New website check

I made a new website! I liked the last one, but I had this habit of not touching it for many months and then getting annoyed about all of the npm warnings when I tried to update it next. I had seen a lot on the internet about Next.js 13 React Server Components, so I thought I'd give those a whiff and put my site on the Next.js 13 beta.

The old

Overall, my website is simple. But I like it! In remaking it, I had the chance to reevalute many of the choices I made on v1.0. Some of those choices were pretty good, others less so. Here's some things about the remade site that I kept the same.

Grid layout

I have five columns:

This layout looks pretty good on a big huge monitor as well as a tiny phone, so I'm happy with it. I don't have a wrapper in the middle column, so it's possible for me to put content in the sidebar column if I feel like it. Neat!


I write my blog posts in MDX, which is a format that combines markdown and JavaScript. It's a little tricky to set up and get working- Next.js 13 has some built in stuff for MDX, but it's not exactly what I want: I'd need to make a new .mdx file, as well as a new folder and page.tsx file in the project.

Instead, I'm using next-mdx-remote to look at all of my MDX files at build time and essentially do some kind of compilation of MDX into HTML and JavaScript. next-mdx-remote also has a slightly involved setup, and it also has some limitations (you can't import directly into MDX files). But once I got it set up, it's worked pretty well.


On the last website and this one, I've made a little wrapper component on the next/image component. It's nice to just hand it a url, and optionally a max size or a centered prop. The wrapper also grabs the width, height, and alt text from a TypeScript file full of constants.

I have a dumb little animation when you hover on links. I cribbed it from somewhere on the internet I'll never be able to find. I love it. I also have a wrapper on the next/link component that makes it a <Link> if the url is internal and an <a> if it's external.

The new

My site doesn't really use any of the fancy new RSC or Next.js 13 features. Really, the only thing I did was change from Styled-Components to CSS modules, because Styled-Components had a little bit of a janky setup on both Next.js 12 and Next.js 13, and I'd rather use something built in to the framework. It was a little laborious rewriting all of the CSS for this site, but also educational! I learned about some new things like container queries and :has, which are both pretty cool. I also added a dark mode, with the help of CSS custom properties and these blogs.

Next.js 13

I've started using an RSS reader quite often, so I wanted to give my site an RSS feed. That's fairly easy to do with a number of npm packages (I'm using feed), but I'm fully stuck on trying to get the full content of my posts into the feed. I think I should be able to use next-mdx-remote to turn an MDX file into a static string of markup, but I keep running into confusing errors. But until I figure that out, I have a feed with links to each post.

Next.js also has some nice built-in stuff with metadata and SEO, so I'm trying to use that as well. I also have, for the first time, a sitemap! Both the sitemap and the RSS feed are generated automatically at build time; I accomplish this by running functions to do those in the new generateStaticParams, which replaces getStaticPaths.

React Server Components

When I run npm run build on this new site, Next.js says that every page is:

(Static) automatically rendered as static HTML

I'm not making use of server components, but I like the idea behind them: don't ship JavaScript to the client if you don't need to, and do more computational work / data fetching on the beefy servers with the fat pipes instead your great aunt's five year old Amazon Fire Phone.

How can we test out RSC? If I add a new page to my site which uses fetch, I should have some dynamic data, right? I'll add a page to my site that fetches a random word. Running npm run build shows... the same thing, another static page. What gives? Well, this actually does not make the page dynamic: Next.js has set up fetch to cache forever by default, which in practical terms, means that this does one fetch at build time and ships the result to all clients until a new version of the site is built. But if we tell it to not cache with fetch(url, cache: {'no-cache'}), the data is refetched, on the server, on every page load! And indeed, npm run build tell us about the route:

(Server) server-side renders at runtime

There's a bunch of other fancy stuff going on too (e.g. if I had the same fetch request in another component on the page, Next.js would recognize this and only make one request). I should be able to "revalidate" the data at some time interval, but it didn't work when I tried it. I thought that saying "hey, revalidate every 5 seconds" would mean that it would, you know, get new data every 5 seconds. But that didn't seem to happen.

Edit: Now I know why that ☝️ didn't work! React server components render once, hydrated and all (as opposed to SRR, which just renders an unhydrated 'shell'). There's no way for a server component to run the JS client-side to do any kind of "fetch this every 5 seconds" thing. I could do something like this by putting a client component within the server component, though. Thanks to Josh Comeau's awesome article about this stuff that cleared it up for me!

I hope you enjoyed this tour of my new site! This post is probably going to be more useful to me than anybody else when I want to mess with the site, but I hope it's helpful for anybody else who wants to make a completely overkill blog in Next.js 13.

Written: September 19, 2023
Last edited: April 23, 2024