There are hundreds of different programming languages and even more different application frameworks built with these languages. That’s why it can be really difficult to pick the best one for your project. Furthermore, if you pick the wrong one, you could pay with your development time and money for such a mistake. This is why you need to be up-to-date on the most popular application frameworks in your field, their advantages and limitations.
For example, if you work in web application development, you should definitely know about the pros and cons of Ruby on Rails. Ruby on Rails, or RoR, is a web framework that is one of the most popular tools in the web development line of work. Just like most application frameworks, RoR was built with the Ruby programming language for a specific task its creator had during his work in a web application development company. This means that, due to both the advantages and disadvantages of Ruby programming language and its initial single project-oriented specific features, this web framework has its pros and cons.
However, there is a reason this framework is so popular among developers. So, let’s start by taking a look at the pros of Ruby on Rails.
Advantages of Ruby on Rails Compared to Other Frameworks
1. Strong adherence to standards
One of the most notable advantages of Ruby programming language, as well as Ruby on Rails, is a strong backing of web standards for every part of an application, from the user interface to data transfer. Applications that are made with Ruby on Rails are expected to follow established software design paradigms, such as “coding by convention” (developer needs to specify the app features that are unconventional), “don’t repeat yourself” (encouragement to avoid code duplication and to create abstractions instead) and “active record pattern” (specific way of accessing data in the database).
So, why are all of these considered to be such an advantage for RoR? Well, there are multiple reasons:
- First of all, it makes the language much easier for novices to learn and much more enjoyable for professionals to use.
- Secondly, it leads to a better code readability, which is great both for the cooperation among developers and for large projects overall.
- Finally, it minimizes the amount of code you need to write to implement a feature.
2. Huge and active community
According to this chart, around 10% of the 10,000 most popular websites in the world use Ruby on Rails (Ruby on Rails Token is just one of the ways to detect the usage of RoR). This puts it in the top 3 most used web development tools. It means that quite a lot of people all over the world use this framework for creating software.
Furthermore, there is a huge community of RoR developers on GitHub. And, it is really active – there are many snippets of software with specific functions. You can easily use these snippets, better known as “gems”, as a basis for your own project – so you can focus on more difficult tasks. Plus, this means that you can always ask for help if you’re just getting started.
3. Great amount of helpful tools and libraries
As was mentioned above, there are hundreds of different helpful community-created “gems” and libraries that you can use as a part of your own software. However, you can find even more helpful tools among them. They influence not the content of your code, but your software design experience as a whole. Some of them can help you in debugging, some are a great help in optimization, and some are related to the testing stage of your work. Here are a few of the most helpful and popular gems out there:
- RSpec-Rails – an awesome testing tool that provides a lot of information in the most comprehensive way possible
- RuboCop – a great code analyzer that will keep its eyes on you to make sure that you follow the Ruby Style Guide to the letter
- Better_Error and binding_of_caller – tools that change your static error page into an interactive one which lets you take a look at the faulty source code in real time
- Letter_Opener – a gem with a narrower use: it allows you to preview emails that the application sends without actually sending them directly in your browser window
- CanCanCan – this gem allows you to define different roles a user can have in your software, and the opportunities and permissions they give them.
4. Time efficiency
Although it is relatively easy to learn the basics of this framework, it will take some time for you to unlock its true potential. However, if you’re ready to invest some time in this, you will definitely be amazed at how fast and effective you’ve become.
Furthermore, the previous point heavily reinforces this one. There are hundreds of tools that can both accelerate and simplify your overall coding experience, as well as spare your time from simple, yet time-consuming tasks. Basically, this means that you can make more money in the same amount of time. That’s probably why there are so many schools, online and offline courses that are dedicated to Ruby on Rails. This also means that the community is getting even bigger – which means there will be even more efficient and helpful tools!
5. Popularity among the big companies
Although this point isn’t always valid, most of the time big companies with professional analysts make good decisions about the tools they use for their projects. This is why such tools often get an indisputable reputation of being solid and reliable. Ruby on Rails has definitely earned such a reputation as there are a lot of really massive projects that still use it. Among them are:
Such popularity also proves that this framework works very well for big projects. Although some developers complain that there are some problems for big web apps (some people claim that this was the reason Twitter dropped it), there clearly is a way to make it work just fine.
Furthermore, it is still popular in the start-up community – there are dozens of new and exciting projects that are being developed right now!
Disadvantages of Ruby on Rails
Of course, just like with any other programming language or framework, there are some negative aspects to RoR, and pitfalls you can fall into during the development process. So, here are some of the drawbacks of using Ruby on Rails:
1. Shortage of flexibility
When it comes to basic tasks and features, RoR is almost unchallenged. However, because there are a lot of default, set objects, there is not a lot of room for creativity. So, before you make your decision about the framework you want to use for a particular project, you need to think about its basic elements and whether they are standard or more unique. Of course, you can create anything you want, but there is a huge difference in the amount of effort you will need to exert. In some cases, you need to sacrifice originality in favor of shorter development time and simplicity.
2. It is continuously evolving
It is hard to say where you should put this point in the list of pros and cons of Ruby language. Obviously, when something changes for the better, it’s great, and it’s a natural process, especially for a language with such a big and vocal community. However, it is something that can be very difficult to adjust to, especially for newcomers and beginners. Furthermore, the overwhelming changes happen not only to the framework itself, but to the tools and libraries developed by the community. Not only do they improve and add new features, new ones are constantly being created. You definitely need to be a part of the community to always be up-to-date on everything.
3. Performance time
This con of RoR is always debated and it is a subject for discussion and comparison with other web application frameworks. The boot time of the framework is quite long, especially when you work with a massive project, but does it also concern the runtime speed? Well, a lot of developers would argue that it’s not the case for apps with proper optimization. However, if you correlate the waiting time with other frameworks like Node.js, you will definitely see the difference. However, this difference is not that impactful – it can definitely be overlooked due to all the great stuff Rails has to offer.
4. Price of a mistake
If you’re able to be thorough and pay attention to all the small details during the development, Ruby on Rails will definitely be your helpful friend. However, if you make a tiny mistake or a wrong judgment during the beginning of the development, it could turn into your worst enemy. It can slow down your whole application significantly, cause problems with the connection between different parts of your software, and lead to unintended consequences. So, while working with Rails, you should be careful and attentive.
5. Lack of proper documentation
Although you can always consult with a more experienced member of the community, there definitely is a problem in lack of well-structured proper documentation. This limitation becomes especially frustrating when it comes to all the gems and libraries, as it can take a lot of time to unpack every feature they contain without any description for them.
All in all, just like any other programming language or framework, Ruby on Rails has its own shortcomings and limitations. However, it is made for a specific task, and it works marvelously for the job it was built for. The main reason for creating the Ruby language was to help programmers and to make their job more fun and enjoyable, and that principle has clearly been passed on to Ruby on Rails.
If you think that all the pros of RoR, including sticking to the standards, a responsive community and amazing production speed, outweigh the cons like performance, lack of flexibility and a high price for mistakes, try Ruby on Rails right now. However, if your goal is to make a unique, creative solution, you should probably take a look at other popular web frameworks.