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  • Writer's pictureAbhinav Giri

Why Use Next.js Instead of React for Full Stack Applications


Next.js is important for full-stack developers because it provides a seamless way to build both client-side and server-side rendered applications with the same codebase. With Next.js, you can write code using React components, but also could render those components on the server-side.


React JS

React is a JavaScript client-side library allowing developers to create reusable UI components, maintained by Facebook. With the support of virtual DOM, JSX, and pre-packaged scripts; React.js has a huge developer community. It supports developers to develop scalable, simple, and fast front-end interfaces for Single Page Applications or Multi-page Web Applications.

Next JS

Next.js by Vercel is an open-source full-stack React framework for the web. With the assistance of server-side rendering, static-site generation, pre-rendering, image-optimisation, and other valuable features; Next.js serves its developer community in building SEO-friendly Applications. It is based on Node.js and Babel, and it integrates with React to develop Single Page Applications. This makes server-side convenient and easier.


Why Choose Next.js over React?

Here are some reasons why you might choose Next.js over using React alone for a full-stack project

1. SEO Performance

  • Next.js is designed with SEO in mind. Its server-side rendering (SSR) and static site generation (SSG) capabilities ensure that search engines can easily crawl and index your content, leading to better search engine rankings.

  • With React alone, achieving good SEO can be more complex and may require third-party solutions or workarounds.

Here's a basic example of how you can set up a Next.js page with SSR and SSG:

function MyPage({ data }){
    return(
        <div>
        <h1>{data.title}</h1>
        <p>{data.description}</p>
    );
}

export async function getServerSideProps(){
    //Fetch data from an API or database
    const response = await fetch('https://api.example.com/my-data');
    const data = await response.json();
    return {
        props: {
            data,
        },
    };
}

  • The getServerSideProps function is an example of server-side rendering (SSR) in Next.js. It fetches data on the server before rendering the page and sends the data as props to the component.

  • This SSR approach ensures that search engines can easily crawl and index the page's content because the server provides a fully rendered HTML response.

2. Faster Initial Page Loads

  • SSR in Next.js reduces the time it takes for the initial page to load because the server sends a fully rendered HTML page to the client. This can result in a better user experience, especially on slower internet connections.

  • React alone initially loads an empty HTML shell, which is then populated with JavaScript on the client-side, potentially causing slower initial load times.

3. Improved User Experience

  • Next.js allows you to build applications that feel more responsive to users because they receive a pre-rendered page while the server fetches data in the background. Pre-rendered Pages, Fast Initial Loading, Progressive Enhancement, SEO Benefits leads to better user experience.

  • React alone often requires additional setup and coding to achieve this level of user experience.

4. Routing Simplicity

Next.js offers a remarkably straightforward approach to handling routing within your application. This simplicity stems from its file-based routing system, which dramatically reduces the complexity associated with routing:

  • No Need for Additional Routing Libraries: Unlike React applications, where you often rely on libraries like React Router for defining and managing routes, Next.js provides routing capabilities out of the box. This simplifies your project's set-up and reduces dependencies.

  • File-Based Routing: In Next.js, you organize your application's pages by creating JavaScript files inside the "pages" directory. Each file automatically corresponds to a specific route. For example, creating a file named about.js in the "pages" directory will automatically generate a route for the "/about" URL. This intuitive structure eliminates the need for intricate routing configurations typically found in React applications.

For example: Create a file named about.js inside the "pages" directory:

// pages/about.js

import React from 'react';
function About(){
    return <div>About Us Page</div>;
}
export default About;
  • Nested Routing: Next.js also supports nested routes. By organising files within sub-directories of the "pages" directory, you can create nested routes effortlessly. This structure makes it natural to build complex applications with multiple levels of routing.

  • Dynamic Routes: Next.js extends its simplicity to dynamic routes as well. You can create dynamic routes by adding square brackets to your file names, such as [id].js. This enables you to handle variable URL segments with ease. For example, /products/123 can be routed to the [id].js file as a dynamic route, and you can access the 123 value in your component.

For example, create a file named [id].js:

// pages/products/[id].js
import React from 'react';
import { useRouter } from 'next/router';
function Product() {
    const router = useRouter();
    const { id } = router.query;
    return <div> Product ID: {id}</div>
}
export default Product;
 


5. Data Fetching Flexibility

Next.js provides various methods for data fetching, including getServerSideProps, getStaticProps, and client-side data fetching. This flexibility allows you to choose the best approach for your specific use case.

  • getServerSideProps: This method enables server-side rendering (SSR) and is ideal when you need to fetch data at runtime, for example, for pages with frequently changing content or data that requires authentication.

  • getStaticProps: This method is used for static site generation (SSG) and is suitable when you have data that doesn't change frequently, such as blog posts or product listings.

// pages/blog/[slug].js (Next.js)
import React from 'react';
function BlogPost({ post }){
    return (
        <div>
            <h1>{post.title}</h1>
            <p>{post.content}</p>
        </div>
    );
}

export async function getStaticPaths(){
    // Fetch all possible blog post slugs
    const paths = ['post-1', 'post-2', 'post-3'];
    return {
        paths,
        fallback: false,
    }
}

export async function getStaticProps({ params }){
    // Fetch data for the specified blog post slug
    const response = await fetch('https://api.example.com/posts/${params.slug}');
    const post = await response.json();
    return {
        props: {
            post,
        },
    };
}
export default BlogPost;

React alone doesn't offer built-in support for server-side data fetching, and you might need to rely on external libraries or custom solutions.

6. Optimised Image Handling

Next.js provides a seamless solution for optimised image handling through its built-in support for image optimisation. This feature enhances performance by automatically resizing and serving images in modern formats, such as WebP.


