Should You Use ExpressJS with React or NextJS? A Comprehensive Guide

Published on: June 8, 2024

Should You Use ExpressJS with React or NextJS? A Comprehensive Guide
Should You Use ExpressJS with React or NextJS? A Comprehensive Guide

When building modern web applications, developers often face the decision of choosing the right framework and libraries. Two popular choices are using ExpressJS with React or opting for NextJS. In this article, we will compare these two approaches, highlighting their pros, cons, and the scenarios in which each excels.

What is ExpressJS?

ExpressJS is a minimal and flexible NodeJS web application framework that provides a robust set of features for web and mobile applications. It's widely used for building APIs and server-side applications.

What is React?

React is a JavaScript library for building user interfaces, particularly single-page applications. It allows developers to create reusable UI components.

What is NextJS?

NextJS is a React framework that enables server-side rendering and generating static websites for React-based web applications. It comes with a variety of built-in features like file-based routing, automatic code splitting, and more.

Comparing ExpressJS with React vs. NextJS

ExpressJS with React
  • Flexibility: You have complete control over the application structure and can use any additional libraries or tools as needed.
  • Modularity: Allows the creation of a highly modular architecture where you can separate concerns cleanly.
  • Ecosystem: Leverages the extensive npm ecosystem for adding middleware and other functionalities.
  • API Handling: Excellent for building custom APIs and microservices.
  • Complexity: Requires manual setup for features like routing, server-side rendering (SSR), and code splitting.
  • Development Speed: Can be slower to develop because of the need to configure everything manually.
  • Maintenance: More boilerplate code means potentially higher maintenance overhead.
  • Built-in SSR and SSG: NextJS comes with out-of-the-box support for server-side rendering and static site generation, improving SEO and performance.
  • Automatic Code Splitting: Automatically splits code to improve load times.
  • File-based Routing: Simplifies routing without needing an external library.
  • Development Speed: Faster setup and development with many built-in features.
  • Community and Ecosystem: Strong community support and a growing ecosystem of plugins and extensions.
  • Less Control: Provides less flexibility compared to a custom setup with ExpressJS and React.
  • Opinionated: Follows specific conventions and patterns, which might not suit every project.
  • Learning Curve: While easier to get started with, understanding all the features and conventions of NextJS can take time.

When to Use ExpressJS with React

  • Custom Solutions: When you need a highly customized backend setup or complex API handling.
  • Microservices Architecture: Ideal for projects where you want to build microservices and have separate concerns.
  • Legacy Systems: Integrating with existing systems or applications that already use ExpressJS.

When to Use NextJS

  • SEO Needs: Projects that require strong SEO performance due to its built-in SSR and SSG capabilities.
  • Rapid Development: When you need to quickly develop and deploy a web application with minimal configuration.
  • Static Sites: Ideal for static site generation where content changes infrequently.
  • Simpler Projects: When you prefer convention over configuration and can benefit from the built-in features and simplicity of NextJS.

Hosting and Deployment

  • ExpressJS: Typically deployed on a traditional server (like a NodeJS server running on a VPS or dedicated server). You need to manage and maintain the server.
  • ExpressJS: Since it runs on a traditional server, you can maintain state (e.g., sessions) across requests more straightforwardly.
  • ExpressJS: Suitable for real-time applications using WebSockets or similar technologies to maintain persistent connections.
  • For Long-term Connections and Custom Solutions: ExpressJS with React might be more suitable and potentially cheaper if your application relies on long-term connections and you have the expertise to manage servers efficiently.
  • NextJS: Can be deployed in serverless environments (like Vercel, AWS Lambda) or on traditional servers. Serverless deployments abstract away server management and can scale automatically based on demand.
  • NextJS: In serverless deployments, maintaining state across requests requires more careful handling (e.g., using external storage like databases or caching services).
  • NextJS: Not typically used for maintaining long-lived connections in a serverless environment, though you can still implement real-time features using client-side technologies.
  • For Serverless, Scalable, and Cost-efficient Deployments: NextJS is often cheaper and less resource-consuming for applications with variable traffic and those benefiting from serverless architecture's scalability and ease of use.

ExpressJS and NextJS serve different purposes and can be deployed in various ways. ExpressJS is more about building APIs and server-side logic with long-lived connections possible. NextJS is a full-stack React framework with capabilities for both SSR and SSG, and it can be deployed in serverless environments for scalability and ease of management. Your choice will depend on your application's requirements and deployment preferences.

Integrating ExpressJS with a NextJS Project

Why you might want to:
  • To have more control over your server-side logic and routing.
  • To handle complex API routes or middleware that NextJS doesn’t natively support.
  • To integrate with real-time features using WebSockets or other long-lived connections.
Integrating NextJS with an ExpressJS Project
  • To add server-side rendering (SSR) and static site generation (SSG) capabilities to your existing ExpressJS project.
  • To benefit from NextJS’s built-in optimizations and developer experience improvements.

