Next.js vs React: Which Framework to Choose for Your Next Project?

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Netguru

Sep 27, 2022 • 18 min read
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Choosing the proper framework for your next project is a key to success. It enables you to create projects that fulfill business goals and achieve an uninterrupted development process.

Finding the proper framework can be challenging due to the sheer amount of Javascript (JS) libraries and frameworks available. But despite the variety of choices, two frameworks are widely used by developers and companies alike: Next.js and React.

Let us dive in and discuss the critical differences between Next.js and React to help you figure out the best framework for your next frontend development project.

What is React?

React is one of the most popular frontend libraries today. Made by Facebook (Meta) in 2011, React is a Javascript library designed to build harmonious and interactive user interfaces (UI). It was later released to become an open-source JS library in 2013.

React became popular due to its flexibility, allowing developers to create scalable, simple, and fast frontend UIs for single-page web applications. According to a Google Trends survey, “React” is a highly searched phrase, along with “Next js” and “Angular”.

Google Trends Survey Line Graph

The common uses for React revolve around developing web apps which require constant UI data changes. This is achievable through React's capability of creating independent, isolated, and reusable components, which helps developers build web applications with complex user interfaces. These components allow pages to render multiple interfaces without reloading the entire website constantly as users go through them.

For example, social media platforms, such as Facebook or Instagram, allow for easy navigation between pages and profiles without the need to reload the whole website completely.

These components contain the data on what to show on the screen. When the data changes, React undergoes a process called Rendering, which generates a new image or text with the data dictated within the components.

Create a React App

Besides being a vast JS library, React holds its own framework called the Create React App (CRA). It allows for easy integration of React.js into a website. The app sets up a development environment that lets developers leverage its UI components library and build a JS-based web app immediately.

To run the Create React App, you must have Node >= 14.0.0 and npm >= 5.6 on your machine first and input the following code:

npx create-react-app my-app

cd my-app

npm start

It is also essential to remember that the Create React App doesn’t handle backend logic or databases. It only creates a frontend-built pipeline. Running CRA allows you to use the platform with any kind of backend available.

Pros and cons of React

There are numerous reasons why React is widely used by developers. Here is a list of the pros and cons of using React for your next frontend project.

Advantages of using React

From flexibility to ease of use – there are many advantages you can benefit from when using React as the main driver for your upcoming frontend development project.

#1: Easy to use

Building dynamic web applications, especially with HTML, can be tricky, as it requires complex coding. To counter this, React was designed to create interactive UIs by providing an environment that allows for a fast web development process.

Moreover, it uses the Javascript Extension (JSX) – a particular syntax that allows HTML quotes and tag syntax to render distinct subcomponents. React’s vast library provided developers with less coding, more functionality, and a familiar language code.

#2: Reusable components

Web applications created through React are composed of multiple reusable components, each having its own logic and controls. This reusability allows developers to recycle components and load them into different pages repeatedly while keeping their characteristics. Moreover, you can change the components code, and the change will reflect across all the pages.

#3: Enhanced performance through a virtual DOM

With the use of a virtual Document Object Model (DOM), React can improve the performance of your app. A DOM is a cross-platform programming API that deals with HTML, XML, or XHTML. In the case of a virtual DOM for React, it works entirely out of memory and represents a website's DOM.

So whenever you write React components, it doesn’t go directly to DOM but rather through virtual components, which are then converted by React to create a smoother and faster performance.

#4: Optimized to be SEO-friendly

Today, being SEO-friendly is one of the primary goals for any website manager. Having SEO principles inserted within their website helps managers to ensure that their page is visible to a vast number of viewers online.

Traditional Javascript frameworks have issues getting Google bots to crawl their code. Fortunately, React allows you to include Server-Side Rendering (SSR) into your code to keep Google from running Javascript to render your content.

React runs on your browser after downloading the files from a particular website. This process is called Client-Side Rendering (CSR). With SSR, it rubs Javascript on the server before sending it to the user, allowing them to see the content directly without waiting for React to run.

In short, it avoids letting Google-run Javascript to read (or crawl) the page's contents. And a bonus? It makes your page load faster – another factor for SEO ranking.

#5: Large supportive community

There is significant backing from fellow developers that actively contribute and provide learning tools and assistance to other developers who use React. According to a survey by Stack Overflow, around 40.14% of developers (out of 67,593 responses) use React.js. These communities provide numerous open-source learning and production resources to help you venture into React.

