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SPA v/s MPA: Guide to Choose Traditional Web App in 2022

Web applications are undoubtedly displacing traditional desktop applications. They are simpler to use, easy to update, and are not bound to a single device. Though users are slowly moving from browser-based applications to mobile applications, the demand for complex and refined applications is already large and growing. If you are looking for app development, you must have heard that there are two primary design patterns for web applications: multi-page application (MPA) and single-page application (SPA). Now, both models have their advantages and disadvantages. To decide which one to choose, it is best to follow a content-first approach that focuses on the importance of choosing your application content before anything else. It is because the content is the primary reason for which the users will use your application.

 

SPA vs MPA - App Development Comparison

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Single Page Applications (SPA) is an ideal choice for your business if you plan to build an engaging and seamless user experience. Successful businesses are an indication that being customer-focused is the only way to grow a business. The constantly reducing attention span of users is pushing businesses to find newer and enhanced ways of offering seamless experiences to their customers. In this article, we will evaluate all aspects of a single page application, the advantages and disadvantages and how it is valuable for a business.

What is a Single Page Application?

A Single Page Application is a single page that consistently interacts with the user by dynamically rewriting the current page rather than loading the entire page from a server. Some of the most popular single-page applications include Facebook, Gmail, Twitter etc. The idea is to have faster transitions that can make the site feel more like an inbuilt app.

In a Single Page Application, all the necessary HTML, JavaScript and CSS code is either recovered by the browser or resources loaded and included with the pages as required. It is generally a response to the user’s actions.

The page doesn’t refresh at any point during the process and doesn’t transfer the control to an alternative page, though HTML5 history API or the location hash can be used to provide navigability and perception of distinct logical pages in the web app.

Now, the question is, ‘Do you need a web application or website?’. So, if you run a small business, you simply need a boutique website that displays your brand. If you have a thriving business, it is best to have a custom website to display your products or services to your customers.

Advantages of using Single Page Applications:

Now, let us take a look at some of the benefits of a single page application.

1. Speedy and Responsive

As Single Page Applications do not update the whole webpage but only the necessary content, they considerably increase the website’s speed. Most resources are loaded once through the lifespan of an application. Just the data is transmitted back and forth. It is a great benefit, and as per Google research, if a web page takes more than 200 milliseconds to load it can include a potentially high impact on business and sales.

2. Powerful Caching

A Single Page Application can cache any local data efficiently. This particular app sends a single request to a server and then stores all the data it receives. Then it can use this data and work even offline. If a user doesn’t have access to fast internet, local data can be synced with the server when the connection permits.

3. Linear User Experience

Single Page Applications offer users a standard linear experience. These web apps have a clear beginning, middle and end. The web application offers an excellent interactive experience using parallax scrolling and great transitions and effects to present the complete customer journey.

4. Debugging with Chrome

It is simple to debug a SPA with Chrome as these apps are built on frameworks like React and AngularJS. These frameworks have their own Chrome developer tools that allow easier debugging than with MPAs. Moreover, single-page applications enable you to monitor network operations and investigate page elements and data linked with them. However, with these benefits, single-page apps have some disadvantages that you should think about.

Disadvantages of using Single-Page Applications:

Apart from all the major advantages of SPAs, they have some disadvantages too that you must think about.

1. SEO Optimization

Some people think that SPAs offer SEO optimization. Single-page apps work on JavaScript and download data on request from the client-side. The URL doesn’t actually change and various pages have their unique URL addresses. It is difficult to optimize these websites for search engines as most pages cannot be scanned by search bots. Google launched a new plan to enhance single-page app SEO optimization. Google is now open to index dynamic web pages. However, developers need to ensure that their JavaScript files can be indexed by Google. They also need to verify that a website uses HTML5 mode in the URL scheme.

2. Browser History

A single page application doesn’t save visitors’ jumps between two states. It means when users click the back button, they will not go back. A browser only transfers the users to the previous page, not to the previous state in an app. To solve this issue, there is an HTML History API with which developers can equip their SPA frameworks. The History API provides developers access to browser navigation history via JavaScript.

