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What is Web Application Architecture? How It Works, Trends, Best Practices and More

By: angelas
  |  May 16, 2024
What is Web Application Architecture? How It Works, Trends, Best Practices and More

At Stackify, we understand the amount of effort that goes into creating great applications. That’s why we build tools for Application Performance Management (APM), log management, and a whole suite of application support tools (in one solution) to make your life easier and your apps better. But every developer knows that the foundation of an outstanding application is its architecture. In this overview, we’ll take a closer look at web application architecture, its importance for future growth, current trends, and best practices.

A Definition of Web Application Architecture

Web application architecture defines the interactions between applications, middleware systems and databases to ensure multiple applications can work together. When a user types in a URL and taps “Go,” the browser will find the Internet-facing computer the website lives on and requests that particular page.

The server then responds by sending files over to the browser. After that action, the browser executes those files to show the requested page to the user. Now, the user gets to interact with the website. Of course, all of these actions are executed within a matter of seconds. Otherwise, users wouldn’t bother with websites.

What’s important here is the code, which has been parsed by the browser. This very code may or may not have specific instructions telling the browser how to react to a wide swath of inputs. As a result, web application architecture includes all sub-components and external applications interchanges for an entire software application.

Of course, it is designed to function efficiently while meeting its specific needs and goals. Web application architecture is critical since the majority of global network traffic, and every single app and device uses web-based communication. It deals with scale, efficiency, robustness, and security.

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How Web Application Architecture Works

With web applications, you have the server vs. the client side. In essence, there are two programs running concurrently:

  • The code which lives in the browser and responds to user input
  • The code which lives on the server and responds to HTTP requests

Web Application Architecture Example

Image via Wikipedia

When writing an app, it is up to the web developer to decide what the code on the server should do in relation to what the code on the browser should do. With server-side code, languages include:

  • Ruby on Rails
  • PHP
  • C#
  • Java
  • Python
  • Javascript

In fact, any code that can respond to HTTP requests has the capability to run on a server. Here are a few other attributes of server-side code:

  • Is never seen by the user (except within a rare malfunction)
  • Stores data such as user profiles, tweets, pages, etc…
  • Creates the page the user requested

With client-side code, languages used include:

  • CSS
  • Javascript
  • HTML

These are then parsed by the user’s browser. Moreover, client-side code can be seen and edited by the user. Plus, it has to communicate only through HTTP requests and cannot read files off of a server directly. Furthermore, it reacts to user input.

Web Application Architecture is Important for Supporting Future Growth

The reason why it is imperative to have good web application architecture is because it is the blueprint for supporting future growth which may come from increased demand, future interoperability and enhanced reliability requirements. Through object-oriented programming, the organizational design of web application architecture defines precisely how an application will function. Some features include:

  • Delivering persistent data through HTTP, which can be understood by client-side code and vice-versa
  • Making sure requests contain valid data
  • Offers authentication for users
  • Limits what users can see based on permissions
  • Creates, updates and deletes records

Trends in Web Application Architecture

As technology continues to evolve, so does web application architecture. One such trend is the use of and creation of service-oriented architecture. This is where most of the code for the entire application exists as services. In addition, each has its own HTTP API. As a result, one facet of the code can make a request to another part of the code–which may be running on a different server.

Another trend is a single-page application. This is where web UI is presented through a rich JavaScript application. It then stays in the user’s browser over a variety of interactions. In terms of requests, it uses AJAX or WebSockets for performing asynchronous or synchronous requests to the web server without having to load the page.

The user then gets a more natural experience with limited page load interruptions. At their core, many web applications are built around objects. The objects are stored in tables via an SQL database. Each row in a table has a particular record. So, with relational databases, it is all about relations. You can call on records just by listing the row and column for a target data point.

With the two above trends, web apps are now much better suited for viewing on multiple platforms and multiple devices. Even when most of the code for the apps remain the same, they can still be viewed clearly and easily on a smaller screen.

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Best Practices for Good Web Application Architecture

You may have a working app, but it also needs to have good web architecture. Here are several attributes necessary for good web application architecture:

  • Solves problems consistently and uniformly
  • Is as simple as possible
  • Supports the latest standards include A/B testing and analytics
  • Offers fast response times
  • Utilizes security standards to reduce the chance of malicious penetrations
  • Does not crash
  • Heals itself
  • Does not have a single point of failure
  • Scales out easily
  • Allows for easy creation of known data
  • Errors logged in a user-friendly way
  • Automated deployments

The reason the above factors are necessary is because, with the right attributes, you can build a better app. Not to mention, by supporting horizontal and vertical growth, software deployment is much more efficient, user-friendly and reliable. While web application architecture is vitally important, don’t forget to check out our BuildBetter archives for more tips and resources on building better apps from planning to post-production.

Additional Resources and Tutorials on Web Application Architecture

To learn more about best practices for sound web application architecture, including some helpful tutorials, visit the following resources:

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