A Little Website History — From Multi-Page Applications (MPAs) to Single Page Applications (SPAs)
From the inception of the web until circa 2008, there was a single design pattern for architecting websites — Multi-Page Application (MPA) architecture. Using this type of architecture:
- The server generates a static page of content
- As the user interacts with the page, the server handles each interaction and gives the browser an entirely new page
By 2008, advancements in the web paved the way for a new website design pattern — Single Page Application architecture (SPA). Using this type of architecture:
Some advantages of architecting a website as an SPA over an MPA include:
- A more fluid user experience
- Better performance
- Better scalability
- Faster development
Historically, search engines would index content by making a request to a URL and reading the HTML the server returned. As servers don’t handle rendering HTML in SPAs (browsers do), content in SPAs was essentially invisible to search engine bots.
How Pre-Rendered HTML Helped Procure SEO During the SPA’s Infancy
Due to their inherent advantages, SPAs quickly became prevalent across the internet. This change came quickly — faster than search engines could adapt. To fill this gap, the solution for allowing search engines to index content from SPAs was to:
- Run SPAs in a browser
- Provide that markup to be served to search engines
Pre-rendered HTML, while solving some problems, is not without fault. Its use can bring about the following issues:
- Because the process of pre-rendering HTML happens periodically (maybe once every 24-48 hours), the content and data in pre-rendered HTML can be stale – which will negatively impact SEO. Frequent updates and fresh content leads to higher search ranking and encourages search engines to index sites more frequently.
- Scalability is an issue — as the size of a site grows, the more HTML there is to pre-render. The longer this process takes, the less fresh the pre-rendered content is. For example, if a new piece of data or information was added globally across a site, a significant number of pages would have to be re-rendered.
- A wide range of new variables would be added into the development process, requiring ongoing maintenance and further investment — and could slow down innovation.
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