If you’ve ever had to deal with a poorly constructed web application or been unlucky enough to be saddled with the “tech support” for your company’s IT department, you know just how annoying a substandard performance can be. Building a high-performance and scalable web application development is challenging because there are so many factors to consider. Fortunately, you can avoid many common pitfalls that lead to a poor user experience and wasted resources by following the best practices outlined in this article.
Read on to find out what you can do to ensure your web applications perform up to scratch. It’s time to end poor performance on your web applications and start building out applications that will keep customers coming back for more.
What is Web Application Scalability?
A scalable web application refers to a web-based software system that is designed to handle a growing amount of workload and user traffic without compromising performance or functionality. Scalability is the ability of an application to accommodate increasing demands by efficiently utilizing resources and adapting to changing circumstances.
Types of Scalability
In the context of web applications, scalability typically refers to two aspects:
Vertical Scalability: This involves increasing the capacity of a single server by adding more resources, such as CPU, RAM, or storage. Vertical scaling is often limited by the maximum capacity of a single server and can be expensive if hardware upgrades are required.
Horizontal Scalability: This involves distributing the application across multiple servers, forming a cluster or a network of interconnected servers. With horizontal scaling, the workload is divided among multiple servers, allowing for better resource utilization and the ability to handle increased traffic and workloads as the application grows. This approach can be more cost-effective and provides better scalability potential.
Importance of Scalability
Accommodating User Growth: As businesses attract more users, their web applications must be able to handle increased traffic without experiencing slowdowns or crashes. Scalability ensures that the application can scale up to meet user demands, providing a positive user experience and avoiding potential revenue loss.
Future-Proofing: Scalable web applications are built with growth in mind. By anticipating future needs and designing a flexible architecture, businesses can save time and resources when scaling their applications. This future-proofing approach allows for seamless expansion as the user base and data volume increase.
Ensuring Performance: Scalable web applications maintain their performance even during peak usage periods. By distributing the workload across multiple servers or leveraging cloud-based infrastructure, businesses can ensure that their applications are responsive and deliver fast response times, regardless of user demand.
Key Characteristics of Scalable Web Applications
Scalable web applications are designed with scalability in mind from the beginning, considering factors such as architecture, infrastructure, and code optimization. Here are some key characteristics of scalable web applications:
Load Balancing: Scalable applications often employ load-balancing techniques to distribute incoming requests evenly across multiple servers. This ensures that no single server becomes overwhelmed and helps to maximize resource utilization.
Distributed Database: Instead of relying on a single database server, scalable applications may use distributed or sharded databases. This allows data to be distributed across multiple servers, improving performance and accommodating increased data storage needs.
Caching: Caching mechanisms, such as content delivery networks (CDNs) or in-memory caching, can be utilized to store frequently accessed data or static content closer to the end-users, reducing the load on the application servers and improving response times.
Asynchronous Processing: By implementing asynchronous processing, time-consuming tasks can be offloaded to background processes or queues, freeing up resources to handle other requests quickly. This approach improves the overall responsiveness and scalability of the application.
Elastic Infrastructure: Scalable web applications often leverage cloud-based infrastructure services, such as auto-scaling and on-demand resource provisioning. These services allow the application to dynamically scale up or down based on demand, ensuring optimal performance and cost-efficiency.
Modular and Decoupled Architecture: Scalable applications are typically built using a modular and decoupled architecture. This allows different components of the application to scale independently, making it easier to add or remove resources as needed without affecting the entire system.
How to Build Scalable Web Applications: 10 Best Practices
Here are some of the top practices that we’ve compiled to help you build better web applications. Let’s have a look.
1. Requirement Analysis
Early on, work out what the application will need to do and what it will look like. Ensure that these requirements are met. Once you know the full scope of the requirements, you can move on to the rest of your web app development process. Involve stakeholders and your team in this phase to kickstart the process.
