Styling Options in Next.js

Need help with how to style your Next.js applications? Dive into this article exploring various options to achieve your design goals. From the familiarity of Global CSS to the component-focused approach of CSS Modules and the rapid prototyping capabilities of Tailwind CSS, Next.js offers a styling toolbox that caters to your preferences. Whether you prefer a tightly coupled approach with Styled-JSX or the flexibility of pre-built utility classes with Tailwind CSS, this article will equip you with the knowledge to make informed decisions and create visually appealing user interfaces for your Next.js applications.

Styling-Options-in-Nextjs
Table of Contents

Styling Options in Next.js

Next.js offers a flexible approach to styling web applications, catering to different preferences and project requirements. Here’s a breakdown of some popular options:

Global CSS

Simplest method, ideal for basic styling across the entire application. Create a global.css file in the styles folder and define styles there.

CSS Modules

This approach generates unique class names for each component’s styles, preventing conflicts and promoting maintainability. Create a CSS file with the same name as your component but with the .module.css extension. Styles defined here are local to that specific component.

Styled-JSX

Integrates CSS directly into your React components using JavaScript. This approach keeps styles tightly coupled with the component’s logic. Libraries like styled-components are commonly used.

Sass/SCSS Support

For those preferring Sass, Next.js offers easy integration. Installing the sass package allows you to utilize .scss or .sass files, using variables, mixins, and nested syntax to write more expressive stylesheets.

Tailwind CSS and Other Frameworks

Next.js embraces various CSS frameworks alongside its built-in options. With its utility-first approach, Tailwind CSS allows rapid styling using pre-defined classes. Other options include Sass/SCSS for better organization and Styled-Components for tight coupling.

Optimizing Fonts

Next.js offers next/font for efficient font management. It automatically downloads and optimizes fonts at build time, eliminating unnecessary network requests.

Accessibility in Styling

Prioritize accessibility by considering color contrast, focus states, and semantic HTML. The aria-label attribute helps provide additional context for assistive technologies.

Choosing the best styling approach depends on your project’s needs, team preferences, and desired level of control. Experiment and find what works best for you to create visually appealing and user-friendly Next.js applications!


Global CSS

This is the simplest method, familiar to those with traditional CSS. Create a CSS file (often named global.css) inside the styles folder of your project. Styles defined here apply to your entire application.

Example

/* styles/global.css */

body {
    font-family: sans-serif;
    margin: 0;
}

h1 {
    color: blue;
    font-size: 2em;
}

Explanation

  • Line 1: Specifies the location of the CSS file.
  • Lines 3-6: Sets the font family and margins for the entire body element.
  • Lines 8-11: Defines styles for all <h1> elements, making them blue and larger.

Pros: Easy to set up, good for basic styling across the application.

Cons: Can lead to style conflicts and difficulty managing styles as your project grows.


CSS Modules

Next.js offers CSS Modules, a powerful technique for managing styles in your application. It isolates styles and prevents conflicts, especially for larger projects with many components.

When you create a CSS Module file, you can write your CSS as you normally would, but when you import and use these styles in your Next.js components, the class names are transformed into unique identifiers. This transformation allows the same CSS class name to be used in different module files without worrying about naming conflicts.

How it Works

  1. Create a CSS file with the same name as your component and the .module.css extension (e.g., MyComponent.module.css).
  2. Inside the CSS file, define styles using standard CSS syntax.
  3. Import the CSS file into your component using JavaScript.
  4. Apply the generated class names from the imported CSS file to your component’s elements.

Example: MyComponent.jsx

import styles from './MyComponent.module.css';

function MyComponent() {
    return (
        <div className={styles.container}>
            <h1 className={styles.heading}>This is My Component</h1>
        </div>
    );
}

export default MyComponent;

MyComponent.module.css

.container {
    background-color: #f0f0f0;
    padding: 20px;
}

.heading {
    color: blue;
    font-size: 1.5em;
}

Explanation

  • Line 1: Imports the CSS module using a relative path.
  • Lines 3-9: Defines the MyComponent function.
  • Line 5: Renders a div element with the class name styles.container.
  • Line 6: Renders an h1 element with the class name styles.heading.
  • Lines 1-9 (MyComponent.module.css): Define styles for the .container class (background color and padding) and the .heading class (color and font size).

Benefits of CSS Modules

  • Style Isolation: Styles are scoped to the component, preventing conflicts with styles from other components.
  • Maintainability: Easier to manage styles as they are organized within each component’s file.
  • Readability: Class names are clear and descriptive, making code easier to understand.

Using CSS Modules, you can create a clean separation of concerns between your component’s structure (JSX) and its visual presentation (CSS), promoting a well-organized and maintainable codebase for your Next.js application.