3. Security Issues

Single-page applications are not more immune to cross-site scripting attacks than multi-page applications. Using XSS, hackers can inject client-side scripts into web apps. One security issue is the vulnerability of sensitive data. The entire SPA is not typically visible in the browser, which can offer a false sense of security. Another reason that SPAs can be insecure is missing access control at the functional level. As programmers move features and logic off the server and out to the client, it is easy to offer a client access to functions that they should not be permitted to use.

What is a Multi-Page Application?

A multi-page application (MPA) is an application with more than one page. It works in a conventional way, needing the application to reload completely every single time a user interacts with it. Multi-page applications usually tend to have large data and complex architecture. The pages in multi-page applications typically consist of static content and links to other internal pages. This is the reason why MPAs are complicated and have a multi-layered user interface. It is possible to develop a multi-page application using HTML and CSS. Though, various developers choose to use JavaScript and jQuery to enhance their app performance. As a matter of fact, almost all major eCommerce apps are multi-page applications.

Advantages of using Multi-page applications

Multi-page applications have been around for a long time. It offers great advantages if your web application is built for a diverse audience.

1. Great for SEO

The primary benefit of a multi-page application is proper SEO optimization. In contrast to SPAs, you can allocate separate pages of your MPA to separate pieces of content. By doing so, each page can be optimized for a specific keyword. By including proper meta tags to these optimized pages, your web application can rank better on the search engines.

2. Easy to Scale

There are many constraints to adding new content or features to multi-page applications. You can include as many new pages to the application as you need to accommodate more content. Hence, MPAs are the perfect choice for custom web development if you are looking to include multiple features, products, or services for your business.

3. Works well with Google Analytics

Google Analytics creates separate reports for each page. With multi-page applications, you can use google analytics to pull insights about the pages of your app that are performing well. According to these insights, it is possible to make changes to the content of your web application to enhance its visibility and average time spent on the pages. Single-page apps have a single page and hence it is difficult to know which part of the app is not giving appropriate results.

4. Provides a Visual Map

There should be no confusion in single-page applications vs multi-page applications when you are looking to develop a large application. If you have decided to share a large amount of information through the web application, you need a structure that can organize it into different categories and classes. For instance, if you are looking to launch an eCommerce store, you cannot accommodate all the products on a single page.

Multi-page applications make it easier for users to search for what they are looking for. The tabs that you categorize your content in work like a visual map for the users to navigate without any issues.

Disadvantages of using Multi-Page Applications:

There are various limitations when it comes to building multi-page applications. The disadvantages of multi-page applications are some of the reasons why SPAs are highly regarded for projects.

1. Complicated Development and Testing

Front-end and back-end are tightly packed in multi-page applications. Development and testing in MPAs are highly time-consuming. Apart from that, making changes in the front end may need you to make changes in the back end. This will add more burden on the development and testing team.

2. Slower Performance

In multi-page applications, the browser needs to download all the app data every time a user interacts or moves to a different application. This impacts the speed and performance of multi-page applications.

3. Maintenance is Tricky

Developers need to maintain each page of a multi-page application differently. This can get much more complicated than maintaining a single-page application. Also, you need to secure each page separately which adds to the development complexity.

SPA v/s MPA:

As we have discussed in this article, both architectures have their advantages and disadvantages. To make the best choice, it is important to determine your goals first. Then figure out the features that your web app needs to have to meet those goals.

You can use a single-page application when:

  1. Brand storytelling is the primary objective of the web app.
  2. You wish to develop a smaller version of a larger app you want to develop.
  3. When your app doesn’t actually depend on SEO.

Multi-page applications are best for scalability and SEO friendliness and are important when:

  1. You need to display a large number of products, services or features.
  2. Your application success depends on search engine rankings.
  3. You wish to cater to a diverse audience with multiple requirements and preferences.

Conclusion:

It is crucial to follow a holistic approach to choosing between single-page apps and multi-page apps. Figuring out which approach to choose is difficult as you need a thorough understanding of both. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of each architecture and your business requirements. This is where you would need the expertise and skills of a skilled software development company. We have good experience in offering optimized solutions for web applications using both SPAs and MPAs. If you have any questions regarding SPAs and MPAs, get in touch with us or leave a comment below.

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Keval Padia is the founder & CEO of Nimblechapps, a fast-growing mobile app development company. The current innovation and updates of the field lures him to express his views and thoughts on certain topics.