What is Next.js? Should you use it?

What is Next.js? Is it the right JavaScript framework for you?

Are you looking for a new framework to build your next web app?

There are many frameworks out there nowadays, but Next.js stands out.

It promises fast rendering, an easy way to implement Universal JavaScript, even easier routing and a lot more all in one package.

But is Next.js the right choice for you?

This article will give you the power to understand whether Next.js fits your needs or not.

What is Next.js?

Next.js is a framework for creating universal React applications.

Universal here means that it will render your React app on both client and server sides, thus enabling you to create fast, interactive apps even with slow backend servers.

The configuration is very minimal, and the development experience is extremely smooth. It comes with some cool features like automatic code splitting, pre-fetching for faster UX, SEO optimizations, PWA (progressive web app) support out of the box and much more.

Advantages of Using Next.js

Next.js provides an out-of the box solution for server side rendering (SSR) of React components to help you avoid issues related with caching, load and so on but it wasn’t entirely impossible before Next.js came around! With just using React, it required a lot more tweaking than we would like sometimes, when all these other things took away time from what we should spend building business logic into our applications instead.

Routing

Next.js comes with a router system that is very similar to what the React Router provides, while also making it easy for you to add custom routes.

Flexible page generation

Next.js can also help you with incremental static regeneration (ISR) and static site generation (SSG). These two techniques are SEO friendly ways to build websites that take less time than regular, dynamic applications because they only load the HTML needed at runtime without rebuilding it each time users provide new input on their website or app screens; this speeds up page loads drastically.

Speed

If performance of your app is more important than anything else, Next.js is for you. It is speed-centric.

It offers pre-fetching of content when users are navigating between pages or even if they are just hovering over links to get to them faster.

The speed of Next.js is especially important now when Google Web Vitals are giving slower websites bad reviews and limiting their exposure to search engines.

Image optimization

Next.js ships with a powerful image processing tool called next/image that includes a variety of built-in performance optimizations to help you achieve good Core Web Vitals.

The optimizations include features that prevent Cumulative Layout Shift.

The combination of these optimizations result in much better user experience, increased loading speeds and better search ranking.

Development experience

Although Next.js is a framework to create production ready applications, its dev experience is what developers love the most.

It offers features like automatic code splitting and hot-reloading so you don't need to re-build your application as you make changes.

The Vercel team makes sure that the documentation is very well written. Next's GitHub features hundreds of examples to help you with configuration and use cases.

The built-in Typescript support is a lifesaver too. Many other frameworks require a separate Typescript plugin to provide you with type safety. This is great since nowadays it is the de facto standard for JavaScript, especially in enterprise applications.

Graph showing downloads for Next.js npm package. More than 1.9 million weekly downloads.
Next.js npm package gets more than 1.9 million downloads per week.

API Routes

You can also use Next.js to create API routes easily, even if they require authentication.

This is very useful for developers who are building an application that needs to fetch data from another location and display it in their React app.

Deployment

You can deploy Next.js app in seconds using Vercel. It allows you to deploy the app without having to configure a server. Features such as Automatic SSL, Edge Functions, Git Integration and Analytics make it one of the best serverless providers available for JavaScript.

If you don't want to use Vercel, Next.js is also compatible with many other deployment platforms, like Heroku and Amazon Web Services(AWS).

Fast prototyping

Next.js is great for prototyping. It has very minimal dependencies, so you can easily try it out. The codebase is clean and there are not too many configuration files. Also, if you are not sure about how to structure your React applications, Next.js comes with a default folder structure you can use with no configuration necessary.

CMS Connection

If you already have an existing CMS, you can easily integrate Next.js with it using Rest API or GraphQL.

For example, if you are building a React app with Next.js and want to display data from your existing WordPress site, you can do that by just adding a few lines of code to pull data from the WordPress API.

Why not just use React?

In most cases, you don't need to use Next.js unless your application is dynamic and needs SSR for SEO optimizations or similar reasons.

The performance benefits of using Next.js are impressive but it might not always be the right choice depending on your project requirements.

What Next.js Does NOT Do?

While we love the stuff that Next.js does, it only solves a subset of problems associated with creating SPA’s in React.

For example, if you need a ton of features from your router, you might want to take React Router into consideration instead. Also, if you have a large app and are looking for routing solutions that scale well with size, Next.js may not be the best solution.

There is a very low entry barrier to get started with Next.js for prototyping

Who uses Next.js?

Given that Next.js is a pretty new framework, it still has a long way to go in terms of adoption by enterprises. However, a number of startups and individual developers have adopted it as their go-to framework for creating React based apps. Here are some of the companies that use Next.js:

  • TikTok
  • Twitch
  • Netflix
  • Adidas These examples show that Next.js can be used to create production-ready applications and internal company web apps. Next.js is not going away soon. In fact, it’s being actively developed by Vercel, which is a pretty big name in the JS community.
Screenshot of TikTok homepage using Next.js
TikTok is using Next.js.

Future of Next.js

Next.js is still a relatively new framework compared to some of the more battle tested frameworks out there, but it has been getting a lot of attention from the community already and with significant reason! In fact, it was one of the top trending repositories on GitHub in 2018, showing that it’s definitely going places.

Conclusion

Next.js might be the perfect choice for you more of less work with React. It's relatively easy to learn especially if you already have experience with other frameworks like React Router or Webpack.

Also, it gives us the ability to quickly prototype new features on our apps without having to worry about extensive build steps that are required in some other common solutions.

Moreover

Next.js is a great framework for creating React applications. It has a very minimalistic codebase and comes with many features out of the box, allowing you to focus on building your application rather than dealing with configurations.

Also, its documentation is great and if anything goes wrong or you have some questions, there is a very helpful community willing to answer them.

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