  • Automatic Image Optimisation: When you import an image in a Next.js project, it automatically optimises that image during the build process.

  • Responsive Images: You can easily create responsive images by specifying different widths and heights in the Image component. Next.js generates multiple versions of the image to fit various screen sizes.

  • Lazy Loading: Images are lazily loaded by default, meaning they're only fetched when they come into the user's viewport. This reduces initial page load times.

  • Automatic WebP Conversion: Next.js automatically converts images to the WebP format when supported by the browser, further enhancing performance.

// Using an image in Next.js component
import Image from 'next/image';

function MyComponent(){
    return (
        <div>
            <Image
                src="/images/my-image.jpg"
                alt="My Image"
                width={500}
                height={300}
                sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, (max-width: 1024px) 50vw, 25vw"
            />
        </div>
    );
}

In a React-only application, handling images efficiently and optimising them for performance typically involves additional steps and possibly the use of third-party libraries like react-responsive-image or gatsby-image.


7. Simplified Authentication

Next.js simplifies authentication by providing built-in support for handling user sessions, tokens, and authentication flows. Its out-of-the-box functionality, combined with authentication providers like NextAuth.js, makes it easier to manage and secure user authentication in your application.

  • Built-in Support: Next.js provides a range of built-in features and APIs to facilitate authentication, such as getServerSideProps, which allows you to fetch user data during server-side rendering (SSR), and useSession, a hook for client-side authentication.

  • Session Management: Next.js simplifies user session management with the useSession hook and getSession function, making it easy to access user data and manage authenticated sessions.

  • Authentication Providers: You can integrate Next.js with authentication providers like NextAuth.js or implement custom authentication strategies, depending on your project's requirements.


// pages/profile.js (Next.js)
import { useSession, getSession } from 'next-auth/react';

function Profile() {
    const { data: session } = useSession();
    return (
        </div>
            {session ? (
                <p> Welcome, {session.user.name}! </p>
            ) : (
                <p> Please sign in </p>
            )}
        </div>
    };
}

export async function getServerSideProps(context){
    const session = await getSession(context);
    
    return {
        props: {
            session,
        },
    };
}

export default Profile;

Implementing authentication in a React-only application can be more complex, requiring the integration of third-party libraries and custom solutions for state management, token handling, and routing, especially when SSR is involved.

8. Deployment and Hosting Integration

  • Next.js seamlessly integrates with platforms like Vercel, Netlify, and AWS Amplify, simplifying the deployment and hosting process.

  • Deploying a React-only application typically involves more manual setup and configuration.


9. Improved Code Splitting

Next.js excels in optimising code splitting, ensuring that your application loads only the JavaScript necessary for each page. This capability enhances performance by reducing initial load times and bundle sizes. Here's how it simplifies the process:

  • Automatic Code Splitting: Next.js performs automatic code splitting by default. Each page becomes a separate entry point, and only the JavaScript code required for that specific page is bundled and loaded. This results in smaller and more efficient bundles.

  • Page-Based Splitting: Each page in a Next.js application is treated as a distinct module. When a user accesses a particular page, only the JavaScript for that page is sent to the client, minimizing the initial payload.

  • Client-Side Navigation: Next.js utilises client-side navigation, which further enhances code splitting. As users navigate between pages, only the JavaScript necessary for the new page is fetched and executed, reducing the impact on performance.

  • Optimised for Modern Browsers: Next.js automatically generates modern JavaScript bundles and serves them to browsers that support modern features, while older browsers receive traditional bundles. This helps maximise performance for all users.

Example - Code Splitting in a Next.js Application: Multiple pages, each with its unique JavaScript code

// pages/index.js
function HomePage() {
    // Code for home page
}

// pages/about.js
function AboutPage(){
    // Code for about page
}

Achieving efficient code splitting in a React-only application may require additional configuration such as Webpack Configuration, Dynamic Imports, Bundle Analysis.

10. Improved Error Handling:

Next.js provides a robust error-handling system that makes it easier to handle errors during development and ensure a polished user experience. Here's an example illustrating the benefits:


// pages/404.js (Custom 404 Page in Next.js)

import Link from 'next/link';
function NotFoundPage() {
    return (
        <div>
            <h1>404 - Page Not Found</h1>
            <p>Sorry, the page you are looking for does not exist.</p>
            <Link href="/">
                <a>Go back to home page</a>
            </Link>
        </div>
    );
}

In this example, we create a custom 404 error page in Next.js. If a user visits a non-existent page, Next.js automatically directs them to this custom 404 page, providing a user-friendly message and a link to return to the home page.

Next JS

React JS

Custom Error Pages

​Provides a straightforward way to create custom error pages for various HTTP status codes. This helps to provide meaningful error messages.

Need to manually set up custom error handling for your routes and components. Handling different error scenarios and rendering custom error pages can be more complex.

Development Errors

More detailed and user-friendly for custom error pages

Provide error message for certain issues. They are more focused on development debugging and are not as user-friendly as custom error page.


Next.js Instead of React: Conclusion

Next.js stands out for full-stack application development, offering an extensive feature set and effortless integration. It extends React's capabilities by offering a more comprehensive framework for building full-stack applications, particularly those requiring SEO optimisation, server-side rendering, and enhanced user experiences.


While React is excellent for building user interfaces, Next.js provides a more out-of-the-box solution for full-stack development, saving time and effort in various aspects of development and deployment. Next.js seamlessly combines the benefits of both React and a robust full stack framework, making the development process smoother and more productive, that why we recommend Next.js Instead of React.

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