SPA vs. MPWA: Alternate Architectures, Frameworks & Applications

Web Development

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Websites can be either a single page or multiple pages depending upon the UI requirements. While SPA is a more modern approach to website development, it is important to consider client requirements, purpose and business goals before proceeding with a particular approach to web development.

What is a Single-Page application?

Single page applications are being used for both web as well as mobile platforms. These work in the browser and eases out the navigation as the frequent page reloads are not required. As the content is downloaded automatically, there is no need to update the page every time. This makes the entire website fast and responsive. Popular examples of single page applications are Facebook (Social Media Platform), Trello (CMS), Twitter, Gmail, Google Docs, etc. SPA’s are made out of AJAX, HTML and JavaScript frameworks like Angular, React, Vue and Ember, which are required for handling the client-side.

Google has Google Tag Manager that helps track all navigation in Single Page Web Apps as the information of all events is being sent to GTM by custom event or pre-defined event when this page gets a hit.

Advantages of Single-Page Applications (SPA’s)

  • Responsive and Fast: As they make use of AJAX, the part of the content within ContentPlaceHolder Class (Namespace: System.Web.UI.WebControls) is updated leaving the requirement to refresh the entire page in case any value is updated (request callbacks). The HTML/CSS and Scripts required are only loaded once throughout the lifespan of the application. This turns out to be of great advantage for the application as webpages take less than 200 milliseconds to load.
  • No Need to Navigate and Scroll: One-page applications prevents the need to click on links and scroll endlessly.
  • Caching: As SPA's send only one request to the server, local data can be cached effectively. User can work with this data offline. This data can as well be synchronized with the server as and when required.
  • Easy to Debug with Chrome: Frameworks used by Single Page Applications come with their own tools - AngularJS Batarang and React developer tools, etc., that makes debugging easier than multiple-page applications.
  • Encourages Code Reusability: Developers can make use of same backend code for native mobile and web applications.
  • Easy Caching: Single page web apps can easily cache any local storage. Such apps send only one request, store all data, then it can use this data and works even offline.

Disadvantages of Single-Page Applications

  • Optimizing SPA’s According To SEO Is Not Easy: Single-page applications operate on JavaScript and download data from client-side upon request. The URL of the entire website remains the same. Search bots find it difficult to scan these websites. As Google has recently started indexing dynamic webpages, it must be ensured that JavaScript is enabled in the browser on client-side, and the website makes use of HTML5 mode in the URL scheme.
  • Are Not Immune to Networking Attacks:
    • (i)Single page applications (SPA's) do not get affected to cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks as compared to multiple page applications. It is not easy for hackers to inject client-side scripts into web applications by making use of XSS within the SPA's.
    • (ii) But alternatively, if the developers are not considerate about the data contained in the initial page load, they might miss it altogether as it might get exposed to all users.
    • (iii) Moreover, since developers keep moving features and logic off the server and out to the client, it becomes increasingly easy for the client to access all the functions (which they are not permitted to use).
  • Browser Hop History isn’t saved: when website visitor's click on the back button, the browser takes them to the previous page, instead of the previous state. To resolve these developers must make use of HTML5 History API to equip their SPA frameworks. This allows developers to access navigation history via JavaScript.
  • Memory Leaks: Memory leak in JavaScript can even cause a powerful system to slow down
  • Navigate buttons do not work: Back and forward buttons become dysfunctional in this model.
  • Slow: These take time to load due to the presence of heavy frameworks required to be downloaded on the client side.

When Should We Use a Single Page Application (SPA)?

SPA's are suitable for developing dynamic platforms with small data volumes. If SEO optimization is not required, this method of mobile application development can turn out to be an exceptional option in the case of SaaS platforms, social media networks and in the case of closed communities.

What Is The Importance Of Frameworks In Developing Single Page Applications (Spa's)?

Use of an appropriate framework makes the application look interactive and rich. Popular frameworks that are used to build SPA's include ReactJS, AngularJS, Backbone, EmberJS, Node.js, PolymerJS, Vue, Aurelia, Mithril.js, MeteorJS, etc.

What are the Multi-Page applications/Multi-Page web Applications (MPWA)?

As opposed to single page applications/single page web applications, the entire webpage is reloaded in case of any changes within multiple page applications. Every time a new webpage is requested from a web browser and this process takes a lot of time to generate the pages on the server, sending it to a client and displaying in the browser which may affect the user experience.

Although AJAX has made it possible to render just a particular component of the application, this makes the development process even more complex and difficult. Any complex e-commerce website with multiple pages, lots of links, lots of text, images has gradually become out of necessity. People definitely want to get engaged, but they do not wish to lose time simultaneously. They look for convenience, cost-effectiveness and result in equal proportion for the effort they are applying. A user usually prefers a website/app with less turnaround time, quick search results and mobile compatibility, accessible to all users, well-planned information architecture, well-formatted content that is easy to scan, has less turnaround time, browser consistency, and effective navigation, good error handling, valid mark-up & clean code, contrasting color scheme and usable forms, to name a few.

Multiple page apps are usually deep with lots of links and intricate UI’s. A multiple-page website can contain many micro websites and subsections. This can enable a user to break down the content by allowing many entry points. 

HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and jQuery are the usual technologies besides required front end and backend technologies in demand.

Advantages of Multi-Page Applications

  • SEO Optimization: Multiple page applications are easy to optimize according to SEO as the content keeps updating, architecture is native to search engine, developers get a chance to add meta-tags and there are better chances to rank different keywords as the app can be optimized for one keyword per page.
  • Highly Scalable: These apps are not limited to the number of pages. One page can allow as many features without affecting the loading times.
  • Enhance Google Analytics: MPS’s provide a lot of analytics with valuable information on how performant the application is. This also tells who all are visiting the website and how long they stay there.

Disadvantages of Multi-Page Applications

Let’s see what stops modern developers to utilize multiple page applications for their projects:

  • Such applications are slow: As the pages take a lot of time to reload, repeated data downloads due to sending and receiving request and response from the server affects speed and performance.
  • Take substantial time to develop: Presence of multiple pages, multiple features per page, the requirement to make every page dynamic, and creating and connecting backend database with the frontend interface – everything results in longer development time.
  • Can be hectic to maintain: Multiple webpages and multiple features per page, can make it difficult to implement security per page.
  • Tight Coupling: Backend and front-end are tightly coupled.
  • Adjustment of Frameworks: The developers have to use a framework for either frontend or backend.

When MPA is Suited?

Multi-page applications are required in large organizations with extensive products, services portfolio and multiple inter-department operations like selling and reselling. E.g.: e-Commerce platforms like Flipkart, Grofers, Walmart, Amazon, eBay, etc. MPA’s mostly use make use of Magento and many similar JavaScript frameworks.

Foresee Whether Your Next Project is Going to Be SPA or MPWA?

Top Web Development Companies build every web application with a purpose. If there is a requirement to have multiple categories, to enable users with multiple features and applications, multiple page websites must be preferred. As there are many pages, users can navigate back and forth easily. Such applications are particularly utilized in e-commerce web applications where users browse through the categories, add items in the cart and proceed to checkout. Another-way-round, single page applications have a single URL throughout, no back and forth buttons, simple and easy, less featured, but essentially uses URL anchors as synthetic pages enabling is more inbuilt in browser navigation and preference functionality. There are some projects that simply will not be able to fit into either SPA or MPWA. Therefore, a hybrid app approach considers the pros and cons of both approaches discussed above and will have a great impact on development in the coming future.

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