Discover the pros and cons of using Angular as a framework for micro frontends. Learn how dividing your web application into individual modules can bring scalability and faster development and how Angular can help achieve these goals.
Is Angular a good idea for micro frontends?
Are you still keeping up with your New Year’s resolutions? If not, one of the reasons might be bad planning. The key to improving your skills is to divide the process into smaller steps. This way you stay motivated and see day-to-day progress. A similar approach follows software development behind micro frontend architecture. How so?
Instead of building the whole frontend of a web app, you can develop smaller, dedicated pieces responsible for a particular design or function. Does it sound familiar? If yes, that’s because micro frontend development resembles the concept of microservices, known in the backend world. Just to recap, microservices are small, independent services that focus on different backend components. Micro frontends play a similar role, but in - as the name itself suggests - frontend development. The trend itself shows a growing role of fronted - the traditional monolithic approach is not scalable enough to match today’s requirements. The essential benefit of micro frontends is their independence in a few different areas. You are independent of development languages & tools in which you write your web app, you work with independent teams, and you are independent of the host page team when it comes to deployment of the frontend elements. But, the disadvantage of it all is the complexity of such an architecture and the amount of trust you have to put into individual teams in order to compose the webpage as a whole.
Now that we have that covered, we can have a look at a Google-developed framework - Angular. It’s a framework made to build scalable web applications, that has a few advantages like no other dev tool on the market. Just to list a few, it has a lot of features, a clear programming style, and detailed documentation, and is maintained by a tech giant, keeping the tool always up to date. It makes the development process a lot faster, by bringing new, smart solutions such as angular CLI builders, which can support by having a complex process on your code from the box, such as linting, building, or testing or extensions to third-party libraries, or Two-Way Data Binding, that shows the changes in the view of the model. Angular is also a great tool for newbies. With a large developer community, all the questions and solutions are answered already and it’s easy to join the ride. However, the downsides also might lie in the learning curve of Angular - it’s not just a piece of code, it’s a complete platform that you have to manage from the beginning. Also, it’s good to remember that the applications designed in angular tend to be large, especially if you’re not a pro in its architecture.
What Are Micro Frontends?
We have already established that micro frontends divide the web application into individual modules that can be worked on independently, giving the development teams much-needed space and autonomy. Those micro, individual projects often called services can be a footer of the page, a header, or maybe a slider, that brings some specific features to the web app. Micro frontends will be built, implemented, and displayed as required, so the page as a whole can improve its runtime. Since the services are developed separately, they do not require a centralized database and make accessing any data much easier. This idea is translated to a range of advantages, such as:
With a micro frontend approach, you can scale your teams up and down to match the web app you’re designing. Each team can choose the framework, architecture, and coding style they feel the best in, so the final result expresses their best abilities. It makes the frontend development almost technology independent.
Because the code is worked on independently if one piece of it needs adjustments it doesn’t affect the web app as a whole. The same goes for failures and any bugs on the page. If something goes wrong, the other micro frontend elements will function as they are supposed to. They are autonomous services that don’t affect each other's ecosystems.
Small teams working just on specialized functions will deliver faster, than those that need centralization and constant sprints within the whole project group. Once the micro development is ready, it can be also autonomously deployed - piece by piece with no need to work with the hosting team. And, what’s more, the services can be reused, if you need the same functionality on the web page.
If you want to scale up your web page or have the intention to grow, micro frontend will allow you to gain more flexibility in the development area. Smaller sizes and independence from other parts mean those pieces are easier to maintain, test, and update.
The micro frontend approach brings a lot of independence - as we stated already. You are not limited to one framework or technology stack, and you don’t have to work in a top-down managed team, instead, you have autonomous teams that work on one service, and finally, the deployment and updates are independent of each other. Each piece of the web app runs on demand.
Previously, the frontend was designed as a monolith structure, which quickly became hard to maintain because of its size and complexity. In comparison, any adjustment to the frontend code could affect the whole page. Also, all the features and stacks were loading at once, slowing down the loading of the page. Instead of working and communicating within one monolith team, you have several groups working on a specific task ahead. Micro frontends are simple to work and fast to implement, making the whole development process easier to deploy and the web app easier to maintain.