2. Use Best Feasible Technology stack
You can use the best technology stack your organization is comfortable with, whether using LAMP/WAMP stacks, XAMPP, or other web server platforms. If you want to ensure compatibility, use a hardware-based (as opposed to software-based) load balancer. Ensure that the application works for your users as amazingly well as possible. If you wish to use a database other than the default MySQL, plenty of plug-ins are available.
3. Implement Best Security Practices
Although there is no way to guarantee complete security, as unforeseen circumstances can happen, however, there are methods that you can implement to help reduce the chance of running into web application security problems. The top line of defense against hackers is a good firewall. A firewall is used to block anyone outside your company from accessing the application. Another essential security practice is to configure the user directory so your application can check for and update the user’s information in real-time. Another essential factor is implementing authentication in your application. Apply role management along with authentication to restrict the application access to authenticated users only.
4. Focus on Scalability of the Application
Scalability means designing your application to handle high levels of traffic, including periods of peak monthly usage. The performance of your web application will degrade if you block access to the database during peak usage, so you need to make sure that your application remains available during these times. You should build an application that can scale to meet future demands and increase its performance without increasing complexity.
5. Align the Best Development Team
You need to ensure your organization’s development team is the size and skill-set to complete this project. If you don’t have the right developers, you could find that your site doesn’t meet the expected performance levels. These teams must be able to support your application and fix any bugs that arise. It’s best if your development team is self-sufficient and able to manage its tasks and workloads.
6. Follow Coding Guidelines, Standards & Convention
Good coding standards and conventions will make your code easier to maintain and more readable. There are several coding conventions and guidelines that you can use, including those published by the PHP WhatsApp Foundation or the CodeIgniter Framework. These are worth following because they include best practice advice to ensure your code is easy to read and maintain.
7. Think From the End-User Perspective
Don’t just think about how your application looks and works. Always try to think about how it is going to be used from the user’s perspective. For instance, if you create an app with a contact form, think about what you want users to do when they use your app (make new contacts, transfer existing ones, and so on).
8. Choose the Feasible Code Architecture
Deciding how to structure your application is a critical part of developing a scalable and maintainable codebase. It involves thinking about the functionality your application provides and how users are going to interact with it. You could have a vertical or horizontal scaling architecture or one that can scale both vertically and horizontally.
9. Optimizing the Network Infrastructure for Application Performance
The network layer is often neglected in virtualized environments thanks to running multiple servers on a single low latency network. However, it is crucial to examine the network settings in this environment and optimize them for performance. Network-aware database systems like Memcached or Redis can be used to cache data between servers. If this data becomes stale, it can cause a bottleneck in the network as traffic is shuffled around the web to move around the caches. By tuning these caching systems to use as much memory as possible (and disabling unnecessary interfaces), you can keep track of what is being cached and prevent traffic bottlenecks from becoming an issue.
10. Focus on Testing the Application
Once the web application is complete, it’s time to test it. Use mock users to see how well your application performs under high levels of traffic. This can be achieved using a load test tool such as WebPageTest.io, which will allow you to test and explore your application under a realistic load pattern and simulate the different scenarios that would occur. Suppose you are testing an existing or legacy application. In such a case, it is recommended that you use a legacy testing tool such as JMeter to make sure the application works properly in all implementations. Remember that if your app isn’t scalable, this high traffic could degrade the performance of real users.
Highly Scalable Web Applications Examples
Several highly scalable web applications have successfully handled massive user traffic and demonstrated exceptional scalability. Here are a few notable examples:
Amazon: Amazon is a prime example of a highly scalable web application. As one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms, Amazon handles massive amounts of traffic, transactions, and user data. The platform’s architecture is designed to scale horizontally, allowing it to accommodate millions of users simultaneously while maintaining fast response times and uninterrupted service.