Disadvantages of using React

As impressive as React may be, it is far from perfect. Several drawbacks come with using React, which could hinder your web development process. To give you an insight, we listed the disadvantages that come with React.

#1: Fast-pace of changes

React is an ever-changing JS library that is constantly updated to keep up with the current trends in the industry.

Constant updates and changes in efforts to make developers' work easier can also mean that it's a never-ending learning process.

#2: Problems with documentation

Regarding the speed at which React evolves, there can be little to no documentation about the latest updates. This can negatively impact fresh developers just starting to use React JS. Writing updates for educational purposes can only be helpful for a short amount of time due to the pace of new patches coming into the React JS system.

#3: Need for third-party tools to execute UI

Although React creates ordered and complex UI for single-page websites and web applications, it is still more of a library than a framework, as it uses many tools to help designers craft UIs. If you follow an MVC pattern, you must incorporate other tools (such as Redux) to help you create the UI.

Moreover, additional tools for application programming interface (API), routing, and other web development factors may also be needed.

Despite all this, React is a stable and efficient driver for developing complex web applications, which can significantly benefit your webpage.

What is Next.js?

Created by Vercel, Next.js is an open-source Javascript framework based on Node.js and Babel and was designed to integrate seamlessly with React to build single-page apps. Working on top of React, it helps you to develop server-side rendered apps or hybrid static web applications.

Moreover, Next.js supports numerous features, including automatic building size optimization, faster development compilation, and a simple preview mode that allows developers to check the layout of their work while in progress.

One of the reasons why Next.js is among some of the most prominent frameworks in the JS ecosystem is its set of distinctive features, mainly:

  • Data Fetching – Next.js can house two types of pre-rendering, which can be beneficial when achieving optimal speed. These are Server-Side Rendering (SSR) and Static Generation. With SSR, data can be fetched and rendered upon request time; meanwhile, Static Generation uses already available data and fetches that data at build time, leaving you with a completely static page. The SG method may prove useful when data can be publicly cached or pre-rendered for SEO. Along with the release of Next.js 12, Incremental Static Regeneration (ISR) has been implemented, which makes it possible to update static pages without the need to rebuild the entire page.
  • Typescript – This is a programming language supported by Next.js. It is built on Javascript, which can help you develop and manage large-scale Javascript projects.
  • Redux – One of the most common add-ons or tools used by Next.js. Redux seamlessly integrates with Next.js.
  • Configurability – High configurability allows developers to have a less complex experience when developing their web apps. For example, Routing can become as simple as creating folders on a regular desktop.

These features attract developers seeking to build pages, such as landing pages, SEO-friendly websites, e-Commerce stores, and the like.

Pros and cons of Next.js

Depending on your goal, the length of usage, and production requirements, these pros and cons will help you get a deeper understanding of what you can do with Next.js.

Advantages of using Next.js

Given that the framework works on top of React, it is fair to say that the advantages posed can be similar to those stated in the previous sections. However, the framework's intricate and specific features help it stand out and separate itself from React. Here are some of the advantages of using Next.js.

#1: Use lesser coding

Compared to React and other frameworks working with React, Next.js requires less code. With lesser code, Developers can simply create a page and link to the component in the header. Thanks to this, the code readability is better.

#2: Better rendering speed

With SSR and Static Generation, projects built with Next.js can be faster by allowing a smarter and more efficient way of handling data.

Components are rendered on the spot, making it easier for developers to follow through with edits as they go. All they have to do is refresh the page.

Next.js also allows you to import CSS styles from a JS file to be used in-line for fast rendering.

#3: SEO-friendly

Creating titles, subheadings, text, and keywords for each page are made easier with Next.js using the Featured Head component. This allows for a more optimized experience when dealing with SEO best practices.

Moreover, image optimization is also better handled in this framework, enabling devs to receive and use the latest image formats (such as WebP) for better crawlability and indexing.

#4: Highly configurable and customizable

Developers can easily set up their workspace with Next.js, as it uses plugins, such as Babel, making it highly customizable. The deployment process is simple and intuitive by design, allowing it to launch apps quickly. It also supports third-party APIs.

Disadvantages of Using Next.js

Despite having extensive features, Next.js does have a few flaws developers must consider before diving into the framework. Here is a list of the disadvantages of using Next.js.

#1: Routing is too simplified

Although it aims to be clear and straightforward, its routing system is simply a file system that can be insufficient for some projects. To use dynamic routes, Node.js server is needed.

