Gatsby.js or Create React App?

Gatsby.js or Create React App?


5 min read


In this article, I will be making a comparison between Gatsby and Create React App(CRA) to help you decide which is better for your project. These two are part of the most popular tools used to build React-based applications.

What is Gatsby.js?

Gatsby is a static site generator that is built using React as a framework. It uses React for the user interface and GraphQL for data querying & management. It is built with performance and scalability in mind, and it offers many features out of the box that can speed up development, such as image optimization and the use of plugins. With Gatsby, you can create websites that are both fast and friendly to search engines, which is important if you want people to find your website easily.

What is Create React App?

Create React App is a command-line tool that is used to set up a basic React application with only the minimal configuration required. It is a simple and lightweight solution for building React applications. With CRA, you can quickly get started building a React application without worrying about any extra configurations.

Things to consider


Performance is one of the biggest benefits of Gatsby. This is because Gatsby uses server-side rendering (SSR) to generate static HTML pages, which are served instantly to the user, resulting in faster page load times. In addition to this, Gatsby automatically optimizes images and other website assets, which further improves performance. CRA, on the contrary, does not use SSR and requires more configuration to optimize performance.


Gatsby and Create React App significantly differ in terms of their core functionalities. Gatsby functions as a static site generator, whereas Create React App serves as a development tool. Gatsby generates static HTML and assets during the build process, while Create React App dynamically generates and serves your application at runtime. This fundamental difference influences the types of web applications each tool is best suited for.

Static web applications, like those built with Gatsby, focus on displaying pre-built content to visitors. These websites are constructed using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, with the displayed content remaining fixed and unchanging. Examples of static web applications include blogs and portfolios, where the primary purpose is to present information to users.

Conversely, dynamic web applications, which are better built with Create React App, are built to deliver more personalized content to users based on how they interact with the site. These applications leverage server-side scripting, databases, and APIs to provide content that is tailored to each user's specific needs. E-commerce websites are a good example of dynamic web applications, as they dynamically update product listings, shopping carts, and user account information based on real-time interactions.

If your project primarily involves presenting pre-built content without much interactivity, Gatsby's static site generation capabilities make it an ideal choice. However, if you require a highly interactive and personalized web application that dynamically updates content based on user interactions, Create React App would be better.

Data Management

Another key difference between Gatsby and CRA is their approach to data management. Gatsby uses GraphQL, a query language for APIs, to fetch and manage data. This makes it easy to pull data from various conventional and even unconventional sources like Airtable and incorporate it into your website. Create React App, on the other hand, leaves data management up to you. You'll need to set up your own data fetching and management system, which can be time-consuming and complicated.

Development Approach

CRA provides just a basic React application structure without any additional features which offer a simpler, more familiar development experience for developers who prefer a "development from scratch" approach. This approach has its own benefits - you have complete control over the project structure and configuration. Meanwhile, Gatsby provides a more structured development experience, with many built-in features and a plugin system that can provide additional functionality to the site. It also offers many features out of the box that can speed up development, such as image optimization and pre-fetching. It also has a large collection of plugins and themes that can further enhance your web application's functionality.

How to determine which is better for your project

To determine the most suitable tool for building your application, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you want to build a static site or a dynamic web application?

    As explained earlier, Gatsby is designed for static web applications that don't require a lot of dynamic content. If you're building a simple blog or portfolio site, Gatsby is a great option while Create React App is better suited for dynamic web applications that require a lot of interactivity and real-time updates like E-commerce websites.

  2. What is your development plan or approach?

    It is essential to consider your project's specific requirements and your development preferences. Create React App helps developers make customised configurations from scratch. However, it is worth noting that this customization process can require a deeper understanding of the underlying tools and build configurations. If your project needs a more streamlined development experience without extensive configuration, Gatsby might be a more suitable choice as it also provides a pre-configured setup and a comprehensive set of features, reducing the initial setup complexity and allowing you to focus more on the content and functionality of your website.

  3. What is your data management approach?

    Gatsby uses GraphQL (a query language for APIs) to fetch and manage data. This makes it easy to pull data from different sources and incorporate it into your website. Meanwhile, you will need to set up data fetching & management in your Create React App, which can be complicated. Some more questions to ask yourself regarding this are:

    • Are you familiar with GraphQL and prefer its data querying capabilities?

    • Are you willing to set up your own data fetching and management system?

  4. Is SEO important to your project?

    Gatsby is designed to be SEO-friendly out of the box. It automatically generates optimized HTML and meta tags, which can help your website rank higher in search engine results. Create React App, on the other hand, requires manual configuration to ensure good SEO practices.

  5. What is your project deployment approach?

    Due to Gatsby's static site generation, it is easier to deploy your website to a static web hosting service, such as Netlify, Github Pages or Vercel. Create React App, on the other hand, needs a server to run, which means you will need to deploy it to a hosting service that supports server-side rendering, like Heroku.