Implementing Nested Routes in Next.js 14

Anton Ioffe - November 10th 2023 - 10 minutes read

As Next.js continues to evolve, harnessing its full power requires a nuanced understanding of its routing capabilities—especially when dealing with the intricacies of nested routes in the latest iteration, Next.js 14. In this advanced exposition, we'll peel back the layers of this file-based routing system, exploring the sophisticated strategies that can structure your application’s navigation schema more effectively. From the transformative potential of layouts and modular components to finescale performance tweaks that sharpen your site's response times, this article is a deep dive into the world of nested routes where the mundane becomes extraordinary. Join us as we sidestep common pitfalls and push the boundaries of what's possible in modern web development, sculpting code that embodies elegance and efficiency in every route.

The Foundations of Nested Routing in Next.js 14

Next.js 14 continues to embrace its file-system-based routing, a feature that has been central to the framework since its inception. At its heart lies the 'pages' directory, which serves as a pivotal element in routing. Each file within this directory corresponds to a route in the web application. This correlation between the file structure and the resulting route hierarchy is intentionally designed to be intuitive, omitting any explicit routing configuration. By simply creating a file named 'about.js' within the 'pages' directory, you've effectively declared a route accessible via '/about'.

The significance of file naming and organization inside the 'pages' directory becomes even more apparent when implementing nested routes. Nested routes in Next.js 14 are as straightforward as creating a nested folder structure that mirrors the desired URL path. A directory named 'blog' with a file 'index.js' generates a top-level '/blog' route. Including a subdirectory '2023' within 'blog', with its own 'index.js', further extends the route to '/blog/2023'. Here, Next.js automatically understands the depth and hierarchy based on the relative paths of the files.

Folding complexity into simplicity, Next.js leverages the concept of 'index.js' files within directories to define entry points for nested routes. Each 'index.js' serves the route corresponding to its directory path, allowing developers to structure their applications hierarchically. For instance, creating nested directories like 'pages/blog/2023/march' and placing an 'index.js' inside 'march' will instantly create a browsable route at '/blog/2023/march'. This approach encourages a colocation strategy where the route's component and any of its child components or related services are grouped together.

Beyond the default behavior of 'index.js' files, specific routes within a nested structure can also be defined. Within any given directory, adding a new JavaScript or TypeScript file will generate an additional nested route segment. For example, within the 'pages/blog' directory, a file named 'editorial.js' would represent the route '/blog/editorial'. This demonstrates the power of file naming in guiding route creation, where the file’s base name (sans extension) dictates the exact route segment it represents.

Dynamic routing is also seamlessly integrated into the nested structure by utilizing file and directory names surrounded by square brackets. A file named '[id].js' within the 'pages/blog' directory translates into a dynamic segment, allowing for routes like '/blog/123' where '123' can be any identifier, retrievable via Next.js routing hooks or functions. This feature extends the static routing capabilities and enables the construction of highly flexible and scalable route patterns, all derived from an elegant file naming system. With these principles, Next.js 14 ensures that the process of building intricate nested routes remains accessible and maintainable, providing a solid foundation upon which developers can construct rich, hierarchically organized web applications.

Implementing Nested Routes: Strategies and Code Patterns

Creating an intuitive and scalable directory structure for nested routes in Next.js applications demands strategic thinking, with careful consideration for performance and code complexity. Within the app directory introduced in Next.js 14, directory-based nesting facilitates the mapping of intricate routing hierarchies directly through the project's folder architecture.

Suppose we're developing an e-commerce site that displays products alongside corresponding reviews, necessitating dynamic routing at each level:

      page.tsx  // Product details at /products/:productId
          page.tsx  // Review details at /products/:productId/reviews/:reviewId

To implement the products/[productId]/page.tsx, optimally fetching product details, one would use [getServerSideProps](

import { fetchProductDetails } from 'services/api'; // Function to fetch product data

export async function getServerSideProps({ params }) {
    const product = await fetchProductDetails(params.productId);
    return { props: { product } };

function ProductPage({ product }) {
    return (
            <h1>Product Details</h1>
            {/* Render the dynamic content for product details */}

Balancing directory depth with maintenance complexity is challenging. Constructing nested dynamic routes using Next.js 14 enhances agility in project organization. For example, distinguishing between product variations can be set up as follows:

      page.tsx  // Main product page
          page.tsx  // Specific variation page

If similar data fetching is required for products/[productId]/variations/[variationId]/page.tsx, here's a React component using getStaticProps and getStaticPaths for a given variation:

import { fetchVariationDetails, getVariationsIds } from 'services/api'; // Functions for variations

export async function getStaticPaths() {
    const paths = await getVariationsIds(); // Fetching all possible variation IDs for SSG
    return {
        fallback: 'blocking'

export async function getStaticProps({ params }) {
    const variation = await fetchVariationDetails(params.productId, params.variationId);
    return { props: { variation } };

function VariationPage({ variation }) {
    return (
            <h1>Variation Details</h1>
            {/* Render the dynamic content for a specific product variation */}

Careful evaluation is necessary as applications scale to ascertain whether navigating a complex directory structure is justified by increased clarity and organization of routing. This decision can influence code complexity and performance—while deeper structures may impose significant challenges in refactoring, they can improve code discoverability and foster collaboration.

