Product Development
min read

An In-Depth Guide to Component-Based Architecture: Features, Benefits, and more

Check how implementing a component-based architecture is a great way to improve your frontend development.
Hamir Nandaniya
Hamir Nandaniya
Updated on Oct 21
Product Development
min read
An In-Depth Guide to Component-Based Architecture: Features, Benefits, and more
Check how implementing a component-based architecture is a great way to improve your frontend development.
image
Hamir Nandaniya
Updated on Oct 03
Table of contents
What is Component-Based Development in Software Engineering?
What is a Component?
Why Do You Need Components?
Types of Components
Components Teams
Advantages of Component-based development
Drawbacks of Component-Based Architecture
Features of Components
Component Documentation
Tools for Documenting Your Components
How CBA Differs from MVC
Conclusion

Frontend development has undergone an incredible amount of change over the years. We’ve seen many new frameworks come out every month, often incorporating more contemporary techniques and patterns and different modes of thought. But here’s what the timeline looks like at a high level :

The frontend ecosystem evolved from Dojo, a javascript toolkit for building web apps in 2005. The evolution continued with the release of jQuery in 2006 to AngularJs and BackboneJs in 2010. Ember.js was released soon after in 2011, and the community later rallied behind it as the leader of this space. ReactJs was invented in 2013, becoming one of the most-loved frameworks.

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The rapid development of web and mobile technologies has driven developers to focus more on what users want and expect.  The issue with this is two-fold.

First, you must create software adaptable to various expansion possibilities while remaining true to its original design. Second, you need to design a program with a flexible architecture that can fit the requirements of any business vertical. 

Component-based architecture is a highly effective solution to this problem. It can help you deliver optimized apps that respond to your app’s changing market needs. The best part is that you don’t need to employ expensive app experts to do it!

High-performing front-end applications nowadays are all about the customized, cohesive experience – fortunately, the technology can deliver. Organizations can easily leverage these performance and feature advantages using component-based development.

In the words of Marko Lehtimaki :

Instead of building every application from scratch and requiring a whole team of experts and developers to work together synchronously, the work can be divided into smaller pieces.

Component-based architecture has emerged as the go-to strategy for companies seeking to scale their front-end development operations. The shift in perception allows companies to utilize the efficiencies gained through streamlining and scaling CSS across multiple products and page templates.

In this article, you’ll better understand component-based development, how it functions, its documentation, tools, best practices, and much more. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

What is Component-Based Development in Software Engineering?

Component-based development is a software development method focusing on designing and developing reusable components. For instance, consider the web page with elements such as header, search bar, content body, etc. When considering the component-based architecture, all these are independent of each other and called components. 

Component-based architecture has recently gained popularity among organizations such as PayPal, Spotify, and Uber, leveraging it to improve and standardize their front-end development. Due to this, more and more businesses are looking to switch from their monolithic architecture to a component-based development strategy. Here are some approaches to consider while converting your monolithic architecture into a component-based strategy:  

  • Components for reusable & shared libraries 
  • Using the producer/consumer model
  • Division by frontend & backend

What is a Component?

A component is a reusable object that accelerates the development and deployment of an application while providing additional functionalities. In a component-based architecture, components are the building blocks that are highly flexible, modular, and reused across several projects. They follow repeatable conventions and can be used across other interfaces and modules without compromising the integrity of your code or UX. 

Components are multifarious. Like the people using them, developers and businesses have different needs for every element. By sharing these offerings in your marketplace via an application programming interface (API), your business gives other companies access to these ready-to-go elements so they can use them in their application or software!

To create code that is both decomposable and highly customizable, your development team needs to implement these few characteristics to components into your system’s architecture:

  • Components are self-contained elements with interfaces that communicate with one another via ports. 
  • The system can be disassembled into reusable, cohesive, and independent components that you may gather to form different modules. 
  • Modules built from components can be expanded and updated without requiring any adjustments.

Why Do You Need Components?

Components are critical aspects of any frontend technology; following the foundation of AJAX requests, calls to the server can be made directly from the client side to update the DOM and display content without causing a page refresh. A component’s interface can request its business logic, updating its interface without forcing other component to refresh or modifying their UI, as components are independent.

It is ideal for tasks that might otherwise unnecessarily cause other components or the entire page to reload (which would be a drain on performance). Each component has specific features that can be overridden or isolated depending on how an application uses it.

For instance, components help Facebook improve its newsfeed’s operation and performance. React.js, in particular, manages components in an exceedingly efficient manner. React.js employs a virtual DOM, which operates a “diffing” method to identify changes to an element and render just those changes rather than re-rendering the whole component.

Therefore, it is essential to divide the software into numerous components, as utilizing them can better fulfill business goals than microservice-based architecture. 

