Single Page Apps vs. Multi-Page Apps

Introduction

We live in a technology-powered world; there are many services that we use daily that are fuelled by technology, be it the online train reservation system, the vaccine slot booking application, or the online payment system. Tasks that used to take hours earlier are now just a click away. The growth can be attributed to many factors, such as the availability of high-speed and cheap internet and, of course, human intelligence.

(Source: giphy)

In this technological revolution, web applications have played a significant role, according to Web.AppStorm editor Jarel Remick, any website component that performs some function for the user qualifies as a Web app. This blog will briefly introduce web applications and the difference between Single Page Apps vs. Multi-Page Apps.

What are Web Applications

A web application is a computer program that usually resides on a remote server. Any user can access it by using one of the standard web browsers. In most simple terms, a web application is a computer program that runs with the help of a web browser and uses web technologies to perform various tasks on the internet. The web application uses a Client-Server architecture.

At first glance, it isn't easy to understand the difference between Web Applications and a normal website. A web application uses a combination of server-side scripts and client-side scripts to present information and uses a server to manage requests from the user. A website, on the other hand, is a collection of related web pages. A web application needs to be precompiled before deployment, but it is not required for a website. And a web application mostly requires authentication, unlike a website which anyone can access without authentication.

Some important points to keep in mind regarding Web Applications are:

  • They do not need to be downloaded.
  • They can run or be accessible on any operating system such as Windows, macOS, Linux as long as the browser is compatible.
  • Web applications mostly use server-side and client-side. 

Some examples of commonly used applications are Flipkart, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

Refer to the blog for 10 Best Progressive Web Applications in 2021

There are mainly two design patterns for web applications:

  1. Single Page Applications
  2. Multi-Page Applications

Before moving on to the important differences between Single Page Apps vs. Multi-Page Apps, it is important to understand them independently.

What are Single Page Applications?

According to MDN docs, An SPA (Single-page application) is a web app implementation that loads only a single web document and then updates the body content of that single document via JavaScript APIs such as XMLHttpRequest and fetch when different content is to be shown.

In simple terms, a Single Page Application is where the server sends what you need with each click, and the browser renders that information without the need to reload the page again. Note that the server renders a full page in traditional applications with every click you make and sends it to your browser. This makes the loading time much faster and is a lot more cost-efficient. Single Page Applications takes advantage of the repetitive content, i.e., headers, footers, logos, navigation bar found in most websites. To understand the repetitive content, consider an example of Gmail, remember every time you browse your email, you will notice that the sidebar and the header remain untouched.

The below diagram effectively illustrates the difference between page reloading in a traditional web application and Single Page applications or the page reloading difference between Single Page Apps vs. Multi-Page Apps.

 

Single Page Apps vs. Multi-Page Apps

 

While Single time file load is a major advantage of Single Page applications, another important advantage of Single Page applications is Faster and responsible front-end built.

Consider that you are working on an E-commerce project that allows users to purchase books; you need to update its UI as per the new theme color of your company.  You don't want to mess up with the business-critical functionalities that include how the user's login, register, purchase, and track orders. A SPA allows you to decouple the backend logic and the data from how it's presented or from the front-end logic. With a decoupled setup, developers can build, deploy, and experiment with the front-end completely independently of the underlying backend technology. They design how they want the user experience to look and feel and then pull in the content, data, and functionality through those services.

You can use advanced JavaScript frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue to develop a Single Page Application.

Some Single Page Application examples are Gmail, Google Maps, Airbnb, Netflix, Pinterest, Paypal, and many more are using SPAs to build a fluid, scalable experience.

Pros of Single Page Application

Some of the main advantages of Single Page Applications are enlisted below:

  1. Faster Performance: All the resources are loaded during one session, and then when interacting with the page, only the necessary data is changed.
  2. Data Caching: After the first request to the server, all the necessary local data is stored in the server, and that provides the user with the ability to work offline too. For example, Google Docs offline mode.
  3. Faster Debugging: Most of the SPAs are developed using React, Vue.js, and AngularJS, which is based on Google chrome. You can even monitor network operations, investigate page elements and data associated with them.

Cons of Single Page Application

Some of the main disadvantages of Single Page Applications are enlisted below:

  1. SEO support: Any SPA runs in JavaScript, and the data gets loaded without reloading the page and only when the user demands it. This means there are no separate URLs optimized for search engines. However server-side rendering can solve this problem.
  2. JavaScript should be enabled all the time: If any user disables JavaScript in their browser, it won't be possible to present the application and its actions correctly.
  3. Less Secure: In contrast with a traditional application, SPA is considered less secure because Cross-Site Scripting enables attackers to inject client-side scripts into the web application by other users.

