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Next.js vs React: Which Framework Is Better For your Front-end?

May 4, 202111 min read

Robert Krajewski

Co-founder and CEO of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, mentor and startup advisor.

Creating any project is a daunting task in itself, but modern technology can make the development process less painful. Thanks to them, you can concentrate on your business goals.


To make it easier for you to choose between these technologies, we review them in detail from time to time in our blog posts. Our goal is to help you make the right decision about what to use in which case.


Thus, after comparing React with Vue and Angular, we decided to take a look at the next (pun intended) JS framework. Let's see what the Next.js vs React battle can bring us!


Without straying far from JS, why not read JavaScript Definitive Guide For Entrepreneurs and Product Owners? It will give you an in-depth insight into this technology and help you learn even more about various front-end frameworks.



What is Next.js?

Next.js is a framework created by Vercel. It is open-source based on Node.js and Babel and integrates with React for developing single-page apps. This makes server-side rendering very easy. As per nextjs.org:

"With Next.js, server rendering React applications has never been easier, no matter where your data is coming from."

Apart from that, Next.js supports static export, pre-rendering and has many more nice features like automatic building size optimization, faster developer compilation, and a preview mode.


In my opinion, the current version of Next.js is something that React has been missing for a long time. 


It has all the functionality you need to create a ready-to-go application. Plus, the documentation is great, and it's getting more and more popular with front-end developers.


Next.js is doing really well, but that doesn't mean you should always use this framework.

What is React?

React was originally created by Facebook, and today has become one of the most popular front-end libraries. 


React is one of the most used JavaScript frameworks. Several years ago, React took the JS world by storm and became its undisputed leader. React recommends using a reactive approach and functional programming paradigm. 


React is trying to set industry standards. For instance, Redux is considered the best library for enterprise-grade React applications. At the same time, you need to think about the following: Redux can seriously hinder development productivity. Redux makes your job more difficult when you introduce a new feature, and you have to change too many things throughout your application. So we are again faced with the same dilemma: should I choose a simpler library?


You will need to create your own workflow using React. This is a more complicated path than just using what other JavaScript frameworks give you: a lot of ready-made tools built into the framework.


Also note that React is considered more as a library (a tool that can be used in any project, like a hammer) and less as a framework (a whole architectural design, which says what kind of hammers should be used and where), hence the need for the creation of your own workflow and one of those workflows evolved into a framework named... Next.js.

Why should we compare them?

When choosing any software library or framework, developer experience is usually taken into account. When I talk about developer experience, I mean how developers actually complete a task. Developers tend to favor libraries or frameworks that are fun and easy to use. This is the main reason we have leading libraries and frameworks today.


In the React world, Next.js has become a popular framework for "getting to the point." As I know, React fans take Next.js and really enjoy working with it in their projects. 


Next.js is built on top of React to make development easier. Next.js takes a little getting used to, but even developers new to the front-end world can get started relatively quickly. So, it comes out that there is definitely a different experience building a project with Next.js and React.


This post compares the experiences of Next.js and React developers. We've already gone through some background, so let's go deeper into the details, discussing what it is like to initially launch a project, learn these technologies, find talents, use documentation, and do advanced steps with Next.js and React.

Next.js vs React: Speed of Coding & Easiness of Coding

If you want to create pages for a React project, you must create a component and then add it to the router. 


If you want to create pages for the Next.js project, you simply add the page to the pages folder and the required header component link. This makes your life easier because you write less code, and the project is easy to follow.


If you're just getting started with React, then Create React App is a great way to learn it. The CRA also gives you a head start if you want to use React to build a Single Page Application (SPA).


Since Create React App is only responsible for creating the front-end assembly, you can use it with a server of your choice, such as Node. You should also be aware that CRA uses Babel and Webpack under the hood, but don't worry, no knowledge is required about them.


In other words, Create React App is a tool that saves you the hassle of setting up and customizing your development environment. All you have to do is run one command that will set up the tools you need to run your React project. So instead of wasting time on customization, you can immediately focus on building your application.



Next.js vs React: Performance

Apps built with Next.js are incredibly fast thanks to static sites and server-side rendering. They are effective by default thanks to a host of performance optimization features such as Image Optimization introduced in Next 10.


So, if you choose Next.js, you can benefit from automatic server rendering and code splitting (which will improve performance). Besides, SSR (Server Side Rendering) will greatly improve the performance of your application.


Talking about React, there are things that rule it out of the debate. Out of the box it only supports client-side rendering, which is not enough if you want to build a high-performance application.


