Desktop apps are slowly but surely replaced by web applications, which are more convenient to use, easy to upgrade and manage, and are not bound to a single device.
If you have ever wondered about how the websites you frequently use are built or thought about building one on your own, you most definitely stumbled across the so-called single-page application.
We’ve gathered the most useful information about SPAs and put it in this article, so if you wish to find out more, let’s dive in.
A properly configured SPA delivers an amazing user experience since users can enjoy the natural feel of the app without needing to wait for it to reload.
The origins of single-page applications aren’t clear, but the concept arose sometime in early 2003. Websites like Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, Google Drive, and GitHub are the best real-life examples of SPAs we use every day.
Single-page application architecture is pretty simple as it consists of client-side technologies and server-side ones.
When it comes to site rendering, there are 3 main options you can choose from:
Single-page apps help to avoid any interruptions in a user’s journey and, by limiting the lag time between pages, the website feels and behaves more like a desktop application.
Since websites have a great deal of repeating content some of it stays the same no matter where the user clicks. Those are sections like headers, footers, logos, and navigation bars. Other content, like filters or banners changes from section to section. But how does that work exactly?
Let’s think of a picture of an elephant and a horse that you view on a website.
A traditional multi-page website will create the entire website on the server and send it to your browser. A SPA will give you more like a paint-by-numbers guide for the website plus the guides you will likely need.
This means the server sends the components for the SPA to use as well as the raw data and the website decides how to display the pieces and fill the content. In the end in both cases, you will see the exact same picture, but when you filter the results or request new content the speed of a single-page app will be the most noticeable.
On a traditional website, once you request another animal to show up, the server is going to create the entire site all over again and send it back to you. In a single-page application, the server will send the instructions on how to display a new animal and leave the rest unchanged. By making use of page rendering where websites are dynamically rewritten instead of being reloaded completely, SPAs are a whole lot faster than traditional multi-page applications.
Building a single-page application is a great idea if you have a business or a personal website that needs a robust platform with a small data volume. It’s also suitable if you plan on developing a native mobile app.
Apart from that SPAs can be used for:
But that’s not the only reason why people choose to develop single-page applications. Other benefits are:
However, it wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t give you some disadvantages of single-page applications as we don’t want to sound biased. Some of those are:
Apart from the obvious speed of single-page apps, as we said many times before, from the user perspective SPAs also offer a one-of-a-kind user experience. It’s so-called linear UX, which means the website is easy to navigate and understand, meaning users find exactly what they’re looking for right from the get-go.
Apart from that, single-pagers work amazingly well on mobile devices since all users have to do to navigate the website is scroll up and down.
From the business point of view, SPAs are faster to develop thanks to the shared backend API between the web and mobile app. This influences the information flow, making it more streamlined.
Considering the great speed of the apps, businesses will most likely get more users interested in their app, which means potentially bigger profits.
Research shows that more than half of the web traffic comes from mobile devices. People spend more time on the internet than ever. This means speed and friendly UX have become a necessity. SPAs not only address those needs but are also perfect for MVP development thanks to their simple and responsive design and quick load times.
Single-page applications are so popular that the majority of us use at least one of them on a daily basis.
Surprisingly, a streaming service that’s taking advantage of the SPA approach. With the large quantity of data streamed by a huge number of users, you can definitely tell that Netflix greatly benefits from having a single-page app.
Once Gmail loads its data the sidebars and headers stay the same no matter where you go within the app making it a great example of a single-page application.
Endless scrolling on Facebook is possible thanks to its single-page capabilities. You don’t need to refresh the page to see new posts as it all loads dynamically. If you turn your airplane mode on or lose the internet connection most of the content will still be visible since it’s cached in your browser.
To cut the long story short, multi-page apps work more traditionally. Every change in the displayed data or a request sent to the server renders a brand new page. Those apps tend to be larger than SPAs, but they need to be due to the amount of content.
From the development point of view, multi-page applications are harder to develop and generally consume more time and resources.
MPAs are the best approach for websites that require a more complex few-level navigation. They are also good for SEO purposes as they’re easier to optimize and rank for different keywords. Multiple-page apps are easily scalable as their architecture allows the creation of as many pages as necessary. There are also widely available ready-made solutions (CMS).
On the other hand, a multi-page application is harder to develop. Their frontend and backend are tightly connected, and developers need to use separate frameworks for either client-side or server-side. This means a longer development time, and longer time-to-market. You also have to take into consideration possible performance issues connected to a large number of server requests, and pages that have to be loaded.
An MPA will be best for companies with a large offering of services and products. Those include online stores, marketplaces, and company websites. A multi-page app will be easier to manage and optimize for search engines.
Before you start building your app, you should consider its main goals. If you know your service will require multiple categories like, for example, an eCommerce website, you should definitely go the multi-page way. But if you need an easy and simple website, definitely go for a single-page app. A SPA will also be suitable for:
There’s also one more solution for you – a hybrid site. As the name suggests, it’s a mix of both, taking the best of both apps and minimizing the disadvantages. It’s like a single-page app that uses URL anchors, allowing in-build browser navigation.
Single-page applications are all about delivering a seamless user experience and exceptional speed. They’re known for being the perfect fit for social network platforms, SaaS development, and eCommerce stores as they make an amazing base for a future mobile app.
A SPA development is a time-saving approach, which unfortunately comes with some SEO limitations, so before you jump into the development think about what requirements you have for your website.