Traditionally, web applications are built as monoliths, where the entire frontend is tightly coupled and developed as a single bundle. This can lead to challenges such as difficulty in scaling development teams, slower release cycles, and potential conflicts when multiple teams work on the same code base.
What are Micro Frontends?
Micro Frontends is an architectural style for building web applications by decomposing the user interface (UI) into smaller, self-contained, and independently deployable modules. Just as microservices divide back-end functionality into single responsibility services, micro frontends aim to achieve similar modularity for the frontend.
Micro Frontend principles
Micro Frontends advocate the following principles:
Break the UI into smaller parts, often aligned with functional or feature boundaries. Each part can be developed, tested, and deployed independently. See the subtle art of decoupling systems.
Each micro frontend is isolated from the others, usually running in its own runtime or sandbox. This isolation helps prevent conflicts between different parts of the UI and enables using different technologies or versions for different sections.
Micro frontends can be deployed separately from one another. This allows for faster release cycles and the ability to update or fix specific parts of the application without affecting the entire UI.
Different teams can work on different micro frontends simultaneously. This enhances team autonomy and enables smaller teams to work more independently, making development more scalable. See the section about team autonomy.
Each micro frontend can be built using different technologies (e.g., React, Vue, Angular, etc.) based on what’s best suited for that particular part of the UI.
While micro frontends allow for technology diversity, efforts should be made to ensure a consistent user experience across different parts of the application.
Routing and Composition
A common challenge with micro frontends is routing and composition—how to combine different micro frontends to form a cohesive user experience. Various strategies and tools are used for handling this, such as client-side routing, server-side routing, and edge-side composition.
Micro Frontends disadvantages
Micro Frontends come with certain disadvantages and challenges that need to be carefully considered before adopting this architectural approach:
Micro Frontends introduce additional complexity to the development process. Coordinating communication between different micro frontends, managing shared state, and handling cross-cutting concerns like styling and theming can be challenging.
Increased Network Requests
Having multiple micro frontends might result in more network requests, potentially impacting the overall performance of the application. This can be mitigated using techniques like lazy loading and efficient caching strategies.
Integration and Routing
Integrating different micro frontends to create a cohesive user experience can be complex, especially when dealing with routing and navigation. Careful planning and implementation are needed to avoid issues like broken links or inconsistent navigation.
Shared State and Communication
Managing shared state and communication between micro frontends can be challenging. Without proper strategies in place, you might face issues related to data consistency, synchronization, and security.
Testing and Debugging
Testing and debugging become more complex when dealing with multiple independent micro frontends. Ensuring that each micro frontend functions correctly on its own and in collaboration with others requires additional effort.
Versioning and Compatibility
Micro frontends might use different technologies, frameworks, and versions. Ensuring compatibility and managing version updates can become intricate, potentially leading to conflicts and integration challenges.
Tooling and Infrastructure
Setting up proper tooling and infrastructure to support micro frontends can be time-consuming and require expertise. This includes building pipelines, deployment strategies, and monitoring solutions.
Adapting to the micro frontend approach might require a learning curve for developers who are not familiar with the concept. New team members might need time to understand the architecture and the specific practices involved.
Isolation between micro frontends is crucial, but maintaining proper security boundaries and preventing data leakage between different parts of the application can be complex.
Increased Initial Setup Time
Compared to a monolithic architecture, setting up the initial structure and communication mechanisms for micro frontends can take more time and effort.
Some approaches and tools used for micro frontends might result in vendor lock-in, making it difficult to switch to different technologies or architectures in the future.
In summary, while Micro Frontends can address certain challenges in frontend development, they also introduce their own set of challenges and considerations. It’s important to carefully assess the specific needs of your project, the expertise of your development team, and the trade-offs between modularity and complexity before deciding to adopt this architectural approach.