Understanding React Server-Side Rendering

Katie Mikova / Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Here’s a thing - users are more likely to engage with an application that is dynamic and responds quickly to their actions. That’s why making your React app work faster, more responsive, and performant is critical. This way, end-users can immediately see the content they expect. And one of the best methods to achieve this while fostering a smoother interaction with the app is through React Server-Side Rendering (SSR).

Let’s delve deeper into React SSR, exploring its usage, advantages, and differences compared to Client-Side Rendering. This will help you understand how it all works so you can optimize any React application more efficiently.

Quick topics overview:

What Is React Server-Side Rendering?

In essence, this refers to the process of dynamically rendering a client-side single-page application (SPA) on the server and then sending a fully rendered page to the client's browser. The final HTML is generated to the client's web browser without having to transmit raw data first or wait for JS bundles to be downloaded and parsed while users stare at a blank page at the same time.

After that, Client-Side Rendering picks up, adopting the DOM and fetching interactivity. It's like a shortcut and you get the benefit of every page being rendered and loaded right from the server in no time. What's important to note is that the initial render happens in a server runtime like Node.js by default if you use Next.js.

Here's what the SSR process looks like:

  1. Initial request - this is when a user goes to a webpage and the browser sends a request to the server.
  2. Executing React code - upon receiving the request, the server generates React code and HTML content for the requested page.
  3. HTML goes to the client – this is done by the server.
  4. Initializing view layer and "hydration" – this feature allows for displaying React components inside a browser DOM node.
  5. Client-side interactivity - from this point on, user interactions initiate React updates on the client-side, ensuring accessibility for users.

But How Is This Different in Client-Side Rendering?

When it comes to Server-Side Rendering vs Client-Side Rendering in React, the big difference is that
client-side rendering involves sending minimal HTML content (raw data) to the client and then using JavaScript to construct, render, and update the page in the browser. I would say that Client-Side Rendering is more suitable for highly interactive web apps and SPAs requiring real-time updates. Because the app can fetch and render data asynchronously without full page reloads, this allows for more interactive and dynamic UXs compared to React SSR.

On the other hand, the latter pre−renders HTML pages on a server and sends them back to the client's browser, ensuring faster initial page load times. In contrast to CSR, React Server-Side Rendering is more suitable for content-heavy websites and applications that seek better SEO ranking.

Benefits of React SSR

By utilizing this powerful technique and integrating server-side rendered components, you accelerate loading times and gain control over the content displayed with each page request. But let's see the other benefits of server-side rendering in React.

  • Delivering enhanced performance

If there's one reason for switching to React Server-Side Rendering, it's the boosted performance of web apps. By delivering pre-rendered HTML content to users, this approach significantly reduces the processing workload on the client side, which leads to the next advantage.

  • Quicker load times and interactions

SSR can work with other tools and techniques that facilitate code splitting and break JavaScript and CSS into chunks. This results in optimizing the load time and showing viewable content faster than traditional client-side rendering, which is key to winning and retaining users.

  • Ensuring better accessibility

Another great thing is that even when JavaScript is disabled or doesn’t load, React SSR still ensures the page is available by delivering pre-rendered HTML content. This benefits users with disabilities or those using assistive technologies.

  • More satisfying UX

Server-side rendering in React improves the overall user experience by providing better performance, faster load times, and improved accessibility, leading to higher engagement and retention rates.

  • Scoring better parameters that boost performance in the first place

Three parameters drive performance: TTFB (Time To First Byte), FCP (First Contentful Paint), and TTI (Time To Interactive). Since a completely rendered HTML page is transmitted to the browser, all these see a huge push, enabling people to interact with the page immediately. They have higher TTFB, faster FCP, and shorter TTI, resulting in a more responsive and engaging UX.

  • There’s the improved SEO factor too

Search engines prioritize content that loads quickly and is indexed correctly. Now, with client-side rendering, search engines find it more challenging to crawl and index dynamically generated content. This impacts the visibility of the content in search engine results, which can be a huge issue. However, when using server-side rendering, you provide fully rendered HTML content. Which results in better indexing and helps the content rank higher in search results.

How to Use React SSR With Ignite UI

If you want to start using Server-Side Rendering in React with Ignite UI, we recommend using Next.js and following these quick steps:

  1. Start a new Next.js project.
  2. Install Ignite UI for React.
  3. Add Ignite UI components to your project by installing the necessary packages.
  4. Import the required modules of the components you want to use.
  5. Run the Next.js application by using:

npm run dev

  1. Test your SSR application thoroughly to ensure that it functions correctly and debug if necessary.
  2. Lastly, deploy your SSR application to a production environment.

For a more detailed explanation, you can see our comprehensive guide.

Wrap Up…

When it comes to React development, Server-Side Rendering is becoming extremely crucial. It boosts the initial loading speed of your web pages by pre-rendering HTML content on the server, but it also ensures better accessibility, enhanced performance, and even improved search engine optimization by providing fully rendered HTML content.

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