Styled-JSX

Next.js offers Styled-JSX, a CSS-in-JS library that allows you to write styles directly within your React components. This approach keeps styles tightly coupled with the component’s logic, promoting better organization and readability.

The key advantage of Styled-JSX is its simplicity and the fact that it leverages the full power of CSS, including media queries, pseudo-selectors, and animations, without worrying about class name collisions or specificity wars common in large-scale projects.

How it Works

  1. Import the styled function from a library like styled-components.
  2. Use template literals with backticks (`) to define styles.
  3. Wrap your component’s JSX with the styled component, passing the styles as a template literal.

Example

import styled from 'styled-components';

const Button = styled.button`
  background-color: #4CAF50; /* Green */
  border: none;
  color: white;
  padding: 15px 32px;
  text-align: center;
  text-decoration: none;
  display: inline-block;
  font-size: 16px;
  margin: 4px 2px;
  cursor: pointer;
`;

function MyComponent() {
    return (
        <div>
            <Button>Click me!</Button>
        </div>
    );
}

export default MyComponent;

Explanation

  • Line 1: Imports the styled function from styled-components.
  • Lines 3: Defines a styled component named Button using template literals.
  • Lines 4-13: Defines styles for the button element (background color, border, text color, padding, etc.).
  • Line 3 (Button): Uses the styled.button syntax to create a styled button component.
  • Lines 16-22: Defines the MyComponent function.
  • Line 19: Renders a styled Button component with the text “Click me!”.

Benefits of Styled-JSX

  • Improved Readability: Styles are embedded within the component, making the logic and presentation easier to understand.
  • Maintainability: Style changes are localized to the component, reducing the risk of unintended side effects.
  • Dynamic Styles: You can use props within your styled components to create dynamic styles based on component state or props.

While Styled-JSX offers tight integration between styles and components, it’s important to consider potential drawbacks like larger bundle sizes and possible performance implications on the client-side.


Sass/SCSS Support

Next.js offers built-in support for Sass (Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets), a preprocessor that extends CSS with powerful features. Sass improves code organization, maintainability, and reusability through features like variables, mixins, and nesting.

Integrating Tailwind CSS or other frameworks into Next.js projects is straightforward. Once set up, developers can use the full power of these frameworks to create responsive, visually appealing applications. These frameworks promote a consistent design system across the entire application, making it easier to maintain and scale the project.

Using Sass with CSS Modules

You can use Sass alongside CSS Modules to benefit from both approaches. Create a CSS file with the .module.scss extension (e.g., MyComponent.module.scss). Sass syntax can be used within this file, and the generated CSS with unique class names will be scoped to your component.

Example

/* MyComponent.module.scss */
$primary-color: blue;

.container {
    background-color: $primary-color;
    padding: 20px;
}

.heading {
    color: lighten($primary-color, 20%);
    font-size: 1.5em;
}

Explanation

  • Line 2: Defines a Sass variable named $primary-color with the value blue.
  • Lines 4-7: Defines styles for the .container class using the $primary-color variable for background color and sets padding.
  • Lines 9-12: Defines styles for the .heading class:
    • Uses the lighten function from Sass to create a lighter shade of the $primary-color for the text color.
    • Sets the font size to 1.5em.

Benefits of Sass in Next.js

  • Improved Maintainability: Variables and mixins promote code organization and reusability, making managing styles easier in larger projects.
  • Increased Efficiency: Features like nesting can reduce the code to define complex styles.
  • Flexibility: Sass offers a superset of CSS syntax, allowing you to use familiar CSS constructs while leveraging its additional features.

By incorporating Sass with CSS Modules, you can create a more efficient and scalable approach to styling your Next.js applications.


Tailwind CSS and Other Frameworks

Next.js supports various CSS frameworks alongside its built-in styling options. Tailwind CSS stands out as a popular choice for its utility-first approach.

Tailwind CSS in Next.js

Tailwind provides a comprehensive collection of utility classes that offer more control over an element’s appearance. These classes can be directly applied to your component’s JSX elements.

How to Use Tailwind CSS with Next.js

  1. Install Tailwind CSS and its dependencies using npm or yarn.
  2. Configure Tailwind CSS in your tailwind.config.js file.
  3. Import Tailwind directives in your global.css file to inject Tailwind’s generated styles.
  4. Apply Tailwind utility classes to your component’s JSX elements.

Example: global.css

@tailwind base;
@tailwind components;
@tailwind utilities;

/* Optional: Add your custom global styles here */

MyComponent.jsx

import styles from './global.css';

function MyComponent() {
    return (
        <div className={styles.container}>
            <h1 className="text-3xl font-bold text-blue-500">This is My Component</h1>
        </div>
    );
}

export default MyComponent;

Explanation

  • Lines 1-3 (global.css): Import Tailwind’s base styles, components, and utilities.
  • Line 1 (MyComponent.jsx): Imports global styles from global.css.
  • Lines 3-9: Defines the MyComponent function.
  • Line 5: Renders a div with the class name from global.css.
  • Line 6: Renders an h1 element using Tailwind utility classes:
    • text-3xl: Sets the font size to 3XL.
    • font-bold: Makes the text bold.
    • text-blue-500: Sets the text color to blue from Tailwind’s color palette.

