Single-page applications (SPAs) are an alternative to traditional web pages that can offer faster loading time, offline functions, more mobile-friendly responsiveness, and decreased development time — ultimately leading to a better customer experience. By using SPAs, companies have found increased average session time and lower bounce rates.
For many marketers, SPAs are not part of our everyday vernacular. (Or should we say, SPAs outside of some quality, well-earned R&R time.) Perhaps we’ve heard of them, but couldn’t quite explain what they are or how they work. Perhaps we haven’t the slightest idea. For those who fall into either of those categories, this post is for you.
Why should you care, you rightfully ask? SPAs can be an interesting, viable alternative to certain use cases of traditional web pages. So, for instance, if you run a product marketing team and want to have a “design your own shoe” page, you just might be looking at a SPA.
What is a SPA?
Short answer: single-page applications are an alternative web page that you essentially open once and stay inside, rather than changing pages every time you click a button or link.
SPAs are typically very interactive and rich in content — think sites like Facebook, Porsche, Google Maps, Gmail, and Nike React.
To understand SPAs, let’s first understand traditional webpages. Two main points to know here:
- How they’re made: created with HTML
- How they work: when someone clicks, a request is sent to a server, and the server sends the HTML to the user. Each time you click to a different URL, even if it’s to a different page on the same site, that sends a new request to the server.
SPAs, on the other hand, differ on both of those fronts:
- How they work: the first time you click, a request is sent to the server and the entire SPA loads at once. Hence the name, single-page application. All future navigation happens within that page.
Why should my team use SPAs?
Which of course brings us to the all-hailed, ever-coveted customer experience, which seems to have everyone abuzz these days. We know people are drawn toward experiences over services or products. We’re all trying to improve our “omnichannel, end-to-end” customer experience.
Happily, SPAs can be a tangible, applicable step in that direction.
SPAs can be helpful on a few fronts:
- More content, more quickly. Many teams are feeling pressured to get higher volumes of content out there at higher speeds. SPAs are a quick means to do that.
- Faster run time once inside the app. Because everything loads on the front end, SPAs have great offline functions and quick run time. After the initial load, information can be found rapidly, which helps decrease bounce rate. They tend to be well-suited for late stages in the online customer journey.
- More engaging and responsive content. SPAs are responsive (i.e. mobile friendly) by nature. They hav great page performance. They boast longer average visitor sessions, hinting toward better experience on site
Challenges of SPAs
While SPAs are great pieces of your CX and marketing set, they’re not meant to fully replace traditional webpages. They also pose certain challenges:
- Slower initial load time can lower rankings. Again, Google is working on this with AngularJS, but in the interest of speeding up the web, many search engines don’t favor slow page load times.
Given these two challenges, SPAs fit well into later stages of the customer journey. Rather than the initial search, SPAs are well suited to final product decisions and conversions.
Part of the evolution of the relationship between marketing and IT
Many of us in marketing have enjoyed watching the emergence of the marketing technologist, who sits astride both worlds and is empowered to do more work themselves. SPAs are a quintessential example of where the marketing technologist can be the key person to own implementation.
Where as in the past this might have been a case where marketing asked IT for a solution but didn’t understand the technical specifics and ended up with something less that ideal, now marketing technologists can begin to own — or at least participate more fully in — the technical piece as well.
The recommendation of course is to always bring marketers, IT, and business users along on the whole way.
Want to learn more about single-page applications?
In our webinar last week, Shelby Britton, Group Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, gave us insight into how to use SPAs for improved experience. She covered all of this and much more, wrapping up with five practical tips for SPA success.
This webinar is geared toward marketers, marketing technologists, and IT working with content delivery. She covers both strategic and technical content around single-page applications — even getting into the weeds with headless content and hybrid CMSs.
The full webinar is available for viewing here.