By integrating ExpressJS with NextJS, or vice versa, you can create a powerful, flexible, and optimized web application. ExpressJS can provide the custom server-side logic and middleware handling, while NextJS can enhance your project with SSR, SSG, and improved development workflows. This hybrid approach allows you to overcome the limitations of each framework by leveraging their combined strengths.

Additional features that NextJS offers compared to plain React

  • File-Based Routing
    NextJS uses a file-based routing system, which simplifies the creation of routes in your application. Instead of manually setting up routes, you can create a new file in the pages directory, and it automatically becomes a route.
    • Simplifies route creation and management.
    • Reduces boilerplate code.
  • Image Optimization
    NextJS provides an Image component that automatically optimizes images. This component includes built-in support for lazy loading, responsive images, and resizing.
    • Improves performance by serving optimized images.
    • Reduces the need for external image optimization tools.
  • API Routes
    NextJS allows you to create API endpoints within the same project. Files inside the pages/api directory are mapped to /api/* routes and will be treated as API endpoints. But of course express do cover that... if we use react with express
    • Simplifies the creation of server-side logic and API endpoints.
    • Enables full-stack development within a single project.
  • Server-Side Rendering (SSR) and Static Site Generation (SSG)
    NextJS provides built-in support for SSR and SSG, allowing you to pre-render pages on the server or at build time, respectively.
    • Enhances performance and SEO by pre-rendering pages.
    • Reduces the time to first paint and improves user experience.
  • Automatic Code Splitting
    NextJS automatically splits your code into smaller bundles, which are loaded only when needed. This reduces the initial load time and improves the performance of your application.
    • Optimizes loading times by serving only the necessary code for each page.
    • Enhances user experience with faster page transitions.
  • TypeScript Support
    NextJS has built-in support for TypeScript. You can start using TypeScript by simply creating a `tsconfigJSon` file in your project.
    • Provides type safety and improved developer experience.
    • Reduces bugs and improves code maintainability.
  • Built-in CSS and Sass Support
    NextJS allows you to import CSS and Sass files directly into your components. It also supports CSS modules for scoped styles.
    • Simplifies styling by allowing you to use CSS and Sass directly.
    • Provides scoped styles to avoid conflicts.
  • Turbo Mode
    NextJS introduced Turbo Mode, which leverages Rust-based tooling to significantly speed up development and build times. Turbo Mode includes TurboPack, a fast bundler, and TurboCache for caching dependencies.
    • Improves build and development speed.
    • Enhances the developer experience with faster feedback loops.
  • Static File Serving
    NextJS can serve static files from the public directory. Files in this directory are accessible at the root level of your application.
    • Simplifies serving static assets like images, fonts, and other files.
  • Middleware
    NextJS allows you to create middleware functions that run before a request is completed. This can be used for tasks such as authentication, logging, and more. But that feature is covered by ExpressJS if we use Express with React, otherwise react doesn't have it!
    • Provides control over the request lifecycle.
    • Enhances security and functionality with custom middleware logic.

NextJS provides a comprehensive set of features that enhance React applications by simplifying development, improving performance, and adding powerful capabilities out of the box. From file-based routing and image optimization to server-side rendering and Turbo Mode, NextJS addresses many common challenges faced by React developers, making it a robust choice for modern web development.

Innovation and Trust in the NextJS Team

One of the key reasons many developers, including myself, lean towards NextJS is the constant innovation and robust support from the NextJS team. While React is an incredibly powerful library with a strong community and backing from Facebook, the team behind NextJS, Vercel, has demonstrated a consistent commitment to pushing the boundaries of web development.

Notable Adoption: NodeJS Website Rewritten in NextJS

A testament to the growing trust and innovation behind NextJS is its adoption by the NodeJS team. The official NodeJS website was recently rewritten using NextJS, highlighting its powerful capabilities and the confidence major projects place in the framework.


Both ExpressJS with React and NextJS have their strengths and weaknesses. The choice depends on the specific needs of your project. ExpressJS with React offers greater flexibility and control, making it suitable for highly customized applications. NextJS, on the other hand, accelerates development with built-in features and is ideal for projects needing SEO optimization and rapid deployment.


Both ExpressJS with React and NextJS have their strengths and weaknesses, depending on the specific needs of your project. ExpressJS with React offers greater flexibility and control, making it suitable for highly customized applications, complex API handling, and projects that require a modular approach. Its extensive ecosystem allows for the integration of numerous libraries and tools, providing the ability to tailor the backend as needed.

On the other hand, NextJS accelerates development with a wealth of built-in features, including server-side rendering (SSR), static site generation (SSG), automatic code splitting, and file-based routing. These features make NextJS an ideal choice for projects that prioritize SEO, performance, and rapid development. The strong community andcontinuous innovation from the NextJS team ensure that it remains a robust and forward-thinking framework.

Ultimately, the choice between ExpressJS with React and NextJS should be guided by your project's requirements, your team's expertise, and the long-term goals of your application. Both frameworks offer powerful tools to build modern web applications, but their differences can significantly impact the development process and end results.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right framework can significantly impact your project's success. Evaluate your project requirements, team expertise, and long-term maintenance considerations before making a decision.