Mobile Application Architecture – Why Is It So Important?

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Maciej Markiewicz

Updated Jun 18, 2024 • 23 min read
Mobile Application Architecture

Good mobile app architecture is the foundation of all well-designed software and can provide excellent user experience.

In the case of Android, it might be because Google doesn’t support or even recommend any specific architecture. Apple, on the other hand, suggested the MVC architecture for UIKit, but their proposal aroused a lot of controversy and many experts claimed it was not a good solution.

Mobile app architecture refers to the blueprint for a mobile application’s design, encompassing the organization of code, separation of concerns, and the decision-making framework that guides the development process. It defines how the parts of the app interact and lays out a structured approach to app creation. This architectural groundwork is critical as it affects not just the app’s performance and scalability but also its maintainability and user experience.

Understanding app architecture is akin to understanding the anatomy of a living organism, where each part plays a crucial role in the functionality of the whole. By navigating through comprehensive structures for mobile development, developers and stakeholders can ensure that their app is built on a solid foundation, capable of evolving and adapting to the ever-changing technological landscape.

In this blogpost we’ll try to figure out what makes a good architecture for mobile app development.

Pillars of App Architecture

At the core of every high-quality app lies a well-thought-out architecture, an essential framework consisting of various app components working in harmony. The architecture is not just a blueprint; it’s a holistic approach to building apps that are robust, scalable, and maintainable. It involves careful planning of the data flow, utilization of design patterns, and a clear separation of concerns to streamline development and facilitate future enhancements. Mobile app architecture design plays a crucial role in creating robust and scalable apps by balancing user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design.

The business logic, which represents the brain of the app, dictates how it will function under various scenarios. It is the domain layer where the rules of business are encoded into software, guiding the app’s behavior and responses. Classes in this layer are crafted to enforce the business policies and operations, ensuring the app acts consistently with its intended purpose.

Meanwhile, the data layer serves as the app’s foundation for managing information. It is where data source interactions are centralized, providing a unified point for the app to read and write data. By maintaining data layers, developers can abstract the complexities of data handling and ensure a smooth data flow throughout the app.

The separation of concerns is another fundamental principle in app architecture. It involves decoupling the different aspects of the app, such as UI elements and business logic, to promote modularity and ease of management. This separation allows developers to focus on one area without impacting others, simplifying testing and maintenance.

In the realm of Android app development, these principles are especially pertinent. The platform’s open nature and diverse device ecosystem demand an architecture that can cater to a multitude of network connection scenarios while still delivering a consistent user experience.

Ultimately, the pillars of app architecture serve as a guide to building reliable, efficient, and user-friendly apps. By adhering to these foundational concepts, developers can create systems that not only meet the current demands but are also ready for the challenges of tomorrow’s mobile landscape.

Role of App Architecture in Mobile Development

App architecture plays a pivotal role in the success of a mobile application. It serves as a roadmap, directing the structural planning and guiding the development process. The right architecture ensures that an app is optimized for performance, easier to maintain, and can scale to accommodate user growth and new features over time.

The architecture of an app is responsible for organizing the codebase in a way that streamlines development and future updates. It creates a logical separation of the app’s core functionalities, allowing teams to work on different parts of the app simultaneously without causing disruptions or dependencies that could lead to bottlenecks. Choosing the right mobile app architecture is crucial for app development projects as it impacts the overall design, performance, and maintainability of the app.

A well-architected app also significantly reduces the complexity of the development cycle. By defining clear interfaces and modular components, developers can reuse code, facilitate testing, and minimize the risk of errors that could compromise app stability or security. This is particularly crucial in a mobile landscape where users expect seamless and secure experiences.

Moreover, the right architecture aids in resource optimization, ensuring that apps perform well even on devices with limited capabilities or under varying network conditions. By considering factors such as battery life, memory usage, and data bandwidth, a sound architectural plan can help deliver a more efficient and responsive app.

From a business perspective, the architecture directly influences the cost and timeline of app development. Clear architectural guidelines can accelerate the development process, reduce the need for extensive rewrites, and lead to a more predictable and controlled deployment of resources.

In conclusion, the importance of app architecture in mobile development cannot be overstated. It is the foundation upon which all successful mobile applications are built, determining their functionality, scalability, and overall quality. By prioritizing architecture, developers and businesses can ensure that their mobile apps are well-equipped to thrive in the competitive and ever-evolving mobile marketplace.

Decoding the Mobile App Architecture Diagram

The architecture diagram serves as a visual representation of an app’s structure, illustrating how various components and layers work together. It is a crucial tool for understanding the relationships between parts of the app, ensuring that developers and stakeholders have a clear picture of the app’s design and functionality.

