Getting started with NextJS Part 1

Hey Coder, I blogged about why you should learn Next in this blog. For this part of the series, I will guide through the features that next brings to the table.

Note: You should have NodeJS, npm, and npx installed. You should be proficient in Javascript and React.

Setting up our project.

You can create your own repo or clone my repo.

$ git clone https://github.com/werickblog/react_next_app.git

Change directory to where your repo is housed locally

$ cd react_next_app

We will now set up the whole next app with one command

$ npx create-next-app .

Fire up your code editor, you should see a directory similar to the one below.


components/ # Holds components that are either reusable or for refactoring
   |- head.js # Component containing head tags such as meta, which contain the metadata of the website
   |- nav.js # Reusable component for the navbar
pages/ # Contains our main components
   |- index.js # Contains component that is rendered when visiting the '/' route
static/ # Contains our static files and media such as CSS, images, and JS
   |- favicon.ico # Our default favicon
  |- .gitignore # Contains a list files and folders that git should ignore
  |- LICENSE # MIT license
  |- next.config.js # Holds configs and next plugins 
  |- package.json # Depedency tracker
  |- README.md # Project doc

To run our app in development mode.

$ npm run dev # For npm 

# or 

$ yarn dev # For yarn

Launch your browser, visit localhost on port 3000

Screenshot 2019-07-09 at 5.23.07 PM.png

You should see something similar to the image above in your browser.

Since we are building all our app from scratch, let's delete everything in pages/index.js.

Leave out the imported libraries.


import React from 'react' // We are writing react so we probably need this
import Link from 'next/link' // the routing library for next
import Head from '../components/head' // component that updates metadata for each page rendered
import Nav from '../components/nav' // reusable navbar component

const Home = () => (
  <div>
      Next meets React
  </div>
)

export default Home

Let's explore all the features next has to offer.

Routing System

Next has a different routing system from react-router, it is based on the file-system. What do I mean when I say file-system? Whenever you create a file inside the pages/ directory, launch your browser and visit a route with the file's name, it will render what the file returns.

Create a file in the pages directory called about.js

$ cd pages && touch about.js

We have to render something so as to get something when visiting the /about route.

import React from "react";
import Link from "next/link";

const About = () => (
    <div>
        Next meets React is a blog series that touches on getting
        started on using Next with React.
    </div>
)
export default About;

Let's update our components/nav file with links to take us to the about and landing page(index)


import React from "react";
import Link from "next/link"; // Next module that helps with routing

const Nav = () => (
  <nav>
    <Link href="/">
      <a>Home</a>
    </Link>
    <Link href="/about">
      <a>About</a>
    </Link>
  </nav>
);

export default Nav;

We should update the pages/index.js and pages/about.js files by importing the nav component

import React from "react";
import Nav from "../components/nav";

const About = () => (
  <div>
    <Nav />
    <div>
      Next meets React is a blog series that touches on getting started on using
      Next with React.
    </div>
  </div>
);

export default About;

Run the development next server.

yarn dev // For yarn 
npm run dev // For npm

You should have something similar when you launch your browser

Screenshot 2019-07-14 at 6.35.44 PM.png

If you click on the about link, it should redirect to the about page.

Screenshot 2019-07-14 at 6.37.11 PM.png

That basically what it means about file-system based routing. There was no need to create a file to hold all our routes nor did we configure anything, all we just did was just create a file in the pages/ directory with our own name and poof, we have routing. poof

Server-Side Rendering

If you ask most developers, writing your own code to make your SPA server-rendered is a nightmare. next comes with Server Side Rendering out of the box. You can read this article by Walmart Labs that mentions all the advantages of SSR applications over CSR(Client-Side Rendered) ones.

CSS-in-JS

Writing css in your react component has its advantages such as:

  • Componetizing everything, not just Javascript and you will not have to worry about your css affecting another component,(i.e. Eliminating globals)
  • Maintainable at scale - when you are in a team and working on a product, having css-in-js is a big advantage such that you can isolate your css without affecting one of your teammates css. You can use similar css class names without a problem.
  • Laziness - Nowadays I write css-in-js because it reduces the hustle of changing editor tabs or closing vim windows in order to change a particular part of a css file.

Let's try out the css-in-js next feature. Currently next supports:

  • External css, if you are not a css-in-js fan
     import ".../path/to/your/css;
    
    Read more about this here
  • Inline styling Let's try out inline styling in our landing page(pages/index.js).

     import React from "react"; // We are writing react so we probably need this
     import Link from "next/link"; // the routing library for next
     import Head from "../components/head"; // component that updates metadata for each page rendered
     import Nav from "../components/nav"; // reusable navbar component
    
     const Home = () => (
         <div>
            <Nav />
            {/* Here we are styling to div, to change the color of our text and aligning the text to the right side */}
           <div style={{ color: "red", textAlign: "right" }}>Next meets React</div>
        </div>
     );
    
     export default Home;
    

    Screenshot 2019-07-24 at 12.15.00 PM.png

  • CSS-in-JS Let's continue styling our landing page(pages/index.js) by css-in-js

      import React from "react"; // We are writing react so we probably need this
      import Link from "next/link"; // the routing library for next
      import Head from "../components/head"; // component that updates metadata for each page rendered
      import Nav from "../components/nav"; // reusable navbar component
    
      const Home = () => (
          <div className="home-content">
              <Nav />
              {/* Here we are styling to div, to change the color of our text and aligning the text to the right side */}
              <div
        className="home-content__header"
        style={{ color: "red", textAlign: "right" }}
      >
        Next meets React
             </div>
             {/* We have increased the font-size of a div of class name home-content__header */}
             <style jsx>
               {`
                    .home-content__header {
                          font-size: 32pt;
                    }
               `}
               </style>
          </div>
       );
    
       export default Home;
    

    Screenshot 2019-07-24 at 12.29.59 PM.png

Summary

In this article we were able to:

  • Set up our next app.
  • Look into key features of NextJS such as:
    • Routing
    • SSR
    • CSS-in-JS

Next

  • On the next part of the series we upgrade our app to consume an API.

Extras

wachira_dev

I am definitely passionate about software development. I have been a web developer💻 for the last two years. Apart from programming, I love playing FPS and retro games 🎮.

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