With Next.js, your company gets the privilege to develop and deploy future-ready applications that your users would love to interact with. This blog is all about exploring the advantages of Next.js and understanding what makes this platform so unique. You will get detailed insights into the basics of Next.js, its importance, best practices to implement it, and much more. So, let’s understand it in detail.
What is Next JS?
With Next.js, you can easily build hybrid apps that hold both statistically generated and server side rendered pages. To put it simply, your pages would be reactive in every manner as the framework pushes your app’s client side to offer complete interactivity and interoperability. Some famous companies such as Hulu, Twitch, Uber, Netflix, and Nike also use Next JS to build their successful applications.
Here are the key features of the Next JS UI framework to give you a better idea.
Image Component and Optimization
The image component next/image is an extension of the HTML <img> element designed to satisfy modern web development needs. It consists of an array of built-in optimizations such as visual stability, asset flexibility, faster page loads, performance enhancement, etc., to help you achieve desired Core Web Vitals.
Get access to actual visitor data to analyze real experience scores. The framework helps you gather web vitals from real devices that your visitors use. You gain actionable insights into the source code and pages that are contributing to the score. This helps in quick pivoting and iteration to improve overall performance and workflow.
Next JS facilitates automatic bundling and compilation to create new apps via create-next-app. This feature is optimized for production from the start to support Node JS 12.22.0 or later versions. It also offers complete assistance for platforms like macOS, Linux, and Windows (including WSL).
Hybrid Data Fetching
Depending on your app’s use case, you can render your content in several ways with Next JS Server Side Rendering and Server Side Generation (SSG). You can also update or create content for a particular use case at runtime with the help of Incremental Static Regeneration (ISR).
Incremental Static Regeneration(ISR)
You can develop or modify your static pages with this framework. It enables your NextJS developers to use static generation page-by-page with Incremental Static Regeneration and avoid the complexities of rebuilding the site. With this, you can achieve high scalability while retaining the advantages of being static.
The Next JS framework offers automatic TypeScript configuration and compilation for APIs, Pages, and more. This built-in support feature gives an integrated TypeScript experience to start a new project from scratch or make changes to an existing one. You get enough room to exploit custom compiler options for the same.
Any changes and edits made to your React components can be viewed instantly with Fast Refresh. It is a default feature for all Next JS apps on 9.4 or the latest versions. With this, you get a live-editing experience and instantaneous feedback to keep your app up and running in accordance with the component state.
The framework is driven by a file-system-based router that eliminates the need to configure any URL for routing purposes. This router promotes automatic routing around pages. It converts each component in the pages’ directory into a route with an added provision to define nested, index, and dynamic routes.
API routes is an important Next JS feature that helps you develop API seamlessly. Basically, it helps to create API endpoints that offer robust backend functionality. It focuses on the server side only bundles without making any changes or increasing the size of your client side bundling.
Built-in CSS Support
Code-splitting and Bundling
How to Approach Next JS?
After understanding the basics, it is time to consider some essential tools and technologies that can help you kickstart your development journey with Next JS. You need to make sure that you along with your team are well acquainted with the below.
These technologies are the key to establishing a robust frontend web development environment. Some of the most important topics include Document Object Model (DOM) elements in HTML/CSS, basic attributes and tags in CSS and HTML properties, and pseudo-elements, box model, pseudo-selectors and selectors, layout systems (grid and flexbox) in CSS.
Another significant consideration is to have a good command of Next JS React concepts and functional components. You can also learn React separately and get exposed to key topics like JSX expressions, state management with useEffect and useState hooks, fetching data with React Query, and routing with React-router. Familiarity with a layout system like Tailwind CSS or Material UI can also help you stand out.
Next JS 12.1: What’s New?
