The business world is unpredictable. You never know what can come out of the box and take center stage. Web applications are one such innovation that has replaced the traditional websites used for online business purposes. Experts have observed that the websites are not enough to reach more users and enhance the user experience the way web applications do. That’s why most business owners are shifting towards having a suitable digital solution for their business growth.
The popularity of the web app development industry is exploding with each passing day. Among several approaches to the web app development process, two of the most prevalent solutions to transform a website are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and Single-Page Applications (SPAs). Both being fast processing and simple to develop, it becomes challenging for business owners to choose between the two. In fact, for some reason, many people even believe that the two are the same. However, that’s not true!

Let’s discuss the significant differences between these two web app development approaches, their benefits, and limitations. Based on this information, you can choose which will satisfy your business needs. Since you do not want your business web application to lag in the race, it becomes crucial to pick the right web solution for you.
What’s a Web Application Anyway?
William Osler, a Canadian Physician, once said, “The very first step towards success in any occupation is to become interested in it.” If you want to succeed in something, you have to show interest in that. And most of the time, the interest comes from awareness, exposure, and knowledge.

Understandably, you are here to get the correct information based on which you can choose either PWA or SPA as your web application solution. But don’t you think before that you should know what a web application is in the first place. You might know that, but there’s never a loss in learning things from different perspectives.

So, a web application is similar to a computer-based software program that runs locally on the device’s OS. However, unlike them, web apps run on the webserver and are delivered to the users through the internet. Their data is stored on the remote servers, and the users can access it through web browsers.
How Does A Web App Work?

Like any other device or application, a web app also needs some elements for proper functioning. They are:

  • A webserver to handle the client’s requests
  • A database that stores all the information
  • An app server to manage and execute the tasks requested.

But what process does it follow? Well, here’s a step-by-step approach to how a web application typically functions:
There are several different web applications available on the internet. Suppose a user picks yours and creates a request to the webserver with the help of your app’s user interface.

  • The web server will process and analyze the user request and look for the correct web app server to proceed.
  • The selected web app server will complete the assigned task and produce the results, including the required data.
  • Since the task of the web app server is over, it will forward the information back to the webserver.
  • The web server (having the final results) will share the requested information to the user’s device, be it desktop, laptop, or smartphone.
  • Finally, the system will show the required information on the user’s display.

What are SPAs?
Single-Page Applications (or SPAs) are similar to a website written in JavaScript whose current page is dynamically updated instead of being wholly downloaded from the server. In other words, when users click any button on a SPA or fill out any input form, only the required content will be refreshed, while the different elements of the page will remain unaffected.

The primary purpose of developing SPAs was to ensure faster interactions and a better user experience by eliminating the time spent on conventional round trips between the server and the browser. Now, do you even realize that you have been using SPAs for a long time? Think about the social media websites you were using before the inception of their mobile applications. Don’t they offer the same feeling? The answer is yes because they all utilize SPAs to enhance the user experience while developing a constant news updating feed.
Advantages of Single-Page Applications

  • Fast-loading and boosted site speed
  • Stability in performance
  • Smooth development
  • Highly responsive to users’ requests

Some common examples of Single-page applications are:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Netflix
  • Gmail
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Maps
  • Wix

What are PWAs?

A Progressive Web Application seems similar to a SPA; however, it is different in many contexts. It is a website but looks and performs like a native application. Several characteristics deviate a progressive web app from a single-page application:

Service Worker: It is a technical feature that encourages resource caching. With this, you can benefit from background data syncing and offline availability.

Web App Manifest: It is a JSON file that consists of all the necessary metadata related to the web application, such as names, descriptions, icons, etc. You can quickly and automatically generate web app manifests using a PWA manifest generator.

HTTPS ensures that the users get a secured connection while interacting with the web app.

Application Shell Architecture: This structure ensures faster performance.

The Service Workers act as a representative or proxy between the network and the browser. They are responsible for hoarding the site’s assets and interposing network requests, making the website’s offline availability possible. It also helps in offering many other app-related features, such as push notifications.

Service workers are the critical players in the background as well. They play a significant role in heavy calculations and algorithms needed to make PWAs robust, fast-loading, and interactive.

You must know that Progressive web applications rank higher in Google search results. The reason behind this is that the search engines prefer websites (or web apps) that are highly responsive. Since progressive mobile apps are mobile-friendly by default, they get a green flag in this context.

Many real-life cases support PWAs have boosted the business’ growth significantly. World’s biggest online B2B trading platform, Alibaba upgraded their website to a PWA and saw a 76% hike in conversions across all browsers. Montreal-based clothing company “Beyond the Rack” increased its revenues by 26% with push notifications. It was done by re-engaging users with their PWA. On the other hand, Asian companies like BookMyShow could drive a hike of 80% in conversions using new Progressive Web Apps.

