NextJS and Gatsby- Two powerful React frameworks creating the high-end websites

NextJS vs. Gatsby- Which framework will win in 2022?

June 01, 2022
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Abhijit Singh

Team Lead @ Radiansys

Building a high-end professional website was never easier than now. We have many advanced technologies, frameworks, libraries, and much more that make website development a matter of a few minutes. Such abundance has caused doubts among developers and businesses regarding which technology is going to be the best for their projects. One such heated competition is going on between two extremely popular and young React frameworks- NextJS and Gatsby.

These two have made their way ahead of all frameworks used to create powerful and high-ranking websites. Gatsby.js and Next.js have filled the functionalities gap that existed in the ReactJS technology which is extremely popular among the developers. The two frameworks come packed with plenty of default libraries, plugins, configurations, etc. which are enough for creating the most viable websites.

Choosing between Nextjs vs Gatsby would have been simpler if the recent developments wouldn’t stir the scales. Both the frameworks are advancing and are even being used interchangeably by developers for different website requirements.

Therefore, it's time we make the choice easier for you through this detailed comparison- Gatsby.js vs next.js.

Read on to understand the basics of these frameworks followed by a careful comparison on the standard parameters.

The basics of NextJS

The NextJS is a JavaScript-based open-source framework. It has a foundation of Node.js which helps it provide various React functionalities for websites. It is the best framework for creating server-side rendered websites that perform dynamic HTML generation upon request. NextJS is mostly needed for sites supporting both static page optimization and server-side rendering SSR.

NextJS also supports CDN caching, static page generation, and all the related features. It allows developers to create web apps more freely and not be burdened by irrelevant tools and implements. NextJS is a great choice for large-scale applications.

Here are the three primary principles of the NextJS framework:

  • Server-side rendering: NextJS renders all the user-based React components to the server-side.
  • Automatic code splitting: NextJS decreases app size by splitting codes into smaller modules and using them only upon requirement.
  • Hot module reloading: NextJS does efficient monitoring by reloading the changed modules only. This helps developers to see through the changes quickly.
Process of NextJS

NextJS performs the server-side rendering for the react components of the website with a unique approach. The JavaScript code can be rendered through SSR alongside indexable HTML being sent to the user.

The basics of Gatsby

The Gatsby is an open-source framework consisting of the combined greatness of React, Webpack, and GraphQL functionalities. This framework is popularly known for static site generation that pre-produces static HTML, JavaScript pages, and CSS and stores them in the CDNs for faster access globally. Gatsby can also be used as a front-end tool with features like code-splitting, data prefetching, server-side rendering, asset optimization, etc.

The Gatsby ecosystem is a rich one with plenty of adjustable starters, Gatsby images, themes, and plugins available for developers to create amazing websites. It has the greatest number of starting templates and themes. Also, the Gatsby plugins can be used to extend and enrichen all the Gatsby functions. It also provides support for different databases, CMS systems, GraphQL, and REST APIs.

Let’s see the major principles of the Gatsby framework:

  • Super-fast web page loading
  • Minimizes risk in case of databases and servers
  • CMS compliance including WordPress, Drupal, etc.
Process of Gatsby

The framework procures the data first from the external APIs. It then goes ahead with structuring the data as per a predefined template for the webpage. This process prepares the web pages beforehand to boost the core web criterion and overall page performance.

NextJS vs. Gatsby- the benefits

  • The Gatsby-based websites display high scores when it comes to runtime scalability and user experience. This is a result of the static site generation.
  • The feature of deferred static generation also allows developers to choose the pages to be built upon user request.
  • Gatsby builds whole websites out of just the source code by choosing the most suitable webpack configuration and implementing it.
  • The framework follows the PRPL architectural format of Google which leads to higher performance of the website on mobile devices. This means that Gatsby websites get better SEO ranking as their content is better scannable.
  • There is no point of access for any sensitive info including user data, database, dependencies, etc. on a Gatsby website. This means that their security quotient is way higher than other websites.
  • You don’t need updates and hosting with Gatsby websites which lead to cost-cutting and margin growth.
  • The documentation of Gatsby is also easy and well-structured which proves helpful to the developers.
  • Gatsby cloud is a unique infrastructure where significant website building activities can take place. This includes real-time CMS previews, auto lighthouse reports, powerful developer previews, etc.
  • The server-side rendering of NextJS allows the creation of more purpose-serving websites as per the data provided. This also increases the search engine exposure of the websites.
  • NextJS is a smart framework that loads JavaScript and CSS only for the requested page. This leads to higher website performance along with quick content page viewing for the user.
  • The features of code splitting and lazy loading in NextJS load the relevant code first over the unnecessary one.
  • The Hot Module Replacement feature of NextJS lets the developers see through all the modifications immediately at any stage of development.
  • NextJS comes with a set of ready-to-use components that facilitate the speedy creation of the MVP. Developers can also enjoy much freedom while creating UI/UX for their web apps.
  • The screen size adaptiveness and responsiveness of NextJS are unmatched. NextJS websites can be run on a device of any size.
  • Developers prefer NextJS due to the reusable component feature that paces up the development process along with reducing redundancy.
  • The large community network of NextJS provides developers with every kind of support.

