In web development, static site generators have become a hot topic, and they have dramatically improved. They are pretty simple to use and come with a number of features out of the box to build super-fast, lightweight web applications.
In this article, I will walk you through two of the most popular static site generators for React, Gatsby, and Next.js, and help you choose the best for your next project.
What is Gatsby?
More than a static site generator, Gatsby is a modern front-end framework built on top of React, GraphQL, and Webpack.
Gatsby helps us to create websites that generate static HTML in advance and store it on content delivery networks (CDNs) all over the world for faster accessibility. For example, it doesn’t need a server or database to load a blog website. Furthermore, it uses various techniques, including asset optimization, server-side rendering, data pre-fetching, and code splitting, to load pages rapidly.
Although Gatsby is built on top of React, it has its own ecosystem with plugins, themes, and starters like any other framework. When working with the Gatsby ecosystem, a developer has the privilege of creating a website in numerous ways. In addition, Gatsby plugins can enhance and modify anything Gatsby can handle.
The benefits of using Gatsby
- Websites are faster.
- Gatsby takes care of other requirements once the source code is created by compiling the most effective webpack configuration to build the site.
- Follows Google’s PRPL (push, render, pre-cache, lazy-load) architectural pattern.
- Doesn’t allow the scope of direct connection to the database, user data, dependencies, and other sensitive information, ensuring security.
- Minimized hosting and update costs.
What is Next.js?
Next.js is a server-side rendering (SSR) tool, but with version 9.3, it also supports static site generation. The idea behind it is to create server-rendered React apps that require minimal to no configuration.
Next.js is more about enhancing the developer experience by making it simpler to create comprehensive, SSR-friendly web applications. Although Next.js facilitates static builds, that isn’t its main focus. We can use Next.js when a website should handle both SSR and static page optimization. It doesn’t come with any unnecessary tools or make any assumptions about how you want to manage your data.
Next.js is the best tool for creating dynamic websites that have healthy server interactions. It gives you more flexibility when it comes to building apps with features like single-file components, automatic code-splitting, and hot code reloading.
The benefits of using Next.js
- Supports server-side rendering (SSR).
- Built-in CSS support.
- Image, font, and script optimization.
- Hot module replacement (HMR) enables developers to see all changes as they are made during development.
- Provides a host of ready-to-use components to fast-track a minimum viable product.
Similarities Between Gatsby and Next.js
Despite the fact that Gatsby and Next.js are designed to handle different situations, they have a lot in common.
- Developer experience: The learning curve for both frameworks isn’t too steep, and both frameworks prioritize the developer experience. We can easily set up and get things running and bringing more functionality to basic apps is straightforward thanks to the rich documentation provided by both frameworks. Both support hot reloading for a more efficient development process.
- Appealing features: Caching and performance are already built into both. We don’t have to bother with code splitting or optimization, as code splitting works by default, depending on the page route. Both frameworks have an integrated routing mechanism to generate new pages.
- Powerful websites: When you scroll down the page, both frameworks perform intelligent page loading by asynchronously prefetching the links for the next pages. For well-built Gatsby and Next.js pages, the Lighthouse score will be remarkable, so the websites will be SEO-friendly.
Since we’ve discussed the benefits and some features of both Gatsby and Next.js, let’s look at choosing one of them.
When to use Gatsby
Gatsby thrives in building static websites. A static website contains a sequence of HTML pages, each of which represents a single webpage (e.g., a personal blog). Gatsby is ideal for creating these websites because the number of pages is predetermined, and the content does not vary. Also, Gatsby is compatible with a wide range of CMS systems, REST APIs, databases, and GraphQL.
As Gatsby isolates the data changes from the website content, even a non-developer can modify data relevant to the webpage from the back end. Then, it will assemble the changes in the runtime. In addition, it removes the need for code freezes.
Gatsby is the recommended framework for developing static websites due to its capability to integrate with a CMS via a large collection of Gatsby plugins, starters, and themes. Gatsby also compresses the development lifecycle.
When to use Next.js
Next.js is an excellent pick if you’re building a website where many users will create user accounts and subsequently comment on the page contents.
Multiple users may log in at any time on these websites, making it hard to develop a static page in real time. In this scenario, static HTML will need to be compiled for each user. Gatsby’s lengthy build time makes it an unsuitable platform for such applications.
You have to display unique, dynamic content for specific logged-in users on websites like this. Server-side rendering will make it easier to serve a diverse group of users based on authentication, and each user will be able to see their own information immediately as they generate it on the website.
So, it appears to be a straightforward choice: Use Gatsby for static webpages and Next.js for huge, multiuser websites.
But what if you’re building a hybrid web app?
The best option for hybrid web apps
Next.js outperforms Gatsby when it comes to building hybrid web applications that require both SSR and client-side rendering. Also, most web pages must be streamlined for search engines, and the material on these pages is frequently dynamic; Next.js is the preferable framework.
We can use Next.js to create an ideal e-commerce web app since it blends the benefits of both static site generation and server-side rendering.
I discussed the features, benefits, and use cases of both Gatsby and Next.js throughout this article. Both are remarkable frameworks that come with their own pros and cons. I believe the choice between Gatsby and Next.js should always depend on your project requirements. Choose the one that best fits your needs. For more insights, I recommend looking over their documentation.
Furthermore, since Gatsby is a framework with a large number of themes, plugins, and templates, developers who want to create a fully functional app or website in a short period of time tend to choose Gatsby over Next.js.
Don’t hesitate to let us know your experience working with these two frameworks in the comments section. Thank you for reading!
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