How to Deliver Software Fast with Ruby on Rails

Photo of Kamil Paszkowski

Kamil Paszkowski

Sep 5, 2019 • 30 min read

You are about to learn everything you need to know about building software fast using Ruby on Rails.

Lead time (in terms of Lean Management) is a crucial KPI which might decide if a startup succeeds or not.

Audience feedback and the first revenue (however low) is essential for new companies – creating a prototype which allows validating your idea quickly is crucial. This enables you to take the right direction for further development.

That’s why the speed of software development is really important – less time spent on coding means a faster user feedback cycle and smaller development costs.

The Role of Speed in Software Development

According to FastCompany, software development is an expensive part of a startup journey which doesn’t have an end. Environmental risk, such as law changes and third-party dependency updates mean that there is some extra work for developers. The time span from the first noticeable change to production delivery should be as short as possible.

What the fast software delivery looks like from the client’s perspective? It is a frequently updated staging/uat environment with the new features that could be seen and tested by clients. New registration page, an admin management panel as well as an email in an inbox are just a few to name. When development teams follow Scrum methodology, every iteration (which might be a week or two) should deliver a new noticeable value for business customers. Keeping in mind that MVP is more than a landing page, it is easy to conclude that the technology choice is important from the stakeholder’s perspective. To sum it up, fast development provides you with the following benefits:

  1. Short time to market - bringing application to users as fast as possible.
  2. Quick feedback from application users.
  3. Lower development costs.
  4. Fast market change adoption.
  5. Frequent application updates.

Speed of Development with Ruby on Rails

Ruby on Rails is a frequent choice to build prototypes or create the MVP version of a product. There are many factors which make web development in Rails fast:

1. Complete framework

It is a “battery-included” framework in which many important, out of the box tools and solutions are available, e.g.: database communication, schema migrations, email sending/receiving, websockets, internalisation, caching, API mode and good security defaults.

2. Layered structure

The MVC (Model–View–Controller) software architectural pattern is a simple and easy way to split application logic into separate layers with their respective responsibilities. Ruby on Rails follows MVC allowing developers to focus on what really needs to be done instead of making decisions over code organisation (at least in an early stage of a project).

3. Numerous third-party components

A huge collection of third-party components (gems) which significantly speeds up app development. Authentication (registration, login pages or through social media providers like Facebook or Google) is very easy to set up thanks to Devise gem. Building administration panel is simple with ActiveAdmin.

4. Strong support from devops services

Many hosting and CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous delivery) services which have prebuilt Rails support, e.g.:

5. Convention over configuration

The convention over configuration strategy that saves dozens of lines of configuration and boilerplate code. Favouring sets of rules that comes with Rails can cut the number of decisions that need to be made, keeping code simplicity and flexibility at the same time.

6. Good frontend tools support

JavaScript and Css preprocessors, such as Webpack or SCSS, can be integrated into an application in just a few steps. There are also lots of dedicated gems that support all popular frameworks like React.js, Vue.js, Angular or CSS tools.

Read more about development with Ruby on Rails and React.

7. Large developer community

Thousands of development questions have already been answered on Stack Overflow. Developers can learn Rails from dozens of technical books, hundreds of tutorials and many good video tutorials that are available across the web. Not to mention many conferences that take place around the world.

8. Code scaffolds

Code scaffolds are auto-generated code snippets that can provide good basic defaults for new app components. They are ready to use in a few seconds. Their main benefit is that they make developers more productive in their day-to-day work.

Can You Prototype Fast with Ruby on Rails?

So what can we expect regarding speed development when choosing Ruby on Rails with the aim of building a web application? It mainly depends on team velocity - however, assuming that an application is built from the ground up, it's easy to create staging, beta and production environments in a couple of days. Creating a basic Rails app is a matter of minutes, so presenting the first working version of a product after a few days of development isn't uncommon. A few months might be enough to build the MVP so that the business could start validating its goals.

What Else Affects the Speed of Development

The speed of development is not only related to a technology that is being used. There are many other factors that come into play. What kind of project methodology the team follows is important too. Nowadays, Agile (and Scrum in particular) is a common choice. It involves the usage of additional tools that organise and visualise the work. An example of project management tool might be a JIRA. Continuous integration (CI) and development (CD) tools help to deliver high-quality code fast.

