Comparing WordPress, Next.js, and React.js for Business Websites: Benefits and Disadvantages
When having a new business website designed and developed, you may come across media agencies that offer to build your website with the popular content management system (CMS); WordPress, while other agencies such as ourselves will build your site using modern frameworks such as Next.js and React.
This may have you wondering, what are the benefits and downsides to each approach.
In this article, we explore the benefits and disadvantages of using Next.js and React over WordPress in relation to the future online growth and success of your business.
Below is an overview of what is covered in this article:
- An overview of the technologies
- WordPress overview
- React overview
- Next.js overview
- Headless CMS overview
- Comparing the technologies
- React vs WordPress
- Next.js vs WordPress
- Headless CMS vs WordPress
- Pros and cons of using Next.js
- Pros and cons of using WordPress
- When should I use WordPress or Next.js?
A quick overview of the three technologies; WordPress, React and Next.js
WordPress is the most popular method of building a website and powers around 43% of the web. It is an open source CMS that uses PHP (a programming language) and MySQL (a database).
The admin dashboard of a WordPress website is user-friendly and enables you to create and edit your own blogs and basic pages.
WordPress is easily extensible with a high number of free (and paid) plugins that can add functionality to your website, such as WooCommerce, which provides you with ecommerce functionality.
Although highly popular with web developers, React currently only powers around 4% of websites around the world.
React provides developers with the ability to build complex and interactive user interfaces (UI’s), which are rendered on the server and in turn boasts a high performance due to only re-rendering sections of the UI which have changed, rather than re-rendering the entire page.
Next.js is a web framework which is built on top of React and is a powerful web framework that provides the ability to create static HTML files which are rendered on the server before sending to the user's browser.
This massively improves performance and load times of websites as it loads the code for required functionality as and when it is needed on the browser.
Next.js is our preferred method of website development.
Headless CMS’s Overview
WordPress was built as a content management system (CMS) for blogging and includes a frontend (website) user interface on the same system.
A headless CMS is basically just a database of content that includes an interface for editing and updating the content, but does not include a frontend user interface. However, it can be accessed through the use of an API which can communicate the data to any device, e.g. a website, mobile application, TV etc.
WordPress can be used as a headless CMS - you use the WordPress admin dashboard to create, edit and publish your content (pages, blogs, products) and then the data is accessed by a React or Next.js frontend through the WordPress API. However if going down this route, it’s much more efficient and cost effective to have a popular headless CMS developed specifically around your requirements.
A comparison is an Ecommerce website built with WordPress and a React/Next.js website with a headless CMS;
On WordPress, you’d likely use the WooCommerce plugin - This provides you the ability to add products, manage orders and handle payments, both on the admin dashboard and the user facing frontend/website.
Whereas a Next.js website could use a headless CMS such as BigCommerce - BigCommerce is where you would handle all the products data and orders and the Next.js frontend would be fast, responsive and built to fit your use case, communicating orders to BigCommerce via an API.
Comparing the three frameworks/technologies
Now that you have a basic understanding of the three frameworks, let’s compare them.
React vs WordPress
Using React for your business website has a number of advantages compared to WordPress, such as:
1. Fast and performant
As mentioned above, React only updates sections/components of the UI when it detects a change (unless you’re a bad developer, then you can cause excessive UI updates), using what is known as the virtual DOM.
This is especially noticeable in complex UIs; If your website includes a lot of dynamic and interactive elements, React is a clear winner over WordPress in terms of performance - A highly dynamic and complex UI in WordPress will feel laggy and sluggish.
Take an extreme case such as a crypto exchange; On the trading pages, there are many many elements which are continually updating - the price chart, bid/ask prices, the order book etc. If you attempted to create this in WordPress, the website would be extremely slow and sluggish, thus making the user experience atrocious.
2. Improved developer experience
Due to how React is used behind the scenes, it greatly improves the developer experience, allowing us full flexibility over the functionality of the website, making it simple to maintain and expand upon; The code we write does exactly what we intend and no more.
Compare this to WordPress, where a user will add a plugin - If they need to expand upon the plugins functionality, they will either need to get a developer to re-develop a new plugin with the extra functionality, or install another plugin (which will reduce performance).
Another aspect is the frustration that comes with building on top of the WordPress system - Developers will routinely find they are having to work against the underlying functionality of WordPress when adding in new features.
3. Simple integration with other web technologies
If you are running a WordPress website and require some extra functionality, the likely route is to install a plugin - depending on the functionality you require, it is likely you’ll have to pay for a subscription to said plugin.
