When it comes to having software developed, there’s no lack of options when it comes to the technologies you can use. But depending on what you need your application to do, certain technologies are going to be a better match. For most of the custom applications to build, a lot of developers use Ruby on Rails. Here’s a quick background on Rails, why its a good match for most web applications, and why you might want to consider it if you have a web application project in mind.
In cases, business owners needed something much more customized, with specific features based on their business needs. When this comes up in business, my go-to tool for building these types of web applications is Ruby on Rails.
Note: I want to be clear that I’m not necessarily saying that Rails is the best option for all types of projects. But for most web applications, it includes the functionality and features necessary to quickly develop this type of software.
Quick Background on Ruby on Rails
Ruby on Rails is what’s called a “web framework” written in a programming language called “Ruby” (hence the name). The term “web framework” just means that Ruby on Rails is a collection of tools, libraries, and additions to the Ruby programming language that enable developers to quickly create web-based software. It was developed by a company called 37signals and is used on tens of thousands of websites, including Github, Shopify, Groupon, LivingSocial, YellowPages and more.
3 Reasons Why to Use Ruby on Rails
Ruby on Rails can make it more affordable to create and maintain web-based software. Here are some of the main reasons for using Ruby on Rails for your web application project:
- Faster development time: Ruby on Rails was created with a concept in mind called “convention over configuration”. In some other technologies, developers need to spend a significant amount of time making decisions about how an application will be setup (e.g., file structure for the project, how code will talk to the database, or various settings in configuration files).The Rails approach is that it comes with these decisions already made, by way of “sensible defaults” or conventions that work well in the majority of applications. That means developers can spend the bulk of their time on the unique aspects of the problem they’re trying to solve by creating their application, not the mundane aspects of setting it up.
Rails also embraces a concept known as “don’t repeat yourself” or DRY. The idea behind DRY is that you shouldn’t duplicate your code. Instead, you should organize it in such a way that code needed in multiple places can be written once, then shared wherever its needed.
This helps avoid “copy/paste coding” and makes maintaining code and making changes easier down the road. And while DRY is not a concept unique to Rails (or Ruby for that matter), it is a best practice on which the the Rails community places a high value.
- Modular design: Rails also has a modular design. It’s common in most programming languages to find libraries that allow you to add specific functionality to your software and Ruby / Rails are no different. Ruby’s libraries are called “gems” and can be used to add all sorts of functionality to your web applications.You can think of gems as something similar to plugins in WordPress, except they generally allow a developer to more easily add features versus being something that the end user can add and use directly.
Some common gems I use include adding features for:
- User login / logout functionality
- Creating PDF files
- Displaying information on Google Maps
- Integrating with social media sites like Twitter and Facebook
- Integrating with third-party services (email newsletter services, text messaging, etc)
- Automated Testing: Another thing the Rails community is passionate about is testing. And although testing can be taken too far, in general it is absolutely a good idea and something I incorporate with all of the code I write.Its common to have features that are complex enough that they need to be broken up into separate parts. As you build each part, you want to be that it works like it should. And you also want to be sure that as you continue building on new functionality, you don’t break what was already working.
That’s essentially what automated testing allows you to do, by writing code that tests your application. That test code can be run with a single command and can quickly test all of the various cases for your application to be sure everything is still working correctly. This is significantly better (and more accurate) than just clicking around in a web browser testing things out.
Faster Development, Easier Maintenance
The bottom line is that Rails is optimized for creating feature-rich web applications in minimal time. There’s a large ecosystem of libraries for more common functionality you might need in a web app…and a skilled developer can create their own libraries if needed. New features can be added quickly and maintaining applications over time can also be more cost-effective.
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