Which and when to use: SPA vs MPA
While building a website it is essential to see the bigger picture of the whole project, thereupon it is important to understand that there are two different ways to do it. When should you use a single-page application and when should you use a multi-page application? Check out these UX tips for some guidance.
When it comes to thinking about the user experience on the websites and applications it is easy to put all responsibility on designers. As an uprising expert in computer science, you should know that it is not entirely true.
Today, the digital landscape is filled with competitiveness, and everyone is keen to provide the best UX. Different product teams face diverse challenges – marketers need to maximize the return of investment, meaning to not end up with minimum conversions and high bounce rates; designers need to make create beautiful user interfaces across the platform; developers have to build a system that withstands high-traffic volumes and reduce load-times. From developers to marketers, everyone is trying to reduce user frustration while using the website. The frustration of the user can be defined as the following “I do not understand how to buy this product”, “I do not understand how to use this site”, and “this site is taking forever to load, therefore it does not seem trustworthy”.
While building a website it is essential to see the bigger picture of the whole project, thereupon it is important to understand that there are two different ways to do it. If you have been in a website building market for a while now, you have probably heard about building a website with single-page and multi-page applications. Let’s have a comprehensive look at how do they differ and how do they impact the website from its’ core.
Single-page applications (SPA)
As the name already suggests, websites that are built with single-page applications (SPAs) only consist of one single page. Basically, when the user is surfing the website mostly wherever he chooses to press – he remains in the same platform. What SPAs are so great about, is that the page does not reload during its use and does not rely on navigating through different websites.
If you have been on platforms like Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, GitHub and so on, you have already met the best examples of SPA. It is one of its’ greatest features that when the page loads, only data is sent back-and-forth, and the website executes everything within itself rather than going through servers every time.
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One of the main goals of single-page applications is to create a natural environment on the page that takes no extra time to load.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons it may offer.
- Fast and responsive. As already mentioned above, the single-page applications to not update the whole website, it only updates the needed content. This operation can significantly improve the response that the user gets from the platform. To go deeper, the website loads resources only one time. According to Google, the load up of the website plays an important role in business and sales scene.
- Linear experience. SPAs enable linear scrolling experience to the user, meaning that the person that is using the website does not get interrupted. This also works perfectly for mobile users, which enables a smoother scrolling experience even more.
- Easy to develop. The development of SPAs is simplified and streamlined because there is no need to write codes to render pages on the server. Also, while talking about mobile websites development, it’s easier to make it because the developer can reuse the same backend code.
- Caching. Single-page apps can cache information more effectively. While SPAs send only one request to the main server, it stores all the data it receives and the data can be used even while working offline. If the user has slow internet connectivity, the data, later on, will be synchronized when the connection allows it.
- Debugging. SPAs with Chrome are easier to debug since they are developed through frameworks like AngularJS Batarang and React tools. These frameworks offer their own developer tools on Chrome browser to enable debugging.
- Safety. SPAs are more vulnerable to cross-site scripting attacks, that hackers can implement into web applications.
Having all this information on single-page applications it is clear that it is recommended to use it for websites that don’t have high-volume traffics. It is also an ideal scenario for mobile app development. Keeping in mind that SPAs do not provide as good search engine optimization, it is perfect to use for social networks, forums, closed communities, where SEO does not matter.
Multi-page applications (MPA)
Different to SPAs, multi-page applications (MPAs) are complex websites. To put it more simply, it is a traditional web application that reloads the entire page whenever the user interacts with the website.
Each time that the data is exchanged, the application makes a request from the server to display different information in the browser. The main reason why it differs so much from the single-page applications, MPAs take time to execute the information exchanges, meaning that the user experience can be harmed if the servers connect slowly or the internet connection is poor.
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If you want to see an example of how multi-page applications work, head over to the websites like Amazon, eBay, or every other traditional website. You’ll notice that each time you press on the website, you’re being redirecting to another page. MPA sites consist of many micro-websites and subsections to distribute content across the platform.
Let’s see what MPA offers for its’ users:
- SEO. Since MPAs are complete opposites of SPA, search engine optimization is a strong point for multi-page applications. The architecture of MPA websites is native to search engine crawlers and it allows adding meta tags to every single page. Also, pages can be optimized for different keywords, which is exactly what the search engine wants.
- Insights from Google Analytics. Another major factor that plays an important role in websites’ success is information about its performance and relationship with the users. While SPAs only can provide a little data on that, multi-page application owners can see what works best and what doesn’t work on their website.
- Navigation and scalability. MPA provides clear navigation for the user on the website since the user can find be categories, and subcategories to search for information. Also, the application brings huge scalability, since the developers can create as many additional websites as needed.
- Performance. As mentioned above, MPA servers need to load a bigger information package and reload it for each interaction. Although there are methods to speed up the process, the speed, and performance still may be affected negatively.
- Complexity. It takes a lot longer to developer multi-page application comparing to single ones. Most of the sources suggest, that building an MPA is more complex since developers have to code back-end from scratch and separate it from the front-end.
- Maintenance. While single-page apps need to secure only one pages’ data endpoints, the MPA developer has to apply it for each page. Also, security becomes more difficult since there is a lot more data.
Multi-page applications are mostly used for companies that offer a wide range of products, different packages of information, and use multiple menus to distribute it. Since search engine optimization works a lot better with it, companies that revolve around business, marketplaces, and stores should find a lot more success than using SPAs.
It is clear that single and multi-page applications have major differences between them. If you are still wondering which is the best, the answer is – it depends. It depends on what are the expectations for the final product, what features it has to have, and how many resources can you put into building it.