Can Web Development Teams Really Benefit From Micro Frontends?
Over the past few years, the concept of microservices has stirred up the software development industry. As one of the most prominent Node js development trends currently, microservices is often credited for the increasing popularity of Node js. With modular structure, flexibility, and scalability, microservices has proven to be tremendously beneficial for back-end web application development.
However, since the best practices for back-end and front-end development are quite different, would something like microservices prove to be beneficial for front-end development too?
Recent years have seen the concept of distributed development expand its reach to front-end development in the form of “micro frontend.”
In this post I will show you the benefits of micro frontends as well as their limitations. Being familiar with emerging technologies can be an important asset for you and your career, and understanding micro frontends is definitely part of that.
However, to understand what benefits micro frontends have and to know why this model has become so popular in recent years, we must first ask ourselves one specific question …
What Is a Micro Frontend?
In simple words, micro frontend is a microservice approach applied to front-end web development. The idea is to consolidate independent services or features into a large complex application. A micro frontend is especially useful for building progressive and responsive web apps that contain a lot of elaborate features.
The traditional approach, known as monolithic architecture, involves creating the frontend of a web application using a single technology and single team. However, apps with monolithic architecture are very difficult to maintain.
For instance, as the front-end part of an app turns into a more complete set of features, the code for it grows as well and becomes too complex for a single team to handle. Therefore, to overcome the limitations of the monolithic approach, the concept of micro frontend was introduced.
In the micro frontend, the structure of a web app is built using separate modules (features) that are owned and maintained by different teams. Each module fulfills a specific business requirement. The teams are cross-functional, and each team is responsible for the end-to-end development of the respective feature—from UI to database.
In other words, the entire application is divided by business domains across the entire stack. Thus, micro frontend offers better flexibility, testability, and velocity to the developers than the monolithic approach. For example, a micro frontend allows modifying or adding new features to a web app without affecting the other parts.
Benefits of Micro Frontends
A micro frontend leads to easier, faster, and more efficient front-end development. But how does it do so? Here are some of the key advantages of micro frontends:
Use of Assorted Technologies
The software development market is full of exciting technologies for front-end web development. Each technology comes with its fair share of pros and cons. Developers often find themselves confused while choosing a technology to work with because when they opt for an alternative, they have to let the other lucrative options go.
However, micro frontend provides a platform to amalgamate various technologies for achieving the best results. Since the teams work independently, each team has the option to choose its preferred technology for development. In this way, developers are able to achieve the optimum results using the best possible technology for each service.
One of the key features of the micro frontend is independent deployability. Irrespective of how or where the front-end code of the web app is hosted, each module or service has its own continuous delivery pipeline.
These pipelines are responsible for building, testing, and deploying each module all the way to production. As a result, teams have the freedom to move forward with their work without being interdependent on each other.
A major advantage of the micro frontend model is that an individual team doesn’t have to worry about the state of other codebases or pipelines. Consequently, there is a faster and more efficient deployment of the services.
Better Code Management
The codebase of a micro frontend is distributed based on features and is maintained by separate teams. In contrast, monolithic front ends have a common codebase, which is huge in most cases. As a result, micro frontends are much easier to work with, particularly for distributed teams.
While each team is able to write clean code for an allocated component, the entire code, collectively, is also easier for project managers to navigate and review.
A significant upside to the distribution of codebase in micro frontends is the emergence of independent teams. These teams can have possession of a segment of the product—from its inception to its production and beyond. In addition to that, they can have access to anything and everything they need for delivering quick and effective results to customers.
However, independent teams can be successful only if they are based around vertical functionalities of the business instead of technical capabilities. So you need to split the development of your product based on how your end users will view each component. Anyhow, you must ensure that a single page of the web app is encapsulated by each micro frontend, which in turn, is owned by the respective team.
Micro frontends can particularly benefit the enterprises engaged in building multiple apps with certain common features or workflows. With the help of micro frontends, enterprises can obtain and save common elements from case management functionalities and reuse them for building many components.
Thus, you are able to save a lot of time and effort that would otherwise be spent on creating the same elements for new workflows.
Limitations of Using Micro Frontends
Even with all these benefits of micro frontends, you have to deal with certain limitations too. Of course, it’s challenging to track and debug errors in a vastly spread development process. You also have to constantly handle different versioning of different application components across the entire system. But these are still manageable. Some of the aspects of using micro frontends that can be really worrisome are:
- There is always a risk of browsers downloading duplicate code, as different teams are using different technologies to build the parts assigned to them.
- Embedding iFrames and other implementations can lead to accessibility issues.
- If not designed and developed carefully, the front end of your application may not be able to facilitate consistent UI/UX.
However, there are ways to mitigate these disadvantages and get the best out of micro frontends.
If the browser downloading duplicate code is a problem, have a common code that the browser downloads only once. Agreeing to use a common framework by all teams working on different parts helps too. To eliminate UI/UX inconsistency, encourage your team to put together or adopt a common UI component library.
Adopting these practices would mean you aren’t completely disassociating each component of your front end, but then modifying a development approach to suit your team the best isn’t so bad.
Understand Your Requirements
Micro frontends is a more distributed and organized approach to front-end development. Under this approach, the application isn’t built as a whole but split into smaller, independent parts that are eventually consolidated into one.
The major benefits of micro frontends include a faster development process and easier scalability of a web application. As this approach has its limitations too, I recommend opting for it only when you want to build a large and/or considerably scalable web application. For developing smaller apps, it can do more harm than good.
Still, having said that, micro frontends can offer major benefits in the right circumstances. If your requirements are within the scope of micro frontends, they definitely deserve your attention!