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20 May, 2024 | Mobile App Development

What is a Single Page Application, & Why Do People Like Them So Much?

What is a Single Page Application, & Why Do People Like Them So Much?

Introduction

Do you know the last time you used Single Page Applications(SPAs)? Well, maybe this morning! Did you open up your Gmail, Google Map, Netflix, or Paypal? If your answer is yes, then you use SPAs more often than you think. Single page apps have revolutionized how people experience the web because they can continuously update content on one HTML page, instead of having to reload the entire page. This makes navigation easier and more seamless, while optimizing the performance. The interactive and enjoyable that provides an app-like experience has been extensively adopted by companies across all industries. It brings in numerous benefits, like
  • Quick loading speeds
  • Improved engagement of users
  • Fluid interaction
  • Scalable processes for development.
Let's learn more about it.

What Are Single Page Apps?

A single page application loads all necessary code, UI components and data onto an initial HTML page at once rather than separate pages for every view. A single page application site loads all the code, user interface components and data it needs in one go on the initial page rather than separate pages for each view. Then subsequent user interactions and navigation happen within this same page using JavaScript without page reloads. This avoids unnecessary page loads.

The Rising Trend Of SPAs And Companies Adopting Them

The convenience and seamless experience offered by SPAs have led to explosive growth in their adoption across industries. According to surveys, tech giants like Amazon, Netflix, and Twitter have switched to SPA frameworks to build application interfaces that achieve near-native performance. E-commerce platforms especially have witnessed tremendous gains through SPAs. Small businesses also leverage SPAs to simplify development and enhance customer engagement through dynamic content updates.

Examples Of Popular SPAs

Check out some of the notable examples of the best single page apps that makes a difference:
  • Example 1: Gmail SPA 

Gmail was one of the earliest major web applications to adopt a single-page design. All functionality, from viewing emails to composing, is powered within the initial HTML page.  The interface smoothly fetches new messages and searches to filter content without full reloads. This maintains context and optimizes productivity for power users.
  • Example 2: Airbnb SPA

Airbnb’s accommodation booking flow is another notable implementation of SPA architecture. Guests can seamlessly browse listings, read reviews, and complete reservations without leaving the home page view. Rich interactive maps, calendars, and payment forms dynamically populate through partial updates. This streamlines the intuitive experience of exploring homestays around the world.

How Does SPAs Work?

Curious to know how SPAs work? Here in this blog, we have developed a step-by-step guide for you to understand why you must go for SPAs for your website. Let’s have a look.

Step 1: Initial Load

The underlying HTML, JavaScript framework/libraries and CSS resources are loaded during the first page hit, forming the foundation.

Step 2: Application Shell Creation

The framework automatically sets up routing and navigation for the app so developers don't have to do it manually. It will also create default templates to display different pages.

Step 3: Route Changes

As users initiate route changes through links or forms, only the required component view and JSON data are asynchronously fetched in the background from the server.

Step 4: UI Updates

The base shell remains constant while JavaScript manipulates the interface and renders the new route view seamlessly without reloading.

What Makes SPAs Operation Different From Traditional Web Pages?

The primary difference between single page application websites and traditional websites lies in page loading mechanism. In a regular website, each view exists as a separate page that needs to be pulled from the server individually causing full reloads. Navigation involves making separate requests for new HTML pages, slowing down user experience. As SPAs have all routes preloaded during the first request itself, the entire interface resides locally. Regular navigation updates content asynchronously without leaving the initial page, preserving the app state. Some important characteristics that set apart SPAs include:
  • Dynamic interface modification using JavaScript instead of HTML pages makes transitions seamless.  
  • Persistent browser sessions minimize server-request overhead thanks to reusable code/libraries available locally.  
  • Template engines facilitate rapid interface updates within the existing Document Object Model, avoiding loading delays.  
  • Implementing routing logic via client-side routers like Vue Router, React Router circumvents the need for roundtrips to the server for every view.  
  • Integration of frameworks such as Angular and Ember introduces component-based architecture, dividing views into isolated, reusable pieces.  
  • Asynchronous HTTP requests retrieve only view-specific partials, enhancing perceived speed.  
  • Responsive UX design through reactive programming principles maintains context on navigation within the app shell.  
  • Local storage databases allow cached data and user preferences to be stored on the client side, improving performance.
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What Is The Difference Between SPA & MPA?