Every new version of Next JS is bringing in a unique set of advantages for its users. The same goes for its latest 12.1 version, which was released in February 2022. The highlights include the most requested features, bug fixes, performance improvements, and additional functionalities. Now, you can use the on-demand ISR (Beta) feature to globally revalidate pages using getStaticProps faster and better than ever before. The release has extended further support for styled-components, importSource, legacy-decorators, relay, remove-react-properties, and remove-console with its Rust-based Speedy Web Compiler (SWC).
Next JS 12.1 has introduced an all-new next/jest plugin that offers zero-configuration Jest support via SWC. Minification with SWC has shown some great results and is now in Release Candidate (RC) with this current version to become the complete default for the upcoming 12.2 release. Self-hosting enhancements have been introduced to reduce the size of Docker images. Another important update is that users can now exploit React 18, Server Side Suspense, Streaming SSR, and Server Components with the Alpha version.
There are many other improvements and additions like built-in ESLint integration, faster image optimization, fast refresh while using Middleware, and the inclusion of node-fetch to improve security and create a smaller installation size that will surely help Next JS developers make the most out of the Next JS framework. To check the full list of features with detailed information, click here.
Next JS Pros and Cons
Whether you are a business owner, marketer, or developer, leveraging Next JS app development will help you reap various benefits in the long run. But there are also some limitations to this platform that you need to consider. Let’s take a look at them separately.
Next JS offers total control over online stores, mobile applications, websites, or any other digital products. This positively impacts your sales funnel and helps you increase the conversion rate.
Responsiveness and Adaptability
Mobile or web apps built with Next JS possess higher adaptability and flexibility. They have the potential to satisfy every screen size. They can resolve multiple user requests quickly and efficiently.
The framework successfully delivers static products and solutions that have no direct connection with the user information, dependencies, company database, or any other sensitive data. This ultimately increases the level of data security.
The predefined components of Next JS quicken the entire app development process. It helps you plan faster releases while gathering feedback to invest your time, capital, and effort in core production areas.
The Next JS applications or websites are easily accessible from any mobile device. This helps your company to present and sell products and services across multiple sales channels worldwide.
The Next JS development community is continuously growing to fulfill the demand for professionals across the industry. You can easily hire Next.js developers for your project as and when required. Check tech expertise of dedicated developers here.
Software development with Next JS delivers custom experiences. It creates enterprise-grade apps and websites that act as a key differentiator for businesses and also optimizes your marketing efforts.
Next JS is driven by static development which can negatively impact the build time of your apps and websites. Completing complex tasks within stipulated timelines will become a triggering issue.
As the framework is unable to render built-in front pages, it becomes imperative for developers to create the complete frontend layer from scratch. This leads to uninvited, additional expenses.
Built-in State Manager
Next JS lacks a built-in state manager to satisfy UI programming requirements. To regulate the interface and explore Next JS state management capabilities, you need to utilize technologies like Redux and MobX.
The framework is low on plugins in comparison to its competitors like Gatsby JS. The absence of the needed plugin support makes your app development complex and limits overall project progress.
How does Next JS Work?
Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of the Next JS framework, we can move forward to understanding how this framework operates. This will help you make better decisions while planning your product launch and deployment.
Mostly, the workflow is driven by two separate environments known as Static Export and Custom Server. Let’s understand them briefly.
Here HTML pages are created for your site. With this, you get the needed assistance to serve static files and ensure faster experiences across the entire site. This can be the go-to solution if your site or app consists of fewer pages. Besides, if you are not focusing on build times to export the pages to HTML, then Static Export is what you need to opt for.
Here a Node server is deployed to generate pages or serve static ones dynamically. For heavy and larger sites, creating a Static Export for individual pages can be a complex, time-consuming task. But if you have a lot of pages to cater to during a static export, this approach can help to avoid long build times.
For instance, if you have an eCommerce app with thousands of pages, then a Custom Server can be the best solution. But when you want to build a Next JS progressive web app, Static Export can help.
Why use Next JS?
