December 5, 2019
To build a Web application that effortlessly serves your target audience, you have to make sure your chosen technology stack has the necessary capabilities.
In this article, you’ll learn all the important information about Ruby on Rails and how adding it to your application can help your business.
During over ten years of expertise in Ruby on Rails development and work with clients, we’ve received probably all questions possible concerning the topic but some were more frequent than others. We decided to cover them in an approachable way, in a FAQ list—short and sweet.
Table of Contents
Ruby on Rails is a Web development framework based on the Ruby programming language. Since its introduction in 2005, it has managed to stay a popular Web framework: in 2023, it was in the top 20 languages in the Stack Overflow survey.
With Ruby on Rails, you can quickly build startup apps, e-commerce apps, or software-as-a-service solutions, just to name a few of its many use cases.
Ruby on Rails is lauded for its rapid development capabilities, maturity, and quality of its libraries, which the Rails ecosystem calls gems.
Rails was built to significantly speed up the Web development process. By favoring the convention-over-configuration approach to development, Rails removes a considerable portion of the initial developer effort, noticeably cutting the time needed to build an app.
Because the Rails framework encourages using best practices in development (e.g., test-driven development (TDD)), Web apps built with Rails generally exhibit a high degree of quality.
In today’s world, a robust security infrastructure can’t be overstressed and if you’re looking to build a secure Web application, Rails offers a bevy of built-in solutions designed to curb malicious attacks. Additionally, the vibrant Rails community is very meticulous about finding and fixing any vulnerabilities that come up in gems or the framework itself.
Gems are reusable pieces of code that developers can use freely to add more features to an app. While reusable components aren’t anything special in the world of Web development, what makes Rails stand out is the plethora of gems available out-of-the-box, giving developers access to countless functionalities.
Web apps of all kinds. If you don’t expect your app to handle big traffic and millions of users (think Twitter-like volume), Rails should be a good fit.
Sample use cases:
Rails is excellent for prototyping and building MVPs. Without the need to write boilerplate code and with plenty of out-of-the-box gems available, experienced developers can put together an initial version of an application in no time.
Ruby on Rails is used by several internationally recognizable brands in their technology stacks.
The biggest names include:
While the answer for Rails is “not so much”—it’s a Web development framework after all—Ruby most definitely can. There are even gems available that were developed specifically for that purpose. However, Ruby lacks the rich AI-supporting ecosystem found in Python, to name one example. Ruby also isn’t exactly a speed demon, and artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms need fast languages, such as Scala.
If in the future your app will require some automation capabilities, you can always write solutions to address those specific needs with Java, Python, or Scala.
It can, but it needs to be built with possible scalability demand in mind. In other words, when writing an app, a developer has to consider its future growth, i.e., optimize the code accordingly. In the Rails realm, it’s usually the developer’s lack of experience that ultimately dooms the app.
That said, every other element that makes up an app (e.g., server architecture, database) also has to be configured in a way that facilitates future scalability while delivering the necessary performance.
Although evaluating a language or framework by its popularity is somewhat unfair, Ruby on Rails still holds up well on that particular front. Ruby, Rails’ mother tongue, was named the “Server-side Programming Language of the Year " four years in a row – from 2018 to 2021.
As of July 2023, it was still the third most used server-side language, according to w3techs.
Popularity also matters when you’re looking for developers versed or acquainted with a particular technology. Some niche technologies, even those that are excellent at what they do, might make it difficult for companies to find appropriate talent to maintain their code or develop it further.
Because Rails still ranks relatively high on the popularity charts, and the demand for Rails developers remains at a stable level, finding a Rails developer shouldn’t pose a problem. However, since so much depends on the experience and adherence to best practices in the Rails’ realm, always opt for developers or developer teams with ample experience.
Rails is usually associated with drawbacks that aren’t directly connected to the framework itself, but rather the lack of experience of the developers who work with it or inappropriate choices or configuration of complementary technologies (e.g., databases, servers).
The convention-over-configuration paradigm often causes inexperienced developers to build applications that underperform because of the default configuration injected into the code. The default configuration isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution and often calls for project-specific refinements.
Rails, or more specifically Ruby, won’t be the best choice for Web apps intended for heavy traffic (i.e. those with millions of users). The effort and resources necessary to scale a Rails app to satisfy such high demand will simply be too great. If your app is meant to support heavy traffic, choose Scala or Elixir instead.
Since Rails is a Web development framework, almost every Web application can be written with it. Some use cases, however, call for choosing a different language altogether.
Ruby on Rails is a popular choice among businesses looking for technologies that offer fast development of high-quality Web apps. Rails is a perfect pick for building MVPs and prototypes as well as applications designed to solve complex business problems but not intended to handle heavy traffic.
Have questions that aren’t addressed in this FAQ? Go ahead and ask us in the comments section below or shoot us an email at [email protected]. We’ll gladly answer all your questions and clarify any doubts you may have about this technology.