Types of Components

Components are usually dedicated to specific application layers, such as the backend or user interface. However, different types of components architecture are available for different application layers. Let us understand these various forms of components in detail below:

     1.Themes

Themes define the look and feel of the application. They are typically characterized by style sheet rules and grid definitions used to position and size elements on a screen. It offers a consistent experience across all platforms and scenarios, providing unified branding regardless of potential factors such as specific objects. 

     2.Widgets

Widgets are similar to components in many ways, except they’re not quite at that level yet. Widgets provide an additional and reusable feature, usually related to the user interface, and can instead become components when they include a set of definitions such as parameter and variable. 

     3.Libraries

In a larger context, libraries are the icing on the cake. Libraries wrapped around widgets or blocks provide an easy-to-interact interface. For instance, JavaScript libraries tend to offer an excellent front-end experience. 

     4.Connectors 

As the name suggests, connectors allow integrations without writing custom codes, reducing time and effort and eliminating errors. Connectors allow you to integrate with other applications like Paypal or Facebook

     5.Plugins 

Plugins like Zapier allow integrations without needing to write custom code for your application. They are a must if you want to save time and effort while allowing customers to see their contacts in other places, such as Slack or Salesforce

Components Teams

Component teams are a new way of seeing how a team works together. A component team is a cross-functional Agile team focused on producing one or more specific components that you may utilize to generate only a part of an end-customer functionality. A component is a product module you can develop separately from other modules.

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Component teams are essential when dealing with legacy technology, serving algorithms that demand technical and theoretical expertise and creating security and compliance. They are also helpful when you do not have people capable of working full-stack.

These component teams consist of people with varying expertise, such as design, development, or testing, that all meet up to create and deliver a refined component. 

Team members can collaborate more efficiently and effectively compared to older team structures, where designers and developers struggle to meet halfway when completing their tasks. Component teams put forward a polished product because they work on complete ownership of their particular aspect and nothing else. They have a clear idea of the one aspect they specialize in.

Advantages of Component-based development

Component-based development brings many advantages beyond just having reusable code bits in your software applications. The potential benefits are too many to mention here, but here are some of the important ones:

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     1.Faster Development 

Component-based methodologies can help teams develop high-quality software up to 60% faster than those who do not utilize this method. By creating components from reusable libraries accessible at all times, teams do not need to start from scratch with their software. They can directly select from this library without worrying about non-functional requirements such as security, usability, or performance.

     2.Easier Maintenance

One of the crucial advantages of component-based architecture is that each component is independent and reusable. It helps decompose the front-end monolith into smaller and manageable components, making any upgrade or modification a breeze. Rather than modifying the code each time, you just need to update the relevant components once. Later, when new updates are released or a test has to run, simply add it to the appropriate component-based model. Viola! It’s that simple. 

     3.Independent Teams

The cross-functional component teams treat the design-language system as one single truth source and create components without external assistance or interference. In this case, the components are self-contained but don’t affect the system. It will lead to forming autonomous teams because they have much freedom, flexibility, and accountability to decide how to keep their projects flowing smoothly. 

     4.Better Reusability

Reusability has many benefits, including writing less code for business applications. When dealing with a component-based framework, developers do not have to register the same lines of code repeatedly and can instead focus on core functionality. They can then take these same components and apply them to other apps that might serve different needs or be implemented on various platforms.

For example, consider a component that provides authentication functionality to an application. While building the component, designers have designed it so that the only thing that would change in any application built using this component would be the actual authorization logic. The component itself would remain unchanged irrespective of the application it is used in.

     5.Improved UX Consistency

You risk providing inconsistent and unclear experiences to your consumers if you employ an unsupervised front-end development methodology. However, working with component-based architecture, you’ll automatically guide consistent UI across all the components created within the design document. 

     6.Improved Scalability

If a product is new and people are signing up, the system will likely need to be ready for growth (and scalability). Component-based development allows purpose-built elements to work together like puzzle pieces.

A component-based architecture extends the modular benefits of a web application to the front end of your project. This allows you and your team to stay up with demand while retaining an easy-to-read and maintainable piece of code.

     7.Enables Complexity

Enterprises can benefit from a compartmentalized architectural approach with a component-based architecture.

Like building blocks, global or local components can make your application robust. Using tried and tested components saves you time on the front end because you don’t have to think about compatibility or writing millions of lines of code that lead to more room for error. It also allows you to create complex applications and flows that grow with your business needs.

     8.Increases Speed

A component-based architecture focuses on assembling disparate parts into something that works for your enterprise. Instead of wasting time coding a function that already exists, you can select from a library of independent components. It will save you time in development so you can put your focus on other business needs.

     9.Benefit from Specialized Skills

A component-based architecture works for all kinds of applications: whether you’re a fan of CSS, JavaScript, or .NET development – many designers and developers blend their skills to make every app unique! 