At the heart of the diagram lies the app logic, which encompasses the business rules and operations that dictate how the app behaves. Surrounding this central component is the outer circle, representing the different layers that interface with the app logic, such as the presentation layer, data layers, and services that transfer data and communicate with external systems.

Each layer in the diagram is designed with a specific purpose in mind, creating a separation of concerns that allows for independent development and testing. The data layer, in particular, includes data access components that provide access to the database and interact with core services, ensuring smooth data flow and synchronization with other layers. The source code for each layer must be written with attention to detail, ensuring that it aligns with the overall architectural plan and adheres to the best practices for coding and security.

For native applications, the diagram often includes platform-specific services and APIs that leverage the capabilities of the underlying operating systems. These services are essential for allowing for the installation of the app and its interaction with device hardware and other installed applications.

Frameworks as tools also play a significant role in defining the structure depicted in the architecture diagram. They provide predefined patterns and functions that developers can use to build the app more efficiently, often speeding up the development process and reducing the risk of errors.

In essence, the mobile app architecture diagram is a blueprint that guides the construction of an app. It ensures that the proper architecture is in place, facilitating a clear understanding of how each part contributes to the app’s overall functionality and how they must work together to deliver a seamless user experience.

What makes a good mobile app architecture

Good mobile application architecture is one that will enforce assumptions and good programming patterns like SOLID, KISS, or ensuring that components have multiple responsibility layers. Meeting these conditions allows you to accelerate development and make future maintenance much easier, thus saving you time and money.

A wisely selected architecture together with platform-specific technology (like Swift for iOS or Kotlin for Android) will be the best for resolving complex business problems in most effective way for mobile projects. This will allow you to avoid many problems resulting from the quirks of hybrid technologies. It will definitely be a time- and money-saving approach in the long term.

Additionally, a good architecture should be so abstract that it can be applied on various platforms - like iOS or Android. Thanks to such an assumption, the common goal can be achieved in a unified way, which will result in more time efficiency. One of the most crucial features of a good architecture is responsibility layer separation. Such a division will be key to reducing the context and extent of errors.

One of the most popular multilayer architectures is a three-layer architecture shown in the diagram below:

mobile app architecture best practices: a three-layer architecture

Example of mobile architecture usage

A clearly defined architecture makes work easier and faster. Developers and managers have better control over the work and the data flow in the application. It makes testing more efficient and increases the quality of both management and the product.

Looking at a three-layer model (graph above) you can see that implementation of each of the layers will be dependent on its purpose or project scope.

The presentation layer

The presentation layer depends on screen designs and their behaviour. Business logic, on the other hand, depends on what kind of data will be provided by the data layer and how this data needs to be processed to match the presentation layer’s requirements. Finally, the data layer will be responsible for managing the sources of data, synchronizing them, and providing it to the higher levels. Designing the presentation layer for cross platform apps is crucial to ensure a consistent user experience across different platforms.

The business layer

The business layer is where the core business logic of a mobile application resides. It interprets user actions and inputs, converting them into meaningful responses and results. Here, developers write complex business processes that define how data can be created, displayed, or modified. It's a critical component because it ensures that the app behaves as expected and meets the user's needs effectively.

The data layer

It has the most specified scope, making it the perfect starting point for optimizations. To start optimization of the data layer we need to select a programming pattern that will solve common problems and make our work much easier and faster. The most optimal pattern for mobile projects for the data layer will be the so-called Repository pattern, which is shown below:

mobile application architecture diagram: Repository pattern

The Repository pattern

It is one of many examples of patterns for data layers. As the mobile team at Netguru, we consider it a perfect solution for large mobile projects because it resolves the problem of managing multiple data sources and mapping data entities to data models used by business logic components.
Applying such an approach (a well-known pattern) solves another group of problems out-of-the-box. Using the Repository pattern in this case will allow you to create logic that will be responsible for providing well-mapped data for the business layer and all specific implementation of data sources can be easily replaced without any impact on the business logic layer. Again, we saved time and money through a well-chosen pattern.

The example data layer presented above is one of many. Similar solutions can also be found for presentation layers, such as MVP, MVVM, MVI etc. This will make work easier by resolving another group of problems in a different field.

Why we underestimate mobile app architecture

In recent years, the approach to mobile app architecture has improved. Developers pay more attention to proven patterns and standards, but there are still many engineers who don’t follow the best practices. Many mobile apps were created with low quality source code and without any architecture or they’re even based on antipatterns. Such custom applications are really hard to maintain and develop further. Bad architecture can drastically increase the time and cost of development.

