React is one of the most popular libraries for building user interfaces, and Next.js is one of the most popular frameworks for building user interfaces.
Next.js is built using React. So, there are a lot of similarities between them. It’s obvious to get confused between these two.
Let’s dive deep into these two and see how they differ in clarifying the confusion. Let’s start with React.
React: Getting Started
Creating single-page web applications is at its highest peak now. And we can say React is the most popular library out there right now in this domain. It’s not an exaggeration.
Many React packages are available, making the lives of developers easier. When it comes to building web applications, we can create any type of web application with React.
React was developed by Facebook. Now, anyone can contribute to it. And it’s maintained by Facebook.
Let’s check some features of React.
The web applications will update certain parts of it without affecting other parts now, like showing a loader while fetching data and updating that part of the web application with fetched data. It’s updating the DOM in the browser if we talk more technically.
Virtual DOM is a copy of real DOM. When there are any updates, React first updates them in the virtual DOM and compares them with the real DOM. And React will update the real DOM only if there are any changes and changed parts only. So, it makes fewer operations on real DOM, significantly decreasing the update time.
Without libraries like React, the web would have been very slow.
Components are building blocks of the user interface in React. We can say everything in React is a component. These components can be reusable across the React application.
Let’s say we have a button that has some set of styles. In React, we can create a component that is responsible for rendering a button with styles based on the properties we pass to it. We can customize that button component as we want using the props. This is how we can reuse the components across the React application.
Components can help organize our application into small UI blocks. We can arrange them as you want.
JSX is used to define the structure of the UI. Every component will return JSX, which will be rendered in the DOM.
One-Way Data Flow
Data flowing between the components is necessary to make them smaller. If we don’t have data flow between the components, then we have to accommodate everything in a single component.
React follow unidirectional data flow which from parent to child. We can pass data from the parent components to the child components in React. The child component can’t change the state directly in the parent component. It can be done by passing the callbacks.
Unidirectional data flow makes debugging straightforward. Components look way simpler as all components don’t have to maintain the state.
Next.js: Getting Started
Next.js is a react framework for building web applications. It’s built on top of React. It was created by Vercel. So, all the features of React will be available in it. What’s special about Next.js? Let’s see some features which make it special apart from react components.
There are two types of pre-rendering in it. One is Static Site Generation (SSG), and the other is Server Side Rendering (SSR). SSG generates the HTML at build time and reuses the same on other requests.
SSR generates the HTML on each request, making it a little slower than the SSG. Next.js suggests using SSG until it’s mandatory to use SSR.
Next.js also preloads the pages which have links (with Link component) in the current viewing page. This cool feature makes pages load very fast while moving around.
Next.js comes with a built-in routing system. It supports a directory-based routing system. We have to create pages in a certain directory to create the route. In react, we have to use a package to achieve this.
We can create APIs with Next.js like express. It opens a new possibility to create full-stack applications with Next.js. It may not be as efficient as a dedicated server-side framework, but it does the job.
There are other features like image optimization, built-in CSS support, meta tags for each page (for better SEO), etc..; all the features that we see till now are additional features of Next.js on top of React features.
Till now, we have seen different features of React and Next.js. Let’s compare both of them.
React vs. Next.js
There are a lot of similarities between React and Next.js. You already know the reason why there are a lot of similarities between them. The core concepts of them are the same. Let’s compare some things of them side-by-side.
Let’s see a simple Hello World! The component in react and next.js.
If you see the code, there is no difference between them.
React is a library that doesn’t have any particular folder structure. We can arrange the folders and files based on our preference and use case.
Next.js also doesn’t have a strict folder structure to be followed. But, we need to create pages inside the pages folder only for the routing. It’s the only restriction that we have in next.js. We can arrange all other folders and files like react.
Next.js applications are a little faster compared to React applications. Next.js use pre-rendering techniques to make them. But it’s not meant we can’t make React applications fast. We can achieve the same thing with React as well. We need to put extra effort into that.
TypeScript plays a major role in big applications. Without TypeScript, most developers will get mad at debugging the applications. Don’t worry both React and Next.js supports TypeScript.
Both React and Next.js are maintained greatly by the creators. The community is very large for both of them compared to other front-end libraries and frameworks. If we are stuck anywhere while developing applications with React and Next.js, there is a high chance we will find the solution on the internet.
The documentation of them is very good for getting started. What are we waiting for? Head over to the React and Next.js documentation to get started with them.
Code is similar to React as it’s built above it.
Don’t impose strict guidelines on the folder structures.
It does impose a part of the folder structure that needs to be followed (Pages routing).
It supports typescript.
It also supports typescript.
Don’t have built-in support for server-side rendering.
Do have built-in support for server-side rendering with pre-fetching (SSG & SSR)
A little bit slower compared to Next.js
A little bit fast compared to React.
Community & Maintenance
Well maintained by Facebook, with a large open-source community to support it.
Vercel also does a great job of maintaining it. Also, it has open-source community support.
Documentation & Learning
Has good documentation, and learning will be faster if you know React concepts.
React vs. Next.js
Which one to Choose?
Well, no one can answer that question. It depends on different things like the type of project, what it does, its purpose of it, etc..; we can conclude by going through all the features of them and their requirements.
One thing based on which we can conclude quickly is SEO. If your project needs a lot of SEO, it’s better to go with Next.js.
We have considered different factors in all the scenarios to get a conclusion. If we can’t conclude, then it’s better to go with React. And we can always switch to another in the early stage, as code migration doesn’t take much time. You know the reason why it doesn’t take much time 😄.
Both have a good community. You find solutions for almost any problem that you face while working with React and Next.js, as they are widely used in the frontend domain. You will find a lot of packages for building web applications. We can use the same packages in both React and Next.js.
Decisions are always hard to make. But don’t be afraid to make decisions 😜.
We can say Next.js is a superset of React. Next.js is created with more features along with the React features using it. So comparing them is not ideal. Still, we have done it 😅. Anyway, now you have a top-level idea on both React and Next.js.
As you can see, there are not many differences between them except for the extra features of Next.js, which is obvious. That’s it for today. Let’s end this with a little suggestion.
We recommend you start with React first if you are going to learn a front-end framework. React concepts will make Next.js learning a piece of the cake.
You may also explore some best resources to learn ReactJS.
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