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Decomposing a project using Nx - Part 1

Decomposing a project using Nx - Part 1

Working on a large codebase brings multiple challenges that we need to deal with. One of them is how to manage the repository structure and keep it as clean and maintainable as possible. There are multiple different factors that can be considered when talking about project maintainability, and one of them, that is fundamental in my opinion, is how we structure the project.

When it comes to managing large scale project which may consist of many modules, or even separate applications, a Nx Workspace based mono-repository is a good candidate for managing such a project. If you don't know what an Nx Workspace is, I encourage you to read my previous article where I introduce it along with monorepo fundamentals.

In this article series, I'll show you:

  • 2 approaches for decomposing a project
  • How they can help you to better manage your project's codebase
  • What tools Nx Workspace provides us with that help us enforce boundaries within a project

Modules vs libraries

It is a well-known good practice, especially when working with a complex Web Application, to divide the functionality into separate, self-contained, and, when possible, reusable modules. This is a great principle and many modern CLIs (ie. Angular, Nest) provide us with tooling for creating such modules with ease, so we don't waste time creating additional module structure by hand.

Of course, we could take it a step further, and instead of just creating a separate module, create a whole separate library instead. This seems to be a bit of an overkill at first, but when we consider that Nx CLI provides us with just as easy a way of creating a library as we did for a module, it doesn't feel so daunting anymore. With that in mind, let's consider what the benefits of creating a separate library instead of just a module are:

  • libs may result in faster builds
    • nx affected command will run the lint, test, build, or any other target only for the libraries that were affected by a given change
    • with buildable libs and incremental builds, we can scale our repo even further
  • libs enable us to enforce stricter boundaries
  • code sharing and minimizing bundle size is easier with libs
    • we can extract and publish reusable parts of our codebase
    • with small and focused libraries we only import small pieces into the application (in the case of multi-app monorepo)

Decomposition strategies - horizontal

In this article, I want to focus on horizontal decomposition strategy, which is great not only for large, enterprise projects, but for smaller applications as well. Horizontal decomposition focuses on splitting the project into layers that are focused on a single technical functionality aspect of the module. A good example of libraries type in this case is:

  • application layer
  • feature layer
  • business logic layer
  • api/data access layer
  • presentational components layer

As you may see in this example layering concept, each of the library types has a specific responsibility that can be encapsulated. I have created an example application that demonstrates how the aforementioned decomposition can be applied into even a simple example app. You can find the source code on my repository. Please check out the post/nx-decomposition-p1 branch to get the code related to this post. This application allows a user to see a list of photos and like or dislike them. It is a very simple use case, but even here, we can distinguish few layers of code:

  • photo-fe - frontend application top layer
  • photo-feature-list - this is a feature layer. It collects data from data-access layer, and displays it using ui presentational components.
  • photo-data-access - this is a layer responsible for accessing and storing the data. This is where we include calls to the API and store the received data using NgRx store.
  • photo-ui - this library contains all the presentational components necessary to display the list of photos
  • photo-api-model, photo-model - those are libraries that contain data model structure used either in the API (it's shared by FE and BE applications), and the internal frontend model. API and internal models are the same now but this approach gives us the flexibility to, for example, stop API breaking changes from affecting the whole FE application. To achieve this we could just convert from API to internal model, and vice-versa.

This application decomposition allows for easier modifications of internal layer implementation. As long as we keep the interface intact, we can add additional levels of necessary logic, and not worry about affecting other layers. This way we can split responsibility between team members or whole teams.

Nx workspace comes with a great toolset for managing dependencies between the internal libraries. A great starting point to get a grasp of the repository structure is to visualize the repository structure, and its dependencies. The following command will show us all libraries within a monorepo and dependencies between those libraries:

nx dep-graph

It will open a dependency graph in a browser. From the left side menu, you can choose which projects you want to include in the visualization. After clicking Select all, you should see the following graph:

Nx Dependency Graph - Horizontal layers

You can read more about dependecy graph here:

Enforce boundaries

As you may see in the dependency graph above, our application layer is accessing only certain other parts/libraries. As the project grows, we would probably like to make sure that the code still follows a given structure. I.e. we would not like UI presentational components to access any data access functionality of the application. Their only responsibility should be to display the provided data, and propagate user's interactions via output properties. This is where Nx tags comes in very handy. We can assign each library its own set of predefined tags, and then create boundaries base on those tags. For this example application, let's define the following set of tags:

  • type:application
  • type:feature
  • type:data-access
  • type:ui
  • type:model
  • type:api-model
  • type:be

Now, within the nx.json file, we can assign those tags to specific libraries to reflect its intent:

  "projects": {
    "photo-api-model": {
      "tags": [
    "photo-data-access": {
      "tags": [
    "photo-feature-list": {
      "tags": [
    "photo-model": {
      "tags": [
    "photo-ui": {
      "tags": [
    "photo-fe": {
      "tags": [
    "photo-api": {
      "tags": [

