SPAs Vs MPAs: A Complete Breakdown

Aug 30, 2019

Raman Sama

Old desktop applications have run their course and are now being replaced by web applications. More convenient to use, they update easily and are not bound to any singular device making them extremely malleable. We are evolving at a much faster rate too with even web applications slowly being phased out in favor of mobile applications. This is not to say that there does not exist a market for complex and refined apps.

Design patterns of an app dictate the ease with which they will be able to evolve in the future to keep up with the needs of the user. In the case of web apps, there are two main design patterns: multi-page application ( MPA ) & single page application (SPA). Both come with their pros and cons and we will in detail be exploring each one of them below.

What Is SPA?

A single page application is one that works within a browser and does not require the page to reload during use. Their entire existence is based on a great UX aimed to mimic a natural environment in the browser with no page reloads and in turn no wait time.
In SPA, markups and data are requested independently and pages are rendered directly in the browser. This has been made possible with advanced JavaScript frameworks like AngularJS, Ember.js, Meteor.js, Knockout.js.

What is MPA?

This is the traditional design pattern for all web apps. Here all changes are first sent to the server and then a new page is displayed. These are larger in comparison to SPAs simply because they can't be any way else. Earlier they used to clunkier and not very UX friendly though with the introduction of AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) this has been rectified. But they're still more expensive and complicated than a SPA.

A Brief Analysis.

Deciding which architecture is suitable for your application hinges on just one question. What is the content you want to display on your website? Take a content-first approach, emphasize the content above all else. This is because the content is the reason whether or not the users will use your application. Content is what makes the world go around. It is what will determine the success of your app as that is what the users care about.

Advantages and Limitations of Each Type

Both SPAs and MPAs have their own set of advantages and limitations. There is a complete breakdown of the two given below.

Advantages of SPAs

Fast and smooth UX

SPA is faster simply because most resources are loaded just once throughout the lifespan of the application. After completion of the initial load, the server only sends new data, that decreases the server-client traffic and makes the app feel a lot smoother. They are thus more responsive and faster.

Caching and offline functionality

SPA after the first request, cache the data they receive from the server and store it locally. So it is one request, store the data which enables it to function offline as well.

Mobile adaptability

Mobile Internet speeds are known to be twice as slow as the other devices. In such an environment it is important that your app loads quickly or you risk the user abandoning it.
With their code SPAs are also much easier to port to mobile from the web. Usually, the same backend code can be used for both web and mobile applications.

Reusing API

While creating a mobile application from an existing SPA the process is effectively streamlined as a single page UI is much closer to that of native apps and this is true visa vera as well.


The development of the SPA is streamlined and simplified as there is no need to write code to render pages on the server. You initiate development from file://URI as you don't need a server at all at this stage making the development much easier.

Separation of the frontend and backend

SPAs ensure that there is a separation between the UI from data. This gives developers the freedom to change the UI as much as they want without affecting the code in any way. Debugging is also much easier as the frontend and backend are decoupled.

Chrome Debugging

SPAs make debugging your app with chrome a painless experience as you can monitor network operations, investigate page elements and the associated data.

Advantages of MPAs

SEO Management

MPAs are great for SEO purposes as they give a better chance for pages to rank for different keywords since an application can be optimized for one keyword per page.

Easier Navigation

This approach allows the user to have a visual map of where to head next in the application. Solid menu navigation is the essence of a traditional MPA.

Limitations of SPAs

Complex SEO

Most search engines have had a tough time with indexing SPAs. The bots are good at crawling static HTML web pages but have had a bad track record when it comes to dynamic pages.
This has improved over the past couple of years but still has a long way to go.


SPAs are slower as they require heavy client frameworks to be downloaded to the client's device. But after the initial load, they are much faster than any other MPA.

Memory leaks

SPAs if not regulated during development, can lead to significant slowdowns and quickly drain a device's battery as the app is essentially a single page that never reloads.

Javascript dependent

For users who have disabled javascript on their devices SPAs are virtually useless as SPAs don't run without Javascript. It can be however be rendered on the server-side but will be available with limited functionality.

Limitations of MPAs

Frontend and backend combined closely

Since the frontend and backend are tightly coupled it becomes very difficult to introduce new APIs to the codebase as any change in the backend will directly reflect on the UI.

Complex development

The development of the codebase becomes increasingly complex as developers need to use frameworks for either the client or the server. This radically increases the time behind app development.

SPA or MPA? The Final Verdict

It all comes down to what is the end goal of your website. If you aim to offer multiple services or different categories then an MPA makes sense. But if functionality in a lightweight application is your end goal then SPA is your go-to.

SPAs provide a much superior UX and their ability to mimic native apps is very crucial in today's environment.

The final point is that no matter what the limitations of an SPA, a qualified team will be able to solve it and if not then an MPA model always exists to bail you out.

Raman Sama