What are Single-Page Apps? (SPAs)

If you use Paypal, Twitter, Pinterest, Netflix, Google Maps, or Gmail, you will not have a hard time trying to understand what are SPAs (Single Page Applications). The list of single page application examples goes on and on. As you are clicking through your, say, AirBNB account, you are probably noticing that a lot does not change there during your navigation. When you flip between different tabs, the header and sidebar information remains unchanged. That is the main principle of single-page applications: there is a single page where the most data sections remain the same, and only a few sections are updated at a time making load time shorter. This creates a win-win situation for both the users and website owners. In this posting, we will shed light on what are single-page applications and explain when you should consider using them.


What’s So Special About SPAs?

So what is single-page application approach anyway? Let’s bri2-efly define a SPA. Most sites contain lots of repeating content. Some parts of it are constant in just a certain section (banners, filter bars), some of them remain unchanged no matter where the users go (logos, footers, headers), and there are also numerous repeating layouts, templates (self-service, blogs, etc).

Actually, what SPA architecture does is takes advantage of these repeating layouts.The thing is that displaying a website is like painting a picture. Classic websites repaint the entire picture for you each time when you request new content (for example, filter your search results). This consumes time and server resources, slowing the overall performance. In contrast, single-page apps display the same picture with minor changes, making things a whole lot faster. As a result, the page is dynamically rewritten, instead of being fully reloaded. With less server work needed, SPAs allow you to save time and money for the same operations. In addition, they provide the ability to create more complex UI features like those with animations.


Single-Page Applications Advantages Explained

Why are SPAs so popular? The answer is simple: that’s because they are acting as “content on demand” apps, taking advantage of repetitive layouts. This approach costs less than traditional websites and uses less energy. Let’s explain the benefits of single-page applications in more detail.

  • User Experience

SPAs provide a better overall UX. They are especially suitable for those people, who mostly use mobile devices, as with a SPA, all they have to do is scroll. This approach allows preserving numerous menus and links, giving access to the page even with poor or no internet connection. Finally, the UX design looks more appealing, works with higher interactivity, and creates the impression of browsing through a full-scale mobile or desktop app.

  • Caching capabilities

Single-page applications are only requesting data from the server upon initial download, providing better-caching capabilities.

  • Speed

Probably the biggest advantage of SPAs is speed load. They work much faster than regular websites, providing instant access to all the functions and features of the website with almost no delay.

Single-Page Applications Disadvantages Explained

At the same time, there are many SPA challenges that prevent them from becoming a universal solution for all businesses.

  • No way back feature

With single-page applications, you cannot move backward when browsing an app. Hitting the “back” button will eventually take you out of it (however, there are some complex SPAs that provide this feature)

  • Site stats

Having just one single page means that you will not be able to track which content or page is most popular. If you want to track user activity on a single-page app, you will have to come up with your own analytics solution.

  • SEO

When it comes to SPAs and SEO, one of the biggest drawbacks occurs. The thing is that it is difficult to implement SEO techniques on single-page apps as search engine optimization depends on content with unique keywords, heading, and URLs. Given the fact that you only have one page makes it a detriment to SEO.


When to Use SPAs and When Not?

Think of using a SPA if:

  1. You need to provide real-time updates on the page (real-time charts, data streaming, notifications)
  2. You need to create a rich interaction between your app and users (like in the case with Google Maps)

Avoid using a SPA if:

  1. SEO rankings are crucial for your website.
  2. Your content is mainly static and does not require dynamic rendering.


Key Takeaways

Single-page application framework is one of the hottest trends in the app development industry. However, this does not mean that SPAs are perfect for all businesses. Do not forget to weigh the SPA pros and cons before making the final decision. Or consult with a professional web design studio (like us!) in order to determine whether or not this approach is right for your company, its business processes, and particular goals. Need help deciding whether to go with a traditional website or SPA? This is where we can help you! Contact us right now!