#2: Small community

In the world of code, having large communities enables developers to compare notes and provide patches, updates, and the like to ensure that the community navigates the program easily.

Having a relatively small community can leave new developers stuck when encountering a bug or a problem, which could hinder them from moving forward with their project. A survey conducted by Statista shows that Next.js is used only by 13.52% of developers compared to React.js, which sits at 42.62%.

Most Used Web Frameworks Among Developers Worldwide, as of 2022 - horizontal bar graph

Comparing its features: Next.js vs React

In this section, let us have a point-to-point comparison of Next.js and React as well as see how its aspects differ from each other.

Speed of coding

The main selling point of Next.js, as far as code is concerned, is its ability to provide fewer coding needs to developers in comparison to React. Although Next.js sits on top of React to function, its myriad of tools allows devs to create pages and link them to component headers straightforwardly.

On the other hand, React uses its vast and robust library to speed up its coding process. It also houses its own framework, Create React App, to help it integrate its library better into websites.

Performance

Next.js inherently has a faster performance due to its ability to house both SSR and static generation, which incredibly increases the rendering speed for most of the apps. React, however, relies on using its virtual DOM to enhance your app performance.

Documentation

Due to the speed of updates it releases, React possesses several problems when it comes to documentation. Although it has a large community, official and unofficial documentation of the latest version is sparse simply because it constantly releases new versions and patches.

Next.js, on the other hand, has a dedicated webpage under Vercel that keeps track of all its patches, updates, and any issues that developers may encounter, making it easier for devs to keep track of the latest update with the platform.

Features

To put it simply, React is a JS library, while Next.js is a framework that works on top of React. The features provided by React are through third-party or external tools that are available within its library, while Next.js has a myriad of tools built within its system.

Server-side rendering

Next.js supports server-side rendering and static generation to help you reduce its render time, while React uses server-side rendering for SEO purposes to address its crawlability issues. However, SSR is innate to Next.js, while React requires users to install SSR first.

Developers community

Given that React has existed for a longer time, it has a larger following and a larger community that helps developers get through their projects by providing educational documentation whenever possible.

Next.js, on the other hand, has a smaller community with fewer developers. This could hinder you from receiving up-to-date documentation on bugs, issues, or fixes you may need when you encounter problems within the platform.

Configuration

Next.js is highly configurable, allowing developers to comfortably work with the platform by housing numerous tools and third-party APIs. This allows developers to create an entire web application with Next.js, rather than just purely UI.

React, on the other hand, caters more to creating complex and beautiful UI, limiting its tool configurability for tools that support UI-making and single-page apps.

Where to use React?

As a JS library, react is used for numerous reasons. React is ideal for building dynamic, SEO-friendly websites, mobile applications, single-page applications, dashboards, and visualization tools.

Applications of note that use React are:

  • Facebook
  • Netflix
  • Reddit
  • BBC
  • Airbnb

In other words, it is usually for apps that rely heavily on their UI to cater to their users without needing to load the entire website for results constantly.

Where to use Next.js?

Next.js is ideal for developers seeking to build landing pages, SEO-friendly websites, e-Commerce stores, and other web applications requiring speedy and high-performing load times.

Here are the most notable applications that was made with Next.js:

  • Twitch.tv
  • TikTok
  • Hulu
  • Binance

Simply put, Next.js is ideal for websites and platforms involving a large number of users engaging with complex data influxes.

Pick the JS framework that works best for you

Developing a web app is no easy task. It requires focus and determination – along with significant coding and design prowess – to ensure that you develop a flawless and intuitive application for your users.

In the JS ecosystem, Next.js and React are two of the prominent platforms for web app development that provide numerous features to help you ease the development process. Whether you need a more straightforward platform or the flexibility to deliver simple yet complex web apps, both frameworks are capable of providing developers with all of the tools.

Putting your needs on a par with the pros and cons of each framework will help you to determine the best platform for your next development project.

Choosing the proper framework for your next project is a key to success. It enables you to create projects that fulfill business goals and achieve an uninterrupted seamless development process.

Finding the proper framework can be challenging due to the sheer amount of Javascript (JS) libraries and frameworks available. But despite the variety of choices, two frameworks are widely used by developers and companies alike: Next.js and React.

Let us dive in and discuss the critical differences between Next.js and React to help you figure out the best framework for your next frontend development project.

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