Single Page Applications: A Brief Guide

4 min readMar 28, 2022

From a conventional point of view, whenever a user clicks on a link within a web page, the browser typically sends a request to the server for a new page. When the server receives this request, it directly sends the new page to the browser that is being used.

As this can be a very slow and tedious process, it can place a substantially heavy load on the servers for popular sites because the data for an entire webpage is sent with every click.

This is where Single Page Applications can change the game. Several high-traffic sites and social media platforms are adopting SPAs that provide the information that is to be loaded on a single page rather than it be loaded as a separate page.

What is a Single Page Application?

A Single Page Application is generally defined as a web-based app that loads within the browser. As this happens, it removes the need for constant reloading of the entire webpage and only dynamically reloads the relevant content for every user interaction.

This directly results in delivering a user experience that can be faster when transitioning between different sections. Several leading websites function as SPAs and this includes most of the Google websites like Gmail, Maps, and Drive.

Many social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are also built as SPAs and their functionality is handled with the browser. These types of applications are always created using frontend frameworks like React, Angular, Vue, Ember, Meteor, and more.

Benefits of Single Page Applications

SPAs are known to benefit both users and developers in several ways. Here are a few notable advantages.

Faster User Experience

As users no longer need to wait for responses from a server every time a navigation link is clicked, users can avail the information they need much faster than otherwise.

All of the important structure for the site is mostly in place by this time. And once the SPA loads, the various server responses merely need to include the data to fill in the gaps that are left.

Fewer Server Resources

A SPA usually loads within the browser one time. When the user makes a request, the requested data is returned to the server in a JSON format instead of the HTML markup each time. Thus, SPAs save substantially on bandwidth and server resources which is why websites that would get millions of views every day depend on SPAs for efficiency.

Easier to Debug

Instead of going through so many lines of server-side code, developers can also debug SPAs by evaluating the JavaScript code that is rendered in the browser. Several JavaScript frameworks that power SPAs have their own debugging tools that are available for Chrome.

These tools also show developers how the page elements are displayed and how they request data from the server and cache it.

Easier Transition to Other Apps

Developers can also use the same code to transition from a SPA to a mobile app. As all the content gets delivered at once, SPAs are mostly suited for scrolling which also makes them the ideal starting point for a mobile application.

SPAs are also used to create PWAs that offer user functions like push notifications, offline access, and local caches.

When Do You Need SPAs?

For websites that aim to provide a fast and seamless user experience, SPAs can be a great fit. Social networks can be powerful examples of SPAs that can attract users. Teams can also use SPAs as the backbone for a mobile application that gives users a consistent experience across devices. With cross-platform frameworks like React Native, these SPAs can be ported to mobile devices seamlessly.

If the desired application primarily displays static content like a blog or a standard website, then a SPA may be a cost-effective solution. For a dynamic experience, a SPA can implement the heavy lifting process from the servers to client browsers.

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