Will Single-page Applications Take Over eCommerce?
eCommerce single-page applications (SPAs) are like retail pop-up stores for mobile devices. They deliver a faster storefront to mobile customers quickly, but sacrifice many aspects of the traditional online shopping experience for the sake of speed and convenience.
You shouldn’t have to sacrifice the shopping experience in order to make your mobile website pages load faster. Here’s our take on the pros and cons of using a single-page application, and steps you can take to improve SPA performance.
Want to learn if your eCommerce website is loading fast enough to meet shopper expectations? Find out with a free Site Performance Snapshot Report today!
What are single-page applications?
Most eCommerce websites are built as multi-page applications. Every time you click a link on a multi-page application, the entire page reloads in the browser. Multi-page applications give you the most flexibility to create unique navigation paths and add new features and content.
The drawback of multi-page applications? All this content can take a long time to load in the browser.
What are the drawbacks of single-page applications in eCommerce?
SPAs reduce page load delays related to sending and rendering new HTML files on mobile devices that are using uncertain network connections. However, these simplified applications don’t automatically translate into higher performing mobile websites. Here’s why:
1. SPAs sacrifice too much in the online experience
SPAs are designed to perform like thin, single function apps. These types of apps are fantastic for websites with only a handful of products, or with a limited set of possible buying paths. But they don’t offer the myriad of buying paths and merchandising techniques that a multi-page app can support. So, although shoppers no longer need to wait for HTML to reload, the content they receive isn’t what they’ve grown to expect from the best online shopping experiences.
2. SPAs don’t solve all mobile performance problems
As we’ve mentioned before, SPAs can be more complicated than you think.
When evaluating the performance of their SPAs, retailers need to start looking at different measures. “Time to interact” (time passed before a shopper can interact with page features) and “first input delay” (time passed between clicking and the page changing in response) are better indicators of SPA performance.
What’s the best approach?
As we recommended in our assessment of progressive web applications, we believe taking a stripped down approach to your mobile website is not the best solution. A watered-down shopping experience could lose you more conversions than from a faster site. Please note: it is possible to have a robust multi-page application site that loads as quickly as many SPAs.
If you’ve already committed to an SPA, it doesn’t mean you are free of all performance problems. Here are steps you can take to make your SPA load faster:
3. Optimize content
4. Real User Monitoring (RUM)
Don’t rely on traditional tools and “document complete” to evaluate SPA performance. Employ real user monitoring (RUM) that focuses on how shoppers experience your SPA performance by device, browser, geography, etc.
5. Monitor (and resolve) performance anomalies
Are we ready to turn the page on single-page applications?
SPAs are a good approach in the right situations. If your shoppers identify and buy products in a fairly predictable fashion, you can design an SPA that makes this process much easier for mobile shoppers.