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InfoQ Homepage News Building a Dedicated Platform for Frontend Developers at the Norwegian Government

Building a Dedicated Platform for Frontend Developers at the Norwegian Government

Recognizing the challenges faced by frontend developers, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration decided to build a dedicated platform to address their needs. It offers services like a CDN for static content delivery, an observability stack for monitoring and debugging, and feature management using Unleash. The platform is treated as a product, prioritizing user needs, collaboration, and learning, to drive adoption and improve the developer experience.

Andreas Nordahl and Hans Kristian Flaatten spoke about building a platform for frontend development at NDC Oslo 2023.

In today’s digital landscape, it’s important to provide dedicated platforms to support developers, Flaatten said. The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) has embraced smaller stable and autonomous teams. These teams are working within a specific subdomain of NAV and own the entire life-cycle of the product they are building, Flaaten mentioned.

The NAV frontend platform is built on top of the existing NAIS application platform. It provides a set of services tailored to frontend development, as Nordahl explained:

We started by establishing a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for efficiently delivering static assets. It is fully integrated with our CI pipelines making it super simple for teams to get started.

After this, observability became the most critical aspect, where frontend applications did not get much support from the existing tools. Nordahl mentioned that they leveraged their existing Grafana-stack to collect frontend logs, exceptions, performance metrics, and tracing with a few adjustments.

Another thing that was added was feature management. Using Unleash, it allows teams to implement and control feature toggles, facilitating safe testing and easy reversion of changes.

The frontend platform offers extensive support for software developers, Flaatten explained:

By providing services such as the CDN, observability stack, and feature management, we empower developers to build, monitor, and optimize frontend applications effectively. We emphasize self-service, ensuring that development teams can utilize the services without heavy reliance on us.

Clear and intuitive interfaces, along with comprehensive documentation and guides, further enhance the developer experience and drive adoption of the platform, Flaatten mentioned.

Nordahl mentioned that, to drive adoption they actively engage with development teams, seeking feedback, addressing concerns, and showcasing the platform’s capabilities. This proactive approach fosters a culture of collaboration and learning, driving adoption and continuous improvement, he said. They provide comprehensive documentation, guides, and cultivate a strong community to support onboarding efforts and raise awareness of the platform’s benefits.

To accommodate different frontend technologies without imposing technology limitations on application teams, they explored emerging standards like Web Components, WebAssembly, and OpenTelemetry, Flaatten mentioned. This approach enabled them to create services that could be consumed by any frontend application, while still allowing teams to make their technology choices.

InfoQ interviewed Andreas Nordahl and Hans Kristian Flaatten about building a platform for frontend development.

InfoQ: What made you decide to build a platform for frontend development?

Andreas Nordahl: Within our environment of over 100 cross-functional product teams, frontend development presented some unique challenges as each of them are responsible for their own presentation to their users. While the reusable frontend components of our design system are valuable, they only address a fraction of the needs of our frontend developers.

Our existing application platform, NAIS, lacked the necessary support required for frontend applications causing more cognitive load on frontend developers. Recognizing these challenges, we identified the need for dedicated frontend platform services to improve the overall developer experience.

InfoQ: What challenges did you face?

Nordahl: One challenge was hiring frontend developers with the necessary expertise to leverage the platform effectively. We recognized that providing tools alone was insufficient; supporting teams in acquiring the required skills was equally important. Alongside our hiring efforts, we focused on fostering a supportive community, creating comprehensive guides and documentation, and developing tools to empower new frontend developers.

InfoQ: What’s next?

Hans Kristian Flaatten: Frontend observability will continue to be a focus area as performance metrics can help teams improve their application’s performance and reduce complexity. Technologies like Web Components offer exciting possibilities for building micro frontends, enabling encapsulated and reusable code that can function independently.

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