Single Page Application Overview: Advantages & Disadvantages

7 Minutes time to read
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When browsing Netflix to pick a good movie or scrolling through classy Pinterest pictures, the last thing you think of is that these two are examples of single page applications. And that’s no surprise since excellent web development and design means fluid, almost natural interaction, so users can’t even imagine what the web application hides behind closed doors to deliver them this level of experience.

We bet now you’re wondering what a Single Page Application is. Hopefully, we are here to answer this question and even more.

What is a single page application

Almost every business in today’s agile, energetic digital world seeks ways to deliver impeccable user experience since being customer-centric is now at the core of success. However, it’s not so simple as it may seem – there are several issues to consider for every enterprise longing to thrive. One of them is limited attention since users now face tons of visual and digital data every day. They become swift and picky when searching the web to escape being overwhelmed. And Single Page Applications can be a decision here.

In a nutshell, Single Page Application (SPA) is a website or web application that resorts to the manner of redrafting new data on the page from the server in place of the web browser’s whole page loading. This approach suggests no complete page refresh – all needed files and code are recaptured by the browser with a single page load. Specifically, all relevant means are flawlessly loaded and then get added to the page in response to the user request. SPA operative principle may be similar to that of a native app, which is generated for use on a particular platform or device and programmed to employ only device-specific hardware and software instead of all sets of digital material. Thanks to that, it’s more than possible to escape interruption of the users’ navigation experience, improving the overall user-platform communication.

Take an email, for instance. When you scroll through it, there are few changes since there are elements (search bar, sidebar, menu, header) that always stay untouched. Thus, it addresses only what you need with each click, replying to your actions, and the web browser renders exclusively that data. It’s a win-win since this gradual regulation allows to speed up the load time while scaling down the total of information required for a server to render, making it more cost-efficient.

Single page application architecture

To understand better how the single application functions, let’s explore its architecture. Once again, SPAs load one page without loading others as users navigate the resource. Most websites include repeating content elements (headers, logos, footers), and single-page application’s architecture take advantage of this reiteration. 

Let’s delve deeper. When visitors arrive at the website and start interacting with it, the browser sends the request to the server, eventually receiving an HTML file. And that is going with every action done on the resource. As for the single-page application, the server sends an HTML file only once (at the first request). For successive requests, it sends the data (usually in JSON format), rendering only some parts of the page right in the browser. That fluid and progressive content loading contributes to a natural, consistent user experience and smooth interaction in contrast to constant full-page reloads that can hurt communication greatly. 

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Advantages of single page applications

Fluid user experience is not the only benefit of employing SPAs. There are many more – such as improved web application performance, shortened development time, and enhanced consistency. So, why use single page application?

  • HTML, CSS, JS single time load

As the initial page load is over, the server won’t send any additional HTML since you run them at the beginning and just once. Then, as visitors click around, the SPA responds to the data requests, making the server communicate only necessary materials. Finally, the browser captures them, rendering an updated UI without complete page refreshing. That agile interchangeability makes SPAs especially valuable on highly navigated pages with repeating templates.

  • Alleviated server 

Since the server doesn’t need to work out any recurrent material, spending time and effort on restoring the complete drawing, SPAs can minimize the load on your servers. And no extra queries means you can save money by using fewer servers for the same amount of traffic.

  • Short load

In fact, a page loading over two hundreds milliseconds can greatly leverage the online business performance and boost sales (if referring to e-commerce applications). A SPA complete page loads much quicker than a traditional one, so you don’t urge your consumers to wait long, escaping their irritation and confusion. And that can be a deciding factor for some of them, since fast, thus pleasant experience matters a lot.

  • Split back- and front- end 

Apart from the better performance time indicated earlier, SPAs can also help engineers master the front end development in less time and more effortlessly. That is because of the detached back and front services display. What does it mean? In single-page applications, UI is usually isolated from data, which ensures changes in the front end and UI won’t affect the back end. Also, such a decoupling promotes easier bug detection in the codebase and smoother API integration.

  • Abundant possibilities

If you want to develop a robust content editing app and pack it with real-time analytical features, the best way to achieve this is to utilize a single-page application method. Why? Within a traditional app building strategy, all those features will require a complete page reload to function while SPA will crawl only the needed ones, leaving static elements untouched, thus saving load performance and users’ nerves as well.

