3 Replies - 321 Views - Last Post: 24 June 2013 - 02:50 PM

#1 superman859  Icon User is offline

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Deciding Between Single Web App Vs Multiple Web Apps

Posted 24 June 2013 - 01:26 PM

I was wondering if anyone has any guidance on when to develop a second or third web application as opposed to integrating additional functionality into the first application. Where does one draw the line?

The reason I ask is I personally lean towards keeping it into a single application as I believe it helps it be uniform and easier to find and figure out, but others may disagree. I do some internal development, primarily on what I would call the "root" web application. However, over time other members of the team (not necessarily from the internal development team, but we are all developers here in one shape or form) have created their own web applications to expand features or provide additional functionality. This may have stemmed from the fact that development on the main application was slow due to few people working on it, or perhaps they felt it varied enough to make a new application (this has changed somewhat as more of us started doing internal development work)...

Over time, we have 3-4 different internal systems for our department that must be tracked now and all seem to offer some features that others do not, but I also see overlap in features. They are all similar in the data used, but vary in presentation, search capabilities, etc. In most cases they use the same database schemas, or at least same database (thus it could just as easily be added to the main application vs a new application, if that is the right choice). Some other issues I see is sometimes the official internal development team has to make schema changes but these do not get incorporated quickly into the other systems developed "unofficially", thus having outdated information - something that would happen less often if all put into one larger application (with more resources dedicated to support the extra features). It may be more difficult now to bring them back together since several team members are heavily invested in their own applications, but I am just curious if it's even something worth pursuing (and also need some good information to back up my effort).

Is there any information available that discusses these kinds of issues?

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Replies To: Deciding Between Single Web App Vs Multiple Web Apps

#2 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: Deciding Between Single Web App Vs Multiple Web Apps

Posted 24 June 2013 - 01:39 PM

There are no hard or fast rules on when to merge or not merge. The best way is to gather up everyone who has a vested interest in the applications: devs, helpdesk, support, managers, and users. Is there a benefit (outside of having one point of failure in a oddly communicated distribution environment), or perhaps there are really good reasons (that you are not aware of) to keep them separate.

By the way this is being phrased I am guessing you are not some sort of boss person that can just drive a stake in the ground and have everything merged over.. so what, building some sort of case for it?

It's a fuzzy thing... the culture, use, and dependency of those other apps may rock people's world too much if missing. Sure you can tally up the root application's feature set, and then see how many features vs new addons the other apps have to get an idea of added value... but again it's a perception of how the company is going.

Heck - it might even turn out that the other child apps don't even belong near each other (regardless of similar DB back ends, etc) at all! So mushing them together only serves in pissing off your user base.
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#3 superman859  Icon User is offline

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Re: Deciding Between Single Web App Vs Multiple Web Apps

Posted 24 June 2013 - 02:36 PM

Unfortunately I am not a boss - otherwise I would look into bringing it all together a bit more :) I am a developer and focus on our "main application" (IMO - maybe they think theirs is the main). In my opinion, there are some good points towards merging - primarily getting the information and tools all easily accessible from one application. I would say the feature overlap is 50-75%+ across the current options. For example, someone that is not on the official development team may create a new view into the data to present it in a slightly different format for processing. Why not just have that option in the main application and reduce the code overlap? Our main code base is easily extensible and has a decent MVC design behind it now. But people have stood up their own PHP scripts, CakePHP sites, python scripts, etc to add the feature rather than just adding it to main code base and application (and it's not really a permissions issue, as I am sure they could have been given the necessary permissions). The result is several sites built off several frameworks. They are all used by a subset of people to some extent, but some may only be maintained or managed by a single person - if they leave it's all gone and someone would have to go understand all their code and see how it's all put together. We would then need to continue to support multiple code bases, or merge at that point anyways. Similarly, if that person isn't aware of changes as mentioned previously, it is outdated and may be that way for some time until some user figures it out.

Another example is search functionality. Someone may add code to search the data in different ways or expand search functionality. But why not just improve the search on the base application so it has improved search that supports the needs of everyone?

The biggest issue I see is someone must know all these different sites exist and how to use them, keep track of updates to them, etc. As a developer myself, I even find it difficult to keep track (they are small enough / aimed at a small enough target that there is not a formal process around enhancements with change logs and notifications and such). If someone just had to go to one site, navigate to search, and had the options needed, it seems much more straight forward from a user perspective than tracking use site A for this type of search, B for this type, and C for this type.

Anyways, thanks for the thoughts. I was just wondering if there were docs or references discussing this higher level kind of issue, but it probably does vary a lot depending on situation. I think it would be difficult to get some people to start adding to the base code as they would have to get familiar with it and dump their own framework and code base, but at same time find it frustrating that several people may end up working on the same thing / feature with minor differences in implementation and design. For now, I am just going through and adding their features to our main site if they make sense (and in almost all cases I have looked at, they do) - maybe one day the extra internal sites will not offer much additional functionality and people will have no need for them anymore.
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#4 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: Deciding Between Single Web App Vs Multiple Web Apps

Posted 24 June 2013 - 02:50 PM

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For now, I am just going through and adding their features to our main site if they make sense (and in almost all cases I have looked at, they do) - maybe one day the extra internal sites will not offer much additional functionality and people will have no need for them anymore.



I am not much of a 'cross my fingers and hope' sort of person.. if you think things need to change then, again, get all the interested parties involved. There might be swirling things about this all you were not privy to, or folks may agree with you!

I get the feeling you are low-man on the totem pole, right? You see these issues but lack any sort of authority to make the changes.. well throw your brass ones over your shoulder and hop to inacting some change!

Clearly you have some authority that you can willy-nilly add things to the main app, but not to call a meeting to merge this all (or is that a passive behavior)?

Also - do you all have some sort of consistently used code repository?
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