Implementing MDX in Next.js 14

Anton Ioffe - November 11th 2023 - 10 minutes read

Welcome to an in-depth exploration tailored for senior developers aiming to harness the power of MDX within the fertile landscape of Next.js 14. As we embark on this technical journey, we'll carve through the cohesive union of Markdown and JSX, unveiling robust practices and patterns to revolutionize content-oriented web applications. From strategic configurations that shape the developer experience to masterful handling of dynamic content and metadata, we will delve into creating elegant, maintainable MDX components and scrutinize the art of optimization in this cutting-edge environment. Prepare to elevate your Next.js projects with the sophisticated synergy of MDX, unlocking new frontiers of web development prowess.

Merging Worlds: Next.js and MDX Fundamentals

MDX is a powerful syntax extension for Markdown, designed to bring the world of JSX into the realm of content authoring. What sets MDX apart is its ability to integrate React components directly within the Markdown content, enabling writers to compose interactive elements and complex layouts as effortlessly as they write prose. The elemental concept underpinning MDX is that Markdown handles the narrative, while React components take care of the interactive or visually distinct parts of a web application. One can think of MDX as a bridge allowing the seamless flow of static content and dynamic components, essentially merging the ease of Markdown with the power of React.

In the ecosystem of Next.js, a React framework optimized for production, MDX finds its place by enhancing the developers' toolkit with a content authoring experience that dovetails into Next.js' capabilities for both Server-Side Rendering (SSR) and Static Site Generation (SSG). Next.js naturally supports JavaScript and JSX, and with the addition of MDX, it extends this support to include Markdown files that integrate JSX components. This opens the door for developers to treat .mdx files as comprehensive components within the Next.js application, leveraging the full spectrum of the React ecosystem.

To integrate MDX into a Next.js project, start by installing the official Next.js plugin, @next/mdx, using npm install @next/mdx. Next.js does not recognize .mdx files by default, so it's necessary to adjust the next.config.js file to include MDX-specific arrangements. This involves adding a configuration to instruct Next.js's compiler to process .mdx files.

The necessary configuration for Next.js to handle MDX is uncomplicated. The next.config.js file is updated to use the withMDX high-order function, which is exported from the installed @next/mdx package. Below is the adjusted snippet that exemplifies this configuration:

// next.config.js
const withMDX = require('@next/mdx')();

module.exports = withMDX({
  pageExtensions: ['js', 'jsx', 'mdx'],

With this setup, the .mdx extension is added to Next.js's array of recognized file types, allowing MDX files to be processed correctly.

Understanding the key terms is vital as these domains coalesce. 'MDX' represents Markdown enriched with JSX, and '@next/mdx' acts as the integration point for MDX within the Next.js framework. Comprehending these basics is essential for developers looking to create content-centric Next.js applications. With the groundwork for integrating MDX with Next.js established, one can anticipate deeper exploration into customized components and advanced content management techniques.

Configuring MDX in Next.js: Strategies and Trade-offs

When incorporating MDX into a Next.js project, developers often reach for the @next/mdx package along with @mdx-js/loader. This pairing provides a straightforward approach that leverages Next.js's formidable plugin system. By amending the next.config.js file, MDX files are seamlessly integrated into the page bundling process. Consider the following example:

const withMDX = require('@next/mdx')({
  extension: /\.mdx?$/
module.exports = withMDX({
  pageExtensions: ['js', 'jsx', 'ts', 'tsx', 'mdx']

This configuration adds MDX support while allowing you to retain file extensions familiar to the Next.js ecosystem, offering a smooth developer experience. However, this approach can induce longer build times as the number of MDX files grows, given that Next.js will process each as a unique component during its build step.

For projects teeming with MDX content, next-mdx-remote can be advantageous. This utility decouples the MDX parsing from the build step, loading MDX content remotely and parsing it at request-time instead.

import { serialize } from 'next-mdx-remote/serialize';
import { MDXRemote } from 'next-mdx-remote';

// In getStaticProps or getServerSideProps
const mdxSource = await serialize(yourMdxContentHere);

// In your component
<MDXRemote {...mdxSource} />

This method offloads the transformation cost to the client or server at runtime, which can expedite build processes. The trade-off, however, is a potential increase in page load time and complexity in handling the asynchronous nature of remote content fetching and serialization.

On the other hand, mdx-bundler is a contrasting solution that packages all necessary MDX-related operations into an isolated environment using esbuild. With mdx-bundler, build-time performance optimizes for complex MDX transpiling tasks; yet, the initial configuration may appear overwhelming due to its operational complexity compared to @next/mdx.

import { bundleMDX } from 'mdx-bundler';

// This function wraps mdx-bundler and could be called within getStaticProps
async function getMDXContent(source) {
  const { code, frontmatter } = await bundleMDX({ source });
  return { code, frontmatter };

Such an approach not only improves build performance but also provides more control over the MDX compilation process, facilitating advanced use cases like custom mdx plugins or transpilation settings. Nevertheless, it mandates a higher level of understanding and management from developers, possibly leading to higher complexity and initial setup cost.