Lastly, it's crucial to thoughtfully assess the need for intercepting routes—specialized routes that load within the current layout while masking the URL. These can be used to handle advanced routing patterns such as modal overlays. However, their misuse can complicate the routing system substantially. An astute grasp of intended use cases and appropriate application is indispensable to conserve code readability and adhere to best practices while leveraging Next.js's robust routing features.

Advanced Nested Routing: Layouts, Modularity, and Reusability

Advanced routing scenarios in Next.js demand the use of versatile layout patterns to ensure that our applications remain modular and components are easily reusable. Leveraging the power of higher-order components and thoughtfully designed layouts, we can orchestrate our codebase to handle intricate nested route structures without sacrificing readability or maintainability.

One of the best practices involves encapsulating recurring UI elements within layout components. For instance, rather than replicating the same header and footer across diverse pages, we wrap them in a higher-order component, thus emphasizing the principal tenet of DRY—Don't Repeat Yourself. The introduction of Next.js 14 has reformulated our capabilities in this arena. By using the getLayout function, we can seamlessly assign specific layouts to pages, enabling a compositional pattern that imbues our apps with an unprecedented level of flexibility. Here’s how you might create and use a nested layout for a dashboard:

// dashboard-layout.js
export const DashboardLayout = ({ children }) => {
  return (
    <div className='dashboard-layout'>
      <Sidebar />

// dashboard-page.js
import { DashboardLayout } from './dashboard-layout';

const DashboardPage = () => {
  // DashboardPage component code here
DashboardPage.getLayout = page => <DashboardLayout>{page}</DashboardLayout>;
export default DashboardPage;

However, as our applications grow in complexity, we often encounter scenarios demanding nested layouts where segments of our UI are contingent upon deeper levels of routing. Here lies the artistry in Next.js's routing capabilities. We can concoct layouts that nest within each other, catering to more granular levels of our application’s hierarchy. To construct such layouts, we may structure them akin to Russian nesting dolls, where each layout encapsulates its children, engendering an organized and reusable structure that serves even the most intricate of applications.

Consider the following example elucidating an approach for a nested settings panel within our DashboardLayout, revealing how modularity can be retained:

// settings-panel-layout.js
import { DashboardLayout } from './dashboard-layout';

export const SettingsPanelLayout = ({ children }) => {
  return (
      <div className='settings-panel'>
        <SettingsSidebar />
        <div className='settings-content'>{children}</div>

// settings-panel-page.js
import { SettingsPanelLayout } from './settings-panel-layout';

const SettingsPanelPage = () => {
  // SettingsPanelPage component code here
SettingsPanelPage.getLayout = page => <SettingsPanelLayout>{page}</SettingsPanelLayout>;
export default SettingsPanelPage;

A common mistake with nested layouts in Next.js is the unnecessary re-rendering of higher-order layout components. Ensuring that our layout components are pure—meaning their outputs are solely determined by their props—prevents wasteful rendering. This fosters not only performance enhancements but also provides a buffer against unexpected side-effects, aligning our codebase with best practices regarding lifecycle management.

Thought to ponder: How can we build out different layouts possessing unique data-fetching requirements and ensure that our user experience remains fluid and uninterrupted? Reflect on the lifecycle of your Next.js application and consider how you might leverage both server-side and client-side strategies to effectively manage data within your layout compositions.

Performance Considerations and Optimization Techniques for Nested Routes

Nested routing in Next.js, particularly with the advent of version 14, can profoundly influence the performance of your web application. Implementing these routes efficiently ensures a responsive and fluid user experience, a crucial factor considering user engagement and SEO rankings.

