Mastering the art of user experience in decoupled MACH environments

June 26, 2024 | Jeroen Meeus, Solution Architect at The Reference

Blog

In the evolving landscape of app development, organizations are increasingly adopting decoupled architectures to enhance scalability, flexibility, and the overall user experience.

The MACH (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless) is at the forefront of this transformation, allowing us to build on top of modular, best-of-breed solutions. 

While the transformation towards a composable architecture with decoupled systems brings many benefits, it also poses some challenges. Decoupled systems can suffer from issues related to performance bottlenecks and data integrity across these distributed components if they are not implemented with user experience in mind.

In this insight, we will delve into these complexities and present strategies like Optimistic UI and Eventual Consistency principles that can tackle these challenges and significantly elevate both the performance and user engagement within decoupled, composable architectures.

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Understanding decoupled architectures

Decoupling the frontend and backend components in a MACH architecture provides numerous benefits, including the freedom to update or replace parts of the system without affecting others. Yet, this separation introduces other complexities:

  • Performance concerns: Ensuring a smooth and responsive user experience becomes challenging, for example, when the frontend hast to wait for backend processes to complete.
  • Data Integrity: In a distributed environment, maintaining consistency across various services and databases is crucial, yet difficult to maintain due to potential network latencies and partial failures.

Bridging the gap with optimistic UI

Optimistic UI addresses the performance challenge head-on with 2 main principles: Immediate Feedback and Incremental updates.

Immediate feedback

Imagine an e-commerce platform built on a MACH architecture. When a customer adds an item to their cart, the Optimistic UI immediately reflects the addition, enhancing the shopping experience. 

By assuming that user actions will succeed, they will see the effects of their actions without delay, which is crucial for maintaining engagement in a decoupled architecture. This approach masks backend latencies, providing a fluid experience for the user and protecting the system against any potential latencies or network deficiencies.

Incremental updates

In our same e-commerce platform, the calculation of a price quote might be a time-consuming process. When a customer adds an item to their cart, we immediately reflect this addition but show a "calculating" state in place of the price. The user can continue using the interface while the price is being calculated. Once ready, the interface will update the pricing information the moment it is available.

By allowing the user to continue interacting with other parts of the app while the pricing is being calculated, we ensure that the perceived performance remains high, even if backend processes are complex or time-consuming.

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Eventual consistency

Eventual consistency solves our Data integrity problem by designing the system to accept temporary inconsistencies with the guarantee that all systems will eventually align.

Tolerance to Inconsistencies

The system is designed to operate correctly even when data is not immediately consistent across all components, which is often the case in decoupled, distributed architectures.

By building for eventual consistency, the system can continue to operate effectively even in the face of network issues or service disruptions, ensuring that critical operations can still proceed eventually.

The synergy of Optimistic UI and Eventual consistency

When combined, Optimistic UI and Eventual Consistency address the core challenges of decoupled systems in a MACH architecture, enhancing both performance and data integrity.

  • Enhanced User Experience: Combining Optimistic UI with Eventual Consistency allows for immediate feedback to user actions in the interface, while background processes ensure data integrity and consistency, leading to a seamless and responsive user experience.
  • Scalability and Performance: This synergy supports scalability by allowing frontend operations to proceed without waiting for backend confirmations, thus optimizing performance and resource utilization across distributed systems.
  • Resilience to Network Variability: Eventual consistency provides robustness against network issues or delays, ensuring that the application remains functional and responsive, even in less-than-ideal connectivity scenarios.
  • Improved Collaboration and Productivity: In collaborative applications, this combination ensures that users can continue to work and make changes optimistically, while, for example, the system gracefully handles data synchronization and integrity in the background with a set of retry-and-rollback policies.
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In summary, MACH architectures can become technically complex, leading to performance and data integrity concerns. By applying the Optimistic UI and Eventual consistency principles, you can overcome these concerns and offer the user a great user experience.

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