Server Side Rendering: Benefits, Use Cases, and Best Practices

server side rendering

What Is Server-Side Rendering?

Server side rendering is a technique used in web development where the server generates the HTML content of a web page before it’s sent to the user’s browser. This is in contrast to Client Side Rendering (CSR), where the browser generates the HTML content after receiving the raw data from the server.

In the world of web development, there’s been a shift towards using JavaScript frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue.js to build Single Page Applications (SPAs). These frameworks rely heavily on CSR, which can lead to performance issues, especially on slow or unreliable networks. That’s where SSR comes in, as it can help mitigate these issues by offloading some of the rendering tasks to the server.

This is part of a series of articles about Auto Image Crop

In this article:

  • How Server-Side Rendering Works
  • Benefits of Server-Side Rendering
  • Use Cases of Server-Side Rendering
  • Best Practices for Implementing Server-Side Rendering
    • Choose the Right Framework
    • Optimize Your Server
    • Be Mindful of Browser Compatibility
    • Monitor Performance

      How Server-Side Rendering Works

      When a user requests a web page, the server processes the request and generates the HTML content for that page. With server side rendering, the server also executes any JavaScript code necessary to render the page’s content. This can include fetching data from APIs, rendering components, and applying any relevant styles.

      Once the server has generated the fully-rendered HTML content, it sends it back to the user’s browser. The browser then displays the content immediately, without needing to execute any additional JavaScript or fetch data from external sources. This can lead to faster initial load times and improved performance compared to CSR.

      In contrast, with client side rendering, the server sends raw data (usually in JSON format) and a JavaScript bundle to the browser. The browser then parses the data, executes the JavaScript code, and generates the HTML content. This can result in slower initial load times, as the browser must wait for the JavaScript code to execute before displaying the content.

      Benefits of Server-Side Rendering

      There are several advantages to using server side rendering:

      Improved Performance

      One of the most significant benefits of SSR is its potential to improve the performance of your website. By offloading some of the rendering tasks to the server, you can reduce the amount of work the user’s browser needs to do, resulting in faster initial load times and a smoother user experience.

      Enhanced SEO

      Search engines like Google use web crawlers to index and rank websites. These crawlers have historically struggled with parsing JavaScript-heavy websites that rely on CSR, potentially leading to lower search rankings. With SSR, the server generates fully-rendered HTML content, making it easier for web crawlers to index your site and improving your search engine visibility.

      Better User Experience

      When using CSR, users may experience a “white screen” or a partially loaded page while waiting for the JavaScript to execute and render the content. This can lead to frustration and potentially cause users to abandon your site. By using SSR, you can provide users with a fully-rendered page immediately upon loading, offering a more seamless and enjoyable browsing experience.

      Use Cases of Server-Side Rendering

      While Server Side Rendering can offer significant benefits, it’s essential to understand when and where it’s most effective. Here are the main use cases:

      Content-Heavy Websites

      Websites with large amounts of content, such as blogs, news sites, and eCommerce platforms, can benefit from SSR. By rendering content on the server, you can reduce the amount of JavaScript that needs to be executed on the client-side, resulting in faster load times and a more responsive user interface.

      SEO Optimization Projects

      As mentioned earlier, SSR can enhance your website’s search engine visibility. If your site relies heavily on organic search traffic, implementing SSR can help improve your rankings and increase the chances of users finding your content.

      Unreliable or Slow Networks

      Server Side Rendering can be especially helpful for web applications that target users with slow or unreliable internet connections. By offloading rendering tasks to the server, you can minimize the amount of data sent to the client and reduce the likelihood of performance issues due to network constraints.

      Learn more in our detailed guide to video rendering server (coming soon)

      Best Practices for Implementing Server-Side Rendering

      Now that we’ve discussed the benefits and use cases of SSR, let’s explore some best practices for implementing it in your web application:

      Choose the Right Framework

      Selecting the appropriate JavaScript framework is crucial when implementing SSR. Many popular frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue.js offer built-in support for SSR, making it relatively easy to integrate into your existing application. Be sure to research and choose a framework that aligns with your project requirements and skill set.

      Optimize Your Server

      Server Side Rendering can put additional strain on your server, as it needs to process and render content for each incoming request. To ensure optimal performance, you should optimize your server configuration, use caching strategies, and monitor server health to identify and resolve any potential bottlenecks.

      Be Mindful of Browser Compatibility

      While SSR can improve the performance of your web application, it’s essential to consider browser compatibility. Some older browsers may struggle to render content generated using SSR, so be sure to test your application across multiple browsers and devices to ensure a consistent user experience.

      Monitor Performance

      Finally, consistently monitor your application’s performance to ensure SSR is providing the intended benefits. Tools like Google Lighthouse and WebPageTest can help you analyze your application’s performance and identify areas for improvement.

      Server Side Rendering with Cloudinary

      To set up SSR with Cloudinary, you’ll need to use a server-side language like Node.js or PHP, and the Cloudinary Node.js or PHP SDKs to generate and manipulate images and videos.

      You can then use Cloudinary to generate responsive images with different sizes and formats, serve .webp images, optimize images by removing metadata and compressing them, and even overlay text and watermarks.

      Here’s a basic example in Node.js that uses the Cloudinary Node.js SDK to generate an image tag with a Cloudinary URL that performs resizing:


      const cloudinary = require('cloudinary').v2;
      const cloudinaryUrl = cloudinary.url('<your-cloudinary-image-id>', {
        width: 200,
        height: 200,
        crop: 'fill',
        format: 'jpg',
      const html = `<!doctype html>
          <img src="${cloudinaryUrl}" />

      You can run this server using Node.js, which will generate an HTML page (including the resized image URL) that you can serve to the client.

      $ node server.js 
      <!doctype html>
          <img src=",h_200,c_fill,f_jpg/sample.jpg" />

      You can then use this HTML snippet anywhere on your page, or just use the resulting URL from Node to include it wherever you desire.

      For more information and examples, check out the Cloudinary documentation. Don’t have a Cloudinary account yet? Sign up here.

Last updated: Nov 24, 2023