What is application architecture?
Application architecture involves defining and structuring the framework for an application before it is built. Its purpose is to ensure that the finished product will be fit for purpose and meet your needs before coding begins.
If you think of your application as a town, we are the town planners who design all the important details before breaking ground. Developing and launching an app without all the steps of the architecture process would be like trying to build a town without planning its zoning, utilities, and traffic flow. A poorly planned application, like a poorly planned town, results in unnecessary sprawl.
If you want to build an app or online presence for your business, we can help you with every step of the process from the initial planning stages through to architecture, development, launch, and beyond.
Why architect an app?
Without robust architecture, your app will end up crowded with features on top of features, many of which may be unnecessary. Features built independently and without a clear overview of the entire system can result in elements working around each other instead of seamlessly with each other. This creates unnecessary bloat and added technical debt. It also ends up wasting both time and money.
Application architecture is as much about what we leave out as what we put in. We will work with your goals and budget to ensure that your app does not include anything unnecessary that will slow it down or cost you money that you do not need to spend.
You will inevitably accrue some technical debt—the costs incurred by choosing easier solutions now and having to rework them later—over time. In fact, one study showed that technical debt cost the US economy around 0.6% of the GDP! This comes with potential legal and lost revenue costs as well as the increased cost of maintenance. Why start out in the negative when you don’t have to?
The architecture process gives you a picture of how the whole application works and how all the features work together. It also allows us to give you an idea of the time and cost implications of building your application, and adjust the plans accordingly if this does not line up with your timescale or budget.
How the architecture process works
Modern web application architecture is a clearly defined process that follows a series of steps to ensure that your app will be fit for purpose. There are six parts to the Lform Design application architecture process:
We do not make any assumptions about you, your business, or your needs. Every application architecture process begins with a conversation and a needs analysis. This ensures we understand the business goals you are trying to achieve and how your vision for your application fits within them. Our expert web development team will be able to advise you on what is possible and make recommendations to help you best achieve your goals.
Since building an app is an expensive undertaking, we will also work with you to define the minimum viable product (MVP). This refers to figuring out the most important, key aspects of your application and the smallest number of features required to ensure it is usable for its intended purpose. We will also analyze your target audience to ensure the app provides an excellent experience to its intended user base.
The requirements for your app impact everyone involved, from client stakeholders to the development, design, and UX teams involved. Our process ensures that everyone who needs to have input into the project has an opportunity to do so. Once we have a clear understanding of your needs, we can convert them into the technical requirements to build your application.
A flow chart is a roadmap that shows how a user or data flow will move through the system. It determines the logic of the finished application. It shows what actions lead to what results, such as what should happen when a user clicks a button or data is synchronized into the app. As well as forming the most logical structure for the finished system, flow charts reveal any issues early in the process, ensuring that the journey through your app is as smooth and seamless as possible.
The flow chart outlines expectations for what will happen when an action is taken, and shows all the resulting and possible outcomes from that one action.
The database schema details how data within your application is sorted and how data relates to other data. It also specifies exactly what data the application will contain and store.
For example, if we were building a CRM application, the database schema would define the necessary datapoints for an Account, a User, and a Customer. Datapoints might include details such as names and contact information for Users and Customers, while datapoints for Accounts might include company names and billing addresses. Data about communications, projects, or sales might also be included. The database schema would then define the relationships between Users and Accounts, Users and Customers, and Customers and Accounts.
The database schema maps out how the data will be stored and processed, and allows us to identify any challenges and limitations that are likely to be inherent in managing that data. By understanding the relevant data and how it will be interacted with, we can start to factor it into our plans for the user interface.
Written technical specification
The next phase of the application architecture process involves producing a written technical specification. This lengthy technical document describes what your application is designed to do and how it will achieve those aimes. We will outline all the features of your application, how each feature works, and how the features will interact with one another.
The written technical specification details precisely how the application will need to be built from a development perspective, from the systems we will use and the technical requirements through to any integrations with other tools or systems you are using. The written technical specification is also the point at which we can define more precise timelines and budgets for your app development.
Alongside the written technical specification, we will also provide written use cases. Use cases describe the different ways that users will interact with your app on their mobile or desktop screens and what they will see and experience as a result.
These sequential descriptions are a more detailed version of the basic flow chart we created at the start of the process, and explains what will happen when various actions are taken (one example might be, “when a user creates an account, an administrator will receive an email asking them to approve the account.”)
Use cases also show points of failure. This allows you to see what will happen if any step of the user flow does not work as it should. One common example might be what happens if a user tries to register for an account but their credit card is declined. This allows you to plan for every eventuality and ensure a smooth and easy user experience.
The final phase of the application architecture process is wireframing. A wireframe is a detailed skeletal blueprint for the user interfaces (UIs) of your app and provides a visual depiction of the UIs described in the flow charts, technical specifications, and use cases. Our wireframes are also prototyped to show you precisely how a user interaction works. For example, you will be able to see what happens when a user fills out a form or conducts a search.
We make a point of never skipping the wireframing stage of application architecture and website design and development, unlike some of our competitors. The precise approach depends on your project and business needs, but the purpose of wireframing is to ensure that the design and layout of your app addresses your business goals and your audience’s needs.
Wireframing allows us to match the use cases we created in the previous step to the UI design within your app.
You can read more about our approach to wireframing web design here.
Work with us
We have architected applications for a wide array of different clients and purposes. Some of the application use-cases we have worked on include online dating applications, property rental applications, ecommerce applications, product catalog applications, and many more.
Architecting an app with Lform Design is a collaborative process. We see ourselves as partners in your success and we will work with you every step of the way to ensure that your application helps you get closer to your business goals.
Simply complete a quick needs assessment form or contact us directly and a member of our friendly New Jersey web design team will be in touch for a no-obligation conversation about your needs.