App development today has become increasingly vital for growing businesses and it is estimated that the industry will reach a profit of $101.3 billion by 2022 according to Statista. However, developing a cloud-based application is no easy task. The wrong architecture for the right app could end up costing you.

Among the possible architectures to choose from, single page applications versus multi-page applications are the most common options today. This post can help you compare the two to determine which one is the right choice for your business.

What is a SPA?

A Single Page Application (SPA) is an application that allows you to work inside a browser and does not require reloading the page when a person is using it. Many of the apps we use every day are single page applications. Navigation apps, many social media platforms and some email providers are SPAs. 

SPAs display stunning UX that act like a browser. It does so by maintaining the minimum possible code, or “shell” of a page. This code is usually dependent on JavaScript frameworks, and when used ensures the high performance of the SPA.

Benefits of SPAs

SPAs, due to the presence of their HTML shells, can easily be converted to progressive web applications (PWA) leading to a more seamless experience for the user. Likewise, their JavaScript-dependent shell also allows it to be able to load preloaded pages while offline. Known as offline caching, this allows users to never lose track of their data while on the app. The SPA only needs you to send one request, store all data, and then can freely access all of this data while offline.

Native apps are applications that are installed through an app store such as Google or Apple’s App Store. The advantage of SPAs is that they’reJavaScript-based. JavaScriptforms the backbone of most native applications, making these apps easier to create and maintain. Because of that, technologies such as React Native can convert your cloud-based web application into a native app with ease.

The beauty of SPAs is in their fluidity and ease of performance. Many SPAs have a frontend that is decoupled from its back end. SPAs use HTML and JavaScript features which serve as their frontend and a separate framework consequently serves as its functional back end. So if one fails, there’s not much of an issue in performance.

Cons of SPAs: SEO Tradeoffs

One downside to SPAs is that when it comes to SEO optimization it can get tricky. Their content is loaded by AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), which is inherently not friendly to search engines. However, this is a relatively dated problem, and due to recent developments in SPA frameworks, they can be SEO-friendly as well with the right experienced team.

Recent technologies such as React and Angular can render them on the server-side (Server Side Rendering) which encourages SEO optimization, by granting the server control over rendered content. Older technologies using AngularJS can similarly be optimized by running proxies to detect indexing bots and pre-render content for them.

What is an MPA?

Multi-page applications, or MPAs, request rendering each time for a new page from the server in the browser. They’re perfect for applications larger than SPAs, and due to the amount of content, they have different levels of UI. They are often known as the “traditional” way of app development, and though there are multiple levels of UI, this has recently been resolved due to the developments of AJAX.

AJAX allows the transfer of a large amount of complex data between the servers and browsers, however; this also brings some problems. With its ability to transfer data, there’s a new layer of complexity that often challenges JavaScript developers.

Benefits of MPAs

Due to the nature of MPAs, they’re prime choices for SEO optimization. Indexing bots frequently pick most of the content rendered for the user. Other than that, they exist through several frameworks and are adaptable to multiple types of technologies.

Cons of MPAs: Speed Tradeoffs

Since data on MPAs isn’t preloaded and renders as the user accesses the server, they’re much slower than SPAs and have no preexisting cache. From a user’s perspective, this can be annoying as it enables frequent reloads from the application to access and display data for the user. 

Differences: MPA vs. SPA

The obvious and most notable difference between the two is speed. SPAs have the advantage of being preloaded, and though they usually have some initial delays when retrieving the data, the requests after are much faster due to the cache. However, in a single-page app versus a multi-page app, MPAs have to request data for each page the user accesses and have much slower apps.

SPAs also have the advantage of their versatile back-end code which can be reused for various mediums including mobile apps. Due to its decoupled front and back ends, this technology can also be developed and adjusted simultaneously.

MPAs require each page to be secured so it takes more effort and time to maintain security. SPAs, however, can make secure endpoints faster but they are not necessarily safer. SPAs run on JavaScript which makes them more prone to hacker attacks because it does not compile data for security. Some inexperienced or rushed developers use Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) in SPAs. Attackers can insert client-side scripts into web applications by other users, making poorly-designed SPAs less secure. Of course, most reputable vendors will not use XSS in an SPA so be sure to discuss it with your development team. 

How Long Do They Take to Develop?

In SPAs, the front end and back end are decoupled so they can be treated as entirely separate entities and this allows them to be developed simultaneously which is quicker. MPAs, however, usually take longer to develop because they are slightly more complex. Multi-page application developers need to use frameworks for either client or server-side, which results in a longer development time.

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Single Page Application (SPA) vs Multi Page Application (MPA) — Which one to choose? - marcel-100px Hi, I’m Marcin, COO of Applandeo

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