Now that we have our tags defined, we can use either an ESLint or TSLint rule provided by Nrwl Nx to restrict access between libraries. Those rules are named @nrwl/nx/enforce-module-boundaries and nx-enforce-module-boundaries for ESLint and TSLint respectively. Let's define our allowed libraries anteriactions as follows:

  • type:application - can only access type:feature libraries
  • type:feature - can only access type:data-access, type:model, type:ui libraries
  • type:data-access - can only access type:api-model, type:model libraries
  • type:ui - can only access type:ui, type:model libraries
  • type:model - can not access other libraries
  • type:api-model - can not access other libraries
  • type:be - can only access type:api-model libraries

To enforce those constraints we can add each of the rules mentioned above to the @nrwl/nx/enforce-module-boundaries, or nx-enforce-module-boundaries configuration. Let's open the top level .eslintrc.json or .tslint.json files, and replace the default configuration with the following one:

"@nrwl/nx/enforce-module-boundaries": [
    "enforceBuildableLibDependency": true,
    "allow": [],
    "depConstraints": [
        "sourceTag": "type:app",
        "onlyDependOnLibsWithTags": ["type:feature"]
        "sourceTag": "type:feature",
        "onlyDependOnLibsWithTags": ["type:data-access","type:model", "type:ui"]
        "sourceTag": "type:data-access",
        "onlyDependOnLibsWithTags": ["type:api-model", "type:model"]
        "sourceTag": "type:ui",
        "onlyDependOnLibsWithTags": ["type:ui", "type:model"]
        "sourceTag": "type:be",
        "onlyDependOnLibsWithTags": ["type:api-model"]


For type:model and type:api-model, we can either not include any configuration, or explicitly add configuration with an empty array of allowed tags:

  "sourceTag": "type:model",
  "onlyDependOnLibsWithTags": []
  "sourceTag": "type:api-model",
  "onlyDependOnLibsWithTags": []

Now, you can run the following command to verify that all constraints are met:

nx run-many --target=lint --all

You can set up the CI to run this check for all the PRs to the repository, and therefore, avoid including code that does not follow the architectural pattern that you decided for your project.

If any of the aforementioned constrains were violated, the linting process would produce an error like this

A project tagged with "type:data-access" can only depend on projects tagged with "type:api-model" or "type:model".

This gives a clear message on what the problem is, and tells the developer that they are trying to do something that should not be done.

You can read more about Nx tags & constraints in the documentation.


When designing a software solution that is expected to grow and be maintained for a long time, it is crucial to create an architecture that will support that goal. Composing an application out of well-defined and separated horizontal layers is a great tool that can be applied to a variety of projects - even the smaller ones. Nx comes with a built-in generic mechanism that allows system architects to impose their architectural decisions on a project and prevent unrestrained access between libraries. Additionally, with a help of Nx CLI, it is just as fast and easy to create new libraries as with creating a new module. So why not take advantage of it?

In case you have any questions, you can always tweet or DM me @ktrz. I'm always happy to help!

This Dot Labs is a development consultancy that is trusted by top industry companies, including Stripe, Xero, Wikimedia, Docusign, and Twilio. This Dot takes a hands-on approach by providing tailored development strategies to help you approach your most pressing challenges with clarity and confidence. Whether it's bridging the gap between business and technology or modernizing legacy systems, you’ll find a breadth of experience and knowledge you need. Check out how This Dot Labs can empower your tech journey.

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How do we pass properties to the directives that are defined in the hostDirectives` array? They are not passed by default, but we can configure them to do so pretty easily by using an extended syntax: `ts hostDirectives: [ { directive: HighlightDirective, inputs: ['color'], }, { directive: BorderDirective, inputs: ['color'], }, ], ` Fig. 6 This syntax takes exposes the "inner" directives\ `color` input from the `HighlightAndBorderDirective`, and passes them down to both highlight and border directives. `html Paragraph with a highlight and border directive using a single composed directive ` Fig. 7 This works, but we ended up with a border and highlight color both being blue. Luckily Angular's API allows us to easily redefine the properties' names using the : ` syntax. So let's remap out properties to `highlightColor` and `borderColor` so that the names don't collide with each other: `ts hostDirectives: [ { directive: HighlightDirective, inputs: ['color: highlightColor'], }, { directive: BorderDirective, inputs: ['color: borderColor'], }, ], ` Fig. 8 Now we can control both colors individually: `html Paragraph with a highlight and border directive using a single composed directive ` Fig. 9 We could apply the same approach to mapping directive's outputs eg. `ts outputs: ['stateChanged'], ` Fig. 10 or `ts outputs: ['stateChanged: changed'], ` Fig. 11 Adding host directives to a component Similarly to composing a directive out of other directives, we can apply the same approach to adding behavior to components using hostDirectives` API. 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Intro to DevRel: What's the Difference Between External and Internal DevRel Programs?

