Our expectations for interactive experiences have radically changed. Millions use consumer- focused apps like Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and Netflix every day. They’re not only friendly and easy to use, but they’re hyper responsive with real-time data and collaboration.
The issue arises when we’re presented with online experiences that look old or slow and function way differently than the majority of real-time consumer Web. Whether it’s an internal application business application or customer-facing banking or insurance application, users intuitively recognize the issue.
Enter Single Page Applications or SPAs.
An SPA loads all of the information at once onto a single page and dynamically updates as the user interacts with the app. The result is a faster, more fluid, and responsive experience. Since Gmail, NetFlix, and Twitter are all single page applications, chances are that you use an SPA every day.
The usefulness and value of an SPA goes far beyond the popular consumer apps we know and love. Microsoft’s Azure Portal uses an SPA framework to deliver more than 3,000 services to its five million customers. One the other end of the spectrum, many of the the most beautiful and engaging websites are single page applications.
However, SPAs aren’t well known outside of the development community. Type “single page applications” into Google and it will return a lot of information, almost all of it technical. While there’s a lot of great content, it isn’t especially useful in understanding SPAs as a digital solution.
So let’s talk about the businesses advantages of SPAs, and where marketing professionals and product owners should consider them over pre-configured platforms.
Steve Martin once said, “Be so good they can’t ignore you”. That’s a great way to think about the value of an SPA, when you have to keep users engaged throughout a multi-step process and minimize abandonment. It’s all about responsiveness and performance. And the research backs this up. Studies show that while users may wait up to two seconds for a website to load, a user filling out an online application expects instant (0.1-0.2 sec) performance.
When used for things like electronic applications, e-commerce, and customer on-boarding, SPAs can be game-changers. They are also ideal for collaboration and community experiences, where engagement hinges on the perception of “real-time” communication. This is why the most successful social applications (Twitter, Instagram) are built on SPA frameworks.
Another way in which SPAs shine is in their ability to deliver the features, functionality, and overall customer experience you want. Because you’re building a custom application and not boxed into the capabilities of a pre-configured platform, you get a high degree of flexibility. This is really valuable for online applications and customer account systems. The design and functional flexibility of an SPA allows you to avoid having to sacrifice or spend extra to customize an off-the-shelf system to meet unique requirements.
An SPA’s flexibility also applies to features that the user will find especially useful or fun. An example of this is The Gap’s shopping bag. They use an SPA to enable customers connect their shopping bag across all their devices. A feature their customers not only find really useful and cool, but also one that differentiates The Gap from its competitors.
Many of the digital professionals we speak with think custom applications like SPAs are an “all or nothing” choice — either their entire solution is custom built or they go with a pre-configured platform. It’s a common misconception that’s fed by software companies and vendor partners caught in their technology swim lanes.
In reality, an SPA can be used for very specific, but important, functional components and then integrated into an existing website or portal to deliver a seamless front-end experience. There are many situations where a custom application delivers a far better customer experience and is more cost effective than using pre-configured components from content management or CRM platforms. This not only applies to electronic applications and eCommerce, but also for interactive features like calendars and scheduling, interactive communities, and product configurators.
In summary, Single Page Applications can make the difference between an average customer experience or a truly great one. Due to their flexibility and performance, marketing executives and product managers should actively consider SPAs as a solution and not feel boxed in by their existing technical platforms or misconceptions about custom-developed applications.
Drop us a line if you want to learn more about SPAs or see if a custom application is the right approach to solving your digital challenge.