In today’s digital age, web applications have become an indispensable part of our lives. As technology advances and user expectations grow, the landscape of web applications continues to evolve, presenting developers and businesses with a multitude of choices. At the forefront of this evolution lies the distinction between single-page application (SPA) and multi-page application (MPA). The choice between SPAs and MPAs is not merely a technical decision. It also involves considering the project’s requirements, user needs and development constraints. It is crucial to understand the strengths and limitations of each approach to navigate this landscape.
In this article, we will delve into the world of SPAs and MPAs, exploring their benefits, and drawbacks and also compare and contrast the two approaches.
Table of contents
1. What is a Web Application?
A web application is a computer program that run inside a web browser. Unlike traditional desktop applications that are installed on a user’s computer, web applications are accessed and executed from any device with an internet connection such as a desktop computer, a laptop, a smartphone or a tablet.
There are many famous web apps you may know, such as Gmail, Google Sheets, Google Docs… but you do not know they belong to web app type.
Benefits of web apps
Web apps have become ubiquitous in the modern world, as they offer several advantages over traditional desktop applications.
- Platform-independent: Web apps can run on any device with a web browser, regardless of the operating system. This makes them accessible to a wider audience and eliminates the need to develop and distribute separate versions for different platforms
- Easy to update: Web apps can be updated centrally on the server. They do not require users to download and install new software. This ensures that users always have access to the latest features and bug fixes
- Scalable: Web apps can be easily scaled to accommodate a large number of users, as the server can be upgraded or replicated to handle increased traffic. This makes them suitable for apps that need to support a large user base.
- Cost-effective: Web apps are generally less expensive to develop and maintain than traditional desktop apps. This is because they do not require the same level of infrastructures and support.
2. Defining Single-Page Application (SPA)
Single-Page Applications is a type of web application that loads only once and then dynamically updates the page as the user interacts with it. Some examples of popular SPAs are: Gmail, Google Maps, Facebook. Twitter and Instagram…
Benefits of Single-Page Application (SPA)
- Smoother user experience: SPAs provide a more seamless and responsive user experience. There are no page reloads to disrupt the flow of the application. This can lead to increased user engagement and satisfaction.
- Enhanced developer productivity: SPAs can be easier to develop and maintain. They often use frameworks that provide a more structured and organised approach to development. This can reduce the time and cost of development.
Drawbacks of Single-Page Application (SPA)
- SEO challenges: SPAs can be more difficult to optimize for search engines. Their content may not be easily accessible to search engine crawlers. This can make it harder for users to find SPA-based applications through search engines.
- Initial loading time: While SPAs can perform well, they can have a longer initial loading time than MPAs. That is because they need to load all of the necessary code upfront. This can be a drawback for applications that need to be accessible to users with slow internet connections.
3. Delving into Multi-Page Application (MPA)
Multi-page application (MPAs) is a type of web application that loads a new page each time the user navigates to a different section of the application.
MPAs have been around for much longer than SPAs and are still widely used today. Google Search, Amazon, eBay, Medium and WordPress are some of the popular examples of MPAs.
Benefits of Multi-Page Application (MPA)
- SEO friendliness: MPAs are typically easier to optimise for search engines. Their content is organised into separate pages that can be easily indexed by search engine crawlers. This can make it easier for users to find MPA-based applications through search engines.
Drawbacks of Multi-Page Application (MPA)
- Less seamless user experience: MPA can provide a less seamless user experience than SPA, as there are page reloads that can disrupt the flow of the application. This can lead to a less engaging user experience.
- Potential performance issues: MPAs can have performance issues, especially if the developers do not carefully design and optimise them. This can be especially problematic for applications that require real-time updates or complex data interactions.
- Increased development complexity: As applications grow in size and complexity, MPAs can become more difficult to manage and develop. This can lead to increased development costs and maintenance overhead.