Advantages of Progressive Web Applications

  • Improved security
  • Offline availability
  • Enhanced engagement
  • Time and cost-efficiency

Some common examples of Progressive Web Applications are:

  • Pinterest
  • Starbucks
  • Uber
  • Spotify
  • Flipboard
  • Forbes

PWAs vs. SPAs: How Are They Different?
In the above sections, it might be clear to you that the requirements for a single-page application are nowhere similar to the ones needed for a progressive web application. Therefore, saying the two are identical would be plain wrong. It won’t be wrong to say that PWA has all the top qualities that the web offers: reliability, security, or engagement. Let’s discuss these aspects in the upcoming portion.

In Terms of Speed

It would be wrong saying that only PWAs are fast and highly responsive. These web app solutions are cutting-edge technologies and offer a fast and smooth experience to their users. However, PWA will have the upper hand in this case.

The reason is simple, and you probably know that, don’t you? Well, if you don’t, it’s service workers! They take up the excessive JavaScript overhead, reducing the web apps’ JavaScript footprint. It enables PWAs to pre-cache various site assets, such as CSS, images, markup, etc., and free you from rendering-related stress, which is not the case in SPAs.

In Terms of Cost

Well, everyone wants everything to be the best, but the best doesn’t come for free. Progressive web applications might overtake single-page applications in terms of performance, but the latter wins the battle regarding cost.

The development of a PWA comes with an additional cost. One of the primary reasons behind this is that the development period lasts for weeks or even months as its development cycle is not smooth compared to SPA. On average, the cost of a PWA varies between $2,000 to $20,000. On the contrary, to get a SPA developed, you might need to pay somewhat between $1,500 and $15,000. Moreover, other factors, such as features, development company’s rate, customizations you want, etc., that can affect the final cost should also be considered.

In terms of UI/UX

Do you know, 88% of users will probably not return to a website after having a bad experience with it? With the above stats, you can understand how crucial the user experience is to nurture your business. That’s the reason people first shifted from regular websites to SPAs for the sake of interactivity and engagement. However, later, the companies took a turn towards PWAs to enhance the users’ web experience.
Although both the web solutions deliver app-like interfaces, PWAs got the edge for their reliability and engagement even in conditions when your connection speed is slow. Moreover, the offline availability mode is the cherry on the cake. That’s the reason brands like Twitter have adopted PWAs to increase their organic traffic and engagement. The results are on the table: A few years ago, Twitter Lite implemented PWAs, which increased their pages per session by 65% and increased the number of tweets sent by 75%. Twitter also confirmed that PWAs helped boost their engagement and reduce data usage. Apart from Twitter, many other brands like Spotify and Nikkei have benefited after implementing PWA as their web development solution.

A single-page application is lacking in this area. It works best only for data-oriented websites but not visually incredible ones, such as Facebook or Gmail.

In Terms of Security

Web security has always been a sensitive subject. Users always want to go for the websites or apps that ensure their data is safe within their databases. However, when data breaching has become common, it becomes challenging to keep everything in control.

Both PWAs and SPAs rely on JavaScript for development purposes. However, the security issues in both these approaches are considerably different. SPAs are less secure than PWAs due to their XSS (Cross-site scripting) issue, prone to man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks. However, it is not the case with PWAs since all their connections have to pass through the HTTPS origin, ensuring that your web apps are protected from intruding and malicious activities.

In Terms of Accessibility

As already mentioned, offline availability in progressive web applications gives it a competitive advantage over single-page applications. Moreover, its scope of accessibility has increased, especially since it got Chrome support for Desktop PWA. Now, the users can have a shortcut of the PWAs on the home screen or to their desktop. However, when it comes to SPAs, it can be frustrating for the users as it can leave them stranded in the middle of nowhere every time a page transition happens.

So, Which One’s Better: PWA or SPA?
Believe it or not, the user experience can make or break the backbone of your business. The more your users engage with your brand, the greater productivity and business growth. And to enhance the engagement, you should make sure that your business websites or web portals are interactive, fast, and highly engaging. That’s why it’s high time to consider a web development solution and transform your traditional website into a web application.

This informational piece has provided you with the two most promising web development approaches ruling the digital world currently, along with their pros and cons. Now, it’s your call to choose the one that suits your business needs and budget.

Once you come up with a choice, pick a well-established and experienced web app development company that can bring your visions into reality. And when it comes to experience, you can choose Saffron Tech as your digital partner right away. Remember, according to Google, if your website or web app does not offer what your users are looking for, chances are 61% of users will try some different site. Therefore, make sure your web app always provides the best, both to your users and your business as well.