At Netguru, we use CircleCi as a CI and CD option. Bug monitoring tools like a Rollbar or Sentry can save time spent on error fixing by providing instant error notifications as well as many helpful details. To keep the application free of bugs, the QA (quality assurance) process is also critical. There's no better check than a human interaction with the newly created feature.

Ruby on Rails has proved to be one of the best choices regarding fast software development. Especially when it comes to building MVPs. Thus, if your priority is to prototype and verify your idea fast, Ruby on Rails Consulting is a way to go.

Our teams have 12+ years experience in building Ruby web-applications.

Now let's look at how to correctly structure teams:

How to Prepare The Setup And Workflow For Your Team

Building an in-house team can be quite a challenge.

That’s why remote development teams are gaining popularity, and more companies use services of Ruby on Rails consulting agencies – it’s an attractive alternative, but if you want everything to go smoothly, make sure that you prepare yourself before you start cooperation. Communication and transparency are crucial in Ruby on Rails consulting and development. Following certain rules will help you solve all potential problems, manage workflow, and keep all issues under control. Before the setup, you should learn a little bit about the technology so that you can understand your team better and streamline the process.

The client: the most important part of the process

The cooperation between a client, and a development company is both very individual and generic at the same time. From the development’s team point of view, the goal of the cooperation is to create a product and possibly maintain it in the future. That’s why wrong assumptions, approach, plan, and the execution of that plan can lead to different expectations and results at many stages of product’s creation.

Rule #1: Find time to meet with the Ruby on Rails consulting team

The client will have a very specific vision for the product. But very often, the client forgets to communicate that to the Ruby on Rails consulting company. So the first thing you should bear in mind is to make time in their calendar for regular meetings with the development team. Meetings should take place at least once a week, for a number of reasons.

  • Meetings constitute a good opportunity to present the progress with the product made by the development team in each sprint. From my experience, during meetings, clients will have many questions about developers’ work, in accordance with the workflow, layout, and business logic. At such meetings, called stand-up meetings, many edge cases are very often targeted and clarified. A stand-up meeting should take place at least once a week, but twice would be even more beneficial.

  • You can be sure that the project goes in line with assumptions and the timeline. That argument is very valid in terms of time and budget.

  • Frequent meetings adhere to the lean management approach to creating web products. This approach guarantees delivering more value with less waste in the context of a project.

  • The final product can differ very significantly from the client’s first idea. This is why the consulting agency should cooperate closely with the client in order to react to any changes and requests to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Rule #2: Get acquainted with the tools and crucial project details

At Netguru, we believe that transparency pays off – it enhances the development, it improves relationships in the team, and it also increases the quality of the work with the client. That’s why you should be familiar with all the vital information we provide. You should have full access to the:

  • Code repository,

  • Staging servers,

  • Domains,

  • Hosting,

  • Communication channels,

  • Tickets in project management tools

  • Documents such as readmes, plans, and mockups.

Transparency requires security, so all data is provided in a secure way. For instance, we use 1password to handle passwords, addresses, and confidential data.

Rule #3: Be present

The process of creating a web application presents multiple challenges, variables, and edge-cases that will occur during cooperation with development agency. Such complex eco-system requires being present in many ways.

  • Use staging and beta servers after the consulting team finishes work on new functionalities. It is very important because the faster you test functionalities, the faster you can spot the discrepancies between the client’s vision.

  • Slack is a great communication tool. You can ask questions on dedicated Slack channels, so the developer that created functionality or PM can respond.

  • At Netguru, we use JIRA for our Ruby on Rails consulting services. We think it is one of the best tools to track project progress. We know that not everyone has the habit of working with a tool of this kind, but try to make an effort to use JIRA.

Ruby on Rails consulting specifications

A client working with a Ruby on Rails consulting agency ought to find out how the ecosystem works and learn about the pros and cons of Ruby on Rails and Ruby itself.

Rule #4: Try to understand the development process and the RoR ecosystem

Ruby on Rails (abbreviated as RoR) is a popular web framework for web application development built in the Ruby programming language. As a full-fledged web framework, RoR offers many components of a successful web project out of the box, for instance, an ORM (Object Relational Mapping) system for business data and logic, routing, and application management. Still, to decide whether RoR will be a good fit for a specific project, you need to know what makes this framework different from others. To help you get a deeper understanding of RoR, we will give an overview of its main strengths and its shortcomings.

