Modern web development has seen a plethora of frameworks and widgets arise to ease the burden on coders. These aid in the rapid deployment of large-scale projects and, as such, minimize the time needed to do the more banal work that coders might face.
One popular library for web development is React.js, a highly dynamic set of utilities meant for quickly creating reactive web applications. Another popular framework is Next.js, which has seen massive adoption by developers the world over by creating a quick and easy set of utilities to quickly develop apps.
Which of these provides the greater framework to produce web apps? Let’s take a look at the differences and similarities between these development environments.
Next.js vs React.js: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Readily available documentation||Yes, easily available tutorials and documentation||Full high-level documentation|
|Fully enclosed environment||Fully enclosed environment meant for the deployment of landing pages and web apps||Highly extensible but not fully enclosed|
|Intended Use-Case||For rapid deployment of websites and applications||As a library for development|
|Extensibility||Not fully extensible, can work in conjunction with other frameworks||Can accept other modules, development frameworks, and plugins|
|Server-Side Rendering||Server-side rendering is provided natively||Not provided natively, has to be implemented through code or other frameworks|
|Performance||Faster than average, applications built benefit from the features of Next.js||Can be slower unless developers provide some means of offloading the page loading to the server|
Next.js vs React.js: What’s the Difference?
Next.js and React.js aren’t entirely comparable development utilities. They both aid in web development, certainly, but they couldn’t be more different. Truthfully, this is in part thanks to their intended use cases.
If you’re using Next.js for your next web development project, you’re effectively also using React.js. This is due to React.js being the underlying basis for the whole of Next.js. Let’s take a look at the bits and bobs and figure out where each of these fits in the grander scheme of things.
Libraries vs Frameworks
In software development, a library refers to a set of tools meant to aid in development. Frameworks, conversely, are intended to be used as a development kit of sorts. Think of it in terms of DIY things at home.
Libraries themselves would be like getting the saws, hammers, drills, and every other hand tool you can imagine for assembling a shelving unit in your master bedroom unit. You have everything you need effectively to install the shelves, but you’re making them yourself.
On the other hand, frameworks are like pre-assembled kits of sorts. You’ll still need to drill the holes and check the level before mounting the screws, but there’s a lot less legwork to get there.
This is the key difference between React.js and Next.js. Next.js is a fully enclosed development environment and has everything you effectively need to deploy a web application or landing page. The toolchain implemented in Next.js is meant to use fewer lines of code to deliver quick-loading sites.
Performance in the Real World
Performance for websites and web applications can be an absolute dealbreaker. Most users rely simply on first impressions, and if your site or app loads slowly, it’s done for. With this in mind, which of these is the better performing of the two?
In terms of pure speed and rendering, it’ll be Next.js, simply due to how it renders pages and apps. Loading isn’t done on the user’s side, but rather on the server’s side, and that’s set up by default.
Compare this to the way React.js handles rendering, which is developer-defined. Users might luck out and get a speedy site, or they could have something that chugs even on a speedy connection. This makes for poor first impressions, despite the utility of React.js.
That isn’t to say React.js can be made to perform well, and it certainly can perform when optimized for it. Out of the box with default configuration parameters, however, its performance will really depend on the complexity and scope of the project.
Tools for developers are effectively useless without documentation. To use something and use it well, you need to actually have the means of understanding it. Thankfully, in terms of documentation, both development tools are fairly robust.
React.js has the added advantage of being a more mature tool and, as such, has far more exhaustive learning resources to help in learning it. It has had the advantage of being developed by Meta. Given Meta’s extreme financial resources and elite talent, it comes as no surprise that React.js has a massive community behind it.
Next.js does have good documentation, but it is a more recent introduction to web development. As such, tutorials and courses aren’t quite as fleshed out. Though, there is some added benefit to this. Those savvier at adopting and learning coding environments have a certain advantage and can leverage that into higher-paying positions.
Modular development tools greatly extend the capabilities of developers. These can be simple things like handling rendering and compiling times, or even radical modules and plugins which extend it beyond the intended use case.
Next.js is unfortunately not very expandable. It can work alongside other development tools, as a popular one is using Node.js to provide more robust and user-defined file routing to their projects. This is in stark contrast to React.js which seems to be built around being a modular platform.
This, of course, comes down to what these tools are. As React.js is a library first and foremost, it can greatly benefit from having plugins and modules to extend functionality. There are certainly a good few out there for React.js which, given its near-universal adoption, makes total sense.
Next.js doesn’t necessarily need extensions, but given its rudimentary file handling, it would be nice to see something to mitigate it. As a development framework, Next.js ostensibly should have everything you need. This isn’t always the case, as many developers might have edge cases or specific toolchains that Next.js lacks support for.
Next.js vs React.js: 8 Must-Know Facts
- One of the fastest-growing web development frameworks.
- Can handle all aspects of front-end development.
- Supports automatic code splitting for large projects.
- Was built from the ground up for being high performance.
- Massive amounts of documentation and users make it super easy to learn.
- Users can create reusable user interfaces and components for future projects.
- Was built to take advantage of SEO.
Next.js vs React.js: Which Should You Use?
It is a bit hard to suggest one of these development tools over the other. As it sits, if you’re using Next.js, you’re leveraging the tools and technology behind React.js. Instead of giving a definite answer, it is a matter of use cases.
Next.js is the ideal choice if you’re looking to actively deploy landing pages quickly and efficiently. It is built to deliver high-performance web content and to be easy to use. There are certain shortcomings when it comes to how it handles file routing, but it more than makes up for it with automatic code splitting and server-side rendering.
Given its relative recency, there is only the chance for growth in Next.js’s future. Developers in the web space would do well to learn this or add it to their general repertoire.
React.js is a library, and as such has a variety of tools for a variety of use cases. One place where it excels is in developing modular user interfaces. If you’re looking to build reactive web applications and want to reduce the number of individual components or define the data flow, then React.js is the tool to use.
It is a constantly evolving piece of software, but it has a relatively secure future given its constant cycle of development and support. It has the added benefit of being well-supported, meaning that there is a plethora of learning resources for those looking to add React.js to their development tools.
Honestly, it would be beneficial to add both development tools to your oeuvre. You get a greater degree of flexibility that way.
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