The single-page application (SPA) is contemporary software that is fast, "light," user-friendly, and provides a high user experience. We'll compare SPA to multi-page applications (MPA), explain its advantages and limitations, and discuss when it works best.
UX reigns supreme on today's internet. Everything must be fast, smooth, attractive, and accessible. As a result, the user will feel pleased with the website or tool and will not wish to switch to a rival product. There are numerous methods for ensuring high-quality usability. One of them is known as a single-page application (SPA).
To understand how SPA works, we will briefly outline how Multi-Page Apps work. Thanks to this, we will understand the single-page application architecture.
In the past, but not so distant times, the web applications and websites market was ruled by one default solution: multi-page application (MPA). As the name suggests, applications and services rely on multiple pages and multiple HTML files in this model. The backend generates dynamic HTML content, and each page transition involves sending a new page request and downloading the HTML file from the server. It affects the delays in loading and displaying the content, especially since the data transfer is not always smooth. As a result, the waiting time for the system reaction is sometimes too long by today's standards.
In the case of SPA, things are different: simpler, faster, and more user-friendly. A single-page application uses only one HTML file and does not reload pages while it is being served. Single Page Application, after the initial page load, the server doesn't send any more HTML to you - you download it all right at the beginning. The server sends you a shell page, and your browser renders the user interface (UI). Although the application still communicates with the backend, e.g., via REST API or graphQL, it only uses the data layer and does not need to render views on the server. Thanks to this, after clicking on a subpage, the content is displayed immediately without the need to transfer large amounts of data from the backend. SPAs are also often used to create progressive web apps, which offer users functions such as push notifications, offline access, and local caching. An application sends only one request, store all data, then it can use this data and works even offline.
SPA is not the absolute best solution. MPA applications are still widespread and, in many cases, challenging to avoid. For example, there are news portals in the Multi-Page Application model in which tabs lead to separate pages. Anyway, websites of this type are usually not a simple cluster of websites. They mostly use technologies that are "substitute" or full-sized web applications, such as streaming, shopping, or various forms of interaction.
MPA and SPA technologies are frequently used in tandem. This method is popular among e-commerce businesses, as it allows product pages to be indexed in search results. Hybrid solutions similar to this may also be found on service websites.
It's worth clarifying a point that frequently causes uncertainty. A single-page application is sometimes mistaken with one-page websites, which are quite different from applications. One page is just pages without subpages. The transition to the following content category is carried out by scrolling down or clicking on a link "redirecting" the user to another "level" of the page.
SPAs have unique requirements for linking, which is a separate issue altogether. The single-page application implies that these "structures" utilize a single URL. It might or may not be the case. SPAs are frequently applications that do not need the development of big websites with subpages and can instead be housed - along with the relevant information - under one locator (URL). However, creating virtual subcategories with assigned URLs is feasible, although the method differs from what happens in MPA.
The alternatives are as follows: with a hash (#) and without. The locator in the first situation contains a # character that separates the "base" URL from the tag (for example, a term for a content category) that points to the application section. These IDs are not transmitted to the server as an HTTP request but rather serve only to indicate to the browser which resources should be displayed. Hash URLs are no longer in use. Because it is poorly suited for SPA placement and might appear unintuitive or even "suspicious" to some users, it is used less frequently than before.
The second approach is based on the HTML History API. It's SEO-friendly and user-friendly, but it's a little more complicated to set up because it necessitates precise server configuration. Furthermore, if the URL path definitions are incorrect, the entire page may be reloaded. Again, most SPA development platforms now have routing modules that make this linking easier to implement.
Regardless of the approach taken, it's critical to namespace and labels individual content sections when developing a more comprehensive SPA. They make navigating around the site easier and improve readability and user-friendliness.
It does not imply that the SPA creators are losing. They may benefit from solutions like Next.js. It's a minimalist React framework that enables you to create one-page applications with support for server-side rendering (SSR), i.e., serving generated HTML code of the page on the server-side. This method allows Google robots to read the website, allowing it to be indexed by Google as a whole. Of course, in this situation, we are not dealing with a pure SPA but a hybrid of a one-page application and backend MPA.
The question of SPA positioning is more complex. It is also difficult to separate it from the purpose of the application and the method of its promotion. Traditionally, web applications had business applications, and Google did not emphasize indexing these types of pages, focusing on sites that served content. Currently, the situation is changing, as there are more and more web applications and growing competition in this area. Therefore, the fight for a higher position in search results is becoming more acute.
The structure of SPAs means that each "page" from the site comes from a single URL. This structure can limit the capabilities SPAs use to use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, such as landing pages, inbound links, and site authority. Although Google and other search engines have adjusted their indexing routines to take SPAs into account, developers can still encounter issues achieving higher search engine results page (SERP) rankings.
The advantages and drawbacks are primarily dependent on the application's intended use. Specific solutions, such as single-page apps, multi-page applications, or hybrids, should be discussed with an experienced software house since nuances might influence the best option.
A single-page application framework provides a platform for creating SPAs. These SPA frameworks include tools and libraries that can assist with repetitive code development. They also accommodate unit testing, automatic data binding, URL routing, and HTML tag manipulation.
In recent years, single-page application frameworks have been gaining favor, especially among businesses and startups.
The most popular single-page frameworks are Angular, React.js and Vue.js.
The following are some of the characteristics of this one-page application framework:
React is the most popular framework for single-page applications, and it's also the most flexible. It has many components that can be easily integrated into your app. React includes its library of user interfaces (UI) to help you build unique and engaging experiences inside your web apps with no knowledge or prior experience in building UI's. Others features:
You can check out our comparison between React.js and Angular.
Vue is also appropriate for the creation of single-page applications. It is due to Vue's many capabilities, including:
Many popular websites' quick loading speed and innovative user interactions are owing to Single Page Applications. SPA development is a time-saving approach for attracting end-users and consumers. You are using this type of application every day. These are, for instance: Gmail, Google Maps, Facebook, or GitHub.
With 13 years of experience in the IT industry and in-depth technical training, Peter could not be anything but our CTO. He had contact with every possible architecture and helped create many solutions for large and small companies. His daily duties include managing clients' projects, consulting on technical issues, and managing a team of highly qualified developers.
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