  • The best industry standards. RoR has had over 13 years of constant development. The fundamental principles that RoR has been built upon made it highly regarded in comparison to other frameworks:

  • The DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) is a principle in software development aimed at reducing repetition of all kinds. It ensures a clear separation of concerns and maintainability of your application.

  • The MVC (Model-View-Controller) is a software architectural pattern for implementing user interfaces on computers. It divides a given application into three interconnected parts. It is a core feature of Rails and makes it easy to work with RoR and solves multiple problems such as how to include new features and where to place the appropriate business logic.
  • The speed of development. The main goal of RoR is the speed of development, especially in the prototyping phase. Most web frameworks were not created with the aim of fast prototyping. Rails, on the other hand, is perfect for developing prototypes quickly. You can easily integrate all major databases (both relational and non-relational), use authentication and authorisation layers, integrate with cloud storage services (Amazon), and many more. All libraries can be found on GitHub.

  • The community. RoR is open-source, so any developer in the world can report an issue, solve one, or contribute to the growth and evolution of not only the framework itself but any open-source library being part of RoR. The open-source nature of RoR results in top-notch security standards, which are monitored and kept up-to-date with the industry’s best practices.

Still, Ruby on Rails also falls behind the competition in a few respects:

  • ‘Slow’ runtime speed,

  • Worse scalability.

  • Potential issues with multithreading and the processing of simultaneous requests.

Bear in mind, however, that the impact of all the above issues can be significantly mitigated by a proper design of the application’s architecture.

The effective collaboration checklist

When working with a RoR consulting company, you have to manage the work with people, not only with software. Agencies understand that their client’s success is their success too and will do everything they can to make this success a reality. In order to work efficiently with an agency you should adhere to a few principles and everyone will be happier.

Rule #5: Prepare yourself for the cooperation

Before the Ruby on Rails consulting collaboration starts, you should do a few things to make everyone work more efficiently.

  • Check whether the company is responsive to the business and marketing changes suggested by the client.

  • Check the internal procedures of the agency you’re about to choose.

  • Check whether the agency has a talent team responsible for delegating the right people to the right job.

  • Talk with other clients of the agency you’ve chosen and ask about their experience.

When you start the collaboration:

  • Prepare and provide access to repositories, mockup and graphic designs.

  • Put together a list of ideas and user stories.

  • Write down the questions about your project as a list.

  • Describe the market and identify your target group.

During the co-operation, you need to:

  • Specify the requirements for your MVP.

  • Set up all the necessary communication channels.

  • Always ask questions when you don’t understand something.

  • Identify the next steps to be taken.

After the launch of the product or at the end of the collaboration:

  • Make sure you keep the agency close to hand.

  • Check whether the code you’ve been given is well-documented.

  • Ask about maintenance services for your product.

The best practices in Ruby on Rails ecosystem

Every ecosystem follows a set of guidelines. You should know them in order to maximise the gains from collaborating with an agency. In the case of RoR, the guidelines are as follows.

  • Use gems. Gems are open-source libraries which you can reuse them in many projects. If you need to implement user registration, image uploads, or automatic e-mail distribution in your application, feel free to use an open-source library. You don’t need to write it from scratch.

  • Use the right database for your use case. Choose the type of a database appropriate for your problem wisely. You can choose relational databases (RDBMS) such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, Percona, and many more. On the other hand, also non-relational databases are available: MongoDB, Redis, Cassandra, CouchDB, and others. A database you would use for storing users in the system would differ from a database used for real-time storing and processing chat messages for millions of users. Every database was designed with a particular purpose in mind.

  • Consider using an external API. Your development team doesn’t need to write everything from scratch. They can use an external API to save time and money so that they can focus on solving other, more pressing, issues. You don’t need to write software for converting currencies, posting messages on Facebook, or using Google Maps. All major companies in the world have an API available that you can use for a small fee or free of charge.

  • Follow the best RoR and programming patterns to keep your software maintainable and easy to develop. The acronyms DRY, KISS, and SOLID should be no mystery to you. Use the right design patterns, keep your software and libraries up-to-date, use useful database features such as indexes, views, Postgis, or full-text search if needed.

  • Use continuous delivery tools. In order to save time on delivery process. use tools that make this process as painless and automatic as possible.

