What is Server-Side Rendering (SSR)? What Frameworks Support SSR for Web Development?

SSR is not a new concept and was fairly in use before search engines adopted JavaScript for rendering web pages on client machines. Here are SSR framework and web development details.

5 min read
Dec 9, 2021

Over the years, web pages have transformed from simple HTML text to the full-fledged interactive experience, which has changed the face of web development. Introduction of JavaScript-Based Frameworks and Search Engine Optimization are considered revolutionary advancements in the web development field.

JavaScript provides end-users with a fun and interactive experience while SEO enables those users to find the right web pages. Server-Side Rendering (SSR) is what makes performing both tasks possible. But with the advent of JavaScript, SSR took a backseat for a while and client-side rendering rose to fame.

However, Server-Side Rendering has resurfaced thanks to notable advancements in the computing powers of servers available today. SSR is not a new concept and was fairly in use before search engines adopted JavaScript for rendering web pages on client machines. Let’s get a clear picture of what SSR is and why it rose to popularity again today.

What is Server-Side Rendering?

Server-Side Rendering is a method of loading and parsing frontend elements and codes of web applications on the hosted server itself. Back in the day, browsers were not that advanced and only rendered the content of the HTML documents to present a static version of a web page to users.

The basic idea was to render all the elements on the server so that browsers don’t have to compile much. This was fast and efficient. However, the advent of JavaScript-based frameworks changed the face of rendering frontends altogether.

The developers shifted rendering frontend elements client-side. Also, acceptance to read JavaScript by Google and other search engines worked in the favor of client-side rendering.

However, new research and developments have helped SSR to resurface after so many years. It has been gaining some traction within the community thanks to the easy-to-use server-side hydration feature popularized by React.

Today, SSR has become powerful enough to render large and complex web applications. What it does is sends a fully rendered HTML file to the browser to make a page viewable first while the browser downloads JS files to make it interactive.

In client-side rendering (CSR), users have to wait until the browser downloads the JS and other files to make the page viewable and interactive. That waiting felt like a pain in the chest.

The server has to do all of that over and over again when navigated to another route, which results in a delay for page rendering. But new enhancements allow a framework’s dynamic routing with AJAX to fetch data as soon as possible, reducing the rendering time.

The advantage of doing so is web app frontends are developed and delivered for users to view and interact with the page seamlessly. The only catch is that the extra burden it puts on your server, which most advanced servers can easily handle.

Another advantage of SSR is it leverages the reliable internet connection of the server for rendering and parsing data. Server-Side Rendering also fixes the issue of social sharing and the OpenGraph system that exists in client-rendered frontends.

Differences in Server-Side Rendering and Client-Side Rendering

When it comes to deciding the method of rendering out of the two, most web developers seem to be in a dilemma. So, let’s clear it out by stating some differences between Server-Side and Client-Side Rendering.

1. Page Load Time

Page Load Time is the time taken by the browser from the moment of request to the moment the page was fully rendered on the browser. Page load time holds a significant place for the user experience of a web application. The page load time for both rendering types differs greatly.

The first & initial loading time for SSR is less as the browser gets a pre-compiled HTML and corresponding CSS/JS files from the server. For the client-side, the average first load time is typically higher as the browser loads all the required files at once and then only compiles the HTML for the page to be viewable and interactive.

But when it comes to second and subsequent load time, CSR gets the upper hand as all the files are pre-loaded and page load time is improved. While SSR has to follow the complete cycle again but it hardly impacts page load time. And mow, frameworks with SSR hydration features are all set to change such a scenario.

2. Caching

Caching is the need of the hour to deliver an exceptional user experience to end-users. Web browsers and even servers deploy some sort of caching mechanism that aids in speeding up the web applications. Deploying caching mechanism improves the perceived load time on the users’ machines for both the rendering type.

Without lazy loading, CSR-based apps can run even without the internet connection once all the scripts are loaded and no more requests are sent to the server.

However, in the case of the SSR, a request is sent every time to the server. But with caching mechanism up and running, rendering speed is improved significantly. This helps browsers to retrieve the scripts from the cache memory, resulting in a performance boost.

3. Effect on SEO

SSR is comparably the better solution for search engine optimized web applications than CSR. SSR compiles the page with the right metadata and ensures they remain accurate even if the search engine crawlers compile the JavaScript or not.

On CSR, the accuracy of metadata relies on JavaScript execution. Also, you’d have to put additional effort to ensure that metadata changes from one page to another. Sometimes, you’d have to use 3rd-party plugins or modules available by the framework.

Server-Side Rendering Use-Cases

Here are certain use-cases of SSR where it does a better job than CSR.

1. Loading Dynamic Content

As the technology has advanced, servers have also gone through significant upgrades over the years. They have higher compute power now than ever before, which gives them enough juice to process a large number of requests for fetching dynamic content and data faster than before.

While CSR relies on the client machines and their internet connection, rendering dynamic content takes longer due to the limited computing power available. Thus, Server-Side Rendering is your best bet if your web app frontends require rendering dynamic content repeatedly.

2. Large & Complex Frontends

Client-Side Rendered frontends have higher initial load times than rendered on the server-side. And if the application is complex or large in size, the perceived load time is even higher which slows down the app further. It’s one of the most common issues for consumer-facing apps, especially those accessed through mobile devices.

And as such, the goal of the fast and improved load time of large and complex web applications is achieved easily with the server-side rendering.

What Frameworks Support SSR for Web Development?

For fast-loading frontends, it is necessary to deliver essential data and content to the browser. And as mentioned, server-side rendering perfectly does the job. Here are some frameworks with included support for SSR for web software development.

1. React

2. Angular Universal

3. NextJS

4. NuxtJS

5. GatsbyJS

Final Thoughts

I hope this article helped you understand what server-side rendering is, how it is better than CSR, what are the use-cases of SSR, and what frameworks offer support for SSR for web development. In our view, Client-Rendered apps aren’t enough and must be avoided in favor of providing a better user experience to end-users.

SSR is really powerful and widely suitable for large and complex web applications with dynamic content that requires repeated rendering to present real-time information. Not only that, but SSR is the preferred choice for SEO and social crawlers as performance is one of the major ranking factors.

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