SSR vs. SSG: A guide to making the right choice for your applications
Web development has evolved remarkably over the past few years, with the advent of new tools and techniques for building and maintaining websites and applications.
Today, two approaches stand out in modern web development: Static Site Generation (SSG) and Server-Side Rendering (SSR). In this article, I will dive deep into the differences between SSG and SSR, their advantages, popular frameworks, and how Sanity fits into the contemporary web development landscape. Hopefully this will provide insights for web developers, technical project managers, and web designers to make informed decisions about which rendering approach to choose for their projects.
SSG has numerous benefits for web development:
- Speed: Pre-rendered pages are served directly from the server or a Content Delivery Network (CDN), reducing load times and enhancing the user experience.
- Security: Since there are no databases or server-side processes involved, SSG minimizes the attack surface and potential security vulnerabilities.
- Simpler Deployment: SSG omits the need for complex server setups or database management, streamlining the deployment process.
- SEO-friendly: Pre-rendered pages make it easier for search engine bots to crawl and index, improving search engine visibility and ranking.
However, SSG might not be the best choice for websites with dynamic or frequently updating content, as it requires a rebuild and redeployment each time content changes.
Server-Side Rendering is a technique where web pages are rendered on the server at request time for each user. This approach allows for dynamic data and interactive content to be generated on-the-fly, providing a more personalized user experience.
SSR has its unique advantages for web development:
- Dynamic Content: SSR allows for the display of dynamic and frequently updating content, making it suitable for web applications that require real-time updates.
- SEO-optimized: Since HTML is generated on the server, search engine bots can more easily crawl and index the content, improving search visibility and rankings.
- User Experience: SSR offers a faster initial page load time and ensures that users are served up-to-date content.
However, SSR has drawbacks as well, such as slower rendering times compared to SSG and increased server load.
Both SSG and SSR are excellent for SEO, as they generate HTML outputs on the server, allowing search engine bots to crawl and index the pages more easily.
SSG offers faster rendering, which makes it more suitable for larger pages, whilst SSR enables you to keep dynamic content fresh.
Ultimately, the choice between SSG and SSR hinges on the specific needs of your web application. If all content and data is available at build time, then SSG is probably the best approach for you. Otherwise you may need to consider SSR.
There are several popular frameworks for implementing SSG and SSR:
- Next.js: A popular React framework that supports both SSG and SSR and has built-in features like dynamic page routing and incremental static regeneration.
- Gatsby.js: A popular React-based SSG, suitable for static sites with rich features and optimized performance.
- Nuxt.js: A popular Vue.js framework that supports both SSG and SSR, offering a range of features for building modern web applications.
- Hugo: A fast and flexible SSG built with the Go programming language, suitable for blogs, documentation, and other static content-heavy websites.
Sanity is an open-source, API-based headless CMS that seamlessly integrates with major frameworks and platforms, including Next.js, Gatsby.js, Nuxt.js, and Hugo. It offers a powerful and flexible content platform that can work effectively with both SSG and SSR approaches.
Sanity and Next.js both utilize React, making it convenient for developers to build and ship Next.js apps or websites. Sanity offers powerful query APIs for filtering, sorting, and shaping data, as well as real-time previews for catching errors before publishing.
With the official next-sanity toolkit, developers can supercharge their Next.js projects with live previews, image fetching, webhook validation, and much more.
Sanity can also be easily integrated with other popular SSG/SSR frameworks, such as Gatsby.js, Nuxt.js, and Hugo. By providing API endpoints and SDKs for these frameworks, Sanity allows developers to fetch and manipulate content from the Sanity Content Lake to create rich, dynamic, and scalable web applications.
As we have discussed the merits and limitations of both SSR and SSG, it's important to introduce a newer approach that combines the best of both worlds: Incremental Static Regeneration (ISR). This hybrid approach aims to bring the benefits of both SSR and SSG, while mitigating their respective drawbacks.
Available in Next.js, it allows developers to generate and serve static pages, but also to update and regenerate these pages incrementally on-demand, instead of building every page at once during build time. With ISR, the pages are built and served statically, but they can also be updated with new data whenever required, without the need to rebuild the entire application.
This approach offers the benefits of Static Site Generation, like fast loading times and reduced server load, while also providing the flexibility of Server Side Rendering, as the pages can be updated with the latest data when needed. This can be especially beneficial in applications where the content changes frequently or when building large-scale applications with thousands of pages.
Some key points to consider when using ISR are:
- The initial loading of the page remains fast, as it serves pre-built static content.
- It offers a scalable solution for applications with dynamic content or large numbers of pages.
- The server load is reduced compared to traditional SSR, as the regeneration process happens incrementally and on-demand.
In summary, both SSG and SSR have their pros and cons when it comes to web development. Choosing between the two depends on the specific requirements of your project.
For sites with static content, such as blogs or marketing sites, SSG is an ideal choice. On the other hand, for web applications with dynamic content and user interactions, SSR might be the better option. If you have a large application with constantly changing content, ISR would be worth investigating.
Sanity's seamless integration with popular SSG, SSR and ISR frameworks, like Next.js, Gatsby.js, Nuxt.js, and Hugo, makes it an ideal choice for modern web development projects. By understanding the differences between SSG and SSR and leveraging the powerful features of Sanity, web developers can make better architectural decisions and ultimately provide better value for end-users.