Debating SPA vs. MPA is like launching React vs. Angular argument: it will set the developers’ community on fire. Partially, because it is a matter of taste, skills, and personal loyalty, and partially, because of the complexity of the matter, where the issue of choice depends on a whole set of conditions.
For you to partake in this merry Battle Royale with confidence and to understand how to make a proper development decision for your project, JatApp’s devs will explain the matter in detail.
What are these SPA and MPA?
It is very simple: the SPA is a single-page application, and MPA is a multi-page application, correspondingly. So basically, they are modes of building a program or an application, as it is trendy to say today. The result will be roughly the same: a web application that you can access and browse, and the difference between them will be principally technical and hidden behind the cool UI. You will not see this difference directly, but it may affect your experience if some conditions for the proper functioning of SPA or MPA are not observed on your device.
MPAs were first to appear, and they were based on traditional coding languages like HTML, plus Ruby, Python, and PHP, and rendered on the server-side. MPA is what you would call a ‘classic’ website, with all its tabs and categories that open a whole new page to you.
However, each mode goes with its unique pros and cons and specific suitability for certain business and personal needs.
Single-page applications (or programs) look like one long page where the content appears as you scroll down. They have become especially popular with the rise of mobile gadgets usage that offers mostly scrolling user’s interface.
The page is not reloaded as a whole bulk of frameworks and scripts with each refreshing, only necessary new data is fetched from the server. Facebook, Gmail, Hygger, and Trello are the brightest examples of SPA.
Trello as a Single Page Application
Trello as a Single Page Application
Since the app’s data is managed mostly on the client’s side, the heavy lifting web development solutions are employed. AJAX and HTML5 are the foundations of responsive apps building, and frameworks like React, Angular, Ember, Meteor, Aurelia, or Vue.js ensure that the app works fast and nicely while being rendered on the client’s end. SPAs look snappy, dynamic, and cool like a new iPhone, once initial loading is complete, but they can contain only as much data without a decrease in functioning speed.
Hence, SPAs have their ups and downs. It is necessary to mention that what some devs can name an advantage; others can consider a drawback. For the balance of views, we will mention where views are diverging on a single point.
Advantages of SPA
- Faster Performance
SPA is downloaded fully to a user’s device only once (initial loading of all CSS, HTML data, scripts, etc.), and then only a limited amount of data is refreshed and transmitted from the server to the user. Think the Facebook page: you refresh Newsfeed only; the rest remains static as loaded initially. Thus, the app (or website) works much faster and provides a smoother and ‘flowy’ experience. This speed is good for business since users are likely to quit the site that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
- Better Caching
Since the data is refreshed once and then stored on the device, it can work even offline with the previous data. Synchronization can happen later when the Internet is available.
- User Experience
It is easy to use the app since it is scrolled down without jumping between links and separate pages. It is especially popular for mobile apps, but more ‘traditionalist’ users may find this layout confusing since one subtopic fuses with the next one without any clear distinction. One has to scroll to the required info instead of simply clicking the tab. Yet that’s the matter of taste.
Disadvantages of SPAs
Earlier, SEO optimization of SPA was a problem since Google, and similar search systems did not interact with AJAX-based pages properly. Crawling algorithm targeted separate pages with distinct content and URLs. One dynamic page was confusing to them since the URL was not changing, with each page refreshing.
- Matters of Data Security
Since major data processing and handling happens on the side of a client, the limits of data made available to a user are unclear. The key trouble is that with not very experienced developers or with overly accelerated development, the sensitive business data may be unintentionally sent to users, where it can easily be accessed by hackers. The only precaution against it is to develop the app with an experienced senior dev who can foresee the outcomes.
From this fact, there flows one more trouble: a client can gain access to functions and data that should not be changed on a user’s side. This access can cause chaos in the app functioning, and again, the only precaution is to build the app under the supervision of a good developer who can predict what and here will be exposed to a client (or to direct use on a client’s side).
Hence, cross-site scripting attacks (XSS) on the client’s side are the major threat for SPAs, precisely because of this feature of dumping the major data processing to the client’s end of the app.
Some name SPAs an easier option for development because of extensive code reusability opportunities (elements can be actively reused) and because more and more coders take SPAs development as their major activity (and so there is a pool of contractors eager to work on them).
Others cite SPAs as a harder option for development for business because of the vast scope of data to be included make the app bulky. Too many files are generated, and two states are maintained (between RESTful API and SPA itself) at once, so the app usability decreases (and battery consumption increases).
SPA code is hard to trace, and so API integration becomes a challenge.
Finally, to develop a SPA, new tools need to be mastered and employed (like Gulp or SystemJS). Although the new is always exciting, its application by unexperienced devs can drive the costs of development up (due to fewer libraries available and a wider range of new skills required).