Each MDX integration strategy comes with distinct implications for build time, client-side performance, and developer experience. Whether to opt for build-time transformations, remote loading, or bundling with esbuild depends on project-specific requirements such as scale, content complexity, and resource constraints. Developers should consider these factors carefully, aiming to strike a balance that grants performance without sacrificing the agility and modularity that MDX offers. As you weigh these options, ask yourself: Which integration streamlines your content workflow while maintaining the performance your users expect?

Dynamic Content and Metadata Mastery

Leveraging frontmatter within MDX files bridges the gap between static content and dynamic metadata in a manner that markedly enriches the content management experience. Frontmatter encompasses YAML-formatted key-value pairs placed at the top of the MDX documents and serves to delineate metadata like titles, authors, publication dates, and any other relevant data. In a typical use-case, upon rendering, the frontmatter properties can be exposed as props to a React component, enhancing the granularity of control over the presentation. A common pitfall, however, is the inadvertent mutation of these props, which should be avoided to maintain purity and predictability. Here's an example that illustrates best practices:

import ArticleLayout from '../components/ArticleLayout';

export const getStaticProps = async () => {
    // Logic to collect and process MDX metadata here
    const metadata = getMdxMetadata();

    return { props: { metadata } };

const ArticlePage = ({ metadata }) => {
    return <ArticleLayout {...metadata} />;

Crafting custom components further extends MDX's capabilities, enabling developers to intersperse interactive or styled elements amidst their markdown. To employ these in Next.js, developers must register them as part of the MDX context by providing them to the MDXProvider. This necessitates careful consideration to avoid an excess of unique components that could lead to code bloat. Think in terms of component reusability and extensibility for varying content or style. Below is an example of a custom component and how to register it with the MDXProvider:

import { MDXProvider } from '@mdx-js/react';

const CustomHeader = ({ level, children }) => {
    if (level === 1) return <h1 className="big-header">{children}</h1>;
    if (level === 2) return <h2 className="medium-header">{children}</h2>;
    return <h3 className="small-header">{children}</h3>;

const mdxComponents = {
    h1: (props) => <CustomHeader level={1} {...props} />,
    h2: (props) => <CustomHeader level={2} {...props} />,
    h3: (props) => <CustomHeader level={3} {...props} />,

const MyMDXContent = ({ children }) => {
    return <MDXProvider components={mdxComponents}>{children}</MDXProvider>;

The getStaticProps function in Next.js 14 is a game-changer for efficient content generation. It allows for compilation of MDX content at build time, ensuring fast loading and eliminating the need for on-demand markdown processing. This function is commonly used in conjunction with functions like getSortedPostsData() or getAllPostIds(). However, mishandling async operations within getStaticProps can lead to incomplete data or errors during build. Always make sure to return a promise that resolves with the necessary props.

export async function getStaticProps(context) {
    const allPostsData = await getSortedPostsData();
    return {
        props: {

For index pages that list content, getStaticProps can be utilized to create efficiently rendered static pages with low latency and enhanced SEO. Proper structuring and querying data are critical to yield an efficient mapping of the content. An example of using getStaticProps for generating these pages is as follows:

export async function getStaticProps() {
    const latestPosts = await getLatestContent();
    const mostViewedPosts = await getMostViewedContent();

    return {
        props: {

When implementing dynamic content and metadata mastery in MDX with Next.js 14, it's crucial to structure MDX content to fully exploit its dynamism without compromising performance. Reflect on whether your components are designed for maximum flexibility and whether your getStaticProps function has been refined to cater to your static content generation needs. These thoughtful considerations lead to optimized and easily maintainable Next.js applications.

Reusable MDX Components: Patterns and Pitfalls

Creating reusable MDX components in Next.js can greatly enhance the modularity and readability of your content, as well as facilitate a rich interactive user experience. One effective pattern is the separation of presentational and container components. This allows for a clear distinction between logic and presentation, making components less prone to side effects and easier to maintain.

// components/SpringMechanism.js
import { useState } from 'react';
export const SpringMechanism = ({ tension, mass, children }) => {
    // Component logic goes here
    const [state, setState] = useState(/* initial state */);
    // Rest of your component
    return <div>{children}</div>;

When integrating such components within MDX, you might consider passing properties down to dynamically control the behavior or look of the component.

import { SpringMechanism } from '../components/SpringMechanism';

export const content = (
        <SpringMechanism tension={100} mass={1}>
            {/* Children elements */}

Be mindful of the potential for memory issues, particularly in cases where components accumulate state over time without proper cleanup. A common mistake is neglecting to use React's useEffect for managing subscriptions or event listeners, which can lead to memory leaks.