There are crucial operational differences between Single Page Apps and Multi Page Apps.  In a Multi-Page App (MPA), also known as a website, each view constituting a unique experience like login, order or profile page is coded as an individual HTML file. Transitioning between views necessitates a full page refresh by the server reloading all design elements. This degrades usability. In contrast, SPAs provide a more app-like experience. The initial HTML is loaded along with code to power the entire app shell and component framework. User journeys occur without reloading this main page by updating DOM elements through asynchronous JavaScript calls. Routing can be handled smoothly within the current view. Some key aspects setting apart SPAs and MPAs include: 
Aspects SPAs MPAs
Navigation Uses JavaScript for smooth page transitions Needs separate HTML files loaded from server for each change
Interactivity Provides very responsive experience like apps using dynamic updates Lacks fluency due to full page reloads
Performance Much faster than MPAs as avoids full page processing Slower due to redundant processing on every load
Code Organization Facilitates modular reusable components Pages exist in silos without coherence
State Management Session variables remain during use Loses all data on every navigation

4 Reasons Why People Like Using SPAs

Still wondering, why do people love using SPAs for their websites? Well, do not worry! Here  we have mentioned 4 primary reasons why you should avail it:

Improved Application Performance

As SPAs load initial components, scripts, and template files ahead of usage, interface updates occur asynchronously within the main page context, sidestepping network delays associated with complete page reloads. This optimizes perceived performance and provides a seamless journey for users akin to progressive web apps and native apps.

Consistency In User Experience

Since SPAs rely on DOM manipulation instead of traditional browser navigation via HTTP requests, they maintain an even flow between views, minimizing disruptions. Users remain within familiar surroundings, facilitating immersion through smooth transitions, better readability, and the absence of disorienting full-page refreshes typically found on websites.

Reduced Development Time

Modular code design introduced by SPA frameworks speeds development significantly. Teams can focus isolated UI elements independently minimizing interdependencies.  Features can be added, tested and deployed rapidly on the client-side without worrying about server reconfigurations, leading to highly iterative and manageable processes aligned with agile methodologies compared to monolithic applications.

Lower Infrastructure Costs

Server requests are mostly limited to data operations with user interface updates relegated to the client side in SPAs. The Bandwidth consumption and computing resources required are far less than traditional websites going through multiple roundtrips.  User experience is also improved through quicker interactions without page refreshes. This helps achieve considerable cost savings by needing fewer servers to handle the same user loads.

SPA Frameworks You Must Consider For Development

Here we are of the notable SPA frameworks that assists in the process of SPA development:

Angular

Angular is one of the most popular SPA frameworks, and it relies on MVC architecture and two-way data binding. It reduces development time through features like directives, dependency injection and robust components.  Being open-source with an active community, Angular apps are scalable and can consume REST APIs easily while enforcing best practices through its development kit.

React

React is Facebook's open-source JavaScript library that is well-suited for building stateful and complex UI views. It handles state management organically using a virtual DOM for high performance.  Emphasis on reusable UI components and scalable data flows as single-page properties have accelerated React's dominance. Highly flexible due to support for environments ranging from browsers to native apps and demanding touchscreen requirements of mobile sites.

Vue

Vue is a progressive framework delivering incrementally adoptable components seamlessly supporting integration with existing websites. Small size and quick learning curve have made it popular among independent developers as well as enterprises.  Its flexible, non-opinionated nature allows leveraging features like Vuex for state management and Vue Router to focus on only required aspects as per project needs, aiding faster development.

Detailed Comparison Of SPA Frameworks

All the frameworks of Vue, React, and Angular share the common goals of abstracting the complexity of building user interfaces and providing structured approaches to develop feature-rich single-page applications. However, they each originate from different philosophical roots, which have given rise to variances in their underlying implementations. Let us examine some of the key differentiating aspects among these popular JavaScript frameworks:
Aspect Vue React Angular
Learning Curve Most beginner friendly Steepest learning curve Deepest due to strict architecture
Performance All perform well, React better for animations React uses virtual DOM for efficiency Vue and Angular patch DOM directly
Components Native and custom with libraries support Dependent on third party libraries Tightly coupled templates and injection
SEO Support Built-in with Nuxt.js Requires libraries like Next.js Natively supported

How To Manage Content In SPAs?

