May 27, 2020

What Does a Ruby on Rails Developer Do?

Ruby on Rails is a powerful framework for quickly prototyping and developing web applications.

Ruby is an open-source interpreted language that was created in the 1990s by Yukihiro "Matz" Matsumoto. Ruby became popular for a number of unique features, including its emphasis on objected-oriented programming.

Ruby is unique in that its approach is as much influenced by user interface design principles as programming principles. This is a result of Matz’ belief that computer systems should be designed around people, rather than forcing people to adapt to systems.

As a result, Ruby is a very easy programming language to learn, and quickly gained in popularity, thanks to that ease-of-use.

Ruby on Rails Makes Its Appearance

In 2004 and 2005, the Ruby world was turned on its head with the release of Ruby on Rails, a web application framework created using Ruby. David Heinemeier Hansson created Rails from his work at Basecamp, the popular project management company. Ruby on Rails quickly gained popularity and brought newfound attention to the underlying language as well.

One of the biggest factors contributing to Rails’ popularity is the design principles it was created with, namely Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY) and Convention over Configuration (CoC).

Both principles are aimed at minimizing the steps a developer needs to take to get a website or web application up and running. DRY relies on abstraction and data normalization to reduce repetition. Similarly, CoC is aimed at cutting down the number of decisions developers need to make in order to move forward, while at the same time preserving flexibility and power.

One of the concepts that Rails helped popularize is scaffolding. Scaffolding automatically constructs some of the data interfaces, models and views needed to create a basic site. This allows developers to quickly start prototyping their application and deploy a minimal viable product (MVP).

Advantages of Ruby on Rails

Rails has an inherent advantage as a result of the language it uses and was created with: Ruby. Ruby is a very elegant language, and Rails inherits much of that elegance.

One of Rails' biggest advantages, thanks in large part to its design philosophy, is the speed of development and deployment. Thank to its pragmatic design, CoC, DRY and scaffolding, a developer can prototype, test, deploy and improve applications much faster than competing frameworks.

Rails is also very readable, coming about as close as possible to plain English as a programming language can get. This means that it’s easy to debug, not just for the original programmer, but also for any developers that may be brought onboard later on.

Thanks to its being open-source, Rails is a cost-effective solution for businesses of all sizes, including those that are just getting started or bootstrapping their way to success.

Its open-source nature also means that Rails has plenty of third-party libraries and plugins that increase its abilities.

Rails is also relatively secure, with built-in resistance to a number of common attacks, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting and forceful browsing.

All of this comes together and results in a deeply pragmatic element. While somewhat intangible, Rails’ underlying pragmatism is an important factor that results in significant quality-of-life improvements for its developers, compared to other frameworks.

Disadvantages of Rails

While Rails obviously has many advantages, it does have a few disadvantages. Chief among them is its runtime speed. Compared to some other frameworks, Rails sometimes lags behind in its runtime speed.

Another disadvantage is a lack of flexibility. While Rails is the ideal environment for quickly building and deploying a web application, it can sometimes be difficult to customize it for more complex requirements.

ActiveRecord is another disadvantage. While heavily used in Rails, ActiveRecord can result in the domain being tightly bound to the persistence mechanism.

The Type of Projects Rails Is Used On

Thanks to its design and the advantages it offers, Rails is used for a wide variety of web applications and services. A Rails developer will be able to work on the entire gamut of projects, from small web apps to the largest, most complex services available.

In fact, some of the web’s biggest sites are built on Rails, including GitHub, Kickstarter, Airbnb, Twitch, Shopify and more. The sky is truly the limit, in terms of the kind of projects a competent Rails developer can tackle.

The Takeaway

When it comes to web development, it’s hard to go wrong with learning Ruby on Rails. The framework is wildly popular, both in and outside of Silicon Valley, and has the features and power to ensure a bright future.

Whether new or existing, any web developer that takes the time to learn Rails will likely see that investment rewarded many times over. Check out the Ruby on Rails website to learn more.

Tags Ruby on Rails Programming Language Web Application
Matt Milano
Technical Writer
Matt is a tech journalist and writer with a background in web and software development.

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