New frontend techniques are emerging every day. With so many different approaches, it can be tricky to know which ones will best suit your project and team. If you’re looking to use newer technology in your projects while maintaining high standards of performance and maintainability, micro frontend might be the answer.
By combining micro services with web apps, we can create powerful, feature-rich browsers. Its primary goal is to envision a website or mobile app as a collection of features that are operated by independent teams.
This post explains more in detail what a micro frontend is, its benefits, how your business can implement it for your organization, and examples of companies that already use it in production.
Let’s take a closer look at this lesser-known technique.
Table of Contents
What is micro frontend?
Well-known companies that use micro frontends
A brief overview of the micro frontend architecture
Why use a micro frontend?
➤ Pros of using a micro frontend
➤ Cons of using a micro frontend
When to use micro frontend?
How does a micro frontend work?
How to implement a micro frontend?
In micro frontend architecture, web solutions are built by breaking down the monolithic application into smaller pieces and coding, testing, and deploying each fragment separately. So cross-functional teams may develop each component (from a database to a user interface) independently, making components independent. Users see the whole solution rather than individual fragments, ensuring a seamless experience.
Here are a few well-known companies that use micro frontends:
- IKEA - a European furniture retailer, offers an online shopping experience.
- DAZN - a European sports streaming service that has grown to nine countries.
- Upwork - a freelancing network that connects independent business professionals all around the world.
- Spotify - this online streaming media provider assembles desktop applications using frontend microservices.
- SoundCloud - a European music sharing website and online audio distribution platform that provides a consistent experience across all platforms.
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The goal of a micro frontend is to provide the same benefits as microservices by eliminating the disadvantages associated with big frontend monoliths.
What are the advantages of the monolithic approach, and why is it not the best option for modern large-scale web development? Let's investigate.
What is microservices architecture?
Microservice architecture is a design pattern in backend development. In contrast with a monolithic architecture, microservices include several independently deployable components. They are separated by business domains and are connected by APIs, which are easy to deploy.
Microservices are the building blocks of most modern web solutions. Businesses often choose this type of architecture when making new web apps or updating their old software by switching from a monolithic back end to microservices. Here are the most important ones:
- Scalability. With microservice architecture, it's easier to scale a web solution. A development team can scale up one or more services that need more resources and leave the rest alone.
- Flexibility. In microservices-based web systems, there is no sharing of code. Modifying separate services won't affect other modules of an application.
- Resilience. It ensures greater reliability and failure resistance by using microservices. Services are separate, so if one goes down, the others will still work.
- No lock-in with technology. In a single web solution, programmers can use different technologies for different services.
- Faster development. Developers can work on several different services at the same time. Plus, services are reusable. It naturally cuts down on the time needed for development.
Basically, most large-scale web development projects should use microservices.
Why is a frontend monolith a bad fit for microservices?
The term frontend monolith refers to the client side of a web application built from a single codebase. A lot of solutions still use this type of interface architecture, even ones with microservice architecture. So, the back end of a system is often modular while the frontend stays solid.
At first, this can work well, but problems often arise as a web solution grows. Here are a few examples:
- As software changes, a frontend monolith gets too busy and inefficient. Because of this, the system slows down and becomes less efficient.
- A large and heavy frontend can slow development when a system grows. Even though services can be changed quickly on the back end, pushing updates to the client side may take a lot of work and time.
- A large-scale web solution with a single-piece frontend is hard to keep up with. There is no way to have separate deployments, so the whole system may fail if one part goes down.
In conclusion, a frontend monolith restricts the independent nature of a microservice architecture. More and more developers are using micro frontends to avoid this. So, let's go into more detail about how a web solution works when a micro frontend architecture is built on top of microservices.
With a micro frontend, companies can:
- Provide a better user experience: create a seamless experience for the user by providing a consistent experience across devices and third-party platforms. You can achieve it by having a single codebase for all the frontend components. It can also help improve the overall user retention rate by reducing the time to complete transactions or sign up for a service.
- Improve the speed of development: with micro frontends, teams can develop and deploy features faster by using a single codebase and not having to deal with complicated code. This can translate into significant cost savings.
- Improve the scalability of the product: the micro frontend approach allows businesses to scale up the number of components and the complexity of a product without having to rewrite the code. Because the micro frontend approach uses small independent components, it can be easily distributed across a cluster of servers or services.
This way, building complex user interfaces quickly and easily can use the micro frontend approach. It is also an excellent option for teams that want to adopt a modern software engineering approach. Additionally, micro frontends are highly flexible, scalable, and quickly deployed. Besides the technical advantages, micro frontends are also great for the business because they offer excellent business value and technical benefits.
Autonomous teams on accelerated development.
An autonomous team can create every web app or site component following a micro frontend approach. Every team is wholly independent, so every cycle of component creation starts with ideation and ends with release and post-production. Multiple units can work on the same project simultaneously without needing to communicate. Since release cycles are much faster with micro frontends, multiple teams can work on the same project at the same time.
Higher app stability due to loose coupling.
Micro frontends communicate with each other, but the components are loosely coupled, and every connection is significant. A web solution's advanced stability comes from the fact that a failure in one component does not affect others.
Smaller codebases of individual micro frontends result in cleaner code.
Monolithic frontends grow unstructured and complex to maintain over time since they have large codebases. Micro frontends address this issue by making the code of each micro frontend simpler, smaller, and thus much easier to manage. This results in cleaner code throughout the entire web solution.
