand, MongoDB, a NoSQL DBMS, is designed for scalability and flexibility. It’s suitable for applications like social media platforms, data analytics, and content repositories, where data structures may evolve over time. These systems are the trusted guardians of your data, ensuring it’s stored securely, retrieved efficiently, and managed effectively. 

modern web application architecture

Web Application Infrastructure 

When it comes to web application architecture, the infrastructure forms the bedrock upon which your app is constructed. 

Here are the main web app infrastructure types: 

Physical Servers vs. Cloud Computing

Physical servers are tangible hardware devices that host web applications. These machines can be located either on premises within your organization’s infrastructure or within remote data centers provided by hosting providers. They require manual maintenance, updates, and scaling. 

Cloud computing, on the other hand, is a paradigm shift in web application infrastructure. It involves the use of virtual servers hosted on remote data centers, often referred to as the “cloud.” Prominent cloud providers like AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure offer this contemporary approach. 

Within the cloud computing umbrella, there’s an even more modern paradigm known as serverless computing. This approach eliminates the need for managing servers altogether. Instead, it allows developers to focus solely on their code, with cloud providers handling the underlying infrastructure. 

Networking Equipment

Networking equipment manages data traffic between servers, ensuring optimal performance and reliability. It includes components like:  

  • Routers that direct data between networks 
  • Switches that manage local data flow within a network 
  • Load balancers that distribute traffic evenly among servers to prevent overload 

Networking equipment enhances network efficiency, boosts application speed, and ensures fault tolerance, which is crucial for high-traffic web apps. 

Data Centers and Content Delivery Networks

Data centers are centralized facilities housing servers and networking equipment. They provide secure, controlled environments for server storage, offering reliability and security. 

Content Delivery Networks consist of distributed servers globally, serving cached content to users from the nearest location. Content delivery networks optimize content delivery by reducing latency and enhancing web app performance and global accessibility. 

Security Components

Web application security architecture components include: 

  • Firewalls that monitor and filter incoming and outgoing network traffic and safeguard against unauthorized access 
  • Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) identify and respond to suspicious activities or attacks, ensuring a secure web application architecture. 

These security components protect web apps from cyber threats, ensuring data integrity and user trust. 

Architecture of Modern Web Applications 

Modern web application architecture has evolved to harness the power of cloud computing and microservices, ushering in a new era of software design. At the forefront of this transformation is the 3-tier architecture model, a contemporary approach to crafting web applications. 

Three-Tier Architecture: A Modern Foundation 

This architecture model divides a web application into three distinct layers:  

  • Presentation layer: This is the user interface layer, where the web application’s frontend resides. It’s responsible for rendering the user interface and handling user interactions.  
  • Logic layer: Often referred to as the application or business logic layer, this tier contains the application’s core functionalities. It processes requests from the presentation layer, communicates with the data layer, and orchestrates the application’s behavior.  
  • Data layer: The data layer is responsible for storing and managing data. It includes databases and data storage solutions, ensuring the persistent storage of crucial information. 

This layer separation of the architecture model enhances maintainability, scalability, and flexibility. 

Key Components of Modern Web Application Architecture 

Modern web application architecture comprises several key components that empower developers and businesses to create robust and scalable applications: 

  • Microservices architecture: This paradigm involves breaking down the application into smaller, independent services, each handling a specific function. Microservices promote agility, scalability, and easier maintenance.  
  • Serverless architectures: The serverless approach allows applications to run without the need for managing underlying servers. Cloud providers, such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, handle infrastructure, enabling developers to focus solely on code. 
  • Headless and decoupled architectures: These architectures decouple the backend from the frontend. This separation grants greater flexibility in choosing client-side technologies, fostering a content-as-a-service model where content can be easily shared across different channels.  
  • Security by design: In modern web app architecture, security is not an afterthought but an integral part of the design process. Incorporating security from the beginning helps protect against evolving threats.  
  • Web application architecture on AWS: AWS offers a comprehensive suite of services tailored for building and deploying web applications. This includes AWS Global Infrastructure for global reach, Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) for scalable computing resources, AWS Lambda for serverless architecture, and many other services that streamline web app development. 
web app architecture

Best Practices to Build Scalable and Advanced Web Application Architecture 

Creating a robust and scalable web application architecture involves adhering to best practices that enable flexibility, enhance performance, and streamline development.  

