SPAs Benefits & Tradeoffs: What Are They?

In 2022, mobile apps are a beacon of salvation to users who love them so much that they use mobile apps anywhere, everywhere, and almost for anything. Some people can’t even imagine life without them anymore. Can you? 

Yes, MPAs (multiple-page applications) gained a good reputation of being very efficient and reliable. But it’s hard to deny that there’s been a endless chase in the app development industry after even greater efficiency. Consequently, this chase led to an inevitable transition towards SPAs or single-page apps. What’s the reason? Simply delivering a much better user experience via incredibly easy navigation which improves overall app’s usability. But are they really that good? Let’s find out!

In this blog post, we’ll talk about SPAs, how they are different from MPAs, and make a quick overview of SPAs’ pros and cons.

Quick overview of the SPA approach: what is it?

First of all, single-page apps are not built with only one page. They contain multiple modules that can be loaded as needed. For example, if you’re on the Homepage, an Index, or a Welcome page, these modules are loaded when you click on the link. Users move from one module to another in accordance to the info they search for. For example, once they click on the “Contact us” button or a navigation link, they’ll immediately load a Contact module with a Contact form instead of Homepage. And this is pretty much called a “single-page app” (SPA).

What about them? SPAs show incredible speed when it comes down to loading single HTMLs and dynamic info. Basically, these apps get downloaded to browsers as single pages with all the other pages revealed later on. These pages come up whenever a user starts browsing/navigating around the app.  

The thing is that SPAs don’t bring in new HTMLs from the server. They utilize JS along with the client-side routing for rendering these “new” pages. SPAs retrieve all the data via AJAX requests from the server. After that, all data renders into the app’s content via JS frameworks (like React/Angular).

Needless to say, SPAs became very popular with such monster corporations like Twitter, Netflix, Google Maps, Gmail, etc.

How are SPAs different if compared to MPAs?

The practical experience shows that the overall performance SPAs provide is much better for such important aspects like user experience and utilization of server resources. For example, if the main goal of your app is to provide incredible functionality, then going with a single-page application would be a smart move. But in case you’re planning on publishing content, developing an app with the multiple-page approach will work best. 

So, go with the single-page app, if you:

On the other hand, MPA will work better for you, if:

  • your app’s purpose is about reading info;
  • your plan is to sell merch and/or offer services online;
  • you need SEO optimization;
  • want to run your app in different browsers without Java Script support.

But to be completely certain which approach would work better in your case, you ought to learn about the pros and cons of SPA vs. MPA. So, let’s move on to the main pros & cons of SPAs now. 

SPAs advantages

One of the main pros of SPAs is having a flexible, as well as portable front-end. If you don’t use a back-end framework like Flask or Django and put the entire logic on the front-end by utilizing a SPA framework. The biggest benefit you get is a totally “back-end independent” code. In this case, it doesn’t really matter which framework your app has been built in since you’re able to switch between them quickly and with no hassle.

Another benefit: all you need to know very well is JavaScript and you will be all set! Let’s say you’re building a regular application, then you’ll need to be knowledgeable in at least one of the back-end languages like PHP, Python, ASP.NET. When it comes down to front-end coding, you’ll need HTML/CSS/JS, of course. Whereas, the SPAs’ entire logic is written in JavaScript, which makes everything quite awesome. Yes, SPAs are more performant (faster, more fluid UX), at the expense of a slower initial loading time.

More SPAs pros outlined by experts:

  • Strong separation of the dynamic content from app’s design and layout. This makes development and maintenance quicker and easier.
  • SPA makes your performance better in most scenarios. For example, all of your scaffolding and design can be cached in a content delivery network (CDN) such as AWS Cloud front. This means your webserver is only serving dynamic content and persisting user input.
  • SPA makes it easier to maintain your code and makes its structure cleaner to develop and test.
  • You can develop different kinds of front ends for consumers cheaply: an API/desktop client/VR client/mobile client.
  • The user experience (if done right) becomes better due to the increased responsiveness of the application. Plus, it becomes easier to enable such apps offline.
  • The bandwidth consumed is reduced meaning better performance and faster response for the user. As well as reducing data consumption and charges.

Additionally, the SPA approach will allow you dynamically load some extra design elements, if required by some site modules. However, keep in mind that it may take a while for the good UI design to catch up.

Do you want to know what SPAs’ tradeoffs are? Here we go!

1st, as it was already mentioned, you’ll lose your SEO optimization due to the very nature of SPAs. 

2nd, almost anybody can view and even steal your code with just the right click. Well, if something like that happens, imagine how upset you’ll be if you’ve conveyed your very own business logic into your app. And then suddenly “gifted” it to somebody else. Bummer!

3rd, your app’s browser compatibility will not be great because, unfortunately, some browsers still aren’t compatible with the front-end frameworks of SPAs.

Another one is the Java Script NPM ecosystem issues. Yes, it’s still evolving but the ecosystem will be rather unstable. Basically, you may end up spending actually more time while trying to fix bugs which you would’ve fixed faster in regular back-end languages like Python or PHP

SPAs are also more complex architecturally and bugs are sometimes harder to fix. If you’re running a time-critical development schedule, it may be faster to work without a framework (unless you’re more experienced).

SPAs’ loading time penalty also becomes disadvantageous in the case if you want to attract more content-specific traffic from search engines and direct links. Therefore, SPAs become rather not a good fit for such projects as blogs, public content aggregation services, online forums, or online news.

Finally, single-page apps do not allow a semi-functional fallback. While that would be possible with multi-page applications. It would, of course, restrict UX. 

So, before doing anything, ask yourself the following questions just to to eliminate more rabbit holes in which you can get lost:

  • Do I need live updates like a news feed or chat program?
  • Do I only need periodic updates? Or do I need any updates at all or will everything be delivered on page load?
  • Will I be running a lot of JavaScript or very little?
  • Will I have a CDN (content delivery network) ?
  • Will I be doing authorization?
Want some advice from the industry experts? You got it!
  • Concentrate on Java Script best practices. Your app will be written in that, so the better your JS, regardless of its use, the better your app.
  • Be very aware of how your data relates to the client and how it is stored. A good database design will save countless hours down the road when features get more complex.
  • Don’t do your own authorization.
  • Don’t jump into frameworks and libraries at the beginning. Try to solve problems yourself first. That way, when you leverage a framework, you’ll understand more acutely the problem it solves for you and the trade-offs you run into.

Aside from that, future inquiry on your part will require more granular subject matter. For example, on the client, you’ll want to research best practices for Webpack or React. On the server, you’ll want to study best practices for SQL and no SQL databases. With all that said, keep in mind that SPA is only the beginning of your journey, not the end.

Bottom-line

In reality, there is probably no such a thing as the lowest common denominator when it comes down to app development. Typically, developers use the technologies of their choice in an attempt to promote their product adoption. If you’ve got an idea and want to shape it into a digital product by developing an app, think and decide what may be critical to your application in order to make it more available and accessible to the greater market segment.

Yes, there is always a risk to end up with a lousy design for an app or website. And we all have seen some terrible apps before, right? This is not a new thing! The thing is that  when it comes down to SPAs, there’s really relatively few downsides, if done well.

If you still need to have a better grasp of your problem before you determine the best app development approach, you can learn from lots of software/app development courses created by the industry’s best skilled experts on Grinfer!

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