Isomorphic react

When it comes to building applications you will usually find that the underlying system design is broken up into 2 “sections”, the frontend and the backend. React is a JavaScript library specifically for building interactive user interfaces with efficient data processing for rendering and updating content. 

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React used by itself may not compete very well with search engines against other sites, although to get an idea of what optimizing a React application might look like from our side, check out our article React for SEO

The word Isomorphic can be a bit intimidating but simply is another word for universal.

With respect to Isomorphic React this term means that the web app is made of code that can be rendered on both server and client side, this takes full advantage of benefits from both methods or running websites. 

Isomorphic apps generally work with 3 major steps: 

  1. The initial request to render the application (usually by the server)
  2. Consecutive requests to load other pages using client-side rendering
  3. Server-side state management

What is Isomorphic React?

Here is the Pros & Cons:

Pros

  • Consistency across all browsers and devices
  • SEO friendly (as it can leverage Server-Side rendering)
  • Speed and performance are greatly increased
  • Codebase is much simpler

Cons

  • The learning curve to developing isomorphic applications
  • Debugging is much harder than normal
  • 2 pairs of keys need to be managed for the client and server individually in isomorphic applications

What are the advantages of Leveraging Server-Side rendering?

Server-side rendering is when an application converts HTML files on a server into a fully rendered web page for the user’s browser to just show, this happens when a user makes a request for information from the site through entering a URL, and the server responds with the fully rendered page. 

This allows for users to get a much faster load experience and inherently optimizes SEO because the website will not only load faster, but be crawled faster by search engines. This results in making it much easier for search engines to understand and render your websites content, making it much easier to be placing them higher in search results. 

Users with slower internet connection speeds are also benefited as well.

The Cost Of Server-Side Rendering

Implementing server-side rendering can prove to be costly and resource intensive. 

For example the servers take on the burden of loading all users & bot content, which can be an issue depending on the services of the website. 

The size of the application can also greatly affect load times especially if there are a lot of full page reloads and server requests among the website. 

With server-side rendering each time you visit a different page on the site  you make a server request to load the page given it has not already been cached, or temporarily saved, and re-render everything no matter how little has actually changed on the page. This can prove to be extremely slow but is great for web pages with minimal interactivity but can be counteracted by adding more server RAM storage.

There is also the issue of library compatibility. Sometimes, a library that was built to work with a typical, client-side SPA, is naively utilized in an SSR environment and doesn’t work correctly. This was the case with react-helmet, which in-turn led to the creation of the SSR friendly version, react-helmet-async.

Are there Frameworks that already leverage Isomorphic Patterns?

Yes, let’s introduce two of the most popular, Gatsby.JS and Next.JS.

Gatsby is an open-source framework that allows development of applications that utilize the best parts of other frameworks such as React, Webpack, and GraphQL. Gatsby combines the speed of a server-rendered site with complex interactions by only using static files and converting the website code into a single HTML file with static assets.  

Next.JS is also a framework built on top of React, making development and scaling possible with the ability to create websites that are both server and client side rendered.

Essentially, both are examples of isomorphic application frameworks. Here is an in depth article where we compare both Next JS and Gatsby.

Other Advantages 

React, Vue, Angular, etc. are all examples of widely adopted Javascript frameworks, yet they still function with client-side rendering.   

So if your application has already been created using any of the listed above, you can leverage SEO testing with Prerender.io or rendertron

These are middleware that is generally installed on your server that sill serve a static HTML version of your page when web crawlers like Googlebot are on your website. 

Final Thoughts on the isomorphic Process & React

If you have the opportunity to leverage the isomorphic development paradigm, it is sure to give you an advantage when it comes to speed, performance, and SEO. If you’re not sure where to start please reach out and we’ll get you sorted out. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Leverage server side rendering or static HTML websites for search engine and performance optimization 
  • Isomorphic React is the way to go, but may need more experienced developers
  • The easiest way to get this done would be to use a JavaScript framework that already does this out of the box, such as Next.JS.
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