What is difference between single page and multiple page application?

The difference between a single-page and a multi-page application is that in a multi-page application, clicking on a link loads a new page, whereas in a single-page application,  links just rewrite some of the data on the same underlying webpage. 

A multi-page application is made up of multiple HTML files; a single-page application uses a single HTML template that it fills in with changing data.

The Intuitive Difference Between MPAs and SPAs

On an intuitive level, the difference between single-page apps (SPAs) and multi-page ones (MPAs) is this: SPAs feel more like modern mobile apps; MPAs feel like old-fashioned websites. This makes sense, because SPAs are a modern invention. Historically, all websites were multi-page applications. 

In particular, single-page applications (such as Pinterest) have a clean, simple design and linear user experience.  Think: infinite scroll. 

Multi-page applications (such as Amazon) tend to have a more complex and less linear structure. Clicking on a link will take you to a new page, which may look quite different than the homepage. Think: Web 1.0.   

The Difference Under the Hood

That’s the gist of the difference from the user’s perspective. On the technical side, the difference between SPAs and MPAs is that a multi-page application executes most of its logic in the server, while a single-page application does this in the browser, via JavaScript APIs such as Fetch. In a multi-page application, more data moves between the server and the browser than in a single-page application. 

In other words, SPAs use a single pre-downloaded template which is dynamically updated with data in response to user interaction. MPAs respond to user interaction by downloading new pages. 

Fine-Grained Differences 

The main difference between single-page and multi-page applications is whether pages need to be reloaded when navigating the site. Many smaller differences arise from this big difference.

Differences which Favor MPAs

  • SPAs require more modern browsers than MPAs.
  • SPAs also require JavaScript to be enabled.
  • Less documentation is available for SPA development.
  • SPAs have more SEO issues than MPAs. This is because traditional web crawlers don’t wait for more content to download after the first page load.
  • Performance monitoring is harder for MPAs than for SPAs.
  • The first download of an SPA can be slower than that of an MPA. 
  • SPAs can be vulnerable to cross-site scripting and so less secure than MPAs.

Differences which Favor SPAs

  • Because they don’t require constant reloading, SPAs are generally faster than MPAs. 
  • MPAs often have a more complex and less linear structure than SPAs. 
  • Because they require less server use, SPAs can be cheaper.
  • SPAs are easier to deploy than MPAs.
  • Mobile development is easier for SPAs than MPAs. 
  • Frontend and backend development is more cleanly separated for SPAs than MPAs.
  • Version control is easier for SPAs than MPAs.

Would you like to learn more?

What is a single page application and its benefits?

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