Selecting the correct technology stack can make or break a project. Sometimes, the desire to use the next ‘hot’ technology leads stakeholders (both technical and non-technical) to make unwise decisions in this department.
While Single-page Application frameworks have been around for years, they continue to evolve, with new versions generating buzz within the development community. The above Twitter example shows that, while developing an SPA may sound like an exciting option, it may not be the right one for your project.
In this article we will look at the pros and cons of Single-page Application frameworks, to help your team make an informed decision.
Table Of Contents
Single-page Applications vs Multiple-page Applications
Before the first Single-page Application framework appeared, the landscape was dominated by Multiple-page Applications (MPAs) built in static HTML and server-side technologies like PHP, ASP, Java, Ruby, and Python. It should be noted that what we consider to be a “normal” website even today, is the same as what we’re calling an MPA.
MPAs work by making multiple requests between the client and the server. As websites have grown in complexity, so have the demands they make on servers. The introduction of AJAX, which allows web pages to be updated without reloading, partly alleviated this issue. It also gave developers a glimpse into how an SPA future might look.
Next came the Knockout.js framework and its introduction of MVVM data binding. Knockout.js simplified the data binding process by creating a separation of concerns between the view and the application’s data. It did this by taking the view model and binding it to the browser’s HTML, so any changes in the browser were automatically tracked and reflected in the view model – and vice versa!
The Multiple-page Application Legacy
MPAs still form the vast majority of web applications online. While this is partly due to a head start over Single-page Applications, there are many use cases where building a Muliple-page App is simply the better option. In fact, many of the web’s most popular websites have opted to remain as MPAs. These include Stack Overflow, Amazon and most Wordpress-based sites. Multiple-page Applications have a long track record and are proven to work great for a variety of applications.
Single-page Applications vs Multi-page Applications
So, how can you decide which option is best for your project? The key to choosing the correct framework lies in understanding your project’s requirements and how they map to your technology needs. Let’s take a look at some key features of both SPAs and MPAs and the pros and cons of each approach.
MPAs are generally cheaper to build because they use more established technologies and there are more front-end developers for hire.
Single-page Application Examples
Popular Single-page Application Frameworks
If you have decided that building an SPA best suits your project, there is still the small matter of selecting a Single-page Application framework. This is a hotly debated topic (I’m not kidding, typing ‘Angular vs React’ is like stepping into a war zone) and one that is beyond the scope of this article.
But I will leave you with a list of the 5 most popular and well-supported options. I suggest you apply the same rigorous analysis we carried out above to select the most appropriate framework for your project.
Companies Using SPAs
SPAs provide a smooth and responsive experience, allowing users to interact with the app without having to wait for new pages to load. This can make the app feel faster and more responsive, and in turn improve user satisfaction. Some examples of companies that use SPAs include Facebook, Twitter, and Google.
SPA or MPA? Which to Choose for Your Project
Improvements in the “snappiness” of an application and a richer, more immersive user experience are often cited as key reasons to go with Single-page Applications. The recent SPA redesigns of streaming music site Pandora and Google’s Gmail platform are great examples of this in practice. But, as we noted with Twitter, these benefits are not guaranteed. It is vital to take a considered, project-by-project approach to choosing your technology stack. Not doing so can result in emotions or social pressures hijacking the decision process.
The risks fall into a few broad categories: talent skills, talent cost, stability, SEO, and security. These shortcomings are not unusual for a new technology and are being fixed at pace thanks to an active and motivated community. They are, however, still factors that need to be considered in your decision-making process. If you find you are struggling to find the right talent for your project why not get in touch. Sourcing great talent is what we do best at Scalable Path.