Ruby on Rails is a popular web development technology, used around the world by startups and mature companies. Many of Netguru’s clients have chosen it for their stack.
We’ve prepared this article, which answers the most common clients’ questions about Ruby and Rails and can help you decide whether you want to use the technology for your project.
Ruby is a programming language, and Ruby lon 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Talk to your development team to establish what hosting option will best suit your business.
Hopefully, the answers to these thirteen popular questions about Ruby on Rails have helped you understand the framework better, alleviated your worries, and allowed you to make a positive decision for your business.