NextJS vs. Gatsby- the drawbacks

  • It takes longer to build a website using Gatsby when huge content is involved.
  • There is a need to constantly update the content and keep track of it with Gatsby websites. This is because changes don’t reflect immediately in Gatsby sites.
  • The framework is a little complicated to work with which hesitates developers in certain cases.
  • We know that NextJS is used for static website building. This means that for creating websites with many pages, NextJS will take a longer build time.
  • NextJS doesn’t permit much flexibility when it comes to using file routers. You can only use its file router, both for the first time and later use. Issues might occur upon trying to switch to another router.
  • It doesn’t have an advanced plugin set.

NextJS vs. Gatsby- Table of comparison

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Data handling
  • In NextJS, the user is rendered complete responsibility for data handling as per the way they like. They can choose the type of architecture for the purpose. To run the process properly, users need to devise a backend solution and content for data handling and automatic page generation respectively.
  • Gatsby comes with a data handling manual for its users that guides them on how to manage different types of data. Its plugins library does a commendable job of extending the framework’s functionality. The lazy load functionality also makes the data handling process efficient.
  • Since NextJS is a creation of Vercel which is a collaboration platform, it possesses many partner tools as expected. NextJS comes with a variety of default functionalities like code-splitting, page routing, image optimization, etc. which weren’t available with React previously. It is also easier to use and integrate other external extensions with NextJS. NextJS lets the developers custom create extensions and plugins to expand the scope of the projects limitlessly.
  • Gatsby has one of the richest sets of plugins that can turn your apps into game-changing products. It’s easier and quicker to implement integrations in Gatsby. There are plenty of Gatsby plugins that help to introduce functionalities like image compression, TypeScript compiler, pre-built theme insertion, etc. Gatsby even allows developers to create new functionality and host it further in the library.
  • NextJS is also a richly documented framework. You can find everything covered on its guide page including manual setup, data fetching, static file serving, image optimization, etc.
  • The Gatsby documentation is very comprehensive. It has every information for the users from the basics to the nits and grits of developing a webpage.
  • NextJS sites might not perform fast during development but they scale fast. This framework is great for building large-scale web applications with greater scope for future scalability.
  • Gatsby's websites are fast but they cannot scale as much. This is why Gatsby is preferred for small-scale static sites like blogs etc. The framework tends to slow down as the app size grows. Even though Gatsby allows the creation of static websites quickly using GraphQL, it still doesn’t do well when it comes to scaling.
Data handling
  • NextJS is much more flexible with the data handling process. The developer can opt for any method or tool for fetching data.
  • Gatsby extends support only for GraphQL when it comes to data handling. This means that you have only one option for data handling which may be a restricting factor in certain cases.
  • There are plenty of hosting platforms that can be used for hostingpublic assets produced by NextJS static sites.
  • Gatsby also prodpublic assets that can be easily hosted on any of the supporting platforms. There are plenty of options to choose from like AWS, Azure, Netlify, etc.
  • NextJS has its way of making the sites SEO-friendly. We have seen that the NextJS pages are created through dynamic rendering. Whenever a user searches for a particular page, the server finds the page, sends the data to the browser, and the info finally becomes visible to the user. This process of dynamic rendering refreshes the sites several times every day. Some of the sites that benefit from this process include online forums, e-commerce stores, etc.
  • Gatsby comes with pre-built HTML sites that stay stored in the build folder. Upon a user request, Gatsby searches for the HTML file associated with the requested page in the build folder. It then converts and renews the entire page in the form of a new react app. The whole process repeats itself for the CDN to process and register the updates. Some of the sites that benefit from the Gatsby framework include company sites, blogs, landing pages, etc. These are those sites that remain the same mostly.
  • NextJS sites require you to do all the setup manually. All the databases, maintenance, etc. activities have to be taken care of by the developer.
  • Gatsby sites don’t require much effort for infrastructural setup and maintenance. Users can simply prerender on any build followed by using a CDN. The result is a superfast website created without any hassle.
Data security
  • NextJS components do have privacy-related restrictions. However, the servers still manage to store some data. This leaves some scope for data exploitation and breaches. Thus, NextJS sites are not fully secured.
  • Gatsby sites are tightly secured. When prompted, only the required data is fetched. This makes Gatsby sites a winner when it comes to data security.
Community support
  • The NextJS community is supported by its founding company Vercel. It has many ambassadors on board with the task of updating the community knowledge base with newer and high-quality content. The information is available on various platforms including YouTube, Twitter, blogs, etc. NextJS has unmatched resource availability which makes it the owner of one of the largest communities.
  • Gatsby isn’t anywhere behind when it comes to community support. The available resources can be reached out on chat and you will get desired solutions upon prompting. The Gatsby community is very engaging with resources coming in from different agency programs. This makes the Gatsby environment very pleasant and easy to work in.