Developer Relations (DevRel__) is a proactive, multifaceted discipline that bridges the gap between developers and companies to drive adoption while cultivating an energetic and supportive developer community for their product, service, or technology. The term and the profession are often misunderstood even among those in other technical roles. Some have never heard of DevRel before, and others believe it’s a kind of tech support for developers. Many organizations even think starting a DevRel program means just giving away free software and hoping it catches on. But DevRel is none of these things. At its core, a successful DevRel program builds strong bonds within their target market to ensure that developers can interface with a company or organization behind the product they’re using. Great teams establish authentic connections with developers, cultivate trust, and actively engage with them. DevRel defies traditional marketing strategies. Instead of prioritizing numbers and eyes that contribute to a sales funnel, it focuses on enhancing developer satisfaction. This creates a feedback loop between users and a company to better meet their needs, and foster a sense of collaboration within a product’s user community. The Two Main Domains of Developer Relations DevRel is split into 2 main domains__: __external__ and __internal__. External: Accessing an existing developer community If a company already has a product with an existing community or a product that may appeal to an existing community, and they want to establish a DevRel program around it, this would fall within the external domain. A successful external program will establish credibility and support developers through a number of evangelistic measures like blog posts, tutorials, webinars, giving talks at meetups and conferences, or creating useful code examples to teach concepts. These activities and their goals are rarely product-specific. Instead, they incorporate a number of technologies within their product’s technical ecosystem to demonstrate its value to a developer’s workflow. I had the pleasure of working with Doron Sherman during his tenure at Cloudinary as VP of Developer Relations. Doron has extensive experience with building developer communities, and successfully advocated internally to build a website called Media Jams, a learning resource for developers working with media in their apps. By having this initiative live under Developer Relations, and not under Product, Marketing, or Engineering, Doron and his team built quickly and created a site that prioritized education, without needing to meet the business objectives of other parts of the organization. > “Media Jams has had great organic growth as a community resource. We were able to attract non-Cloudinary users as well as organic search traffic of those looking for media use cases who would have otherwise gotten lost in the Cloudinary docs and/or could not find help through the Cloudinary blog or knowledge base.” says Doron. Internal: Building a developer community In order to support the adoption and retention of developers using a product, companies must have a space where developers can interface with them. Building their own community around a product is the best way to do this. By creating open lines of communication, developers can provide immediate feedback about a product in a productive way to product and engineering teams thereby shortening the feedback loop and improving the speed at which a team is able to innovate based on user needs. This strategy falls under the internal domain. These forums also provide synergistic opportunities for developers that are using a product to learn from each other. By working on similar problems, developers are able to bond and feel more ownership or excitement toward a product, increasing user retention. Danny Thompson, a developer influencer and mentor who has built a community of over a quarter million followers, says that he admires Appwrite’s DevRel program, helmed by Tessa Mero, Head of Developer Relations: > “The Appwrite DevRel team is great at answering questions. They are on Discord, jumping on calls with developers, answering questions, and doing office hours, all of which are super valuable in building that community. The main difference between Appwrite DevRel and other teams is, a lot of communities are run very passively and not always available or taking an active approach within community forums to help out.” - Danny Thompson on Appwrite. > “When we think about how to become successful as a company through DevRel, our first consideration is, what made us successful in the first place? Appwrite became an open-source company and a successful open-source project because of community, so we focus on a community-first approach. Contributors and developers that have supported us since before we were a company are what led us to where we are now. Every initiative, every planning, and everything we do on our team, we consider the community's feedback and perspective before we make any decisions.” - Tessa Mero at Appwrite. The Value-First Approach to Developer Relations Successful DevRel programs prioritize delivering value to cultivate credibility among developers and support product adoption free from reciprocal demands. External efforts involve engaging with existing technology communities, establishing credibility through various evangelistic measures, and delivering value to the community. On the other hand, internal programs build communities around their product, facilitating direct communication between developers and the company. These internal forums not only enhance user retention but also foster a space for developers to learn from each other, creating a sense of ownership and excitement around the product. And by diverting equity to these two programs, DevRel teams find new users, retain them, and receive invaluable feedback. Real-world examples, such as Doron Sherman's work at Cloudinary and Tessa Mero's leadership at Appwrite, showcase the effectiveness of DevRel in action, and highlight how DevRel programs contribute to the success and sustainability of developer-focused products. In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, DevRel emerges not only as a bridge between developers and organizations, but as a crucial driver of innovation, ensuring products remain relevant, adaptive, and deeply integrated into the communities they serve. If you’re thinking about building a successful DevRel program for the first time, the best place to start is to reflect on some of your favorite brands and how they connect with the developer community. Do they simply distribute discount codes and free swag, or are they reaching out to their users, and providing them a platform to learn, collaborate with others, and contribute? If they are, what methods do they use, and how do those methods coincide with your team’s existing strengths? And if you ever have any questions or want to connect with a DevRel specialist, do not hesitate to reach out!...