Ready to Start Yet?

Even though working with a remote team might have its downsides in comparison to an in-house development team, with the right preparation and management, you won’t feel the difference. The crucial principle to follow is to treat all the members as if they were employees of your own company. They need to understand your vision in order to follow and execute it.

14 Frequently Asked Questions About Ruby on Rails

1. What is Ruby and what are Rails

Ruby is a programming language, and Ruby on Rails is its web application development framework.

A web framework’s job is to support web app development and establish a standard way of building web projects. Rails provides components like an ORM (Object Relational Mapping) system for business data and logic, routing, and application management out of the box.

2. Is RoR backend or frontend?

To understand the answer, let’s first establish that a backend usually has three parts: a server, an application, and a database. These are all the elements users don’t see or interact with directly.

Ruby and Rails are mainly backend technologies, used to create and fine-tune the inner workings of an app, its data storage, and architecture. In web development, the popular frontend language is JavaScript.

But Ruby on Rails is a complete web development framework. It includes frontend code and HTML views, so it’s possible to create all necessary frontend assets with it. RoR is an all-in-one web solution.

3. What are gems?

Ruby is often listed as the language that allows for the fastest development. This speed can be achieved thanks to gems – libraries built to deliver specific functionalities, such as authentication and authorisation, testing, or payment processing.

As these are solutions that have already been written, Rails developers can often use them wholesale for their apps, focusing on adjusting the app’s architecture and making sure everything works well together, but avoiding writing solutions that have already been written a thousand times.

Unless your app’s log-in functionality is somehow unique, there’s no reason to write it from scratch. A good RoR developer knows this, and picks the right gem to avoid reinventing the wheel.

Working with a bigger, experienced RoR team is also a good idea – they usually have established practices and recommended gems, which can significantly speed up their work.

4. When is RoR used? What kinds of digital products rock when built with RoR?

As already mentioned, one of Rails’ main advantages is its development speed. That’s why the framework can be a perfect fit for many startups, growing companies and entrepreneurial projects within larger businesses.

Almost any web project can benefit from Ruby’s speed of development, high industry standards, and a robust community, which provides fantastic pre-built solutions.

RoR works well for SaaS projects thanks to the framework’s good performance, security, flexibility, and scalability.

It’s a popular choice for ecommerce platforms for the same reasons and the additional benefits of good payment integrations and ease of deployment. It might actually be easier to define projects that would be better served by other languages and frameworks.

These include: apps built to support heavy calculations; high-performance, near-real time services; most Machine Learning apps.

5. What are the pros and cons of RoR?

The most important advantages of building apps with Ruby on Rails include speed of development, a robust community, and top industry standards introduced by the framework.

As already mentioned, Rails comes with a number of gems, and allows for a modular approach to development. Your team can focus on creating the most efficient architecture for your app, without wasting time on writing code that’s already been written many, many times.

RoR was created with the high velocity of prototyping and application development in mind. Its well-developed system of modules, generator scripts, and an efficient package management system allow scaffolding a complex application in just a few commands.

Ruby is also an expressive, concise language that allows developers to achieve more in fewer lines of code.

RoR’s second big advantage is its flourishing, mature community, providing solutions, resources, and advice. These proactive developers are the ones responsible for the creation of many Ruby gems. They also make sure that Rails is regularly updated, secure and up-to-date with industry standards.

Ruby on Rails is an opinionated framework – using it comes with a bit of guidance, leading developers to doing things the Rails way: using best standards and practices of web development.

Now for some disadvantages.

If your main focus for the project is its runtime speed, Node.js or Django might serve you better.

Additionally, RoR comes with some hard dependencies and modules out of the box. These might be unnecessary if your app is particularly unique (e.g. if you need custom routing or database migrations), and your developers might have a difficult time shaping RoR to the project’s needs.

Finally, because prototyping with Rails is so incredibly fast, bad architectural choices early on in the development might be pretty costly, affecting your app’s performance and even requiring a full refactoring of your code.

Always make sure to work with a team of experienced Ruby on Rails development company to avoid this.

6. Is RoR a good technology for startups?

Short answer: yes. Long answer: Ruby on Rails presents many advantages to startups.

One of them is Rails’ large and vibrant developer community, which produces useful resources and is always ready to help your team out when they get stuck.