  • Upgraded user experience

An obvious advantage, but once again, SPA leverages user experience significantly. Since most app features are presented as modular functionalities, meaning they can be crawled independently as the user needs them, it’s more than possible to deliver a dynamic and coherent experience to the customers without holes in the overall interaction.

Disadvantages of single page application 

It may seem that SPA is a flawless solution, especially if you want to speed up loading time, but it’s vital to understand it is not a one-size-fits-all thing. No doubt, single page web application architecture suits high-performing applications and social networks, or you can be impressed by other advantages of single page application, enough to urge you to make a fast decision. But if you focus on security and responsiveness and want to introduce a large volume of content, it is almost impossible to achieve with SPA. So, what other pitfalls are important to consider?

  • SEO incompatibility

In truth, SPA doesn’t go well with SEO. The reason lies in ranking factors search engines pursue when crawling applications – and one of them is the number of pages. As we know, SPAs load one page, and eventually, it is not enough for a good ranking performance.

  • Browser resources

Given that the browser takes a central place in SPA functioning, such applications will mostly need materials from the browser (rather than the server) to work seamlessly. Reasonably, if you want to set up a single-page application, you should ensure that your browsers employ the latest features and support enough to assist the application. Otherwise, your web app can be extremely weak in terms of performance.

  • Security troubles

As compared to traditional web applications, single-page web apps can be more sensitive to Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks. What is more, single page applications are more liable to sensitive data exposure, which can be a huge obstacle if you put security over everything else in your application.

  • Memory leaks

Since a single-page application never reloads, it can initiate the lack of available memory on the device users employ to navigate the app. And the more time SPA is navigated – the worse memory leaks can get. To avoid such trouble, you should manage it at the development stage. If not – your customers will likely face slowdowns that will probably irritate them and ruin their experience.

Single page web applications vs. multi-page applications

So, if you plan your web application to be massive and involve multiple or many web pages, the decision should come as it is. Multi-page application is a traditional web application where every new page is requested from the server to display when data is exchanged. The amount of data these applications can carry is huge, so myriads of links or any intricate UIs won’t be a problem with this method of web development.

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Single Page Application with React vs. Angular vs. Vue vs. Ember 

At this point, we will speak about SPA frameworks to choose from. There are several of them, and to make a proper decision, you need to explore their features and peculiarities. 

As for Angular and React, these are namely a set of reusable components that follow specific rules on building, which is established by many developers that have contributed to it prior. If you think of it as a painting, you can mix up different colors to get one you need – or you can use ready hues that are already created for this or that color and put them in different jars of paint. However, there are some essential differences you should learn.

React

If you want your future application to be scalable and flexible, then React.JS can be a solution since its architecture makes it relatively easy not only to develop a SPA but also to maintain it.

Angular

Also, applications built with Angular.JS usually load quickly, which can be great for a responsive experience and especially great for mobile single page application. 

Vue

Probably one of the most loving things about Vue.JS is its small size, so if you want the creative process to be as smooth and quick as possible from the very beginning, then go for this option. As for the development, Vue.JS can be the most robust tool of all others due to its extensive functionality list. Firstly, it is fast-performing because it utilizes Virtual DOM just like React. Secondly, it employs two-way data binding (also used in React), which doubles the speed performance, and makes the app reactive.

Ember

If you bother about the user experience and want an impeccable user interface, we advise you to choose Ember.JS over other frameworks. Why? Featuring two-way data binding, it is able to keep both view and model in sync. Also, it can automatically refresh the UI without affecting the data, which allows for greater flexibility and freedom in terms of UI development.

On a final note

Single-page applications can serve as massive leverage for your customers’ experiences and overall business performance. The only thing here is whether you really need to adhere to this very web app development model.

If you are sure to integrate the single page application method, and your reasons are big, you can proceed. First, it’s critical to learn the ins and outs of the spa application architecture so as to avoid failures halfway to the result. Then, to make your future application clearly respond to the users’ needs as well as your business requirements, you should examine what framework you will build it upon. Only after you will be able to enjoy the benefits of single page application, which are many, believe us.

If you still have questions about SPAs or don’t know where to start to develop one, feel free to contact us. We are eager to provide you with all the necessary information to help you manage this issue.

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