Many sources also recommend finding an alternative approach to native enterprise mobile development, which is often seen as time-consuming and problematic. In native development, you need at least two developers - each for one platform, so why not opt for cross-platform development with e.g. React Native? Hybrid technologies indeed let us cut down costs, but they are not the right fit for all of applications. Ignoring this may lead to many problems in mobile application architecture.

Problems with mobile application architecture

Choosing the right architecture should be an obligatory step and a primary element in the design and planning phase of software development. However, as a result of developers' negligence, rush, lack of experience and knowledge, or neglect of suppliers (e.g. Google), architecture is often overlooked. The lack of architecture in applications (not only mobile) causes major problems with software:

  • It will be more error prone;
  • It will be difficult to develop and to maintain;
  • Code is less readable;
  • Having many developers work on it at the same time can be difficult;
  • Source code without architecture or design patterns is harder to test, which results in missing unit tests of key functionalities. Lack of tests causes difficulties with maintaining the software (e.g. no regression control, much harder refactoring or bug fixing, etc);
  • And many more.

Developing a software project without architecture or design patterns can be compared to building without foundations - the bigger the building, the more problems this will cause.

At the beginning, inexperienced developers or managers oftentimes see an approach without architecture as faster. However, very soon it turns out to be a dead end. Often it is too late to add architecture or patterns to such code. Along with the increase of size and complexity of the project, these problems accumulate.

Diving into Platform-Specific App Architectures

Exploring platform-specific architectures reveals a tailored approach to ensuring high-quality apps. From data flow to UI elements, each platform demands unique design patterns and separation of concerns among app components, including maintaining a stable network connection.

Android Mobile App Architecture: Tailoring for the Open Source Giant

Android mobile app architecture, particularly when using clean architecture, promotes a structured approach to android development. This mobile application architecture ensures a clear separation and defined transitions between layers. At the outer layer, Android applications use a presenter that must implement an interface in its layer, ensuring a reverse flow of data and dependency inversion. App developers depend on the interface rather than concrete classes in this layer, fostering modularity and testability in architecture for Android.

iOS Mobile App Architecture: Designing for the Apple Ecosystem

The process of developing iOS mobile apps often adheres to the MVC model, where the mobile application architecture is designed for clear roles and responsibilities. iOS apps separate the networking code from the user interface, resulting in a clean and manageable codebase that enhances maintainability and scalability of the application.

Cross-Platform Mobile App Architecture: Bridging Different Operating Systems

Cross-platform application architecture relies on a singular codebase that can adapt to codebases with specific platform requirements. By wrapping a native shell around a shared core, frameworks like React Native and Xamarin enable developers to create apps that function seamlessly across multiple platforms without duplicating efforts.

Hybrid Mobile App Architecture: Combining Native and Web Solutions

Hybrid apps combine the best of native apps and web technologies. The architecture of hybrid mobile apps often leverages tools like Ionic Capacitor and Apache Cordova to embed native code within a web-based framework, allowing for the creation of feature-rich applications that can tap into the capabilities of hybrid applications while providing a consistent user experience across platforms.

Specialized Considerations for App Architecture

Architectural design must incorporate a separation of concerns to prevent interdependencies and complications. By doing so, it ensures that each aspect of the app can evolve independently, which is crucial for long-term maintenance and scalability.

Enterprise Mobile App Architecture: Scaling for Business Needs

Enterprise mobile app architecture is intricately designed to align with business objectives. It must support scalability, security, and integration with existing corporate systems while providing a seamless user experience to meet the complex demands of enterprise operations.

Monolithic Architecture: Understanding the Single-Tiered Approach

Monolithic architecture represents a single-tiered software application where all components work as a unified unit. This approach, while simpler to deploy, can become unwieldy as the application grows, potentially complicating updates and scaling.

Choosing the Right App Architecture: Factors to Ponder

When considering native app development, the architecture must align with the specific requirements and capabilities of native apps to maximize performance and user experience.

Identifying Device Types: Catering to Your Audience's Tools

Understanding the devices that your target audience uses is key to tailoring the app's architecture accordingly. It ensures that the app's design is optimized for the specific hardware and operating systems of those devices.

Bandwidth Scenarios: Ensuring Performance Across Connectivity Conditions

An application architecture diagram becomes a crucial tool in planning for diverse bandwidth scenarios. It helps developers anticipate how the app will perform under various network conditions and make necessary optimizations.

User Interface Design: Crafting an Intuitive Experience

Designing an intuitive user interface is vital for user engagement. It must be visually appealing and easy to navigate, encouraging users to interact with the app and find what they need without frustration.

Effective navigation methods are crucial for a positive user experience. They guide users effortlessly through the app's features and content, ensuring that they can access the information or functionality they need with minimal effort.