4. Head-to-Head Comparison: SPAs vs. MPAs
Before diving deeper into choosing the better one between SPAs and MPAs, let’s take a quick look at the key differences between them
|Features||Single-page application (SPA)||Multi-page application (MPA)|
|Loading||Only once||Loads a new page each time the user navigates to a different section of the app|
|Usage||For interactive or complicated web apps||For both simple and complicated web apps|
|Coupling||Front-end and Back-end are separateUses APIs to read and display data||Front-end and back-end are more interdependentAll coding is usually housed under one project|
4.1. Performance and User Experience
Moreover, a study by Akamai in 2017 found that SPAs have a lower bounce rate (the percentage of users who leave a website after viewing only one page) than MPAs. This is because SPAs provide a more seamless user experience, as there are no page reloads to disrupt the flow of the application.
SPAs can handle real-time updates efficiently, while MPAs may require additional effort to implement real-time updates. For example, the Gmail SPA is able to update the inbox with new emails in real time, without requiring the user to refresh the page. This is in contrast to the older MPA version of Gmail, which required users to refresh the page to see new emails.
SPAs’ UX overall is typically more engaging, due to some reasons, such as the absence of page reloads, more fluid and intuitive navigation and dynamical updates, leading to higher user engagement. MPAs’ UX may feel seamless, as users have to click links to navigate between pages and wait for page reloading to update.
In terms of memory usage, SPAs may consume more memory than MPAs, because the entire application is loaded at once, while only the currently active page of a MPA is loaded. MPAs are also infinitely scalable. It is hard for developers to make a SPA scalable as they might need to write big chunks of code.
Single-page applications (SPAs) and multi-page applications (MPAs) differ in their approach to web development, and this distinction has implications for search engine optimization (SEO).
MPAs, with their traditional page structure, typically present fewer challenges for search engine crawlers, which readily index individual pages based on their clear URLs and metatags. This straightforward arrangement makes it easier for search engines to understand and rank MPAs. In contrast, SPAs, with their dynamic content and single-page architecture, pose a greater SEO challenge. Search engine crawlers may struggle to parse and index the entire application, as the content is not readily accessible through separate URLs. This can pose a difficulty to acquire backlinks to specific sections of the apps.
4.4. Complexity and Development
MPAs are generally simpler to develop, as the developers use more traditional web development techniques and do not require the use of complex frameworks to build them. They also require less upfront planning and design, as each page can be developed independently.
MPAs, on the other hand, may offer some security advantages due to their separation of concerns, as each page is loaded independently and can be sandboxed, limiting the potential damage caused by a compromised page. Additionally, the use of traditional web development techniques in MPAs may reduce the likelihood of certain types of vulnerabilities, as these techniques have been well-vetted over time.
However, MPAs are not without their security risks. Common vulnerabilities such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection can still be exploited in MPAs. These vulnerabilities can have serious consequences. Additionally, MPAs may be more susceptible to certain types of attacks, such as session hijacking. This is due to the fact that each page is loaded independently and may not have the same level of security checks as the application’s main entry point.
4.6. Total Expense
While building a MPA, developers can use more traditional web development techniques, which can reduce development costs. Additionally, MPAs are generally simpler to maintain, as each page can be updated independently.
However, SPA can offer some cost savings in the long run. SPA can be more scalable, as they can handle large numbers of concurrent users more easily.
5. Choosing the Right Approach: SPAs vs. MPAs for Your Project
SPAs are suitable for applications that require a high level of interactivity, responsiveness, and real-time updates. They may be real-time chat apps, collaborative editing tools, data visualisation dashboards… This is because SPAs can dynamically update the page content without reloading the entire page, which makes for a more fluid and responsive user experience. SPAs are also a good choice for applications that require complex data interactions, as they can handle large amounts of data efficiently.
To wrap up, while both types of applications serve the common purpose of delivering content and functionality through a web browser, they differ significantly in their architecture, performance, and suitability for specific use cases. SPAs are often suitable for applications that demand high interactivity, real-time updates, and a fluid user journey. In contrast, MPAS are appropriate for apps that prioritise SEO, accessibility, and adaptability to various devices.
Hope that this article will equip you with valuable information. With this in mind, you can choose the best approach, ensuring that you deliver a user-centric and successful solution.
If you are looking for a technical partner to assist you in accelerating your time to market with an intense experience in web app development, AgileTech is always here and provides you the best services. We have a proven record of building high-quality web apps for clients around the world. If you need further information and consultation for your project, feel free to fill out this form to meet our IT experts!