Two of the most popular React frameworks are Gatsby and Next.js. They offer great features, possibilities and tools. Some of these features are that they can help build websites which are superfast, lightweight and SEO-friendly. These frameworks are great to build static and dynamic sites, are growing quickly and the developer community is expanding too. Both of them offer an easy way of communication for the back-end and front-end.
Two of these React frameworks avoid dealing with routing and config which makes the development experience easier. In this blog, differences and similarities between these two frameworks will be shown and how their ecosystems work. But first of all, let's look at a brief explanation of what these frameworks are.
Gatsby is a modern web framework built over React and GraphQL. It offers a great performance by creating blazing-fast websites by default. It generates a static build to make the website faster.
It consists of a rich ecosystem that has plugins, starters, themes and generates HTML pages at build time.
Gatsby uses React for templating and CSS for styling and then it exports into the final static site. It produces static HTML files that will load directly from a CDN. So, Gatsby has all of the data pre-configured unlike other frameworks that need to run queries or do some programming on the server itself in order to serve the webpage. That's why Gatsby has all of those stuff already configured ahead of time and just serves that up.
Gatsby uses GraphQL to get data from anywhere which gives a developer-friendly static site generator. You can get data from markdown files, access databases or hook into common CMS's like Wordpress or other headless CMS's. That's why you can create or edit data without programming knowledge by connecting to a CMS platform.
Because the static content is rendered beforehand and served faster than dynamic websites it makes Gatsby SEO-friendly too. That's one of the reasons that makes Gatsby a preferable framework to work with static websites.
Next.js is a web application framework built on top of React that offers functionality such as server side rendering or static site generation.
It generates HTML dynamically every time a new request comes to it using a server. So, it allows the first page load to be rendered on the server which is great for SEO and performance. As a result, the first thing that a user sees is a fully rendered HTML.
Unlike traditional approaches, when it comes to routing and configuration Next.js offers a neat solution. In that way, you can just create pages in the pages directory and then it will be served automatically as a route, so there is no need for configuration. Besides regular pages, you can make API calls too and any file that you put into the
pages/api directory will be treated as an API endpoint. Next.js also provides its own router to make the application work seamlessly.
Next.js also offers several styles support like: SaaS, CSS, styles-jsx etc. You can customize advanced options like custom page extensions, custom build directories etc. in your application by using a node.js module called
Besides those, Next.js supports different data rendering modes which are explained and you can find the link to the blog post here.
Next.js remains a popular React framework because of its rich set of features and improved developer experience which offers SSR-friendly web applications.
Both of the frameworks are similar when it comes to provide easy and friendly developer experience. You can set up and get things running very quickly because of their clean architecture.
Both of them have rich and comprehensive docs which help to add more features on your app based on what you need.
Some of their common features are shown below:
- Hot Reloading- Faster development experience.
- Automatic Code Splitting
- Built-in Caching and Performance
- Built-in Routing
Caching and performance are built in. The code is optimized and is split onto page routes. Built-in routing creates automatically new pages so you don't have to worry about route configuration.
While scrolling through the page, links to the next pages are automatically prefetched by smart page loading performance.
When it comes to their workflow, it is important to mention some particular differences of them like: data handling, routing, plugins, deployment and security.
Next.js is unopinionated on the way it handles the data. Next.js has its own lifecycle method called
getInitialProps which is an asynchronous method that needs to be resolved before the data can be sent from the server to the client.
On the other hand, everything happening on your website needs to be known by Gatsby. All of the data, images, styles need to go through Gatsby in order to be sourced. Gatsby allows you to use any API you want, it could be a markdown file too and it is going to source that data by making it available via GraphQL API. So, when you are building pages you write queries with GraphQL API for a list of blog posts or other content. Then, at render time it makes that GraphQL API available to you and then it will render out those HTML pages.
When it comes to routing, Next.js has no routing to config, it just has a folder called pages where you simply create pages directly to it and the pages are up and running.
Gatsby does that way as well where you have a pages directory, create all pages in it and it runs. Moreover, it has an API where you can dynamically create routes. You can use the
createPage API to dynamically create the pages and specify what the slug is and what component will be rendered out.
As of plugins, Next.js doesn't really have plugins because the scope of Next.js is smaller than Gatsby. On the other hand, Gatsby has a large ecosystem of plugins as well as themes which offer out-of-the box implementation and makes the website quality much better. This way it could be called more of a progressive website generator rather than static.
Next.js is a node application and is served using node-based servers. It can be hosted anywhere. Next.js also has options for Static sites, (incremental too, new feature introduced in 9.5 version), but if you are going for static, Gatsby remains a preferable option too.
The main difference is that Next needs a server to be able to run and Gatsby can function without a server at all. As a result, that makes the Gatsby framework more secure as there is no database to hack or access and there is no user data that is stored on the server or anything. Although, Next.js offers private features, data is still present on the server which leaves an open chance for exploitation.
You can check a more detailed comparison between them based on performance, accessibility, developer experience or documentation here .
Next.js and Gatsby offer great ways for developers to make web applications load faster and give an effortless experience.
However, it is dependent on how familiar and what you project aim is, in order for you to choose between them. While building large applications which requires thousands of pages to be built, constant updates and sections that need to have interactivity like: creating accounts, log-ins or discussions then it is preferable to use Next.js.
On the other hand, Gatsby is great for smaller applications or one that doesn't need much updates.
Overall, both frameworks have their place and what it really matters is scalability and the application size.