Social Networks today are powerful tools for communication that have integrated into our lives. Initially, social network phenomenon has been treated as just a “toy for children”, but now almost all corporate giants eyeing much closer to these platforms because of fast target audience access, low cost and high return.
Social applications have different functions. The simplest example would be a sales promotional merchandising. In addition, developers also can get profit from a direct application. Thus, social media application development is an important step in a service or brand promotion through the Internet.
If you already have an online persistence you should consider adding the mobile aspect to expand your business. It should be noted that in general applications are developed directly under the two most popular platforms – iOS and Android. Also, there is a certain amount of exclusives for a particular platform.
If we are talking about Social Networks App Development, developers usually divide a social network into two parts — the Server and the Client. At first glance, it may seem that the Client is the most important part because it comes in strict contact with the end user during operation.
Design, performance these are what we pay our attention at while dealing with an app. But don’t forget about the second part – the Server. This is a very important component that affects the performance and scalability of applications. So let’s take a closer look at these parts.
First of all, while developing a social media app you should pay attention to optimization of UI and UX of the app. UX-design is an aspect that should be explored carefully. The UX and UI concepts are closely linked with each other. At the prototyping stage, you should determine what you want your users to feel and develop information architecture and application content hierarchy depending on these findings.
The UX is about how customers interact with the product. Think about what client keeps in mind after the session, what is the most successful elements emplacement from the user’s point of view. All your decisions should be focused on the comfort of the end-user.
At the same time while “chasing a nice picture” do not overload your app with unnecessary features, animations, screens. The simpler your app is the better impression it will be giving. Remember, you need to create an easy and high-performance application, which has a unique design. The interaction between server and client can be realized with REST API because SOAP is not mobile friendly.
When it comes to real-time chats it is better to use web-sockets. Moreover, every high-performance application should cash as much information as it can: images and files can be cashed in phone cash, other information (chat history, comments etc) can be cached in a local database.
Cash everything that can be cashed! This certainly will increase subjective performance for the users. Also, place emphasis on the native app instead of a hybrid.
It is an application itself. For the scalability (interacting with millions of users you should provide a proxy server so it can act as a load balancer and route requests to the instances of your server. Production app version requires language that can provide a high performance. For MVP (Minimum Viable Product) there are no restrictions, you can use any language.
Separated database is necessary for scalability as all instances of the server can interact with it. RDS from Amazon would be a good solution.
Data storage is used to store user data such as images, videos, files, etc. This part also needs to be scalable. If you are new to social media app development, we advise using Amazon services that feature all these three parts: for server application - EC2, for database and data storage - RDS and EC3 accordingly. As an example, Instagram developers use Amazon’s tools in the app architecture (EC2, ELB, S3, etc).
It also a good idea to consider using a virtualized storage or clustered file systems from the very beginning. This will significantly parallelize IO–operations and increase storage space without any reorganization. Think also about your scaling strategy. A lot of app developers say that if you do not a precise examination of scaling processes at the very beginning you may face a lot of problems later. Companies’ servers simply do not cope with the existing workload.
For example, Facebook users download billions of new photos every month and, apparently, it is not the limit. The the other example is eBay. The developers at eBay were guided by the principle «what if load increases by 10x». So try to consider the peculiarities of using your application.
[About how often do you post personal photos or videos on Facebook?]
Is there any load increase possible? Could it be associated with any event? For example, any disaster or some news. When is load peak possible? For example, Flickr gets 20-40% more new photos in the first working day of January. Note that load can be 40-50% higher at weekend compared with the other days of a week. You also need to find out what is the maximum values for all the parameters. What is the maximum for “something” that each server will be dealing with.
How close to the maximum setting this parameter is and what are the general trends. Consider the possibility of exponential growth. More users mean that you will have more content, while more content means more connections and more connections is more active use respectively. Think about what the system control regimes could be developed for peak periods of operation. Scaling is a very serious aspect to work on, do not underestimate it.
At the same time, you should use only resources you need, instead of using all of the equipment simply because you afraid your app will fail. Make real measurements. The process of load planning should be based on real things, not abstract ones. But when the problem arises, use additional equipment to solve it if possible. This is much easier than to change a software behavior in order to solve this problem somehow differently.
It should also be mentioned that the app’s performance mostly does not depend on the programming language. It depends on well-thought-out application structure. Think ahead and mark all your actions, because this will help to avoid some of the potential problems in the future. Separate your app development into different levels and if you have a team let everyone do their part of work: logic part for programmers, styling, and branding for designers, etc.
Remember that even the correct and viable solutions picked up at the beginning, won’t last forever and at some point, you may have to look for an alternative to get out. Be as flexible as possible in decision-making. These basic principles will allow you and your company to get a high-performance product while building a social network application.