Faster feature roll-out due to independent deployments.
Each micro frontend is deployed separately from other components of a web solution. Features can be delivered to production, giving programmers some thought about what is happening with the rest of an application. Features can thus be rolled out comparatively fast since they have their delivery pipelines. Modifications to the monolith are not hindered, so you can deploy individual features without difficulty.
Easier to test individual features with this method.
The key benefit of micro frontends is that they are inherently modular and divided into distinct components, making it simpler to test individual parts of a client application. In addition to being inherently modular, micro frontends also benefit from being individually testable.
Less risky implementation of significant changes.
Making significant changes to a monolithic frontend is always risky: one mistake and all of the features can go down. In contrast, modifying micro frontends is a simple process since even significant changes in one part will not compromise the entire system. Because of this, you will not experience any anxiety about changing things, regardless of how important the changes might be.
A smaller bundle increases page load speed.
A micro frontend architecture enables developers to stack different frontend frameworks within a single web solution. Because components are independently constructed, each one may be created using the most appropriate technology to accomplish the project's objectives. As a matter of course, programmers must always be cautious when selecting frameworks for the software they are responsible for, and collaboration with other teams is still highly recommended. However, there is no danger that you will be stuck using a legacy framework throughout the app's lifetime.
A web solution is quite complicated to test as a whole.
Testing a web app built on a micro frontend architecture is easy since each module is isolated. The issue is that testing a web solution as a whole is not the same as testing individual modules. You must ensure that all components work together as intended. Since micro frontends are independent and have their delivery pipelines, this may be difficult.
The difficulty of developing and deploying a system.
Because of the micro frontend architecture's minimalist structure may make the development and deployment process less straightforward. For example, when multiple autonomous teams work on the same project, the solution can become cluttered with too many components, which may result in problems during the deployment phase. It is also difficult to assemble all the modules correctly and make them fit seamlessly into the bigger picture without a good understanding of all their dependencies.
Inconsistency of selected technologies.
Frontend frameworks for different modules can be a beneficial technology combination, but this advantage also has a downside. Even if frontend frameworks are chosen carefully, you may end up with an inconsistent tech stack. This may lead to a slow performance issue and an unpleasant user experience.
The difficulty of keeping the UX Cohesive.
Keeping the user interface consistent when teams work on different software pieces is challenging. Numerous inconsistencies may occur if all the developers involved in the project have a unified vision of the web solution.
High initial investments.
Maintaining a micro frontend project is costly. Gathering and maintaining multiple frontend teams is expensive. You'll also need management staff to plan the work, coordinate everything, and ensure effective team communication.
Despite the advantages of micro frontend architecture, it isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Every web application isn't suitable for this architectural style. When choosing a micro frontend for your web application, how do you know if it will be a success? There are two types of frontends: monolithic and micro.
With these differences in mind, let's discuss the main criteria guiding your decision. Here are a few examples of when micro frontends make sense:
- Your online solution is complicated, built on microservices, and may be divided into different self-contained verticals. For example, suppose you're developing a multi-module enterprise resource planning system (e.g., finances, CRM, HR, inventory).
- You want separate technology stacks for different modules within a single online solution.
- You already have or will hire a large development team (or several teams), and your budget allows it.
If you're unsure whether micro frontends suit your project, consult with a reliable tech partner like Imaginary Cloud. In the end, it depends on the specifics of your business plan.
A micro frontend comprises several independent and modular components that are loaded and displayed as needed. This means that only the components required for a specific page are loaded. These components interact directly with the data and do not require a centralized server to route requests or process data. In addition to the components that display content, a micro frontend can also have several utility components that interact with the application's environment. These components can interact with the user or with other components. The management of the state of the application can also use them. These utility components usually have minimal functionality and do not display any content to the user. They can also be loaded only when needed.
You can integrate micro frontends in two ways:
This is how most code is written today. The container will install the components as libraries, similar to how you would install libraries from npm. You can also use Module Federation with NextJS as it stands today on WebPack 5. The drawbacks of this technique are syncing multiple versions of libraries and build issues. It is also difficult to use multiple technologies. The final package will also be large because it will contain all dependencies. Furthermore, any changes in dependencies must be deployed again, and the container and all micro frontends are tightly coupled.
Compositions for Run-Time Integration are classified into three types:
- Server-side composition: The backend functionality determined which micro frontend to load and when. URLs determine how the server routes requests.
- Edge-side composition: The orchestration happens on the CDN itself. It can handle active backends that usually handles by the server. It is also capable of delivering static material.
- Client-side composition: The containers decide the version of the frontends to deploy as both are decoupled. As needed, the host can request microservices.
The micro frontend architecture is particularly favourable for large-scale web development projects based on microservices. It enables different components to be developed by separate, autonomous teams of programmers. As a result, it delivers several benefits, including a faster rollout of new features, simpler testing of individual components, and smoother updates.
Despite the advantages of micro frontends, there are also some disadvantages. An application may be difficult to test in its entirety, for example. Micro frontend projects are also rather costly since they require a large team of developers and managers. Take into consideration all the implications of any project before moving forward.
Imaginary Cloud has expertise in micro frontends and monolithic frontends, so you don't have to worry. Get in touch, and we'll discuss your request in detail.