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What is Next.js? Practical Introduction

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08/12/2021 |

7 min read

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Have you heard about Next.js, the frontend framework everyone is talking about? The technology has already grown into one of the most popular React tools, even though it’s been around only for a few years.

If your application uses React, you should learn more about the Next.js framework – and perhaps you’ll soon find yourself using it in your everyday work! Who knows, maybe you'll use it for your next app.

Keep on reading this article to learn what Next.js is, how it can improve the performance, UX, and SEO of your app, and what other critical factors made it into such a massive success Next.js is today. 

 

Table of contents: 

  1. What is Next.js and why should you use it?
  2. This is where Next.js comes in
  3. Next.js pros & cons
  4. When to choose Next.js?
  5. Next.js – summary

What is Next.js and why should you use it?

Next.js is a React framework – a frontend development library used to build user interfaces, created on top of React, a JavaScript framework. Next.js is great for web app development, but it can do so much more. The head maintainer of Next.js is Tim Neutkens from Vercel. 

The framework became so popular because it solved a critical problem many web developers encountered in their work. The issue has to do with a web application's way of client-side rendering, i.e., in the browser. 

Single Page Applications (SPAs) offered teams improved UX: they provided additional interactivity on the one hand, and didn’t require reloading from the user on the other. Still, most of such a web app’s content becomes available only after it’s executed in the browser – that proved to be a huge pain point, causing many Single Page Applications to remain almost anonymous to Google, even if they became extremely popular among many users. That happened because web crawlers often found it difficult to read the app’s textual content.

This is where Next.js comes in

The framework provides a ready-to-use solution for server-side rendering of React components. 

By using Next.js, developers can easily render JavaScript code on the server side, and then send simple and indexable HTML to the user side. This was completely impossible before Next.js. Earlier, if you wanted to achieve the same effect, you had to do a lot of work around cashing, server load, and on-demand content. Even the architecture of your application. This of course would leave less time for the business logic. 

Next.js also supports building SEO-friendly websites and web apps, providing both incremental static regeneration (ISR) and static site generation (SSG). When you use Next.js, the HTML code is generated during build time and not during run time. When a user requests a page, they get a pre-made static HTML page. This makes the web app very fast. 

However, in this scenario the application has to be rebuilt with every new input, so it’s a good choice mostly for simple apps where the content doesn’t change much based on user actions. Here a Next. js app is a great choice. For interactive web applications that need to take in a lot of user input, server-side rendering will be a better option. 

Next.js pros & cons

Key benefits of next Next.js

  1. Greater Search Engine Optimization – Introducing server-side rendering can significantly increase the app’s visibility in the search engine (especially compared to client-side rendering in JavaScript). Next.js gives you the SEO benefits of static websites based on text, at the same time allowing you to create a web application that maintains all the functionalities you need and enables some interactivity on top of that.
  2. Customized Open Graph – Single Page Applications make it hard to display metadata for each of the web application's distinct URLs. But with Next.js a frontent developer can automatically alter open graph meta-titles for each page. It also improves the appearance of the URLs on social media. That’s another point scored in SEO-friendliness.
  3. Greater performance Next.js liberates the browser from downloading and executing tons of JavaScript code at once. That’s why it can improve the time to first draw (TTFD) metric, which stands for the amount of time required for the user to see something on the screen. One second is the Holy Grail here. Built-in CSS support and automatic code splitting help here too.
  4. Optimal user experience The better your TTFD, the faster your app becomes useful to people. This, in turn, is more likely to convert them into loyal customers. We all know that waiting for a page to load is one of the biggest turn-offs for users. Its effect on the bounce rate has been documented too. So, enhanced performance is another relevant factor you need to take into account.
  5. Part of the React ecosystem Next.js is basically a few tools that you can use to build a React app. They are all an integral part of the React ecosystem. Next.js was developed specifically to solve the SSR problem for React applications, and now – it’s one of the most popular frontend frameworks. If you’re not using it yet, Next.js can easily become part of your technology stack.

 

Cons of Next.js

Although Next.js is evolving and new features are added to it, it still comes with certain issues:

  1. Cost of flexibility – Since Next.js doesn't have many built-in front pages, developers have to build the entire frontend layer from scratch.
  2. Development and management – If you want to build an e-commerce app with Next.js but don't have an in-house development team, you'll need a committed individual to supervise the development and management.
  3. It's opinionated – Next.js can only use its file-based router; you can't change how it handles routes. As a result, work with dynamic routes will be harder because developers need a Node.js server if they wish to use dynamic routing.
  4. Low number of plugins – compared to other frameworks like Gatsby.js, Next.js doesn’t allow developers to use as many easy-to-adapt plugins.

When to choose Next.js?

What kind of projects can benefit the most from Next.js? If Search Engine Optimization and organic traffic are important factors for your business success, you should do your best to reduce the time to first draw – this is where Next.js can help you. Or if you require OG tags, Next.js is the best choice. 

One area where we see a lot of applications of Next.js is e-commerce. At the same time, Next.js is a great choice for web portals, blogs, or social and streaming services. 

Naturally, you should always analyze all the business needs and expectations. Next.js can be a good choice if your application is available to the public and accessing content doesn’t require authorization.

Next.js – summary

Next.js holds great potential for making web application development smoother and exposing web apps to more users thanks to greater visibility in search engines. Today, Next.js is considered as one of the integral parts of the React ecosystem because it solves one of those critical problems around server rendering. 

Thanks to Next.js, developers get improved SEO when compared to traditional Single Page Applications, much better user experience that boosts performance, and plenty of standardization benefits. 

Are you planning to use Next.js in one of your web development projects? Or perhaps you have already tried this handy React framework and would like to share your experience? Please give us a shout-out in the comments. We look forward to hearing from developers who have worked with this incredible new technology.

Rated: 5.0 / 1 opinions
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