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Microfrontends are a powerful tool for building and deploying modern web applications. By dividing your frontend into smaller, more manageable modules, you can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your development process and build a more maintainable and scalable application. Micro frontends are a way to develop and deploy web applications by dividing the frontend into smaller, more manageable modules. This can help teams to work more efficiently and reduce the complexity of building and maintaining large front-end applications.
When do we use microfrontends and when to avoid them?
Use microfrontends when
You have a large, complex frontend application: Microfrontends can be a powerful tool for building and maintaining large, complex frontend applications. By dividing the application into smaller, more manageable modules, you can make it easier to scale and maintain the application over time.
You have multiple teams working on the frontend: If you have multiple teams working on different parts of the frontend, microfrontends can be a good way to allow each team to work independently and focus on specific business use cases or domains.
You want to improve the development process: By using microfrontends, you can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your development process by reducing duplication and allowing teams to work more independently.
You want more simplicity: Microfrontends can potentially make your application simpler by reducing duplication and allowing you to focus on specific business use cases or domains
Avoid microfrontends when
You have a small, simple frontend application: If you have a small, simple frontend application, microfrontends may not provide as much value. In this case, it may be more efficient to build and maintain the application as a single codebase.
You have a single team working on the frontend: If you have a single team working on the frontend, microfrontends may not be necessary. In this case, it may be more efficient to build and maintain the application as a single codebase.
In this article, we will explore some best practices for getting started with monorepos and microfrontends, including how to organize your code, how to use test-driven development (TDD) and behaviour-driven development (BDD) approaches, and explore a few additional best practices
Organizing your code
One of the key benefits of using a monorepo is the ability to share code between different projects easily. To make the most of this, it's important to organize your code in a logical and easy-to-navigate way.
One common way to do this is to use a "shared modules" approach, where you create a separate folder for code that is shared between multiple projects. This could include things like utility functions, common UI components, or shared libraries. By keeping these shared modules in a separate location, you can more easily update and maintain them without having to dig through multiple project directories. By using shared modules, you can reduce duplication and improve the consistency of your application.
Another important consideration when organizing your code is to use clear and descriptive names for your files and folders. This will make it easier for other developers to understand what each file does and will help to prevent confusion when working on large projects.
Test-driven development (TDD) and behaviour-driven development (BDD)
TDD and BDD are two approaches to software development that focus on testing as a key part of the development process.
TDD involves writing tests for your code before you write the actual code itself. This helps to ensure that the code you write is testable and that it meets the requirements you have set out.
BDD, on the other hand, is more focused on testing the behaviour of your code, rather than just its functionality. This can be particularly useful for microfrontends, as it allows you to test how different modules work together and how they will behave in different scenarios.
Both TDD and BDD can be powerful tools for ensuring that your code is of high quality and that it meets the needs of your users.
Use design systems
A design system is a set of guidelines, tools, and components that can help you ensure design consistency across your microfrontends. By using a design system, you can ensure that all of your microfrontends are using the same design patterns and styles, which can help to improve the overall consistency of your application.
Once you have your code organized and tested, the next step is to deploy and test your application.
There are a few different strategies you can use to deploy microfrontends, including backend for frontend, CDN, and edge-side composition
Backend for Frontend
For monorepos, one common approach is to use a "backend for frontend" (BFF) pattern. This involves creating a separate server-side component that acts as an intermediary between your frontend and your backend services. This can help to simplify the deployment process and make it easier to scale your application.
Containerization involves packaging your microfrontends into containers, which are self-contained units of software that include everything your application needs to run. This can make it easier to deploy your microfrontends, as you can simply deploy the containers to your target environment. Common containerization tools include Docker and Kubernetes.
A CDN (content delivery network) is a network of servers that are distributed around the world and are used to deliver content to users. By using a CDN, you can deliver your microfrontends to users more efficiently, as the CDN will automatically serve the content from the server that is closest to the user.
Edge-side composition is a technique that involves composing your microfrontends on the edge of the network, rather than on the server. This can help to improve the performance of your application, as the microfrontends can be composed and delivered to the user more efficiently.
Containerization and CDN are both commonly used strategies for deploying microfrontends, and both have their own advantages and disadvantages. Edge-side composition is a less common approach, but it can be a powerful tool for improving performance in certain situations
A centralized pipeline is a process for building and deploying software that involves centralizing all of the steps in the process in a single location. This can include things like code review, testing, and deployment.
