When it comes to developing the back end of your application, you have a wide range of solutions to choose from: Golang, Ruby on Rails, Node.js, Java, and Python are some of the most popular tools, but they’re not the only ones.
This is the next article in the series, and it’s all about Ruby on Rails (RoR). This time-tested framework is widely used for web development by companies in various business domains.
Let’s consider the pros and cons of the Ruby on Rails framework and see what applications can benefit from a back end built on RoR.
What is Ruby on Rails and Ruby
Ruby was developed in the mid-nineties as a general-purpose high-level programming language. It’s object-oriented, dynamically typed, mature, and boasts a vibrant community and elegant syntax.
Rails is a popular web framework built on Ruby. It’s a free open source back-end framework (like many other popular frameworks, it’s distributed under the MIT License) that helps developers build websites by abstracting and simplifying repetitive tasks.
Ruby on Rails is based on the Model–View–Controller (MVC) design pattern. The MVC pattern supports parallel development, which means multiple developers can work on the same app simultaneously with each working on a separate piece of functionality.
What are the benefits of Ruby on Rails for web programming?
This mature technology brings a whole set of advantages that convince developers all over the world to use Rails for their projects:
1. Elegant and simple syntax
Ruby on Rails is really close to English, but it also uses its own domain-specific language that extends Ruby’s semantics. Often, domain-specific languages end up being too complicated, but the team behind Rails has found a good balance by using domain-specific language only in certain instances so it doesn’t make the framework difficult to understand. Thanks to English-like syntax, Ruby on Rails apps are testable and readable.
The don’t repeat yourself (DRY) principle lies at the core of Ruby on Rails development. According to this principle, developers should avoid duplicating code and rather isolate functionality in small functions or files. Thanks to this approach, RoR code is modular and hence easy to understand, read, and debug.
2. Fast development
The philosophy behind Ruby on Rails is often described by referring to the software design paradigm convention over configuration. Its definition is simple - it's an app design paradigm that attempts to decrease the number of decisions that a developer needs to make. The framework is composed in a way that decreases the number of decisions a developer has to make while keeping the framework itself flexible and easy to customize.
Also, Ruby on Rails has reusable, easily configurable components called gems that can be used to cut down development time.
Generators in Ruby on Rails allow you to automate basic CRUD functions, while gems can be used to implement typical features such as authentication or payment integrations. You can easily find a gem that offers the functionality you need in RubyGems, a huge collection of gems for every occasion.
3. Test automation
Rails creates a test directory for you as soon as you create a Rails project using
rails new application_name. By default, every Rails application has three environments: development, test, and production.
It’s possible to run all of your tests at once using the
bin/rails test command, or it’s possible to run a single test file by passing the file name containing your test cases to this same command.
With the sixth version of the RoR framework, developers can conduct parallel testing using the
parallelize method. This greatly speeds up RoR app development and testing time, since multiple subcomponents of an app can be checked simultaneously.
4. Active community
Ruby on Rails has a vibrant and large community of talented developers who help make the framework better. This means you have a large pool of talent when it comes to finding developers for your project.
Additionally, developers contribute to the community regularly by detecting issues and submitting them on the Ruby on Rails GitHub page. In turn, the RoR development team actively fixes bugs submitted by users.
The huge collection of gems is another testament to the activeness of the Ruby on Rails community. The number of gems on RubyGems has passed 10,000 and keeps rising.
Ruby on Rails developers regularly share their experience and knowledge with the framework. There are thousands of tutorials and explanations of the framework’s quirky moments as well as many offline and online events for developers.
Ruby on Rails is highly flexible and works perfectly with most modern technologies and frameworks like AngularJS, Ember, and React Native. Thanks to this, developers can separate layers of the app and use multiple technologies when building web apps.
Ruby is good for scaling products.
First of all, Ruby supports caching out of the box, meaning you can view fragment caching within your app’s code and can use Redis as a cache store. You can also use a remote multi-server automation tool such as Capistrano, which automates the pushing of new application versions to your deployment location. Rails also lets you use the cloud infrastructure framework Chef, which itself is written in Ruby. Chef can help you manage infrastructure dependencies, create folder structures, and bootstrap the entire system or update system configurations with a minimum of commands.
Another thing that makes Ruby on Rails a good choice for a project that needs to scale is the way it works with background jobs. Queueing tasks such as email confirmations after new users register in the system is important for a smooth user experience, and the bigger your product is, the more crucial background jobs become to its functioning. In Rails, it’s possible to set up background jobs using Sidekiq or Resque.
Also, the sixth version of the framework has finally brought out-of-the-box support for multiple databases. Now, when the number of users and hence the quantity of stored data grows, you can easily add a new database to your app. On its official page, Rails has a step-by-step guide on how to add several databases to a Rails app.
The Ruby on Rails team works hard to come up with built-in solutions to common web security issues. For instance, with the sixth version of the framework, released in August 2019, the Rails development team introduced several security enhancements that protect a web app from DNS rebinding attacks and cross-site scripting attacks.
Ruby on Rails has detailed documentation on how to fight common security vulnerabilities. You can also find a number of gems that provide an additional level of security for your Ruby on Rails (RoR) web application.
Common drawbacks and ways to overcome them
In terms of runtime speed, Ruby on Rails lags behind its rivals Node.js, Golang, and Python. Luckily, there are several techniques that can help you speed up your Ruby on Rails apps and boost its performance. We’ve described the most effective ones in one of our previous articles.
Read also: How to Speed Up Your Ruby on Rails App
The opinionated nature of Ruby is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it speeds up development time, since the number of decisions the development team has to make is reduced significantly. There’s basically one way to do things.
But on the other hand, it can be really frustrating to solve tasks that don’t map onto the framework or to build a solution to a problem in a way other than that offered by Rails.
What projects will particularly benefit from Ruby on Rails?
We talked to our developers and learned that there are several categories of projects that particularly benefit from being written in Ruby on Rails:
Ruby on Rails is optimal for developing e-commerce apps because of its modular approach. Ruby on Rails also lets you upload images and products and update product descriptions en masse, which is useful when you manage a large e-commerce website. Other features that can be easily implemented with Ruby on Rails include custom pricing algorithms and options for automated image resizing and cropping.
There are a number of open source solutions built on Ruby on Rails specifically for e-commerce app development. Spree is one example: it’s open-source and API-driven and has an active community of developers who contribute to it on GitHub.
Social networking sites
Ruby on Rails provides a variety of plugins that can be used to implement all crucial features of social networking websites. Multiple open source libraries written in Ruby on Rails let you develop a social network faster and more easily than if you built it all from scratch. For example, social_stream supports contacts, posts, file uploads, private messages, and other features.
Content management systems
Ruby on Rails has a lot to offer content management system (CMS) products because of how easy RoR makes it to scale apps and how reliable and easy to navigate Ruby on Rails websites generally are. Refinery is one of the most popular Ruby on Rails-based CMSs. It’s multilingual, gives you a lot of design flexibility, and is supported by an active community of developers.
Who uses Ruby on Rails?
Thanks to the advantages Ruby on Rails provides, the framework has become the number one choice among many popular vendors around the globe. Here are some of the companies that use RoR for developing their web apps:
Ruby on Rails as a web development framework has reached maturity and will likely grow to become even more stable, which together with its scalability makes it a good fit for enterprise-level applications. And the committed community of developers who constantly contribute to its open source libraries guarantees that Ruby on Rails will remain a good choice for many types of web development.