Netflix: Netflix, the popular streaming service, is renowned for its scalability. With millions of subscribers worldwide, Netflix has built a highly scalable web application that can handle vast amounts of streaming data and user interactions. The platform utilizes cloud-based infrastructure and advanced content delivery networks (CDNs) to ensure smooth streaming experiences for users, even during peak usage periods.
Airbnb: Airbnb, a global online marketplace for accommodations, boasts impressive scalability capabilities. As the platform connects hosts and travelers worldwide, it experiences high traffic volumes and frequent spikes in demand. Airbnb’s scalable architecture allows it to handle millions of listings, bookings, and search queries simultaneously, ensuring a seamless user experience and accommodating the growth of its user base.
These examples demonstrate how scalable web applications are essential for businesses operating in highly dynamic and rapidly expanding industries. By investing in scalable architecture, these companies have been able to meet the demands of their user bases, adapt to changing market conditions, and maintain outstanding performance and reliability.
Cost of Building Scalable Web Applications
Building scalable web applications can involve significant costs, depending on various factors. The complexity of the application, scalability requirements, chosen technology stack, development team size and expertise, and ongoing maintenance all impact the cost.
Complex applications with advanced functionalities and high scalability demands often require more development time and resources, resulting in higher costs. The choice of technology stack also influences the cost, as some technologies may require specialized skills or licensing fees.
The size and expertise of the development team affect costs as well. Hiring experienced professionals generally comes at a higher cost than working with a smaller or less experienced team.
Scalability requirements play a crucial role in cost estimation. Developing a highly scalable application that can handle significant user growth and traffic spikes may require additional development efforts and specialized infrastructure, increasing the overall cost.
Maintenance and support costs should not be overlooked. Ongoing maintenance, updates, and infrastructure management contribute to the overall cost of building a scalable web application.
It is important to note that the cost of building scalable web applications can vary significantly from project to project. It is recommended to consult with experienced web development agencies or professionals to get accurate cost estimates based on your specific requirements and project scope.
Trends in Scalable Web Application Development
Scalable web application development is an ever-evolving field, and several trends have emerged in recent years. Let’s explore some of the prominent trends in scalable web application development:
Serverless Computing: Serverless computing, also known as Function as a Service (FaaS), is gaining traction in scalable web application development. With serverless architecture, developers focus on writing individual functions or microservices that are executed in response to specific events or triggers. Cloud providers take care of the infrastructure management, automatically scaling the resources up or down based on demand. Serverless computing helps optimize resource allocation, reduces operational overhead, and enables cost-efficient scalability.
Containerization and Orchestration: Containerization, using technologies like Docker, has become a standard in scalable web application development. Containers provide a lightweight and isolated environment for deploying applications, making them highly portable and scalable. Container orchestration tools like Kubernetes have gained popularity for managing and scaling containerized applications, automating deployment, scaling, and load balancing across clusters of containers.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): AI and ML technologies are being increasingly integrated into scalable web applications. These technologies can provide intelligent insights, automate processes, and enhance user experiences. Scalable applications can leverage AI/ML for tasks like predictive analytics, personalization, natural language processing, and anomaly detection, enabling businesses to scale their operations and provide more intelligent services.
Building high-performance web applications is very challenging. There are multiple ways to do this, but the key is to understand your data and the process you want to be optimized for. It is certainly possible to build a high-performance web application, but you’ll need to learn how data is stored and managed and know about the common factors that can lead to poor performance.
Finding out about other developers in your organization who are also interested in improving the performance of their applications will be an excellent start. Another good way to start is by asking yourself, “what does the customer want?” This will help you solve your specific problem and put your money to have the best impact.
Moreover, if you still need help building a high-performance & scalable web application, please do not hesitate to contact us. At Bitcot, a leading web application development company, we are committed to delivering unparalleled solutions and support for all your web application needs. You can discuss any questions and concerns you may have whenever you are ready to work with us. Your success is our priority, and we’re ready to provide the best-in-class services to ensure your web application achieves its full potential.