dotCMS: The Headless CMS for Next.js

Victoria Burt

Next.js is one of today’s most popular JavaScript frameworks. It is a React-based framework that provides developers with the building blocks to create modern and fast web applications. According to Statista, 13.5% of developers worldwide use the framework. 

Some of the features of Next.js that make it so popular include server-side rendering, data fetching, hot code reloading, and automatic code splitting. 

With a headless CMS like dotCMS, you can take advantage of Next.js’ wealth of capabilities to build your frontend presentation layer. In this article, we explain what Next.js is, what you can do with it, and the reasons why you should choose a Next.js-ready headless CMS.

First of All, Why Choose a Headless CMS for Next.js?

A headless CMS separates the data in the backend from the content that gets presented to users in the frontend. For developers, this means that there is no predefined way of presenting content; they can screw on any head to the CMS to deliver content. 

Being able to deliver content in any form also helps prevent both vendor restrictions and developer lock-in. The first is because you can mix and match the pieces of your tech stack to build a fully customized solution. The second is because you can use a headless CMS with a wide array of technologies, to give your IT team a plethora of possibilities. 

Also, a headless CMS, like dotCMS, provides users with many integration points thanks to REST APIs and GraphQL. It also enables developers to create custom endpoints and build custom business requirements. With dotCMS, IT teams can develop websites and apps in the JavaScript framework of their liking, all while allowing marketers to participate in the authoring process. 

Essentially, the reasons to choose a headless CMS can be summed up as follows: 

  • Lower costs

  • Future-proof

  • Omnichannel delivery

  • More development flexibility

  • Better software architecture 

Read More: The Anatomy of an Open Source, Headless CMS

What is Next.js?

Next.js was first created by Vercel in 2016. Today, the React-based framework is one of the most popular JavaScript frameworks among developers for building web applications.

Whereas React offers a JavaScript library for building interactive user interfaces, Next.js handles the varied tooling and configuration necessary for React. It also includes additional features, structure, and optimizations to get more out of your application.

Next.js development is based on six fundamental principles:

  1. Out-of-the-box functionality

  2. Usage of JavaScript or TypeScript for all functions

  3. Automatic code-splitting

  4. Server rendering

  5. Configurable data-fetching

  6. Simplified development 

One of the key features of Next.js is pre-rendering. Every page is pre-rendered by default with the framework generating HTML for each page on the server rather than doing it using client-side JavaScript. This is one of the reasons why performance in Next.js is so good, and also why it’s popular among businesses that want to improve their SEO. 

There are two ways that Next.js does pre-rendering, either via static generation or server-side rendering. With static generation, HTML is generated at build time and then reused for each request. With server-side rendering, HTML is generated for each request. 

Next.js also supports hot reloading in dev mode— detecting changes and rendering the appropriate pages to prevent the browser from loading every part of the app each time a user makes a request.

Here are some reasons why JavaScript developers are using Next.js:

  • Simplified file-system routing

  • Engaging user experience

  • High performance

  • Server-side rendering

  • Support for static site generation (SSG)

  • A gentle learning curve

What Can You Build With Next.js?

Next.js enables developers to build almost anything they want, from server-side rendered to static and client-side digital experiences. With Next.js, you don’t need any Webpack configuration to get started. It all comes configured out-of-the-box, so you only need to run npm, yarn or pnpm to get started.

Next.js enables users to build a myriad of different experiences and retool their tech stack. Here are three of the main things you can do with this JavaScript framework. 

eCommerce Stores

One of the main benefits of Next.js is that the framework integrates with any backend. This lightweight approach means that IT teams can plug Next.js into their tech stack and leverage its eCommerce capabilities. 

For instance, Next.js offers eCommerce users automatic image optimization as well as automatic language detection and fast refresh. Also, using Next.js is straightforward as developers only need to clone and deploy it, which can be done in two clicks. 

Single Page Applications

Another excellent functionality for web apps is that since Next.js already provides a CSS-in-JS solution by default, teams can automatically optimize styles without loading the CSS code every time, which keeps web apps small, but fully functional.

Migration and Updates

For developers and marketing teams looking to elevate their SEO, Next.js is a great framework to use as all the content within it can be read by the search engine and indexed quickly. For other users, migrating to Next.js can also bring gains as it is a future-proof framework that provides granular migration and update options.

Deploying a Next.js Starter With dotCMS

Next.js makes it easy for users to develop and ship apps to the web. It provides a robust developer experience out of the box and gives content editors the tools they need to create SEO-driven content. 

To help you deploy your first website using Next.js and dotCMS, we’ve created a video tutorial that guides you through the process. In this video, Freddy Montes and Ivor Padilla, two of dotCMS’ senior developers, explain, step-by-step, how to go from production to deployment using a Next.js website starter

You can watch it here:

Once you’ve watched the video, we invite you to learn more about dotCMS and how we help you build Single Page Applications. Watch our webinar Personalized Single Page Apps with dotCMS and streamline your development process. 

Victoria Burt
Director of Product Marketing
October 19, 2022

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