Let’s explore some key principles that modern web developers employ: 

  • Modular design: The modular approach to building your web application entails breaking it down into smaller, self-contained services or components. Each module should have a specific responsibility, making it easier to develop, test, and scale independently. This modularity enhances collaboration among development teams, promotes code reusability, and simplifies maintenance. 
  • Statelessness: “Stateless” means that each request sent to the server should contain all the information required to process it. This approach simplifies scaling since requests can be distributed to different servers without concern for session state. Stateless applications are inherently more scalable and fault-tolerant. 
  • Data caching: This can include browser caching, CDNs, and application-level caching. Caching reduces the load on your database and speeds up response times, resulting in a more responsive and efficient application. Utilize caching for frequently accessed data but remember to handle cache invalidation effectively to ensure data accuracy. 
  • Asynchronous communication: Asynchronous messaging and event queues enable different services within your application to communicate without direct dependencies. This decoupling of components enhances flexibility and scalability. It also ensures that your application can gracefully handle variable traffic loads, making it more resilient. 
  • Security by design: To ensure your web app’s security, you need to employ industry-standard practices for authentication, authorization, data encryption, and protection against common vulnerabilities. Regular updates also help guard your software against emerging threats.  
  • Continuous integration and continuous deployment: This approach ensures that code changes are thoroughly tested and deployed consistently. CI/CD pipelines help maintain code quality, reduce the risk of bugs reaching production, and enable rapid and reliable updates.  
  • Monitoring and analytics: Real-time monitoring allows you to identify and resolve issues quickly, ensuring a smooth user experience. Additionally, analytics data can inform decision-making, helping you make data-driven improvements to your application.  
  • Scalability and load balancing: This ensures that your application can handle increased user loads without performance degradation. Cloud-based solutions like AWS Elastic Load Balancing are valuable tools for achieving this. 

Web Application Case Studies from Scopic 

Now, let’s explore the power of effective web application architecture by taking a look at these successful web app projects: 

Rehab Bookings

Rehab Bookings had a mission to streamline the rehab booking process in the USA.  

To create a seamless and user-friendly experience, they turned to Scopic’s web app developers for assistance.  

The result? A solution that marries simplicity with functionality. 

The platform Scopic developed allows individuals to effortlessly find rehab facilities and make bookings. 

The intuitive user interface guides visitors through a few easy steps: selecting a location, preferred dates, submitting an inquiry, and confirming the booking. This seamless experience ensures that individuals in need can access the information they require with ease. 

Mediphany

Mediphany, a cutting-edge radiology imaging platform, brings the expertise of medical professionals to your fingertips.  

Scopic’s HIPAA-compliant web app developers collaborated with Mediphany to create a user-friendly solution for reading MRI and CT scans. 

This powerful software uses high-quality 3D models and scan comparisons, allowing users to understand their medical conditions better. The personalized video reports also make complex medical information accessible.  

With features like a desktop video recorder, self-service tools, and a built-in DICOM viewer, Mediphany empowers users to take control of their health, all from the comfort of their homes. 

RXWeb

The end of Flash support posed a challenge for companies relying on this technology. RxWeb, an extensive pharmacy management solution initially written in ActionScript and Cold Fusion, faced the need for a modernized approach. 

Scopic stepped in to revamp RxWeb, creating an all-in-one pharmacy software accessible via the web. This comprehensive platform covers clinical services, stock management, patient communications, and much more.  

To meet modern web standards, Scopic recommended Angular and TypeScript for the frontend, while Jhipster, Spring Boot, and Java were chosen for the backend. Technologies like Bloc pattern, WebSocket with Stomp, and RabbitMQ were implemented, enhancing scalability and authentication support.  

Conclusion  

Web applications are the beating heart of our online world, and how we design them can spell the difference between a forgettable visit and a captivating, user-friendly experience.  

Are you ready to embark on your web app journey?  

As a trusted software development partner, Scopic is here to guide you through the maze of possibilities, from conceptualization to execution. Let’s build the future of the web, one innovative app at a time. 

About Creating Web Application Architecture Guide

This guide was authored by Vesselina Lezginov, and reviewed by Vyacheslav Korchagin, Principal Engineer and Senior Developer at Scopic.

Scopic provides quality and informative content powered by our deep-rooted expertise in software development. Our team of content writers and experts have great knowledge of the latest software technologies, allowing them to break down even the most complex topics in the field. They also know how to tackle topics from a wide range of industries, capture their essence, and deliver valuable content across all digital platforms.

Note: This blog’s images are sourced from Freepik.

 

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