(This is a post I made on Capital One’s tech blog.)
Ever wonder what goes into selecting technologies for one of the most trafficked banking websites in the world?
According to Alexa.com, the CapitalOne.com home page is ranked the 49th most popular site in the US and the 253th in the world. To maintain and enhance the functionality of this mission-critical site, we at Capital One have partnered with the open source community to address the incredible technical challenges associated with being a high profile web destination.
I oversee the team implementing the new technology platform behind CapitalOne.com. During the 2016 ng-conf keynote (I speak at the 56 minute mark), we were invited to present our cutting edge solution that leverages popular technologies such as the Cloud, Node.js, Angular 2, TypeScript, and Angular Universal. This post is based on the content of that talk.
Our website engineering teams must balance a number of difficult technical issues which can be generally grouped into:
· Distributed Nature of a Global Engineering Team
Looking at Angular 1
The good news is that “Performance” is a relatively straightforward problem to address. In our case, move as much of the application to the front-end and leverage the full power of a CND. In building the first iteration of our website solution, we started here, with Angular 1. However, the limitations of Angular 1 became immediately apparent as it impacted our SEO or Accessibility issues.
In short — the HTML is a mess.
Building It Ourselves
To address this, our team decided to build a solution that combined Angular 1 with server-side Node. This would involve building a pre-rendering service that would determine the HTML “end state” and cache it.
We looked at every page we wished to migrate and built two versions of it: a “fragment” version and a “full page” version.
The “fragment” is the content (images, text) for a URL and the “full page” is that same content with the menu/header/footer surrounding it. We served the appropriate file based on the context of the user: “full page” for a first time visit and “fragments” as users click around.
The “fragment” experience would swap out the contents and leave the surrounding menu/header/footer in place. From a load time perspective, this performed extremely well.
But this solution was limited. Out of Angular 1’s many features, our pre-render service only managed to port over one aspect, the route (URL) changes. Other components of Angular functionality such as directives, filters, and services weren’t being evaluated by our pre-render service.
This meant major parts of any given page could not be determined server-side. We concluded that Angular 1 had limitations that ensured it could never fully support our specific use case.
We needed a more robust solution.
Enter Angular 2 and Angular Universal
Thanks to a major rewrite, Angular 2 with Angular Universal fully supports server-side rendering.
A rough example would be that this is like the browser being emulated on your server — allowing you to pre-render the HTML and cache it. When we heard this, we immediately started planning to leverage this capability.
With Angular 2, the source code resembles normal HTML and if you link to a cached page, everything works as expected. Every feature of the Angular framework codebase gets run server-side.
We still use the same “fragment” and “full page” caching strategy from earlier, but the remaining drawbacks are eliminated. This strategy has some additional major performance benefits. Normally, the user cannot interact with a web application until a number of serial processes are finished:
While this is happening, the user often sees just a white screen or a loading spinner.
Best of all, we now have a cache of exactly what our visitors see, and our developers can build their systems using standard Angular 2.
Don’t Forget TypeScript
The benefits of TypeScript to enterprise — and large code bases — cannot be overstated.
The main takeaway: TypeScript provides many of the benefits of a language like Java while avoiding the baggage. It works well for large, distributed teams where the code needs to be self-documented, catching bugs earlier (via compilation). Best of all, it runs on Node.js.
The CapitalOne.com team is grateful for the hard work that the Angular teams have put into making these great technologies. Together, Angular 2 and Angular Universal significantly advance web development for the enterprise community. We look forward to remaining a part of the Angular community and working with these technologies on additional projects.
For more on APIs, open source, community events, and developer culture at Capital One, visit DevExchange, our one-stop developer portal. https://developer.capitalone.com/
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