React vs Next.js — Understanding When to Use Each

Lakin Mohapatra
3 min readSep 8, 2023

React is a front-end JavaScript library for building user interfaces. Next.js is a framework that augments React with server-side rendering, routing, and more.

When should you use plain React vs Next?

Use React standalone when:

👉 Building a highly dynamic single-page app that relies heavily on client-side routing and state.

👉 Integrating React components into an existing server-rendered app for hybrid rendering.

👉 Only part of the UI needs to be reactive — Next.js is overkill.

👉 You want client-side control over routing, data fetching etc.

👉 Page SEO is not a major concern.

When to use Next.js:

👉 Building a traditional website with server-side rendering and SEO requirements.

👉 You want automatic code splitting and prefetching.

👉 Easy routing and fetch handling appeals.

👉 Fast refresh and DX matters — Next.js accelerates dev workflow.

👉 You need hybrid server-side and client-side rendering.

👉 Scalable performance and static site generation benefits are important.

Here are some example apps where React or Next.js may be more suitable:

Good for React:

👉 A chat app like Slack with highly dynamic UIs, fast state updates, client-side routing for channels/messages.

👉 An e-commerce site’s shopping cart and live preview — rapidly changing state and interactions.

👉 A stock trading dashboard showing live-updating graphs and notifications.

👉 An in-browser IDE with complex text editing capabilities.

👉 An interactive game with advanced animations and dynamic UIs.

Well-suited for Next.js:

👉 A marketing website for a SaaS product with SEO-friendly pages.

👉 An online course marketplace with course profiles, student dashboard, payment pages.

👉 A company website with a mix of static and interactive content.

👉 A blog with post overviews, tags, server-rendered articles.

👉 An e-commerce site’s product pages, search, checkout flows.

👉 A documentation site with MDX, navigation, and search.

The key differences come down to dynamic UIs versus more static content with SEO needs. SSR and simplicity help for traditional websites while React facilitates advanced interactivity.

Overall, use React directly when you want pure client-side power and control. Use Next.js when you value SEO, simplicity, performance and don’t need full frontend control.

As with any abstraction, understand the tradeoffs. And know you can always mix and match — using React for dynamic widgets in Next.js pages.

What’s been your experience using React vs Next? When does each shine? Please share your thoughts and advice below!

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Lakin Mohapatra

Software Engineer | Hungry coder | Proud Indian | Cyber Security Researcher | Blogger | Architect (web2 + web 3)