Plugin-Based Architecture in Modern Web Apps

Nowadays, web applications seem to be extensions of our online presence, as they make our daily tasks easier. Well, the apps have extensions that help us be even more productive – which brings to light a relevant topic for custom software development: plugin-based architecture. 

Plugins enhance the functionality and versatility of web applications and help increase flexibility in delivering tailor-made solutions. Our colleague, Bogdan P., software developer in the AROBS Travel software business line, highlights the main elements of plugin-based Architecture in modern web apps.


The Story So Far


The quest for extensibility, flexibility, and enhanced application functionality has taken center stage in the ever-evolving web development landscape. This pursuit has led to the widespread adoption of plugin-based architecture, heralded as a solution to break free from monolithic structures. This article highlights the importance and mechanics of plugin-based architecture in modern web applications, exploring how it empowers developers to augment and customize software easily.

Plugin-based architecture has been present in the apps we use daily for a long time. Web browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla use this pattern through what they refer to as “extensions.” IDEs like VSCode or Eclipse use the same pattern through their “plugins.” Besides the product-based applications mentioned before, CMSs like WordPress have successfully implemented this pattern through their “plugins” and “widgets.”

This architecture consists of two main components:

  • Core system: the main application that defines how the system operates and the minimum business logic;
  • Plugins: extensions to the core system with the sole purpose of producing additional capabilities.
Plugin based architecture example
Figure 1. Plugin based architecture example


We should be able to add or remove plugins from the core anytime. Adding or removing a plugin from the core should not affect other plugins. Plugins are usually independent, but they often require communicating with – or being in the presence of – other plugins. It is better to keep the plugins as isolated as possible, reduce the amount of communication between them, and avoid having circular dependencies at all costs, as this can easily lead to errors and difficulties when testing.


Expanding Apps Capabilities through Plugins


For the application to know how to extend itself with additional features, it should be able to recognize the plugins connected to it and how to get them. The plugins can be developed independently, even by 3rd party developers, placed into a common Artifactory or CDN, and retrieved from there at runtime.

There should be a well-defined interface between the core and the plugins, commonly known as the plugin register.

Each plugin that registers itself to the core passes important information, such as name, version, dependencies, handlers, hooks, etc., as the plugin metadata. In order to recognize the plugin and its capabilities, the application should have a metadata validation mechanism, especially for plugins coming from 3rd parties.



  • Reduced complexity – features moved to plugins
  • Extensibility
  • Flexibility
  • Can be tested in isolation


  • Common point of failure (the core app itself)
  • Hard to maintain multiple versions of the same plugin
  • Might end up with a circular dependency
  • Some bugs may be noticed only when certain plugins are combined

Final Thoughts


In conclusion, plugin-based architecture offers a practical solution to the ever-present challenge of enhancing web applications with new features and functionalities. Despite its inherent complexities, its advantages, such as reduced codebase complexity, heightened extensibility, and the ability to isolate and test components independently, make it an invaluable tool in modern web development. 

Looking forward, advancements in automation, containerization, and standardized interfaces hold promise for the future, optimizing the development and maintenance of plugin ecosystems. With the rising demand for customizable user experiences, the significance of this architecture is poised to grow, shaping the future trajectory of web development. By embracing this approach, developers can tap into a wealth of opportunities, driving innovation and pushing the digital realm’s boundaries.


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