Next JS is already known for its SSR and static web application building capabilities. But there are some other reasons why you need to choose this framework in the first place. Let’s take a look at them one by one.
Users always want an application or a website that supports smooth navigation and loads quickly. Next JS helps you achieve this by creating static web pages that are 10X faster than a dynamic web page.
Next JS helps you load content quickly thereby enabling search engines crawlers to peruse and boost your product rankings. It successfully augments your search engine optimization capabilities and helps you generate more traffic.
Static solutions depend on basic HTML files that need less hosting space to be fully functional. These solutions can help your brand gain the needed reputation by investing in the right resources. It is a cost-effective way to save resources and plan your product development.
As apps built with Next JS are backed by pure HTML files, they do not show any kinds of database issues. Instead of turning off users with error messages, you get the opportunity to induce a sense of reliability and comfort.
The Next JS framework is used by software developers to experiment with different tools and technologies. It facilitates some of the most popular technology integrations like Strapi, Sanity, React, Material UI, Builder, and so on.
With Next JS, you don’t have to limit yourself to templates or any other plugins. The platform gives you total freedom to customize your app frontend as per your requirements. It helps you replace or fine-tune features and functionalities to deliver nothing but the best.
What is Next JS Used for? When to Use it?
Experts recommend Next JS for several different purposes. It helps developers in addressing many pain points and generating the best possible outcomes. Some of the key solutions that this framework helps you deliver include,
- Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
- Landing Pages or Single Web Pages
- Web Portals
- Client-side Rendered Applications – SPA/MPA
- SaaS Products – complex and demanding mobile and web applications
- Static Websites
- Centralized Dashboards and Admin Panels
- Interactive UIs
- Large multi-user websites – eCommerce, retail, finance, etc.
Don’t forget to check the prerequisites to build a successful Next.js eCommerce application in our insightful blog on “Next JS eCommerce: Why Your Online Retail Business Needs it?”
Understanding when to use Next JS is really important to bridge the gap between your project requirements and business objectives. Here is the compilation of areas where this framework can be put to its best use.
- To effectively manage continuously growing traffic.
- To improve the performance of your digital products and services.
- To ensure complete application scalability.
- To observe low maintenance costs.
- To boost marketing channels.
- To produce tailored user experiences.
Next JS Best Practices to Create a Production-ready Environment for Your App
Having a production-ready environment is of utmost importance in order to create a React app with Next JS. And for that, you need to follow a certain set of NextJS best practices. Here are some recommendations that you can count on.
Set Up Logging
Ensure that logging is set up in a way that it supports various types of logging including console.log in the browser and stdout on the server. You can use tools like Pino to establish better Next JS compatibility.
Set Up Error Handling
Develop a habit of setting up a proper error handling ecosystem to configure 500 (Error) and 404 (Not Found) pages effectively. Along with using the default Next JS framework theme, you can use a tool like Sentry to log and track unhandled exceptions.
Measure Performance Metrics
One of the most important practices is to measure performance regularly. You can run Lighthouse to monitor accessibility, SEO, and overall production. Ask your developers to increase their familiarity with the metrics of Core Web Vitals related to different environments.
Improve Loading Performance
Make sure that you pay close attention to improving the loading performance. You can achieve this with script optimization, automatic font optimization, and next/image and automatic image optimization.
The Next JS framework has become an integral part of the React ecosystem and is all set to make the web cleaner, better, and more user-centric. Whether you are planning to launch an online store or a complex application to serve millions of users, this framework can help you expand your user base and grow exponentially. You just need to partner with the reliable digital transformation company that has the potential to understand your unique business requirements and deliver relevant solutions without compromising on quality.
Pritam Barhate, with an experience of 14+ years in technology, heads Technology Innovation at Mobisoft Infotech. He has a rich experience in design and development. He has been a consultant for a variety of industries and startups. At Mobisoft Infotech, he primarily focuses on technology resources and develops the most advanced solutions.