Winner: Next.js

Next.js vs React: Features

Next.js takes advantage of React to help developers build single-page apps.


It has:

  • Server-side rendering (SSR)
  • Static export (SSG)
  • Pre-rendering
  • Automatic build size optimization
  • Faster development compilation


All of these features will help you create a workable and ready-to-go application.


React is easily extensible and can include features like routing as well as state management patterns with libraries like Redux. React is minimal but can be customized for just about any project.


To conclude, here I'll leave the right to choose the winner to your project's requirements.


Verdict: Draw

Next.js vs React: Documentation

This is obvious but often overlooked. While the trendy home page of some frameworks might catch your eye, you still need additional courses, books, tutorials, and articles beyond the boring and dry documentation to get you started.


In any software project, good documentation can really help you easily use the tools, figure out which libraries to use, etc. There are fantastic docs options available for both React and Next.js.


Next.js has a "learn-by-doing" documentation set that walks you through things like routing and component creation. React also has a similar setup, with several tutorials that explain the basics.


To learn more about React at a high level, check out the official React documentation. And in order to get to know Next.js close, we suggest reading the official Next.js documentation.


Verdict: Draw

Next.js vs React: Community

There are other personal reasons why you might choose a popular, widely used framework. What happens if you run into a problem, and the communities really don't have anyone to turn to for help? Since you are the docs yourself, the chances are good that you will be wasting a lot of time.


With React, you can rely on a great community of developers who have created some blog posts, YouTube videos. You can also find content on Stack Overflow and even in the React docs themselves. It took years of development as the library matured.


With Next.js, there are fewer formal tutorials and more questions and conversations from GitHub. The Next.js team members themselves are very accessible in the open-source world.


There are many key contributors in the React community who are available as well. In both React and Next.js, an active community provides a very positive developer experience.


react vs next js


Verdict: Draw

Next.js vs React: Talent Pool

As a rule, we estimate the approximate quantity of developers with the help of data from the Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2020.


However, in this case, given the huge popularity of React and the tiny Next.js community, there is no sense in comparing this area.


React is the clear leader here.


Every Next.js developer has to know React, every React developer has to know JavaScript, as those are pieces built on top of each other and there's no way to use React without JavaScript, and there's no way to use Next.js without React, so there's no way of Next.js ever being a leader when comparing React to Next.js.


Most front-end job listings require it. It is supported by Facebook, so employers feel "safe" in their choice.


Recall, more than 35% of respondents use React while Next.js wasn't even included in this list.


Since this fact, we can conclude that it will be easier for you to find developers working with React rather than with its opponent in this battle.


Plus, we advise thinking about the future. The more particular devs are on the market, the more opportunities to scale your project you'll have. Concerning developers, if you specialize in something popular and are really good at it, there are many projects for you.


Winner: React

Next.js vs React: Easiness to Learn

To tell the truth, a well-written learning resource will dramatically cut your learning curve. In addition, if your technology has a batch of guides, videos, or courses - you are the lucky one.


What about React vs Next.js, we've already mentioned that both guys have top-notch learning materials.


React has a very low level of difficulty. However, using Next.js requires a little training, but even developers new to the front-end world can get started relatively quickly.


Verdict: Draw

Next.js vs React: Cost of Development

Neither Next.js nor React doesn't enter the list of the top-paying technologies. On top of that, both are open-source, which means free. Therefore, building an app with any of these solutions won't cost you a fortune. 


Given all the mentioned features, isn't it a great deal?


The only difference between React and Next.js is that you need some time to find experienced Next.js devs or devote a few days to surf through tons of React programmers.


Verdict: Draw


Summing all the written up, we offer turning to the next brief table.


next js vs react overview

Main Pros and Cons

Benefits of using Next.js

  • It's incredibly fast. Apps built with Next.js are incredibly fast due to static site creation and server-side rendering. 
  • The deployment is simple. One of the goals of Vercel, the company behind Next.js, was to make it as easy as possible to deploy React apps. And they did it - you're just a few clicks away from getting ready for deployment.
  • Ability to use API routes. If you want to bundle your app with third-party APIs, you usually need a native API, and Next.js makes it easy to build. Briefly, Next.js offers API routes that will do all that stuff.
  • Easy to set up. While the CRA setup is tricky, Next.js makes it easy by allowing you to add Webpack loaders or Babel plugins.