A distributed pipeline, on the other hand, is a process for building and deploying software that involves distributing the steps in the process across different locations or teams. This can involve things like having different teams responsible for different parts of the process or using different tools and systems to manage them
Use monitoring tools
Monitoring tools can help you to identify any issues that may be occurring in your microfrontends in real-time. This can include things like tracking error rates, monitoring the performance of your application, and tracking user behaviour.
There is a wide range of monitoring tools that you can use to monitor your microfrontends. Some common monitoring tools include:
Application performance monitoring (APM) tools
APM tools are designed to monitor the performance of your application in real-time. They can help you to track things like request times, error rates, and resource usage, and they can provide alerts if performance starts to degrade. Some popular APM tools include New Relic, AppDynamics, and Datadog.
Error tracking tools
Error tracking tools are designed to help you track and debug errors that may occur in your microfrontends. They can provide detailed information about the error, including the stack trace and any relevant context, and they can help you to identify patterns or trends that may be causing issues. Some popular error tracking tools include Sentry and Rollbar.
Synthetic monitoring tools
Synthetic monitoring tools are used to simulate user actions and test the performance of your application. They can help you to identify any issues that may be affecting the user experience, and they can provide alerts if performance starts to degrade. Some popular synthetic monitoring tools include Pingdom and Synthetic Classic.
User tracking tools
User tracking tools are designed to help you understand how users are interacting with your application. They can provide information about things like user behavior, conversion rates, and user satisfaction, and they can help you to identify any areas where users may be struggling. Some popular user tracking tools include Google Analytics and Mixpanel.
Different strategies to manage team
One approach is to use a "vertical split," where different teams are responsible for different parts of the application. For example, one team might focus on the user interface, while another team works on the backend services. This can be a good way to divide up work and allow teams to focus on their areas of expertise.
For example, if you are building a shopping platform, you might use a vertical split to divide the project into a frontend layer, a backend layer, and a database layer. Each of these layers could be managed by a different team, with each team focusing on a specific aspect of the project.
Another approach is to use a "horizontal split," where different teams are responsible for different business use cases or domains within the application. For example, one team might focus on building features for e-commerce, while another team works on features for social networking. This can be a good way to ensure that different parts of the application are developed independently and to allow teams to focus on specific business needs.
For example, if you are building a shopping platform, you might use a horizontal split to divide the project into different functional areas, such as customer management, inventory management, and order management.
Popular Tools to use with monorepo containing microfrontends
Webpack Module Federation
Module federation is a way to split a single application into smaller, independently deployable modules. This can be particularly useful when working with microfrontends, as it allows you to scale and deploy your application more easily
If you are using a monorepo that has custom configurations for Webpack and Babel, you will need to ensure that these configurations are properly set up and that they are being used by your microfrontends. This may involve modifying your build scripts, setting up configuration files, or installing additional plugins or dependencies. By properly configuring and using Webpack and Babel, you can ensure that your microfrontends are built and packaged correctly and that they are compatible with a wide range of browsers.
Yarn and Lerna
Rollup is a module bundler that is optimized for building libraries and other modules that will be used in other applications. It is designed to be lightweight and fast, and it can be a good choice for building microfrontends that will be used as part of a larger application. Rollup is configured using a configuration file, and it can be extended using plugins.
Parcel is a module bundler that is designed to be easy to use and highly performant. It is configured using a single configuration file, and it can be a good choice for projects that don't require a lot of custom configuration. Parcel is designed to be zero-config by default, which means that it can automatically detect and process common types of assets without requiring any additional configuration.
Turbo Repo is a tool that is used to manage and optimize monorepos. It is designed to improve the performance and reliability of monorepos by providing features such as fast, parallel builds, automatic dependency resolution, and advanced caching.
Nrwl Webpack is a tool that is used to optimize the build process for monorepos that use Webpack. It provides features such as advanced caching, parallel builds, and dependency resolution, and it is designed to improve the performance and reliability of Webpack builds in monorepos.
All these tools can be useful for managing and optimizing monorepos that contain microfrontends
In conclusion, microfrontends can be a useful tool for building and maintaining large, complex frontend applications with multiple teams, but may not be necessary for small, simple projects with a single team. There are a lot of best practices, and tools available for your specific needs to make your micro frontends experience as smooth as possible. In this article, I tried to cover high levels of monorepos and microfrontends, but let me know your specific business needs
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