Take an example of a multi-step form. With WordPress, you’ll likely require a paid plugin. Compare this to React, where as a developer, I can whip you up a multi-step form in under an hour, with no ongoing subscription fee.
4. Improved security
With the prevalence of WordPress across the web, it is commonly used as a target for hackers. Combine this with the fact that it is common for plugins to include vulnerabilities, the security of your websites content is at risk;
If a hacker gains access to your WordPress installation through a vulnerable plugin, they have access to your data - Blog posts, user accounts, sales figures etc.
Compare this to React with a headless CMS (headless explained later), where a hacker cannot gain access to the content through a vulnerable plugin, this is due to React only fetching data from the CMS on the server and combining it into the HTML before sending to the users browser. (Unless the developer has coded the website in such a way that the data is being fetched from the browser, which poses a small risk if done incorrectly).
Next.js vs WordPress
Next.js has a number of benefits when used as the framework of your business website when compared to the limitations of WordPress.
You will definitely notice the performance benefit of Next.js when loading a website on a mobile device or with slow internet. Been on websites that take 5+ seconds to load? It is highly probable that it was a WordPress website.
Next.js enables high performance due to a variety of factors, including in-built code splitting as mentioned above, only the required code is sent to the users browser, thus greatly improving load times. Compare this to WordPress, where code is downloaded onto the browser even when it isn’t required.
Usually when a page loads on a WordPress website, it fetches data from the database, which takes time and server resources (a server must be running all the time to host a WordPress website)
Compare this to Next.js, where there is the ability to generate static pages (web pages that have all the required data/content from the database pre-loaded into the page). This generates a HTML file, which can be cached and sent near instantaneously to the user's browser.
Due to the static page generation ability of Next.js, content is able to be stored on a content delivery network (CDN), which means traffic spikes are handled effortlessly without the need of more servers. On the other hand, a WordPress website that encounters a high traffic spike would likely throttle and bottleneck at the server level, unless more server resources are added.
3. Simpler for complex websites
WordPress does have good uses, such as a simple blog or landing page. However, extend into the ecommerce or complex web application space and you’ll likely encounter roadblocks and management issues.
The main focus of Next.js is to provide performance and scalability to web applications. It provides developers with the ability to create highly maintainable and extensible codebases that are custom built entirely around the requirements of the business and/or end user.
A headless CMS vs WordPress
There are a few benefits to utilising a headless CMS compared to using exclusively WordPress, including but not limited to:
1. Improved performance
WordPress renders data server-side, however a headless CMS will deliver content to the website using an API. Couple this with the static page ability of Next.js and you end up with a lightning fast, easily scalable website that can handle large amounts of traffic.
2. Frontend flexibility
As a headless CMS is not frontend facing (i.e. does not have a website for users to browse) and includes API access, you are free to use any frontend technology to show the content.
With WordPress, you are largely tied in to using the WordPress website to show your content on a website, whereas with a headless CMS, you are completely free to use any frontend technology - be it a React, Next.js, Angular, mobile application and more. This allows you to tailor the experience for different use-cases much more easily.
Scalability, a word you’re probably getting sick of by now. However a headless CMS is excellent for ease of scalability.
With WordPress, if you’re expecting a large growth in traffic, it can be challenging to scale up the technological resources to handle the increase in traffic without experiencing large bottlenecks and performance issues. Whereas a headless CMS is designed for simple scalability - meaning a large increase in traffic and usage will have little to no effect on performance.
As mentioned previously, the common route for adding in functionality to a WordPress website is to install plugins.
Take an example of adding in a CRM to a WooCommerce installation where you want to add a customer to the CRM when they make a purchase. There may be a plugin to do this (likely with yet another paid subscription), whereas with a headless CMS, as a developer we can easily intercept the order and customer data request and add it to the CRM.
With a headless CMS, there is no frontend facing data as there is with WordPress, meaning that there is a much(!) smaller attack vector for hackers to gain access to your important data.
Pros and cons of a Next.js website for your business
At NPK Media, we utilise Next.js to develop client websites as it is an incredibly powerful framework. Below we explore a few advantages and disadvantages that Next.js has to your business.
The advantages of a Next.js website for your business:
1. Improved performance
As Next.js implements server-side rendering, content on your website has very fast load times, even for users with poor wifi speeds. A faster website increases user engagement, conversions and boosts sales.