Again: debatable. Some believe that employing Google debugging tools (or other browser’s tools for debugging) for SPAs is a big plus, as it opens more additional opportunities for testing and monitoring the page. Others believe that browser debugging is harder and less reliable, and so bug fixing in Integrated Development Environments would be more efficient.
So, a SPA has roughly equal numbers of pros and cons. SPA will be efficient and will demonstrate its full potential for users when the handled data amount will be limited and will not grow exponentially (like it does in online shops). Process managing tools, social networks, and online communities for which SEO is not a primary concern are best built as SPAs. If your project is not planned to scale up significantly but needs to look sleek and exciting, go for an SPA (just pick experienced SPA devs so that the costs of development were not extremely high).
- Multi-Page Applications
Think traditional ‘older’ sites when you think Multi-Page Application. You see, the main landing page with non-changing content (you do not scroll down endlessly; basically, what you see on the screen in a given moment is the whole page). From this page, you go to other connected pages through suggested links. If you need to go back to the previous page, you click the Back button, and here you are. With MPA, everything is reloaded in full; each step and each new page require the transfer of big bulks of data and scripts between the server (where major data handling happens) and the end-user.
This layout is more beneficial for desktop computers with its keyboard and mouse controls, while on gadgets with scrolling function, it looks not that exciting and ‘cool.’
Large shops like Amazon or Ebay with hundreds of categories and millions of goods on offer are classic MPAs.
Ebay as a Multi-Page Application
If you need to create a huge corporate site for sales or for displaying projects, deals, new offers, etc., you need an MPA, especially if you plan to grow your operations and goods/services selection.
Let’s take a closer look at MPA’s stronger and weaker sides.
Advantages of MPA
MPA development is essential ‘web site making’ as such, so most developers know how to do it and what tools to employ (and the tools are known and already mastered). Most features have been tested and improved already, and bugs have been fixed. So here, you will be using time-tested technology operating on the protected server-side with ample support and verified security.
- SEO Optimization
SEO tools and methods have been devised with MPA in mind, so separate pages with individual URLs and sets of keywords are perfect for search engine crawling without additional efforts and patches. Keywords concentration and tags placement can be manipulated to achieve a maximal positive effect. Products and services pages that need to be indexed by Google and searched for by users are best built as MPAs.
- Scalability and Development
MPA is great for scalability when the amount of information stored and displayed in the app will grow constantly. Basically, an endless number of new pages can be added, and it will not impact performance since the app displays the limited data of a current page only, and the rest of the data is distributed among other pages. It optimizes the loading time of each page as well.
- Google Analytics Support
Unlike SPAs, MPAs can be evaluated and analyzed with the help of Google Analytics. It provides useful insights on the workability and attractiveness of app features, while for SPAs, it can only show who visited the app and how much time was spent there.
Integrated Development Environments for MPA is diverse and efficient, so debugging in these environments is simple and reliable.
Disadvantages of MPA
It looks ‘old’ and ‘boring’ to younger users, so the appearance of the page may affect the user’s perception of its usability (despite the actual performance metrics).
Traditionally, MPAs are criticized for the slowness and consumption of significant resources. Every time the page of MPA is refreshed, the whole set of data is fetched from the server anew. Frameworks, scripts, and content up to the smallest detail are downloaded in full every time, so every page takes equally ‘long’ time to load and show up to a user.
- Maintenance and Reusing the Code
The volume of an MPA means more time required for updates and maintenance since each individual page needs to be processed, updated, and secured. This fact significantly slows down the process and takes a lot of effort on the dev’s side. For SPA, only data endpoints are adjusted and secured, which speeds up the process.
Since code is created from scratch for a specific given purpose, its reusing becomes problematic, because new usage of an element may be different from the previous one. So each time code needs to be written anew.
- Debatable point: Development
This is where views diverge. On the one hand, the development of MPAs is a long-established and tested process, so no additional learning or super-specific skills on the dev’s part are required. This fact reduces the costs of development through a less complicated approach.
On the other hand, for MPA, code is written afresh for backend and frontend. It is a time-consuming process since each page is created separately, and time costs may offset benefits from saving money on less complex technology (or the wide availability of experienced developers may still play a role in bringing the costs down).
Just as SPA, MPA has its set of benefits and disadvantages. It all depends on what you expect to get as an outcome. If you seek scalability for your shop or a corporate web site and want an easy SEO optimization path, go for MPA. It may also be a bit cheaper.
So, whether you need a sleek, trendy app that resembles a smartphone experience, or you see it as a good old school site with lots of links and tabs, you can safely come to us and get what you need. At JatApp, we host both developers who are skilled in MPA and devs who specialize in newer trends of SPA. No matter what you choose, you will get an excellent product with high performance and innovative features.