Drawbacks of Component-Based Architecture

While CBA encourages reusability and single-responsibility, it often leads to polluted views. It also has some drawbacks, which is why many companies hesitate to switch. Let us look at some of these component-based development disadvantages in detail below:

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     1.Breaking of Components 

While it is true that component-based architecture helps in breaking an application into separate and isolated modules and components, this modularization also causes another dilemma for IT administrators – to manage these individual modules or components. To organize the component-based architecture, you must test all the components independently and collectively. This can be a highly tedious and time-consuming process.

     2.Limited Customization Option 

When working with component-based architecture, you can reuse components in different applications. Therefore, the demand for reusability of components can limit their customization options. Still, you must consider the added complexity of sharing and synchronizing states, dealing with race conditions, and other issues. 

     3.High Maintenance

Finding a component to meet an application’s needs could sometimes be challenging. Because many components may need to be observed in a particular application, updating and maintaining component libraries can be complicated. They need to be monitored and updated frequently.

     4.Degrade Readability

The use of many components might degrade readability. If the text is too complicated, it might be harder to follow and make sense of. Using images, videos, and other components to enhance the text can be helpful to make the content stand out, but using too many may make the content too complicated, making it challenging for readers to understand.

Features of Components

Below are some common characteristics of software components:

  • Extensibility: A component can be combined with other components to create new behavior. 
  • Replaceable: Components with similar functionality can be easily swapped. 
  • Encapsulated: Components are autonomous units that expose functionality through interfaces while hiding the dirty details of internal processes.
  • Independent: Components have few dependencies on other components and may function in various situations and scenarios independently.
  • Reusable: They are intended to plug into various applications without requiring modification or specific adjustments.
  • Not Context-Specific: Components are built to work in various situations and scenarios. State data, for example, should be supplied to the component rather than being contained in or retrieved.

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Component Documentation

High-quality documentation is the backbone of any successful project. If someone who uses a component can’t figure out how to use it, it won’t be valuable, no matter how many features it has. Documentation should support the component API and drive effective development. Good documentation isn’t free. It takes planning and process, including example code accompanied by guidelines for how and when to use each component effectively.

Here are three categorizations for reliable component documentation:

     1.Audience: Who is the document for? 

Documentation is one of the most useful and often overlooked resources at your disposal. The documentation’s primary purpose is to equip the practitioners – engineers, designers, and everyone else – to use a component efficiently and effectively. A documentation’s ultimate goal is to help people, so as it grows, it will continue to serve different needs and varying degrees of knowledge depending on the reader’s interest.

     2.Content: What content do they need?

Component doc can include a wide range of content, from enlightening text to helpful guidelines or information on a project in general. Discussion at the top will help evoke your team’s value and provide designers and engineers an overview of what will be included in the document content-wise. At a fundamental level, a component doc usually includes four types of content:

  • Introduction: Basic introduction to component’s name and brief descriptive content. 
  • Examples: Illustrations are the best way to explain the component’s states, dimensions, and variations instead of just presenting it with static images.
  • Design References: Try to include dos and don’ts, guidelines, and visual concerns of the components for better understanding.
  • Code Reference: Here, describing the API (such as Props) and other implementation issues is recommended.

      3.Architecting the Component Page

The documentation for a component is often split, with one team publishing details on how the design works for designers and another documentation with component code keeping engineers in mind. This fragmentation can occur by accident. One or both teams may need to get involved to avoid falling into this trap. While there certainly is value in each kind of documentation – as they complement each other rather than compete with one another – it’s always good to make sure that all content makes sense to users regardless of which approach they take when learning about a particular component’s functionality.

Tools for Documenting Your Components

Component libraries are a great way to save your company’s time and money over the long term, but only if they’re done right. Documentation will ensure that others can quickly adopt your component library, so they’re not spending time trying to figure things out themselves or, worse yet – duplicating work by building something from scratch using different tools than you have used. So it goes without saying that providing excellent documentation for your component library goes a long way.

To help you save time when you’re out to create official documentation for your various components, here are some of the go-to tools for doing so much with little hassle involved:

     1.Bit

Bit.dev enables users to share and collaborate on software architecture components. All your standard components are made discoverable so that you, your team members, and any other developers at the organization can quickly identify and utilize them in their projects. The components you share to bit.dev become discoverable in this particular hub, accessible only at work. You can search for components by context, bundle size, or dependencies.

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     2.Code Sandbox 

CodeSandbox is a free online editor for creating small projects like components. It’s not just an editor, though: CodeSandbox features built-in tools that integrate directly into your development workflow and your existing devices, enabling you to build something meaningful quickly.