// Good Practice
useEffect(() => {
    const subscription = dataSource.subscribe();
    return () => subscription.unsubscribe(); // Cleanup on unmount
}, [dataSource]);

For a maintainable design, avoid monolithic components that interweave too many concerns. A pattern that leads to pitfalls is having an MDX file with heavy imports and complex components that encompass too many utilities or features. Instead, aim for smaller, composable components that you can import and use on-demand. This approach minimizes the potential bundle size and keeps your codebase clean and scalable.

// Anti-pattern: Monolithic Bundle
import { HugeComponentIncludingEverything } from './HugeComponent';
// Do this instead
import { FeatureOne, FeatureTwo } from './Features';

Lastly, a frequent oversight is not optimizing for lazy-loading components that are not needed immediately, which can lead to a less responsive user experience. The React.lazy and Suspense APIs are powerful tools for this purpose, enabling chunks to be loaded only when they are required, therefore improving initial load performance.

// Lazy loading a component
const DynamicComponent = React.lazy(() => import('./DynamicComponent'));
// In MDX
<Suspense fallback={<div>Loading...</div>}>
    <DynamicComponent />

When crafting reusable MDX components, continually ask yourself: How can I make this component simpler? Is there any unneeded complexity that I can eliminate without sacrificing functionality? Keeping these questions in mind will foster a culture of refactoring and incremental improvement within your codebase, yielding components that are both robust and flexible.

Performance Optimization and Error Handling

When leveraging MDX in a Next.js 14 project, it's crucial to keep performance at the forefront, particularly through the optimization of static generations. One effective strategy is to employ incremental static regeneration (ISR), where only a subset of pages are regenerated at a time. This approach, facilitated by the revalidate property in getStaticProps, limits the workload on your build process and ensures content freshness without a complete rebuild. However, ISR requires a careful balancing act between the regeneration frequency and the necessity of the current content, demanding a clear understanding of your content's lifespan and user engagement patterns.

In terms of debugging and error handling with MDX, it's key to have robust logging and verbose error messages during the development phase. Custom error components can also be helpful to gracefully catch and display errors, while SZR (Stale-While-Revalidate) can cover fallback scenarios in production. In asynchronous operations, such as data fetching in getStaticProps, use try-catch blocks to handle potential rejections and ensure the continuity of the static generation process. Additionally, monitoring tools can be integrated to track runtime performance and errors post-deployment, providing continuous insights into the health of your MDX-powered pages.

A common coding mistake is to leave MDX parsing and component importing processes until runtime, which can lead to significant increases in response times. To rectify this, one should utilize static generation efficiently, parsing MDX content at build time and hydrating it with interactivity on the client-side. This means that content-heavy pages should rely on getStaticProps rather than getServerSideProps, whenever possible, to minimize server load and latency. A consideration for developers is to gauge the trade-off between the immediacy of server-side rendering and the performance benefit of static generation.

Another area for optimization is the management of imported components within MDX files. Rather than importing components on a per-file basis, which can lead to duplication and inflated bundle sizes, developers should use a centralized approach, providing a global set of components via the MDXProvider context. This strategy not only condenses the codebase but also facilitates a uniform styling and behavior across all MDX content. It's key to continuously audit these components for performance implications, such as unnecessary re-renders or heavy resource usage.

In conclusion, while optimizing MDX content, consider if the current approach adequately scales with the quantity and complexity of the content. How does the choice between static generation and server-side rendering impact your web vitals? Does your component strategy allow for modular growth without compromising user experience? Ponder the impact of third-party plugins and dependencies used in processing MDX—that might be adding invisible performance costs—as you refine your content strategies. As MDX embeds itself deeply within the Next.js ecosystem, the ongoing challenge lies in developing an architecture that harmonizes flexibility with blazing-fast performance.


In this article, aimed at senior developers, the author explores the integration of MDX (Markdown with JSX) into Next.js 14, a React framework for web development. The article covers topics such as configuring MDX in Next.js, leveraging dynamic content and metadata, creating reusable MDX components, and optimizing performance and error handling. Key takeaways include the advantages of using MDX for content authoring, different strategies for integrating MDX into Next.js, best practices for handling dynamic content and metadata, and tips for optimizing performance and error handling. The challenging technical task presented to the reader is to optimize the management of imported components within MDX files by using a centralized approach through the MDXProvider context, in order to minimize duplication and improve bundle size and codebase maintenance.