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Why multi-page apps?

The year I decided to change careers from HR to web development, I attended Artifact Conference in Providence, RI, and had the pleasure of seeing Jeremy Keith talk.

This was during the era when responsive web design was this novel new idea for serving websites on the pocket computers we suddenly started carrying around with us. He spoke about resilience and progressive enhancement, and dramatically shaped my perspectives on the web.

Like me, Jeremy advocates for MPAs over SPAs. Last week, he shared an he received asking why he favors that approach…

lately I’ve been following you through videos and texts and I’m curious as to why you advocate the use of multi-page web apps and not single-page ones.

The whole response is terrific, but this part in particular really stood out…

Like I said, there are times when a single-page approach makes sense—it all comes down to whether state needs to be constantly preserved. But these use cases are the exceptions, not the rule.

That’s why I find the framing of your question a little concerning. It should be inverted. The default approach should be to assume a multi-page approach (which is the way the web works by default). Deciding to take a JavaScript-driven single-page approach should be the exception.

And that’s just it.

There are absolutely use-cases for SPAs (media sites, primarily). Most of the other things we use them for make the user experience notably worse or band-aid over the real underlying issues without addressing them.