Next.js: The React “Killer” or Just Another Variation?

February 24, 2023 • 1724 Views • 13 min read

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Tetiana Stoyko

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The number of JavaScript-based software products is countless. Frankly, as soon as it appeared, such software solutions started gaining an audience and popularity. The explanation is very obvious and simple: these software technologies are very easy to comprehend and learn, yet they can be used in numerous cases with multiple purposes.

Yet, the number of different technologies, based on JS is countless. The only possible way to make your choice is to look for similar technologies and compare them. Frankly, in the case of JavaScript, it may not be the best idea to simply look for simply best JS frameworks. As a matter of fact, the JS market is full of alternatives, which are very similar to each other, giving developers a chance to choose the development environment, which will be the most suited for them. One such example is a comparison between Reat and Next.js.

Frankly, these two software solutions are regularly set side by side. But what is the reason for such a comparison?

React and Next Popularity On The Market

According to Statista, both React and Next.js are among the most popular web development frameworks as of 2022. React is probably one of the most popular JS-based libraries of all time. The reason is simple: it proposes numerous features and is quite easy to learn. Moreover, it is very flexible and can be combined with a wide range of other similar technologies, or add-ons.

React JavaScript Library

As a matter of fact, it is wrong to include it in the list of frameworks, because originally it s a library. As its developers said, it is a library, designed specifically for building UI. In other words, despite all the advantages and capabilities of this technology, React is still a JavaScript library, meaning that it is still limited and won’t be an ultimate solution by itself.

To rephrase it, there is very little reason in using React as a standalone solution, all its advantages can be revealed only if combined with other React-friendly tools like extra libraries, code samples, frameworks, etc. Fortunately, the variety of such extra options is huge, and React applications originally easily deal with complex structures, like multiple combinations and collections. It is possible to divide all the possible approaches into 3 main groups:

  1. Ready-to-use React-based frameworks, which are basically ready-made solutions and allow starting the development with almost no extra steps.
  2. Basic collection and launch systems. To make it simple, these are a combination of React and some very popular and useful extensions like create-react-app, or Vite.js for easier creation of Single Page Applications (SPA). Also, this approach includes the installation of other support libraries like react-router for navigation, react-helmet for updating headers, etc. Surprisingly, such “pre-builds” are very common among React developers.
  3. Custom projects. This group includes any other React-based software project, which can’t be encountered in any of the previous ones. Usually, these are the projects, where developers use only basic libraries, webpack configurations, linters, folder structures, etc.

Next.js Benefits and Features

At the same time, Next.js is a great illustration of the first group. In simple words, it is a react-based framework, which can be considered as the extended and updated version of React framework. Basically, it proposes most of the original React features, but also provides the developers with some extra functionality.

Contrary to React, Next.js is a ready-to-use solution, therefore is known as a framework. To make it simple, Next developers are able to start the development process from scratch with no additional tools. Moreover, it extends the overall available functionality. One of the most well-known advantages of Next.js over React is the support of server-side rendering (SSR), which makes Next.js apps much more friendly to search engine optimization (SEO). Still, Next also supports client-side rendering, which allows users to use it for creating traditional SPAs.

To sum up, Next.js seems to be an elevated version of React. Supporting most of the features of this JavaScript library, Next developers are also provided with some extended options and services like automatic code splitting, static site generation, and others. All of these features are also combined with improved performance and simply an easier development process. To add some more, Next.js is not much harder to learn, than React. Eventually, it seems that there is a clear winner in comparison between Next.js vs React. But is it though?

Comparing Next.js vs React

Truth be told, such a comparison is not actually correct. As we mentioned before, React is a library, while Next.js is a framework, which is built on top of React. So, it is hard to compare these two directly.

Despite the visible advantages of Next, it must be said, that it is rather one of the possible use purposes of React. In fact, React has already become similar to Python, when it comes to using cases. To put it in other words, it is a highly flexible library, which can be changed and modified, performing various required tasks.

So, on the one hand, when we talk about the differences between Next.js vs React, we have to admit, that Next is a more preferable choice for web application development thanks to its numerous features. To cut a long story short, Next developers can create a user-friendly web application, which will also be more suited for SEO.

However, SEO is not the only aspect worth considering. Unfortunately, despite all the advantages and features, Next is not the ultimate solution. In reality, sometimes React may be a more sufficient choice. Thanks to its flexibility and multiple powerful tools, this library can be used to achieve totally different goals. Yet, the most notable advantage of React projects is the fact, that it was designed to build reusable components and fast user interfaces. Besides, unlike Next.js, React is extremely free and unstructured. So, there are barely any limitations and restrictions. Thus, React developers can apply out-of-box solutions and sometimes build apps, which are harder or even impossible to develop without React components, or the final result will be simply more optimized and show better performance results.

Nevertheless, Next.js benefits are a great argument for considering this framework for adoption, when it comes to developing dynamic web applications. The combination of an enormous number of native tools, server-side rendering capabilities, an easy basic setup process, its flexibility, and the ability to create a full-stack application makes the Next.js framework a supreme and popular tool for creating different applications, especially when the development team understands what are the most suited use cases for such technology.

Top Next.js Use Cases

As we stated before, server-side rendering allows the creation of SEO-friendly websites. Yet, this is not the only advantage of SSR. In fact, it helps to improve app performance as well. Next.js also supports static site generation, which allows generating of pre-built pages at build time for even faster page loads and better performance.

All of the foregoing is a great mixture for at least a few types of websites. Additionally, the results will be much better than if they were created with the use of pure React.

Single-Page Applications

First of all, we have to talk about SPAs. Clearly, they can be developed with both React and Next.js. Yet, in the second case, Next.js developers can build SPAs with client-side routing, data fetching, and other native features, while still taking advantage of SSR or SSG for improved performance.

As a result, SPAs, based on Next.js will be more productive and fast, being also SEO-friendly. Actually, SEO is one of the major Next.js benefits, which encourages developers to choose this particular framework instead of other React-based alternatives.

E-commerce Store Apps

Next.js can be used to build complex e-commerce applications. Once again, the Next.js SEO-friendly nature is a great argument for choosing Next.js over the competitors.

In addition to server-side rendering, other advanced features like pre-built pages for faster performance, and automatic code splitting, which reduces the required amount of JavaScript code sample implementations for each page, are helping to improve both the ease of development and user experience.

Content-Driven Web Pages

Finally, Next is a great instrument for creating content-driven web applications. All Next.js benefits are providing development specialists with the needed software solutions, that are able to improve the final results and increase the functionality of content-driven apps.

Is Next.js Better than React.js?

There is no right answer to this question. Indeed, in some cases, Next.js is a better choice than other React alternatives. For instance, when search engine optimization is crucial for the software product you are going to develop. Yet, even pure React can sometimes overcome Next.js. For example, it is not a secret, that React is much more popular, so it is easier and faster to find a dedicated team for the creation of your app.

Summing up all the foregoing, we can say that Next.js is truly a great alternative to React. Nevertheless, it is also just one such optional version of the library. Ultimately, despite all the differences, Next is still based on React. So, we can assume, that it still relies on React. For example, it is preferable to be familiar with React and JavaScript, at least in case you want to use the full potential of Next.js benefits.

At the same time, the increasing popularity of Next.js directly impacts the React library and its strong community of developers. For instance, one of the most recent events in this field was the appearance of the ability to convert a React app to Next.js. So, both these technologies are codependent.

For more illustrative examples of the Next possibilities you can not only read the documentation of this framework but to check some case studies.

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