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     3.Stack Blitz

Stackblitz allows users to program their web applications in an IDE-like environment where they can expect everything to be handled for them behind the scenes. This IDE provides a snippet that allows you to use version control with any type of project file without worrying about language syntax differences.

16e7956a-unnamed-9.png     4.Docz

Markdown and JSX depend on developing and presenting documentation in a pleasant, organized way. Docz simplifies the process of creating a documentation website for all your components. Markdowns can be written anywhere in the project, and Docz streamlines the process of converting it into an attractive, well-kept documentation portal.

  24345c72-unnamed-10.png     5.MDX- docs

MDX-docs is a tool for documenting and developing components. It allows you to use MDX and Next.js together and mix markdown with inline JSX to render React components. The tool will enable developers to write code blocks in JSX, which will then be rendered live by React-Live to provide developers with a quick preview of precisely what their component looks like without compiling it first.

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     6.React Docgen

React DocGen is a command-line tool that will extract information from React component files. It parses the source into an AST using ast-types and @babel/parser and offers ways to analyze this AST to extract the needed information. You may then utilize this data to produce documentation or other resources and assets for software development tools.

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Out of all the tools we discovered above, Storybook and Chromatic are the most important. Let us study them in detail below:

     7.Storybook

Storybook is a user interface component development environment. It allows you to explore a component library and different component states and interactively develop/test components. When developing AddOns, StoryBook has become an essential tool for developers whose work often involves a visual display. This tool can help you, and your team create better relationships with your customers by allowing them to experience the application, not just view it!

Storybook’s best feature is that it opens up opportunities for developers to build fully decoupled components from their surroundings, resulting in wholly isolated components that work independently of anything else if needed. Storybook creates “stories” or mocked states by allowing you to manually define component props and then render each one in its standalone app. Because you can remove unnecessary dependencies otherwise linked to your code base as feasible, you won’t need a JavaScript framework or library other than React.

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8.Chromatic

Chromatic is a revolutionary tool that makes it effortless for developers to verify the readability and accuracy of their code visually. It uses Git to easily compare snapshots of folders between one another, allowing any team member to quickly catch visual errors or inconsistencies before they become a problem. As a bonus, Chromatic automatically does all the heavy lifting for you. For instance, reading through your code for errors isn’t easy work, but Chromatic helpfully pops up suggestions on how to fix these common issues so that you don’t waste time tracking them down.

Chromatic is centered around testing and visual regression testing components – the basic building blocks of apps. Testing at the component level makes it easy to scope tests and determine regressions in web apps (just like unit tests help you pinpoint functional bugs). The real-time dashboard provides a bird’s eye view of your app’s behavior in different browsers and resolutions.

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How CBA Differs from MVC

When comparing component-based architecture to MVC design, MVC always divides functions horizontally, whereas component-based architecture divides them vertically. Confusing right? Let’s dive deeper into it. 

Using a client-side MVC framework, you have templates presenting the UI and routes determining which templates to render. Controllers use these to map URL requests to specific actions. Services provide helper functions that act as utility classes. Even if a template has routes and associated methods or features logic, all of these exist at different levels. 

In the case of CBA, responsibility is split on a component-by-component basis. Rather than having different people responsible for different aspects, CBA does it component-by-component. So, if you’re looking at the view, you’ll find the design, logic, and helper methods all in the same architecture level. This can be helpful because everything related to a particular component is easy to find in one spot.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that component-based architecture is gaining a lot of traction within the development community. As the React.js framework continues to gain traction among software engineers, both Ember.js and Angular2 are being updated by their respective development teams to incorporate components into their core functionality.

Component-based architecture gives developers greater control over what they try to achieve with their applications. This kind of architecture may help people make adjustments more easily.

Low-code tools can be component-based, but no-code developers still have a more powerful option in this case, especially when you need to extend the functionality of a component beyond what it was designed to do. For instance, WotNot – a no-code chatbot platform -has a simple drag-and-drop interface, which makes it a cakewalk to architect personalized conversational experiences across the customer life cycle.

Also read – Mendix Vs. OutSystems – Make an Informed Decision

Engineered software components adapt to the unique needs of individual companies, streamlining time-consuming enterprise application development and allowing one to focus on overall business success.

At Maruti Techlabs, we function as your end-to-end product development partner. Right from UI/UX, development, product maturity, and maintenance, along with building AI modules within the product – we help you through the entire product development lifecycle.

Thanks to the rise of component-based development, you are no longer forced to be a jack of all trades. 

Get in touch with us to get started with component-based development with the help of our highly talented squad of front-end developers.

Hamir Nandaniya
About the author
Hamir Nandaniya

Hamir is the VP of Product at Maruti Techlabs. With his technical acumen and engineering expertise, he continues to overcome tough business challenges by building and scaling creative solutions.

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