You're about to start working on a new app project and you're confused: Create React App vs Next.js - what's the difference? 

Which option's best for you? Considering your SEO,  SSR, API, and performance needs.

And they're frustratingly similar:

  • they both enable you to build React apps without the need to use Webpack for bundling it (or the need to do any code splitting)
  • they both make it possible for you to have your React app up and running in no time

Still, each framework comes with its own pros and cons and specific use cases.

So, in this post, you'll find your answers to the following questions:

  • What are the key differences between CRA and Next.js?
  • What are the main benefits of using Next.js?
  • What are the main benefits of using Create React App?
  • What are the downsides of Next.js?
  • What are the downsides of Create React App?
  • When would you want to use one over the other?

1. What's the Key Difference Between CRA and Next.js?

SSR vs CSR...

It's where all their differences stem from.

Next.js apps are rendered on the client-side (CSR), but the framework supports server-side rendering (SSR), as well. By comparison, Create React App apps are rendered only on the client-side.

In other words:

CRA generates HTML code in the client browser, whereas Next.js generates it in the server, based on the URL. 

So, your "Create react App vs Next.js" dilemma comes down to whether a static page meets your needs or not entirely.

2. What Are the Main Benefits of Using Next.js?

Now that you know what's the fundamental difference between the 2 systems for building React apps, let's put the spotlight on Next.js.

Why would you choose it?

  • because it's so simple to set up, build, and even host a Next.js app: you have packages for almost all the key additions that call for Webpack configuration (SaSS, CSS, TS...)
  • because rendering React apps becomes much easier, regardless of where the data comes from
  • because you can benefit from automatic server rendering and code splitting (that will increase performance)
  • because SSR (server-side rendering) will give your app a major performance boost 
  • because it's a lightweight framework for both static and server-rendered universal JS apps
  • because it's good for SEO (with everything being generated from the server...)

3. Create React App vs Next.js: What Are the Main Benefits of Using CRA?

In a "Next.js vs create-react-app" debate, what are the strongest reasons for opting for CRA to build your React app?

  • it's easier to deploy
  • you get to build a single page React app with... zero configuration (no time-consuming setup needed)
  • you don't need to deal with Webpack or Babel
  • it's plain simple (an empty div and just a few js files) and provides all the needed HTML code to render your app on the client-side 
  • the development process is much smoother
  • better developer experience

In short, with Create React App you basically run just one command and the framework sets up all the tools you need to start developing your app on the spot.

4. What Are the Downsides of Next.js?

What could make you think twice before choosing Next.js for building your next app?

  • the fact that it's opinionated: there's a Next.js way of doing things and you're constrained to... adjust to it
  • if you later want to use a router different from its own filled-based one (or add Redux maybe), you'll discover that it's not that flexible 

5. What Are the Downsides of Create React App?

In a "Create React App vs Next.js" debate, why would you rule out CRA?

  • because it only supports client-side rendering, which is not enough if it's a high-performing app that you want to build
  • because no code splitting translates into lower performance
  • because it's not good for SEO (since it doesn't render pages on the server)

6. When Would You Want to Use Next.js?

As a rule of thumb, use Next.js:

  • if you need to build a fast, production-ready app (SSR injects top speed into your React application)
  • if public SEO is a crucial factor for your app project
  • if it's a dynamic page that you need to create (wihout having to write your own bundling)
  • if it's an eCommerce app that you're building (Next.js is more suited for the cart, the stock inventory, and other highly dynamic pages)

7. When Would You Want to Use Create React App?

When would you choose it over Next.js?

  • when you need to build a React app really fast; with CRA you can skip the configuration and the setting up part
  • when you need to create a landing page for a product: Create React App makes it so much simpler to put it together
  • when it's a SPA that you need to build

8. In Conclusion...

CRA is easy, while Next.js "seduces" you with better performance and SEO.

Is it a single page React app that you need to get up and running fast and you don't need SSR? Create React App might just be the best choice for you.

Is it a fast-loading app that you're building? Is performance business-critical for you and SEO much more than just a nice-to-have?

You might want to consider Next.js then for your next app.

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