2. Better SEO
Again, due to server-side rendering, content is more accessible to search engines when crawling and indexing your websites pages. This enables you to gain more organic traffic from Google, Bing and other search engines.
3. Large developer pool
Next.js is very popular among developers due to its ecosystem. If your website is built with Next.js, it will be easy to find a developer(s) that can extend the current functionality, or tweak, your current website.
Next.js is easily scalable - If you start with a WordPress website and your business starts to grow, you’ll notice the bottlenecks. Next.js with a headless CMS can handle very high numbers of users without degrading the performance of the website for other users, as a WordPress website would.
WordPress requires a traditional server to run, however Next.js can be used in a serverless approach. I won’t get into the technicalities of serverless, however it is more performant and generally cheaper than running a traditional server.
The disadvantages of Next.js for your business website
When it comes to Next.js and the downsides it can have for your business, there isn’t really much to say; the only potential pitfalls of Next.js include:
1. Relies on React
Next.js is built on top of React, so if your current framework is not React, it will need to be rewritten.
2. High level of knowledge required
3. Continually evolving
Compared to WordPress, Next.js is very new and as such is continually evolving, requiring developers to keep up with the latest updates.
Pros and Cons of using WordPress for your business website
WordPress is a great starting point if you’re starting a small business and want to get an online presence quickly with a limited budget. Below we explore a few of the advantages and disadvantages of using WordPress for your business website.
The advantages of WordPress for a website
1. Simple to use
WordPress is very intuitive and easy to set up for a person with zero coding knowledge. This allows anyone to start a website and start a blog, simple brochure website or a simple online store.
Combined with a cheap hosting company, you could essentially launch a WordPress website for ~£5 - £20 a month, which would cover hosting costs, a domain name and an email account. This is factoring in that you would not be purchasing or subscribing to any plugins.
3. Large ecosystem
The number of plugins available to you to extend the functionality of your website is very large. As of April 2022, there were over 55,000 plugins available in the WordPress plugin directory.
The disadvantages of WordPress for your business’s website
WordPress is simple and cheap to get up and running for a simple website, however you should be aware of the cons of utilising it for your website;
1. Limited customisation
Although there is a large selection of plugins available, creating a truly custom experience on a WordPress website is pretty difficult. You’re largely tied in to the templating engine that runs WordPress for the functionality of your website. You can create a custom website design, with a no-code page builder or similar, however these reduce the performance massively.
2. Security issues
As WordPress is so widely used, it is continually targeted by hackers looking to breach and obtain your precious and sensitive data. Plugins and the core functionality of WordPress often have vulnerabilities found, which if compromised will greatly damage your reputation, and potentially leave you with a fine if sensitive data is released.
3. Third-party tie-ins
Due to the prevalent use of plugins on a WordPress website, you’ll be largely tied in to the methodologies of the creators of these plugins - If a vulnerability is found in a plugin which is no longer maintained, you’ll need to either have a developer come in and fix the mess, find a new plugin that does the exact same thing or stick your head in the sand.
Obtaining support from the creators of plugins can be fairly difficult too - if a plugin update breaks your website, you need the creators to be responsive in getting back to you, and you’ll potentially also need some coding knowledge to patch the problem in the meantime.
4. Poor performance
WordPress was built as a blogging engine, however has been built upon to extend the functionality to many other applications. Due to the core functionality of WordPress being intended for a simple blog website, running an online shop or other large application can be very demanding as it was not intended to be used for such applications.
This causes slow page loads, slow requests (e.g. fetching items in a cart), which will greatly hinder user experience, leading to lower sales and a poor image reflected about your business.
When should I use WordPress or Next.js?
Although we have 💩 on WordPress a lot in this article, it does have a couple of good use cases.
Below is a table which should help you determine whether to build your own WordPress website or have a media agency such as ours develop a completely custom Next.js website for you.
No (unless you can code yourself)
Simple website (blog or simple small business showcase website)
An online shop
No (unless you have a very low amount of traffic)
A website with many article editors/product managers working simultaneously
An interactive, animated website
A super-fast website
A website with high traffic
A website which handles sensitive user data
Custom application e.g. YouTube, social media platform
By utilising a modern technology such as Next.js, coupled with a headless CMS rather than using WordPress, as a business you can take advantage of a range of benefits, such as:
Improved performance and traffic, simple scalability, higher data security, simple integration with other technologies and systems.
By utilising a media agency such as ourselves, we are able to keep you at the forefront of the technological curve, providing you with a completely custom and unique experience for your end users, to enable growth, engagement and sales to position you for success online.