Disadvantages of using Next.js

  • It's cocky. Considering Next.js is restricted to using only a file router, you cannot change the way it works with routes. Going forward, you'll need a Node.js server to use dynamic routes.
  • Router. If you later want to use a router other than its own, populated one (or perhaps add Redux), you will find that it is not so flexible.

Pros of Using React

  • Learn and use. It comes with a good set of documentation, tutorials, and training resources. Any developer with JavaScript experience can easily understand and start building web applications using React in a few days. 
  • Building dynamic web applications just got easier. Building a dynamic web app specifically using HTML strings was tricky because it required complex coding, but React solved that problem and made it easier. 
  • Reusable components. React consists of multiple components, and each component has its own logic and controls. These components are responsible for rendering a small, reusable piece of HTML that can be reused wherever you need it. 
  • Increased productivity. React improves performance through the virtual DOM. 
  • Support for convenient tools. React has also gained popularity due to its handy set of tools. These tools make the developer's task clear and simple. 
  • Optimized for SEO. Traditional JavaScript frameworks have an SEO problem. Search engines usually have trouble reading JS-heavy applications. Many web developers have criticized this problem. React solves this task by helping developers navigate various search engines with ease. This is because React apps can run on the server and the virtual DOM will render and return to the browser just like a normal web page.

Downsides of React

  • High rates of development. High growth rates have both advantages and disadvantages. In the event of the inconvenience that the environment is constantly changing so quickly, some developers do not feel comfortable regularly re-learning new ways of working. It can be difficult for them to accept all these changes with all continuous updates. They need to constantly update their skills and learn new ways of doing business.
  • Updated documentation. This is another disadvantage in constantly updated technologies. React technologies are updated and accelerated so quickly that there is no time to create proper documentation. To overcome this, developers write instructions themselves as new releases and tools become available in their current projects.
  • View part. React only covers the app's UI layers and nothing else. Therefore, you still need to choose other technologies to get a complete set of development tools for your project.

What is Next.js good for?

So, what is Next.js used for? Let's see!

  • To create a landing page. Next.js is loved by marketers who happily use it to create landing pages or other marketing-focused pages.
  • When SEO is needed. If you are looking to create or already have an online store, you need to know that optimization matters. It can give you a competitive edge. Also, thanks to its speed, server-side rendering, and special features, Next.js is the top choice for many when it comes to increasing organic traffic.
  • Create marketing websites. Since our application will be displayed on the server, load times can improve significantly. Especially in cases where visitors are using slower devices.
  • Create an online eCommerce store. Recently Next JS released a powerful e-commerce starter kit that allows you to build high-performance, Google-friendly, and user-friendly online stores.


Some of the best examples include:

What is React good for?

Not every project requires or should use React. As a developer, it's tempting to implement the shiny new library you've learned. However, React is a powerful tool, especially when used in conjunction with stream templating libraries like Redux or MobX. If this is a very simple application, writing it directly in JavaScript is the right choice.


If your project includes many components with different, frequently changing states - active/inactive navigation elements, expanded / collapsed accordion sections, dynamic inputs, active/disabled buttons, username, and permissions - then the project might be a good fit for React. React helps you manage these changing states and dynamically present different views to the user based on the state information.


The declarative nature of React components makes it very easy to deal with these complex structures and control the situation as the application grows in scale and scope.


The most famous use cases:


In an ideal world, you would find yourself in a great engineering team with a prominent product, a strong user society, and powerful tools. In the real world, you will face some of them, but usually, one (or more) of them is missing.


Both React and Next.js provide great opportunities for developers in their own way. React allows you to build things the way you want and is supported by a strong community. Next.js makes your life easier with several tools and conventions available out of the box, and it is also supported by a very active open source community.


In terms of tooling, both React and Next.js are easy to start with. Going beyond the simple "hello world" project, it is pretty easy to find help, whether in documentation or community resources.


React is a magnificent addition to any project. What's even better, it can scale as well if given the opportunity. React is more versatile than Next.js simply because it is a library. The decision to implement it depends on the engineer.


We hope the comparisons and discussions provided here give some insight into how you can use them in your projects.


After all, both React and Next.js provide a solid developer experience. Therefore, we strongly recommend turning for consultancy to our Javascript, Front-end Developers, and React Developers


You'll have a great chance to spend some time discussing the features of your idea with experts matched with your product and industry.


After that, you'll definitely have a clear idea of which development team to hire.


Don't miss a chance to work with real professionals!

Robert Krajewski

Robert is a co-founder and CEO of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, who with passion spreads digital revolution all around the internet. Mentor and advisor at startup accelerators. Loves to learn and discover new business models.

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