Angular for Micro Frontends: Pros and Cons
So, you may wonder, how to implement the beneficial architecture of micro frontends to a matching framework. Widely developed and rich in features, Angular might be a good fit because its idea resembles independent development, valued in micro frontends.
Angular has a component-based architecture, and micro frontend teams will find it easy to use and work on, allowing the project to be more scalable. Those components work as individual building blocks that can be reused if needed, making the modularity of micro frontends more applicable.
By using Angular, you will improve the robustness and reliability of web app development. This framework provides strong typing and compile-time checking, designed to track errors on the go. It makes the micro frontends components more robust and easier to maintain. Also, Angular’s dependency injection comes in handy, when you need to check dependency between individual components - since individual teams are working on separate pieces of the web page, keeping track of the alignment and fast updates will be beneficial to the process.
While Angular is a very useful tool for micro frontends, there might be some downfalls, you need to be aware of, before hopping on the trail. One of them is a larger bundle size since applications developed in Angular tend to increase in size. Bigger bundles may affect the performance and loading of the features. Components designed in Angular are also harder to migrate & integrate with different frameworks that develop micro frontends too. Adjustments are not undoable but might be time-consuming. Angular has a strong base of features and ready-to-use libraries, but when you plan to develop something out of the box, you might find the framework to be not as flexible as you’d like. Customizations might be a challenge!
When should I use micro-frontends?
When is it a good idea to develop web apps using the Angular and micro frontend bundle? We have many use cases of apps that benefit from this junction, especially e-commerce websites, digital services, platforms with complex user panels, and such. Micro frontends developed in Angular will be an excellent fit for:
1. Large applications: components designed in Angular will be perfectly scalable, teams can work simultaneously on the development & deployment, and by breaking down the operating range into smaller pieces, you opt for a faster delivery.
2. Large development teams: if you have the human resources to re-group and dedicate to web app development, then specialized, goal-oriented teams, will work more efficiently.
3. Big expectations: if you want to develop an app with a complex frontend look, then you need the right tools for scalable, modular architecture that's easy to maintain.
Best Practices for Using Angular in Micro Frontends
If you are ready to develop your first micro frontend with Angular, there are some tips and clues you might want to follow for scalability. First of all, you might want to use shared libraries and services. In Angular, you can develop reusable components, that might be mutual for many various modules. This comes in handy especially if you want to have a shared functionality in different modules or if you want to reuse the same function in other places in the web app. Less work and a consistent user experience - two birds with one stone. For a better, more relatable user experience, you might also want to share the same UI framework across micro frontends - Angular Material or Bootstrap will be a good choice. Remember to keep the bundle sizes small, a common thread in Angular, that might slow down the loading time and performance of larger bundles.
To design micro frontends, you must remember that individual services are one piece of the puzzle and should be compatible with other micro frontends, designed within the project. There are a few “must haves” for developing matching services, like providing APIs with standard protocols, using Web Components allowing micro frontends to be reused, and operating on standard data formats such as JSON or XML making the development truly independent from the technology stack. This will ensure that the designed components fit the whole ecosystem of the app, especially if you’re working in independent teams.
Micro frontends, just like microservices help you to cut down dependency between work teams to a minimum. Thanks to that, development become more specialized, goal-oriented, and faster. The web app becomes a composition of micro-apps, with its own look and function, and it’s more manageable, especially with complex functions. Previously they had to be deployed in one, monolithic code. If you want to implement micro frontends, then Angular will be a good framework to work on.
Angular with its component-based architecture encapsulates the idea of micro frontends well. It’s easy to create individual components within this framework because its module system allows you to break the web app into smaller pieces. Hence, you can create separate teams and build individual pieces, that will consume less time to develop altogether. Those are the main advantages of using Angular, but you’re going to find much more manageable functions, great for micro frontends that are native to this framework. Compatibility, robustness, and scalability… just to name a few. If you want to gain independence in your development, then Angular will match the demand.