Benefits of Tailwind CSS

  • Rapid Prototyping: Quickly apply styles using pre-defined utility classes.
  • Customization: Tailwind offers extensive configuration options to tailor the framework to your project’s needs.
  • Responsive Design: Create responsive layouts with utility classes for different screen sizes.

While Tailwind provides a powerful and efficient approach, it might require memorizing class names. Other popular frameworks in Next.js include:

  • Sass/SCSS
  • Styled-Components

The choice of framework ultimately depends on your project’s requirements, team preferences, and desired level of control over the styling process.


Optimizing Fonts

Next.js provides features to optimize fonts in your application, leading to improved performance and a smoother user experience. Traditional methods involve referencing external fonts from sources like Google Fonts, which can introduce additional network requests.

Font optimization in Next.js can involve various strategies, including but not limited to using web-optimized font formats, selectively loading font weights and styles, and implementing preloading techniques to prioritize fetching critical fonts. Next.js’s built-in font optimization feature automatically handles many of these aspects, making it easier for developers to ensure their applications load quickly without sacrificing visual quality.

Optimizing Fonts with next/font

Next.js offers the next/font module for efficient font management. It automatically downloads and optimizes fonts at build time, eliminating the need for external requests during initial page load.

How it Works

  1. Import the createFont function from next/font.
  2. Use createFont to define your font configuration, specifying the font family and desired weights.
  3. Apply the generated font object to your component’s JSX elements using the fontFamily prop.

Example

import { createFont } from 'next/font';

const Inter = createFont({
    family: 'Inter',
    src: ['/fonts/Inter.ttf'],
    fontWeight: [100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900],
    subset: ['latin'],
});

function MyComponent() {
    return (
        <div className="container">
            <h1 style={{ fontFamily: Inter.style }}>This is My Component</h1>
        </div>
    );
}

export default MyComponent;

Explanation

  • Line 1: Imports the createFont function from next/font.
  • Lines 3-8: Defines a font configuration named Inter using createFont.
    • Line 4: Specifies the font family name as Inter.
    • Line 5: Sets the source of the font file (/fonts/Inter.ttf). Make sure the font file exists in the specified path.
    • Line 6: Includes all font weights from 100 to 900 for the chosen font family.
    • Line 7: Specifies the character subset (latin) to optimize font loading.
  • Lines 10-16: Defines the MyComponent function.
  • Line 12: Renders a div element with a class name.
  • Line 13: Renders an h1 element with an inline style.
    • Sets the fontFamily property using the Inter.style object generated by createFont. This ensures the optimized font is applied.

Benefits of Optimizing Fonts

  • Improved Performance: Eliminates unnecessary network requests for fonts, leading to faster page loads.
  • Enhanced User Experience: Prevents layout shifts caused by delayed font loading.
  • Privacy Focus: Hosts fonts locally within your application, potentially reducing reliance on external sources.

By leveraging next/font, you can streamline font management in your Next.js applications, resulting in a faster and more user-friendly experience.


Accessibility in Next.js

Next.js prioritizes accessibility, allowing you to build applications that serve users with disabilities. When styling your application, it’s crucial to consider accessibility best practices to ensure everyone can interact with your content effectively.

Here are some key aspects to consider:

  • Color Contrast
    Ensure sufficient contrast between text and background colors for clear readability. Tools like WebAIM’s Color Contrast Checker can help you verify contrast ratios.
  • Focus States
    Visually indicate which element has focus when navigating the application using a keyboard.
  • Semantic HTML
    Employ semantic elements like <h1> for headings, <button> for buttons, etc., to provide context for assistive technologies like screen readers.

Using aria-label Attribute

The aria-label attribute provides additional descriptive text for elements that might not be clear from the visual presentation alone. Screen readers can announce this text to users, improving the overall accessibility of your application.

Code Example

function MyComponent() {
    return (
        <div>
            <img src="/images/search.svg" alt="Search Icon" aria-label="Search for content" />
            <button type="button" aria-label="Open navigation menu">
                Menu
            </button>
        </div>
    );
}

export default MyComponent;

Explanation

  • Lines 4: Renders an image with an alt attribute describing the image and an aria-label attribute providing a more detailed description for screen readers.
  • Lines 5-7: Renders a button element with an aria-label attribute describing the button’s function.

By incorporating these accessibility considerations into your styling choices, you can create a more inclusive and user-friendly experience in your Next.js applications.