What are Multi-Page Applications?

As the name suggests, a multi-page application is an app that has more than one page with static information(text, images, etc.) and links to the other pages with the same content—every change requests rendering a new page from the server in the browser. So during a jump from one page to another, a browser reloads the content of a page completely and downloads the resources again, even if the components are repeated throughout all pages like header and footer.

MPA generally has a large data and complex architecture. Due to the amount of content, these applications have many levels of UI. You can build an MPA simply with HTML and CSS. However, many developers also choose to use JavaScript and jQuery to improve the performance of the app.

Examples of Multi-page applications are eCommerce websites, blogs, forums, other sites that sell products and various services. eBay and Amazon are the best examples of MPAs. These websites transfer a lot of data from server to client and client to server, hence they are low on speed.

Pros of Multi-Page Application

Some of the advantages of Multi-Page application are enlisted below:

  1. Highly Scalable: There is no restriction on the number of pages to add to the existing application. Due to this, when you know that you need to display a lot of information, choosing a Multi-Page application will be a better option
  2. Improved SEO: Multi-page applications are best suited for SEO purpose services or products as it gives better chances to rank for different keywords since an application can be optimized for one keyword per page.
  3. Google Analytics: Google Analytics generates different reports for different pages. With multi-page applications, you can leverage google analytics to draw insights about which pages of your application are performing well and which aren’t. Based on these insights, you can make changes to the content of your web application to increase its visibility and average time spent on the pages.

Cons of Multi-Page Application

Some of the disadvantages of a multi-page application are enlisted below:

  1. Slow Performance: A multi-page application reloads every time a user clicks on a new tab. The resources like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript refresh themselves when there is any action. This affects the speed and performance of web applications.
  2. More Development Time: A multi-page application usually has a higher number of features compared to single-page applications so their creation requires more effort and resources. 
  3. Hard to Maintain: Developers need to maintain each page of a multi-page application separately and regularly. This can get much more tedious than maintaining a single-page application. Moreover, you also need to secure each page separately, which adds to the overall development burden.

Single Page Apps vs Multi-Page Apps

The following table summarizes the important differences between Single Page Applications vs Multiple Page Applications.

Characteristic

SPA

MPA

Speed and PerformanceSPA is usually faster than an MPA as most resources like HTML + CSS + Scripts are only loaded once throughout the lifecycle of applications.MPA is usually slower than SPA as Every change request renders a new page from the server in the browser.
Development TimeDeveloping, testing, and launching a single-page web app takes a lot less time as there is no need to write code and design an interface for multiple pages.Building a multi-page web application takes longer than building a single-page app. This is because each page in your web app will need separate code and a separate design. Depending on the number and complexity of features, the time might also affect the cost
NavigationSPA does not directly support back and forth navigation and sharing links of a specific location to a site, for this developers need to use an API.The multi-page web application supports traditional navigation, each page of an MPA has its own URL that users can copy and paste. The backward and forward buttons also work easily.
ScalabilityTo make a SPA scalable developers might need to write big chunks of code.MPAs are infinitely scalable.

 

These are some points for Single Page Apps vs. Multi-Page Apps both types have their pros and cons and it always depends upon the developer and the need of the company to select one according to their requirements and preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1) What is the difference between single-page applications and multi-page applications?

Ans 1) A Single Page Application is where the server sends what you need with each click, and the browser renders that information without the need to reload the page again. Whereas in the case of a multi-page application every change requests rendering a new page from the server in the browser. So during a jump from one page to another, a browser reloads the content of a page completely and downloads the resources again,

Q2) Is Facebook a single-page application?

Ans 2)  Facebook is a single-page application.

Q3) Why would you use a multi-page application?

Ans 3) There are two main reasons due to which an MPA is preferred:-

  • Multi-page applications are more SEO-friendly in comparison with single-page applications.
  • MPAs are generally more scalable. 

Q4) What is the main advantage of a Single Page application?

Ans 4) Once the single page app is loaded, the amount of data traveling between the client device and the server is very small, so load times are minimized. When developing a single page application, the server-side code is re-used and is effectively decoupled from the front-end UI. 

Key Takeaways

This blog discussed single-page applications and multi-page applications. Important differences between Single Page Apps vs Multi-Page Apps were also discussed. With this done you may refer to the Basics of JavaScript to learn more about JavaScript, a front-end technology that is used to make web applications.

Developers, if you are preparing for the next interview, check out the blogs 15 Most Frequently Asked React JS Interview Questions and 10 Best ReactJS Interview Questions. And if you are a beginner, check out the Top 5 skills to learn before you start with ReactJs to know the prerequisites to learn React.

We hope you found this blog useful. Feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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