NextJS vs. Gatsby performance: what to choose for which site?

For Static sites

Static websites are those with a set of individual HTML pages containing fixed content. The updates on these websites don’t reflect in real-time. Due to fixed pages and content, these sites don’t need server-side rendering all the time.

Gatsby is the better option for building static sites. Why so? Let’s see.

With Gatsby, the website, as well as data, remain separate. This allows both developers and any other user to update the website. The changes can then be collectively implemented on the website in runtime. Furthermore, Gatsby plugins support REST APIs, GraphQL, databases, and CMS along with many data formats including MDX, Markdown, and JSON.

PS: NextJS also has a feature of static export that can be used for static websites. However, NextJS requires manual efforts for changing the data. This may not be possible for non-technical users.

For Multi-user sites

The multi-user websites receive numerous visitors at any given time. These users add to the content present on these websites which needs to be visible in real-time. Such dynamic content requests can only be handled by server-side rendering and dynamic allocation. That is how every user will be able to see updated content on the website instantly upon their action.

This makes NextJS the best choice for building multi-user websites. It’s easier to update websites in runtime with NextJS due to its server-side rendering. We know that NextJS generates dynamic HTML when prompted. This comes in handy for creating dynamic large-scale websites.

For Hybrid apps

The hybrid websites need both server-side rendering and data handling through CSR. Some common examples of hybrid web pages include social media platforms, community-based sites, etc. The single web apps require CSR for the logged-in users and SSR for the new visitors. Such web apps can be best built with the NextJS framework.

NextJS brings together the advantages of both SSR and CSR. It renders the page UI through server-side rendering followed by data handling through the client-side react web app. This framework is also a good option for building SEO-optimized websites that contain dynamic content mostly.

NextJS vs. Gatsby- Choosing the right framework

It depends upon the unique requirements of your brand. There are multiple use cases of both the frameworks, enough to confuse one regarding which framework they shall pick for any project. From our experience of having great applications for clients across industry verticals, we can suggest that:

Pick NextJS when- You are dealing with a project with high content volume that keeps increasing with time. NextJS has the perfect features suited for a dynamic website and it provides much flexibility to the developers while building such websites. The framework can even be used with a suitable headless CMS to achieve higher flexibility.

Here are some use cases for NextJS:
  • SaaS websites
  • Web portals
  • Large scale websites like eCommerce sites, finance websites, B2B websites, etc.
  • Client-side rendered web apps

Pick Gatsby when- You are aiming to build a small-scale application. Gatsby proves the right choice for projects that are already set up for a smaller scale. The framework can be set up easily and also speeds up with development process.

Here are some use cases for Gatsby:
  • Websites with static content like documentation, portfolio, personal blogs, etc.
  • SEO-friendly web pages
  • Progressive web apps
  • Secured websites
  • Websites supporting headless CMS
Website building using next.js and gatsby.js

Both NextJS and Gatsby have proved to be superior frameworks for creating highly impressive websites and applications. Despite being new entrants in the market, both frameworks are giving tough competition to each other. Their amazing features and low learning curve have got a wide range of use cases. Both have unique identities with none qualifying for the alternative option.

Therefore, the stakeholders need to make a wise choice by comparing the two frameworks according to their project requirements and solution type. We are here to help you with deciding as our experts will brief you on the development process. Let us create the best website for you with NextJS or Gatsby, your choice!

Have a project in mind? Schedule a free consultation today.