Mobile App Architecture: Everything You Need To Know About Creating a Reliable App Architecture

Maryna Pasko
Market Researcher

We live in a mobile-driven world with millions of apps for every purpose imaginable. It’s hard to overstate the role of mobile apps in our everyday life: we use apps to socialise and communicate, shop and pay our bills, order services online, manage our businesses, and much more. It’s little wonder then that new mobile apps appear constantly. At the end of 2020, there were around 2.7 million apps available in Google Play. The App Store was slightly behind with nearly 1.82 million applications. 

That said, not all the applications in either store are bug-free and boast smooth performance. Low-quality apps rank poorly in both Google Play and the App Store and have little chance of success. Tough competition, crude marketing strategies, and most significantly, poor app architecture led many applications to failure. The latter is the backbone of any software product and worth special consideration. 

So what is mobile app architecture, why is it fundamental to an app’s success, and how do you select the right architecture for your application? We covered these questions and other essential considerations in our comprehensive guide to mobile app architecture.

What Is Mobile App Architecture?

In simple terms, app architecture is a set of structural components that frame the system and its inner interactions. The specifics of which are defined by the app’s features and requirements. How smoothly and reliably an app runs depends significantly on the quality of its architecture.

Why Is App Architecture Essential?

Quality architecture helps with risk management and enables cost reductions. An application with robust, well-planned architecture is more likely to succeed in its target market.  Any mobile app project starts with the planning and designing phase, and choosing the right architecture is a core priority. An insufficient approach to this step can slow down the development process and make it more extensive. It can also lead to various performance issues and system failures.

Poor mobile app architecture may also lead to:

  • Difficulties with development and maintenance
  • Lower code readability
  • Source code testing complications
  • Greater exposure to errors

For a more detailed understanding, let’s review three core layers of mobile app architecture.

The Fundamental Layers of Mobile App Architecture

The multi-layer approach is widely used in mobile app development as it segregates the different, application-specific operational layers. Developing and executing each component separately allows developers to solve complicated matters quickly without changing the entire application. 

The number of layers (or tiers) varies according to an app’s business and functional requirements, but the three-tier structure is the most common mobile app architecture pattern. 

So what are these three layers? Let’s find out.

Layers of three-tier architecture and dependencies between them

Data layer

The data layer is the heart of an application in the making and is comprised of data access components, server communications, and logic. This layer executes connections to the network and enables the storage of accrued information either locally or on the cloud. The patterns chosen for core operations will determine the application’s overall performance. Security and safety of data maintenance is a key priority at this level.

Business layer

At this tier, all domain processes and operations take place as the business layer explains the logic, which, in turn, drives an app’s core functionalities. Business logic can take many forms, but it’s mainly responsible for business components and the corresponding data flow. Additionally, the business layer includes navigation methods, logging, caching, and other technical processes. 

Presentation layer

This layer is about how an app presents itself to the user and includes user interface (UI) elements such as themes, fonts, and colours and UI process components. The prioritisation of features and functionalities also takes place on this level. Because end-users should be able to easily navigate in the app, the best practice is to keep the presentation level simple and avoid multi-level menus.

With the multi-layer approach, the separately built dimensions function together smoothly as a complex system. 

Top Architecture Design Pattern: MVC, MVP, and MVVM

There are myriad architecture patterns to choose from, but among the most popular are Model-View-Controller (MVC), Model-View-Presenter (MVP), and Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM). 

These patterns are widely used to moderate complex codes and simplify UI code by making it more neat and manageable. MV(X) architectures divide the visualising, processing, and data management functions for UI applications, which increases an app’s modularity, flexibility, and testability. 

Let us take a closer look at each model to understand their differences.

Model-View-Controller (MVC)

MVC is commonly used when designing simple applications as it’s more readily modified than the other two and makes implementing changes to the app simple. 

MVC consists of three components: Model, View, and Controller. “Model” is subject to the app’s business logic and manages the state of an application and handles data changes and manipulations. “View” manages UI elements by presenting data to users and managing user interactions. “Controller” mediates between view and model by processing incoming requests. Depending on an app’s requirements, there may be one or more controllers.

This pattern enables a faster development process and offers multiple views for the model.

Model View Presenter (MVP)

 

MVP is derived from the MVC pattern, and here, the “controller” is replaced by “presenter”. Performance-wise this pattern offers high reliability as there is less hindrance than with the other two models in terms of rendering frames. 

Similar to MVC, the model covers the app’s business logic and how data is handled while the view is separated from the logic implemented in the process. The presenter’s major function is to manipulate the model and update the view. When receiving input from a user via view, the presenter processes the data and sends the results back to view.  

MVP offers easier debugging and allows code reusability.

Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM)

Designed for more explicit separation of UI development from business logic, MVVM is similar to MVC. The “model” here handles basic data and “view” displays the processed data. The View-Model element discloses methods and commands that help maintain the state of view and control the model. Two-way data binding synchronises models and properties with the view. Due to data binding, this pattern has higher compatibility than others.

MVVM’s significant advantages include easier testing and maintenance as it allows developers to readily implement changes because the different kinds of code are separated.

To sum up, MVP and MVVM allow developers to break an app down into modular, single-purpose components. At the same time, these two patterns add more complexity to an application. If you intend to build a simple application with one or two screens, MVC may be a better solution. MVVM, meanwhile, works well in more complex applications that handle data from elsewhere, be it a database,  file,  web service, and so on.

The Key Principles of Good App Architecture

Let's suppose you’ve designed your app architecture per business and user requirements, but how do you verify that it’s composed correctly and your app will function as intended? A well-designed architecture should meet a set of specific conditions including: 

  • Efficiency: The application performs the tasks and functions under any condition and handles heavy loads effectively. 
  • Portability: Since frequent environmental (market or technical-specific) changes are natural in mobile applications, good architecture must allow adjustments without crashing the whole system.
  • Scalability: Post-release updates and further development are a key part of the software development life cycle. Solid architecture results in faster changes and updates because it's developed in separate threads.
  • Testability: If an app’s architecture is easily tested it reduces the number of errors and increases reliability.

Meeting all these requirements helps accelerate the development process and makes further maintenance easier. Plus, reliable mobile architecture design generally means that complicated issues can be resolved in a timely, effective manner.

How To Choose The Right Architecture For Your Application

Many app architecture patterns are similar, so it’s not always easy to select one pattern in particular. To choose an effective architecture for your app,  take the following steps:

  • Analyse the current state of your codebase to define any issues that need to be resolved or code that needs improvement.
  • Evaluate various architecture patterns and try a few on for size before settling for one in particular. 
  • After the decision is made, examine how effectively your architecture solves the key problems. 

Bottom Line

Robust architecture is key to your app’s quality and performance and, therefore, its success. Properly composed architecture saves a significant amount of effort, time, and money and makes the development process smooth and fast. 

Sometimes it’s hard to make the right architectural decisions without the right expertise your project needs. And that’s where we come in — our skilled team of developers is experienced with both Android and iOS development and can help you create effective, reliable architecture for your mobile application. Get acquainted with our services and if you’d like  to cooperate,  reach out and we’ll get in touch soon.