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April 5, 2024

Next.js: A Framework for Modern Web Development

Next.js stands out as a renowned React framework streamlining the creation of contemporary web applications. Offering an array of functionalities, it accelerates development, enhances efficiency, and fosters an enjoyable coding experience. Let's delve into the significant advantages Next.js brings to the table and its potential for elevating your web development endeavors.

Screenshot of the Next.js website. Source: https://nextjs.org/
Screenshot of the Next.js website. Source: https://nextjs.org/

What is Next.js?

Next.js is a React framework that offers essential components for crafting web applications. When we refer to a framework, we mean that Next.js manages the necessary tooling and configuration for React, while also providing supplementary structure, features, and optimizations tailored to your application.

Diagram showing how Next.js spans the server and client, and provides additional features. Source: https://nextjs.org/
Diagram showing how Next.js spans the server and client, and provides additional features. Source: https://nextjs.org/

Why use Next.js?

Performance

Next.js offers server-side rendering (SSR) and static site generation (SSG) out of the box. SSR improves performance by rendering the initial HTML on the server, which is then sent to the client. This approach reduces the time to first byte (TTFB) and improves search engine optimization (SEO). SSG generates static HTML files at build time, which can be served directly from a content delivery network (CDN). This approach eliminates the need to render pages on the server or client, resulting in faster load times and reduced server load.

Developer experience

Next.js provides a zero-configuration setup, which means you can start building your application without worrying about setting up webpack, Babel, or other build tools. Next.js also offers a file-based routing system, which simplifies the organization of your application's pages. Additionally, Next.js supports TypeScript out of the box, providing static type checking and improved code quality.

The App Router

In version 13, Next.js introduced a new App Router built on React Server Components, which supports shared layouts, nested routing, loading states, error handling, and more.

The App Router operates within a new directory named app. The app directory works alongside the pages directory to allow for incremental adoption. This enables you to opt some routes of your application into the new behavior while retaining other routes in the pages directory for previous behavior. If your application uses the pages directory, please also refer to the Pages Router documentation.

Terminology for Component Tree. Source: https://nextjs.org/
Terminology for Component Tree. Source: https://nextjs.org/

SEO and social sharing

Next.js optimizes your application for search engines and social media platforms by providing metadata tags, canonical URLs, and structured data. This ensures that your application is discoverable and shareable on the web.

Image optimization

Next.js automatically optimizes images by resizing, compressing, and serving them in modern formats such as WebP. This reduces the file size of images, resulting in faster load times and improved performance.

Getting started

System Requirements:

  • Node.js 18.17 or later.
  • macOS, Windows (including WSL), and Linux are supported.

We recommend starting a new Next.js app using create-next-app, which sets up everything automatically for you. To create a project, run:

npx create-next-app@latest

On installation, you'll see the following prompts:

What is your project named? my-app
Would you like to use TypeScript? No / Yes
Would you like to use ESLint? No / Yes
Would you like to use Tailwind CSS? No / Yes
Would you like to use `src/` directory? No / Yes
Would you like to use App Router? (recommended) No / Yes
Would you like to customize the default import alias (@/*)? No / Yes
What import alias would you like configured? @/*

First steps

For new applications, Vercel recommend using the App Router. This router allows you to use React's latest features and is an evolution of the Pages Router based on community feedback.

Create an app/ folder, then add a layout.tsx and page.tsx file. These will be rendered when the user visits the root of your application '/'.

export default function RootLayout({
  children,
}: {
  children: React.ReactNode
}) {
  return (
    <html lang="en">
      <body>{children}</body>
    </html>
  )
}

Finally, create a home page app/page.tsx with some initial content:

export default function Page() {
  return <h1>Hello, Next.js!</h1>
}

Next.js in the A-SAFE DIGITAL workflow

Our transition to A-SAFE DIGITAL as our primary framework stemmed from its remarkable versatility, modularization, and user-friendliness. Its architecture allows us to swiftly adapt to evolving project requirements while maintaining a cohesive structure. The modular approach empowers our development teams to focus on specific components, enhancing productivity and ensuring code reusability across projects.

Next.js, in particular, has been instrumental in elevating our web applications to new heights in terms of performance and usability. Its seamless integration with React enables us to leverage the benefits of server-side rendering, leading to faster load times and improved SEO. Additionally, the built-in features such as automatic code splitting and prefetching contribute to a smoother user experience.

Screenshot of the A-SAFE DIGITAL website.
Screenshot of the A-SAFE DIGITAL website.

The ease of use offered by Next.js significantly reduces development overhead, allowing us to concentrate on crafting rich, interactive experiences for our users. Its intuitive API and comprehensive documentation facilitate rapid prototyping and iteration, enabling us to deliver high-quality web applications efficiently.

Conclusion

Next.js is a powerful React framework that provides essential features for building modern web applications. Its performance optimizations, developer experience, and SEO capabilities make it an excellent choice for projects of all sizes. By leveraging Next.js, we can create fast, scalable, and user-friendly web applications that meet the needs of our clients and users.


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