Strategic Steps in Selecting the Ideal App Architecture

Identifying the right app architecture requires a methodical approach. This includes understanding the distinct needs of your target audience, experimenting with prototypes, and emphasizing critical features. Assessing your development team's expertise, especially in areas like native app development, ensures the chosen architecture aligns with their skills. Balancing the budget without compromising on quality is also crucial. By considering these strategic steps, you can select an app architecture that supports both the business objectives and user needs.

Customer Research: Pinpointing Target User Preferences

Customer research is vital for understanding specific needs and preferences, which in turn influences the app architecture. Techniques such as surveys, interviews, and user testing can reveal customer pain points. These insights help in crafting an app structure that not only addresses these issues but also enhances user satisfaction. This stage is about aligning the app's design and functionality with what users expect and need, thereby ensuring the architecture supports an optimal user experience.

Prototyping with a Test App: The Experimental Phase

Creating a prototype is a practical step for visualizing how the app will function. A test app allows for the experimental application of design principles and user interface concepts. During this phase, you can identify potential issues and make necessary adjustments before finalizing the architecture. It's an opportunity to validate the app's usability, performance, and overall appeal to the target user base, minimizing risks in later development stages.

Focusing on Key Functionality: Prioritizing Core Features

When selecting an app architecture, it's essential to focus on key functionality. This means prioritizing core features that will provide the most value to users. For native apps, this involves ensuring the app technically supports device-specific hardware and software capabilities. It's about stripping down to the essentials and building a robust foundation around them, which can then be scaled or enhanced with additional features in future updates.

Assessing Development Team Readiness: Preparing for Execution

Before proceeding with development, assessing your team's readiness is crucial. Understanding the complexities of hybrid apps, for instance, requires specific skills. Evaluating whether your team possesses the necessary expertise in the required technologies and development practices ensures a smoother execution phase. It's also the time to address any gaps through training or hiring, setting the stage for a successful build based on the chosen app architecture.

Budget Optimization: Balancing Cost and Quality

Budget optimization involves a delicate balance between cost and quality. It requires a strategic approach to allocate resources effectively while maintaining high standards. Decisions on whether to invest in custom solutions or utilize third-party services can significantly impact both the budget and the end product. An optimized budget considers long-term maintenance costs, potential scalability, and the ability to adapt to changing market demands without compromising on deliverables.

Finalizing Your App Architecture Decision

Finalizing your app architecture decision is a culmination of research, prototyping, and planning. It's about making informed choices that align with business goals, technical capabilities, and user expectations. The chosen architecture should facilitate secure and efficient data access, streamline business layer processes, and offer an engaging presentation layer. With these considerations in place, you can establish a solid foundation for your mobile application.

Data Layer Considerations: Secure and Efficient Data Management

The data layer is the backbone of your app's information management. It's crucial to ensure secure and efficient data access, which involves selecting the right database and implementing robust data retrieval mechanisms. This layer must be scalable and able to handle the volume of user data effectively while providing a seamless experience, regardless of network conditions or user load.

Business Layer Strategies: Streamlining Core Processes

The business layer is where critical app logic and functionalities reside. Streamlining processes within this layer is essential for efficient performance and scalability. It involves creating a clean architecture that facilitates easy updates and maintenance. By focusing on the business layer, you ensure that the app can handle complex operations and provide a consistent user experience.

Presentation Layer Enhancements: Engaging Users Visually and Functionally

Enhancements in the presentation layer are key to engaging users both visually and functionally. This involves designing intuitive interfaces and incorporating interactive elements that resonate with the target audience. A well-crafted presentation layer not only looks appealing but also simplifies navigation, making the app more user-friendly and likely to retain a loyal user base.

Final Tips for Refining Your Mobile Architecture

Refining your mobile architecture involves continuous app testing and maintenance to ensure functionality remains top-notch. As user needs and technology evolve, so should your mobile application architecture. Regular updates, security patches, and feature enhancements are necessary to keep the app relevant and efficient. This ongoing refinement process is pivotal for sustaining the app's success in a competitive market.

Well-selected architecture for mobile app

A well-chosen architecture saves a lot of problems with maintenance and development. It also gives structure to both the development process and the project as a whole. It is very important during developing and maintaining a project, as it helps you improve or fix non-existent or poor architecture. This is also why we believe that choosing an architecture should be an integral part of the planning phase of every software project.

We hope that these few tips will facilitate the custom development of your application or project and save you a lot of time. We care about well-selected architecture in all projects, including mobile ones, so if you’d like to discuss it with our experts, just drop us a message.

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Maciej Markiewicz

IT security consultant and evangelist, software engineering specialist. He spent the last few years...
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