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Joanna Otmianowska
Joanna Otmianowska

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Aha Moments I Had When Trying Next.js 14 for the First Time (as a React Dev) 🚀🤯✨

As a React dev, I recently dove into Next.js 14 and boy, did I have some interesting "Aha!" moments. I thought I'd share my journey and the lessons I learned, so you can benefit from my experiences and perhaps have a smoother transition.

1. Your Logs Are in the Terminal 📜

First thing I noticed was that logs aren’t popping up in my browser console anymore. Instead, they’re all neatly organized in the terminal. This can be a bit of a surprise if you're used to debugging with console.log in the browser. It turns out that because Next.js leans heavily on server-side rendering (SSR), many of the logs are generated on the server side. So, keep your terminal open and handy! 📺

Important: Logs for client-side code will still appear in the browser console. Only server-side logs will appear in the terminal. Ensure you're aware of where your code is running.

2. No More pages Directory 📂

Remember all those tutorials telling you to put your components in the pages directory? Well, Next.js 14 has moved away from that. Instead, it uses the app directory for building routes and components. This new structure aligns with a more modular approach, making it easier to manage and scale large applications. So if you can't find pages, don’t panic—just look for app!

Important: As of Next.js 13, the app directory was introduced but the pages directory is still available for use. The app directory follows the new file-based routing system, while pages is part of the older system.

3. Components are Server Ones Unless Specified 🖥️

By default, all components in Next.js 14 are server components. This means they are rendered on the server and sent to the client, which can improve performance and SEO. However, if you need client-side interactivity, you have to explicitly declare a component as a client component using the use client directive. This separation helps optimize rendering and resource usage.

4. Hooks are for Client Components Only 🪝

If you love using hooks like useState and useEffect, here's a heads-up: you can only use them in client components. Server components don't have access to the hooks because they are rendered on the server, where hooks like useEffect wouldn't make sense. This constraint encourages you to think about where your state and side effects should live, promoting cleaner and more efficient code.

5. Asynchronous Components are Server-Only 🔄

Async components can only be used on the server side. This makes sense because server components can handle data fetching before sending the final HTML to the client. If you need to fetch data client-side, you'll need to use client components or hooks like useEffect in your client components. This division ensures that the initial load is fast and the client does minimal work.

6. Routing is Super Cool and Intuitive 🗺️

Next.js 14 has an amazing routing system that feels natural and intuitive. Routes are defined by the file structure in the app directory, and dynamic routing is a breeze with file and folder naming conventions. You don't need to configure a router manually—Next.js handles it all for you. This approach reduces boilerplate code and makes navigation a lot simpler.

7. Automagical Features That Are Mind-Boggling 🤯

There are many "automagical" features in Next.js 14 that can be hard to wrap your head around at first. Dynamic routes, for instance, are incredibly powerful but might seem confusing initially. These features automate a lot of the heavy lifting, letting you focus on building features rather than boilerplate code. Take the time to read the documentation and experiment—it’s worth it!

8. Caching Galore 🚀

One thing that caught me off guard was how aggressively Next.js caches components. This is great for performance but can be tricky when you need to update a component frequently. You'll need to use strategies like setting proper cache headers or using revalidate to control when data should be refreshed. Understanding caching mechanisms in Next.js will save you a lot of headaches.

Wrapping Up 🎁

Switching to Next.js 14 from React alone was a bit of a learning curve, but these "Aha!" moments were worth it. The framework offers a ton of features that can supercharge your apps, once you get the hang of them. I hope these insights help you on your Next.js journey. Happy coding! 👩‍💻👨‍💻

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