To empower high engagement, businesses are adopting SPAs. It assists in the process of making interactive product experiences and careful planning of content models with delivery approaches as well. This is crucial to avoid inconsistencies that could undermine the immersive interface.  To make it more clear, below aspects can help you understand how to manage content in SPAs. Take a look:
  • In SPAs, content is delivered and updated dynamically without page reloads for a more interactive experience.
  • Content is broken into small reusable components loaded as needed for flexibility.
  • Standard formats are used for metadata, previews and URLs to support editorial workflows within asynchronous architectures.

Challenges And Solutions Of Managing Content In SPA

Here are some of the challenges and relative solutions that you need to keep in mind while managing content in SPA. Take a look:

Challenges:

  • Supporting traditional WYSIWYG editing interfaces within asynchronous SPA architectures
  • Enabling review-centric workflows that require reproducible page rendering for search engines, social sharing etc
  • Keeping content storage and delivery layers tightly coupled can limit flexibility for independent evolution

Solutions:

  • Headless content strategies decouple storage from delivery through APIs, allowing both to evolve separately
  • The SPA can generate static HTML snapshots for bots while editors focus on versioning and access control
  • Server-side rendering provides initial HTML for bots and users, resolving search visibility issues
  • Design and data are separated and handled independently from each other
  • Editors work with layout-agnostic presentations while delivery is optimized for end-users
So, some key challenges relate to supporting conventional editing within SPAs as well as rendering reproducible pages for third parties. Headless strategies and SSR help overcome these by loose coupling content from presentation layers for improved flexibility and control. call to action

How Does A Decoupled CMS Prove To Be Beneficial?

Below are the advantages that comes long with Decoupled CMS:
  • Adopting a decoupled or headless content management system provides several advantages for evolving SPA implementations. 
  • The framework separates content from how it is displayed. This allows each part to evolve independently according to its unique needs.
  • The CMS focuses solely on organization, workflows, and abstracting information as an immutable API data source without reliance on specific delivery technologies. 
  • Developers gain flexibility to deliver optimized experiences according to interface requirements independent of content systems. 
  • Similarly, editors avoid constraints imposed by the presentation layer, improving focus on content creation, organization, and distribution. 
  • Agility, scalability, and collaborative practices all benefit from a decoupled approach, with content acting as the sole source of truth shared across all consumer touchpoints.

Final Thoughts

So, by dynamically updating content within a single page web page instead of reloading entirely, single-page application architecture has revolutionized the user experience on the web. Frameworks like Angular, React, and Vue, coupled with decoupled content strategies, empower highly engaging digital products and services through interactive interfaces, streamlined processes, and independence between information storage and delivery. While each mechanism introduces individual considerations, their combined implementation has unlocked tremendous capabilities for businesses across domains to deliver next-generation digital experiences. Further advancement will continue enhancing user journeys and operational efficiency through this evolutionary approach.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key differences between SPAs and traditional websites?

The main difference is how each handles navigation and page loads. SPAs dynamically update sections of a single page using JavaScript. Traditional sites reload the entire page on every user action like clicking links.

Which industries have widely adopted SPAs and why?

Industries like e-commerce, media and software have widely adopted SPAs to optimize load performance and keep users engaged through an app-like interface. E-commerce benefits from faster pages while media/software rely on high interactivity which conventional sites cannot deliver.

What are the most popular SPA frameworks?

Some of the most popular SPA frameworks used today include Angular, React, and Vue. Each brings its own advantages, such as community support, capabilities, and the level of expertise required for development.

How do SPAs help in providing better user experiences?

By minimizing page reloads, SPAs improve usability through fluid navigation and dynamic content updates within a cohesive interface. This asynchronous behavior simulates a native application-style experience.

What should one consider while choosing a CMS for their SPA project?

Key factors to consider include the CMS' flexibility to support evolving SPA needs, out-of-the-box functionality, ease of use for content teams, extensibility, and integrations, plus the developer experience of consuming its APIs within the SPA codebase.

Ketan Patel
Written by Ketan Patel

Ketan Patel holds the position of Digital Marketing Manager at WeDoWebApps, a company that offers a wide range of web and mobile application development services including for platforms like iOS, Android, as well as web technologies like Node and Vue