When considering performance, it's vital to be mindful of JavaScript bundle sizes that may inflate due to excessive nesting, necessitating additional logic and dependencies. To mitigate this, leverage Next.js's dynamic imports via next/dynamic for intelligent code splitting, enabling component loading only as required:

import dynamic from 'next/dynamic';

const NestedComponent = dynamic(() => import('./NestedComponent'));

function MyComponent() {
    return (
        <NestedComponent />

Effective memory management ensures that resources are not wasted on components that are no longer in use. The useEffect hook plays a pivotal role in clearing out redundancies upon component unmount, a practice that becomes increasingly important within nested structures:

useEffect(() => {
    // Initialize listeners or pollers
    return () => {
        // Cleanup logic to free resources
}, []);

Shallow routing provides a means to change the URL without triggering data fetching again, which may be unnecessary between nested route navigations. Reducing redundant fetch calls optimizes performance, focusing updates only on changed state:

import { useRouter } from 'next/router';

// Inside your component
function RouteChanger() {
    const router = useRouter();
    const handleNavigation = () => {
        router.push('/parent/child', undefined, { shallow: true });

    return (
        <button onClick={handleNavigation}>Change Route</button>

As Next.js automatically prefetches pages linked with the Link component, this behavior optimizes load times by preparing for future navigations without manual prefetch settings:

import Link from 'next/link';

// In your JSX
<Link href="/nested-route">
    <a>Navigate to Nested Route</a>

Lastly, prioritize static generation via getStaticProps and getStaticPaths for nested routes when possible. This technique serves generated static content from a global CDN, boosting performance. For dynamic scenarios, Incremental Static Regeneration (ISR) can refresh static content at defined intervals, offering a balance between dynamic flexibility and static efficiency.

In summary, optimal nested route performance in Next.js relies on sound code-splitting practices, prudent memory usage, and data-fetching strategies tailored to page interactivity. A harmonious blend of efficient navigation, minimized resource usage, and rapid content delivery elevates nested routes as a powerful asset within your Next.js application.

Common Pitfalls and Anti-patterns in Next.js Routing

Common Pitfalls and Anti-patterns in Next.js Routing can often manifest in subtle ways that may not be immediately apparent during development. One such issue occurs when developers inadvertently create file collisions within the pages directory. For instance, having a file named about.js and a nested folder about/index.js will cause confusion within Next.js's routing system. The correct approach would be to utilize only one of the file structures to define the route, like so:

// Correct structure (Option 1): about.js at the root of the pages directory
// pages/about.js
export default function About() {
    return <div>About us</div>;

// Correct structure (Option 2): index.js inside an 'about' folder
// pages/about/index.js
export default function About() {
    return <div>About us</div>;

A frequent anti-pattern is the misuse of dynamic route segments. A common mistake is to retrieve a dynamic parameter on a parent route that should be exclusive to a nested route. The correct practice is to access dynamic parameters within the file corresponding to the segment where the parameter is valid:

// Incorrect parent retrieval of dynamic parameter:
// pages/posts/[pid].js
import { useRouter } from 'next/router';

export default function Post() {
    const router = useRouter();
    // Incorrectly attempting to access 'comment' param in the parent 'post' route
    const { pid, comment } = router.query; 

    return <div>Post {pid} Comment: {comment}</div>;

// Correct retrieval within the nested route:
// pages/posts/[pid]/comments/[comment].js
import { useRouter } from 'next/router';

export default function Comment() {
    const router = useRouter();
    const { comment } = router.query; // Correctly accessing 'comment' in nested route

    return <div>Comment: {comment}</div>;

Another common mistake involves creating unnecessary and deeply nested directory structures leading to complexity in route understanding and file management. While Next.js supports deep nesting, it's vital to question whether each level of nesting truly serves a purpose. Could flatter structures or higher-order components achieve the same functionality with greater clarity?

Incorrectly handling catch-all routes can lead to unexpected behaviors and performance bottlenecks. A common oversight is not accounting for the specificity of server-side handling for dynamic routes, leading to a mismatch between server-side and client-side rendering. Before defining a catch-all route, you should consider its implications and weigh its necessity against alternative implementations.

Finally, developers may underestimate the impact of mismanaging route groups, causing conflicts and reducing modularity. Route groups are powerful for organization but should respect the separation of concerns principle. Avoid blending unrelated route segments within a single group simply for the sake of compactness, and instead, use this feature judiciously to uphold the integrity of your routing architecture.


In this article about implementing nested routes in Next.js 14, the author explores the foundations, strategies, and optimization techniques for utilizing nested routes effectively. The article emphasizes the importance of file naming and organization in the 'pages' directory to create nested routes and highlights the benefits of using layouts and modular components. Key takeaways include best practices for implementing nested routes, such as using dynamic imports for code splitting, managing memory with the useEffect hook, and prioritizing static generation for better performance. The challenging technical task for readers is to design a nested layout structure for a specific application and consider data-fetching strategies for each level of routing.

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