In recent years, single-page applications (SPAs) have gained popularity, especially among ecommerce brands with existing traditional online stores. That’s because, according to recent data from Statista, nearly half of global website traffic is through mobile devices, and companies are constantly looking for ways to optimize the mobile shopping experience for their online stores. Bearing this in mind, many organizations need to decide if it’s time to make the switch to an SPA-based ecommerce store.

With this in mind, we spoke with tech experts to learn about the rise in SPAs and why online retailers should — and should not — launch an SPA in 2020.

The Rise in Popularity of SPAs

“SPAs are a modern approach to app development,” explained Prem Khatri, VP of operations at Chetu, “that keeps the experience on one page full of content as opposed to multiple pages.” In general, many users find that SPAs feel faster, more responsive and offer a more straightforward experience than traditional multi-page apps. “Apps like Facebook, Twitter, Trello and most Google applications all leverage SPAs,” revealed Khatri, “which has lead to even more adoption by the development community.” 

Bob Buffone, CTO at YOTTAA, said, “ecommerce SPAs are like retail pop-up stores for mobile devices.” By this, he means that SPAs deliver a faster store to mobile customers, but in the process, they do sacrifice many aspects of the traditional online shopping experience for the sake of speed and convenience. 

Related Article: What Is a Single Page Application?

Why Launch an SPA in 2020?

Many ecommerce brands choose to launch an SPA because there are fewer interruptions during the shopping experience. “SPAs have gained popularity recently,” Buffone said, “because they reduce page load delays related to sending and rendering new HTML files on mobile devices that are using uncertain network connections.” That’s because SPAs load a single HTML page in the browser and dynamically update content without needing to refresh the entire page again.

It's also worth noting that SPAs are not only more convenient for the end-user, but developers typically find them easier to build and deploy than traditional ecommerce websites.

“Aside from faster speeds,” Khatri added, “SPAs can also cache local data more effectively as only one request is made to a server, which can then store all data it receives.” This is especially true if the SPA includes the additional capabilities of a progressive web app (PWA), that offers offline functionality and better synchronization of local data when a user is able to regain a connection to the server after experiencing poor connectivity.

Learning Opportunities

SPAs Are Great, but They’re Not for Everyone

While there can be enormous benefits to launching an SPA, it’s not right for every brand. “Brands that already have more complex websites with either a wide range of products or different aspects of content wouldn’t benefit from the implementation of SPA architecture,” explained Khatri, “in fact, it may hinder their business.”

Related Article: JAMstack vs. LAMP Stack vs. MEAN vs .NET: Tech Stacks Compared

Complex Requirements

SPAs may not be able to handle the complex shopping experience some brands choose to offer. “SPAs are designed to perform like thin, single-function apps,” explained Buffone, “so they don’t offer the myriad of buying paths and merchandising techniques that a multi-page app (MPA) can support.” Massive online retailers, for example, may have thousands of products, customer reviews, and more that make a linear SPA experience less than ideal. “Although shoppers no longer need to wait for HTML to reload,” Buffone said, “the content they receive isn’t what they’ve grown to expect from the best online shopping experiences.” 

Technical Performance

Oftentimes, these simplified apps still don’t translate into higher-performing mobile stores either. “SPAs suffer many of the performance challenges that JavaScript-heavy multi-page apps suffer,” Buffone stated. This includes JavaScript blocking errors, latency from third-party technologies, and other technical issues. It’s more critical, therefore, to consider whether an SPA provides a better user experience because technical performance is largely determined by the underlying tools and techniques that developers choose to use.

SEO Optimization

Traditional ecommerce websites can also be better for SEO purposes, as there are more pages for search crawlers to index and rank. “Company’s that rely on their webpage for heavy data collection, or to boost their relevancy on search engines should still rely on the MPA model,” recommended Khatri, “as SPAs have not yet caught up, and it is far better for their particular business activities.” There are options to improve SEO for SPAs, but it takes more work to implement and may not be as effective.

Final Thoughts

“If there is one thing that we have learned on the tail-end of this decade,” concluded Khatri, “it’s that experience is most important to end-users, who lack the time and the patience for non-intuitive, slower and more convoluted app experiences.” For these reasons, the SPA trend will undoubtedly continue into 2020, as more users demand a straightforward shopping experience that operates at faster speeds.