Single-Page Applications: What Are They and Why Would I Need One?

What are Single-Page Applications (SPAs)?

Single-Page Applications (SPAs) are web applications designed to look and act like classic desktop applications—without the need to continually reload or redraw the page after each interaction.

Some familiar examples of Single-Page Apps include Gmail and Facebook, which continually update without the entire page refreshing, and the messaging tool Slack, which can be used within a web browser without losing any of the functionality associated with the desktop app.

How We Use SPAs at Acumium

Generally, here at Acumium we gravitate towards Single-Page Apps if:

  • We’re building a complex website with rich functionality where a seamless user experience is imperative. SPAs are easy to interact with in real time and feel more immersive because the browser does not have to continually reload and draw new pages.
  • We need a working prototype early in the development process. SPAs allow Acumium to quickly prototype functionality for a client without requiring the data store and server-side work to be complete or even fully determined. This decouples design prototypes from web development, which allows for much more feedback and validation at the start of—and throughout—the design process.
  • We expect a mobile app will be required. A big upside to building a Single-Page Application is the ability to more easily transition from SPA to a native mobile app—which still provides the best user experience for mobile customers. Single-Page Applications are considered a sort of middle ground between a web application and a native app, so the degree of change is much smaller and simpler to execute.

SPAs Are Not Always the Best Fit

There are circumstances in which a Single-Page Application is not the best solution. If websites are static or informational in nature, or we’re seeking to rank highly in SERPs, a Single-Page Application may not be necessary or even the best choice. Qualities that make a Single-Page Application a less-than-ideal choice include:

  • Initial page load time. Once loaded, SPAs do not need to load again, which is one of their main selling points. This means, however, that loading must be done initially upon entering the website or web application. Because of the amount of information contained on this single page, initial page load times tend to lag behind Multi-Page Applications.
  • Tricky SEO implementation. Because Single-Page Applications are all one “page,” their layout tends to complicate content categorization and link building strategies which are so essential to current SEO best practices. This means that Domain Authority will suffer over time and rankings will be much more difficult to improve. And while Google’s ability to crawl SPAs is improving, it’s still not on the same level as its multi-page website crawls and often yields less than ideal results.

Conclusion

The rapid feedback loop we see using Single-Page Application prototypes allows Acumium to more effectively execute an agile process within our custom development and product management service offerings. This ensures more early-stage input from clients and quicker incremental improvements to the overall design, helping us deliver better products that fit customer’s needs. For the right project, a Single-Page Application can enhance user experience, facilitate rapid iterations on feedback, and ultimately allow faster delivery of value.


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