RoR is a complete framework, used by many companies for commercial projects, and it’s constantly being improved.

It’s easy to build a product with Rails, using the community resources and support.

Development is also extremely fast, which is perfect for fast delivery or building an MVP and validating product goals. Clear-cut best practices make it faster and easier to write and debug code.

All of these are great reasons to use RoR for a startup project.

7. Is RoR a good technology for ecommerce?

Ruby on Rails can be a great tool for building an ecommerce project. In fact, it has often been Netguru’s technology of choice.

With its ecommerce framework, Spree, Rails offers all the necessary functionalities, along with a mature codebase, ready-to-use feature packages, easy payment integrations, a well-documented admin dashboard, and easy deployment.

8. Is RoR a good technology for Machine Learning?

Machine Learning allows computers to learn through interacting with data.

It’s useful for solutions such as recommendations based on user interests and past behaviours, and has become important for services like Netflix, Amazon or Facebook. Ruby, while it’s an elegant and mature programming language, doesn’t really compete in the speed of complex calculations category.

If you're looking for the right technology for an ML project, consider using a microservice written in a different language, e.g. Python, and connecting it to your Rail web app.

9. Which companies use Ruby on Rails?

Listing all of them would take a ridiculously long time, so let’s focus on some of the biggest players. Airbnb, the popular travel lodging listing platform, users RoR. So does CrunchBase, the “Wikipedia of startups”, using RoR for its backend.

Other examples include GitHub (web hosting for software projects), Soundcloud (music platform), Zendesk (customer relations management service), Kickstarter (the most popular crowdfunding platform), Shopify (one of the biggest ecommerce platforms) and Twitch (popular online video broadcasting service).

10. How to find the best RoR development company? Is it easy to find perfect Rails developers?

It’s not difficult, but there are a few important things you will need to pay attention to. Choosing the right Ruby on Rails development team matters, because using RoR to its full advantage requires a lot of experience.

Because the framework comes with so many games and solutions, and because of its opinionated nature, it isn't always easy to make the right decisions for a given project.

First of all, choose a team of developers rather than a single freelancer: they’ll have much more know-how and will be able to solve each other’s problems.

Pay attention to their development process:

  • Do they use Agile practices and provide effective channels of communication?
  • Do they offer testing and QA?

Next, ask them about their tools. GitHub and CircleCI are some of the best options out there for code repository and continuous integration, respectively.

At Netguru, we also use Rollbar and Codebeat to maintain high code quality.

Make sure your team knows what they’re doing, and that they’re taking advantage of the benefits provided by Ruby on Rails.

11. What about RoR development speed?

Speed of development and fast delivery are some of Ruby on Rails’ main advantages. Thanks to the modular approach allowed by the use of gems, as well as Ruby’s concise nature, rapid prototyping is a breeze with RoR.

It’s a complete framework with important tools and solutions available out of the box. It uses the MVC architectural pattern, which means that splitting an app’s logic into separate layers is easy.

Rails is also open to integrations with third party components and frontend tools, making the process quick and painless.

12. Is RoR a good solution for creating an MVP?

Yes, because of its speed, Rails is a great framework for building MVPs.

It can be done very quickly, and the end result will be easily to scale and develop further. This means that you’ll have a great proof of concept, which you’ll be able to show to potential investors, and that you’ll be able to start gaining traction quickly.

13. How does RoR integrate with other technologies?

Extremely well. RoR is open-source, which makes it more open to other technologies by definition.

It has something of a modular build, with plenty of gems and frameworks. You can pick and choose from among them, without creating a separate frontend application.

Rails also makes it easy to create a short and very readable API to communicate with a frontend (if you decide to use SPA) or a backend application/service.

It’s a mature technology with good community support, and it’s been around long enough to come in contact with plenty of third-party solutions. Many of those can be easily and quickly integrated with Rails.

14. How to host a RoR app?

There are plenty of hosting options suitable for Rails apps. Some of our favourite ones include AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Heroku, and Digital Ocean.

We’ve created a comparison of these solutions to help clients make the right choice, and we’re always happy to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.

If you need the help of a Ruby on Rails team with 12+ years of experience in building web-applications contact us today.

We hope you found this guide useful and would love to hear your comments below.


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Kamil Paszkowski

Kamil - the full package of a creative mind and an eye for detail. His motto being: Less is more!...

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