08-19-2017, Web Design
by Antoni Zolciak

SPA vs MPA. What Are the Pros and Cons?

Antoni Zolciak
INBOUND MARKETING MANAGER
More by this author

Desktop applications have become a thing of the past as web applications are replacing them. They are easier to update and more convenient to use, and to top it all off, they are not bound to a single device. Users are gradually moving from browser-based to mobile-based web applications. Even though the trend is toward mobile development, there is demand for complex and polished applications. If you are interested in creating your own application, you’ve probably heard of the two types of web apps: Single-Page Application (SPA) and Multiple-Page Application (MPA). To know which is best for making your dream application come true, take a look below.

Single-Page Application (SPA)

facebook_single_page_application

Because it works inside a browser, an SPA doesn’t need the page to reload when in use. Facebook, Gmail, Github (which is actually more of a “hybrid” than an SPA), and Google Maps are a few examples of popular Single-Page Applications. They are just single web pages that load all other content through JavaScript. They exhibit natural behavior in the browser, with no extra waiting time and page reloads. SPAs separately call the data and markup and directly render the pages in the browser. Aurelia, Meteor.js, Ember.js, and Angular.js are a few advanced JavaScript frameworks that make it possible. An SPA site keeps the user comfortable because the content is displayed in a single and simple web space.

Facebook is the best example of how an SPA works. The majority of the interactions you see on the page happen without the site reloading. If you open the conversations menu or click on a photo, your browser gets sent to a new URL, but the page doesn’t refresh. Once you close the photo, you return to the original URL without the website getting reloaded.

Pros and cons of SPAs

The pros of SPAs are as follows:

  • They are fast because the majority of the sources are loaded only once in the lifespan of the application. Only data gets transmitted to and from. On the other hand, caching on “normal” web pages – when executed correctly – can work similarly.
  • Chrome can be used to debug SPA sites. Associated data and page elements can be investigated, and network operations can be monitored. Safari, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge can be used for that task as well, but it’s Chrome that provides a lot of additional tools for specific frameworks, such as Augury, React DevTools, or Vue.js DevTools.
  • Any local storage can be cached by an SPA. With a single request, all the data can be stored and used when required. You can even use SPAs offline. In a way, it’s similar to what’s achievable with a PWA.
  • It is easy to scale applications, and the resources can be cached, although the scalability depends on the framework.
  • The page won’t fail to load when you hit the back button – provided you took care of caching. You won’t have to re-enter data on the site if there is a failure on the server side.
  • SPAs separate data and UI, allowing both parts to be tested and developed autonomously. This varies from framework to framework: Ember, Meteor, and Angular are integrated with business-logic tools, for example.

The cons of SPAs are highlighted below:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on Single-Page Applications is a complex and tricky task. While Google is doing a lot to take care of the problem, it still exists. What we can do is render the app directly on the server.
  • Downloading the page is slow because heavy client frameworks need to be loaded to the client. Sometimes, you need to load a file with assets, templates, and business logic. With MPAs, we can load them on a per-page basis. The solution is a little thing called “hot-module loading,” though.
  • SPAs are JavaScript-dependent. If the user disables JavaScript, the application and its actions won’t be presented properly.

Multiple-Page Application (MPA)

content_multi_page_application

Unlike SPAs, MPAs work in a more traditional way. Every change that is displayed requires the page to be rendered from the server to the browser (unless you go with React, Vue, or something similar). When compared to SPAs, MPAs are much bigger because of the large amount of content; although it is possible to have an “overloaded” SPA, too. They have multiple levels of UI that can be rendered quickly because of Asynchronous JavaScript and XHR.

Pros and cons of MPA

The pros of MPA are shown below:

  • For users interested in building a visual map of where to go within an application, Multi-Page Application is the perfect approach.
  • Proper SEO on an MPA is extremely easy. MPA sites have a higher chance of ranking better in search results for different keywords because a single keyword can be optimized per page. It’s important to keep in mind that an MPA is not only an app rendered on the server side. The server takes care of the routing as well, and the front-end framework builds the interface dynamically.

The cons of MPA are as follows:

  • In some cases, developers may no longer be able to use the same back-end code for mobile applications. However, our developer team pointed out that a correctly written back-end code can be used for mobile without any problems. Even if we’re dealing with layouts generated on the server side, we can export business logic and build the API that way.
  • The front-end and back-end development are integrated tightly.

Should I go for SPA or MPA?

If each of them has its own set of pros and cons, why can’t we use both in a hybrid form? It might be possible, but will it provide the necessary benefits for every situation? On top of that, doing so will include the disadvantages of both methods.

You need to think about what you would like to display on your page. If functionality is the main value of your application, you can use Single-Page Application with ease. However, if publishing content is your goal, developing a Multiple-Page Application is better. Ultimately, you need to think about the goal of your app. A large number of applications in the market are moving toward the SPA model because of the increased benefits. In the future, you may see apps using only SPA. There may be a few projects that just don’t fit into the SPA model, though, making MPA the go-to.

If your site requires multiple categories because you are running an online shop or anything similar to it, you may need to use a Multiple-Page Application. You certainly can build an e-commerce site as an SPA, and it will run smoothly, but there are a lot of premade solutions that are based on MPA.

If you think your website can function properly in a single page, SPA is the way to go.

You can enrich the user experience by keeping a consistent style throughout your pages. It is vital that you design your page with clarity. Even though visitors will scroll through multiple layers of the website, how the web page looks, at first sight, will determine whether the UI is user-friendly and worth the effort.

  • jw kim

    Great article. I read well especially “Should I go for SPA or MPA?”
    I was trying to make MPA with SPA tech in order to study Vue, and I spent days agonizing with it. From the beginning, I knew it was not a right direction. For me, the problem is “effort” for SPA is not trivial, and seems SPA is not so commonly required. If I am to study the SPA tehcs fully, I have to devise some SPA projects by constraint.

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