Topical blog posts, article comments sections and forum discussions on RoR (Ruby on Rails) tend to quite frequently start by emphasizing the framework’s startup-friendliness and increasing popularity owing to the language’s simplicity. While this may not be the most original insight into RoR, there is no escaping the fact that an overwhelming number of startup organizations prefer RoR as their primary developmental environment. Organizations that have already – either successfully or unsuccessfully – implemented one or several startups over the course of their lifetimes are also showing a growing tendency to switch to Rails in subsequent projects.
Why all the buzz about startups using Ruby on Rails? While it may be accessible, is it an advanced-enough platform to merit the faith in it as the coding language of choice for startups?
Right off the bat, we can say that the most-often mentioned feature of this framework, namely RoR’s startup-friendliness, isn’t its most prominent one. Being so flexible and universal by nature, RoR has proven useful for a variety of organisations: from use in startups, to non-commercial organizations, and even for use in large business enterprises.
Let’s begin, or startup, if you will, with a brief overview of the Ruby on Rails framework.
Ruby on Rails (RoR)
Ruby on Rails, or RoR, to use the industry jargon, is an advanced, multi-level framework for the development of web applications that employ databases. It is an open-source solution written in Ruby programming language and based on an MVC (Model-View-Controller) architecture. It also integrates web apps integration with a web-server or database server. Having already conquered both a considerable market share and the hearts of many programmers and coders eager to advance their development skills, RoR has an enormous online community of users that can offer helpful advice and troubleshooting tips.
Ultimately, Rails is an infrastructure that provides a developmental environment for various types of web apps, be it an app for:
- collaborative work organization
- community support
- digital business
- content management
- management (of various spheres)
You name it, it’s likely RoR has been put to work in a productive manner there. The framework has been employed in the development of solutions for such prominent titles as:
Companies are attracted to RoR for a number of reasons, though one key advantage is Ruby’s open-source language, which grants the platform dynamic performance, accessibility, and readable code. Prominent startups that have successfully implemented projects using RoR are so commonplace that the phrase “Ruby on Rails startup” has almost become synonymous with the phrase “successful startup”.
With regards to the technical capacity of the platform, Rails provides a Ruby-based, uniform developmental environment that features dynamic AJAX interface, requests processing and data output in controllers, and ensures that the application environment is reflected in a database. All that’s required to use Ruby on Rails at your startup is a database and web-server.
When, for what, and why use Ruby on Rails in startup development?
If you are a project manager
For Project managers, RoR is the best option for getting things done rapidly and efficiently. The total amount of required code would be smaller as opposed to other languages and a number of open libraries, tools, and deployment platforms the framework enables you to access is quite impressive.
All in all, employing the solution in their workflow, project managers are able to make use of the following benefits of Ruby on Rails:
- Well-composed documentation. This makes it easier for managers to get a grasp on a project as it unfolds as well as making the initial learning curve for a manager less steep.
- Helpful community. There are many eager developers that can help you solve virtually any relatable question.
- Richness of educational resources. There are numerous high-quality educational resources about Ruby on Rails online.
- Ecosystem maturity. RoR has had a considerable length of time to mature, and is very stable as a result. At the same time, this guarantees that commonly encountered issues with the framework, or typical projects or tasks, have generated publicly-available solutions, making it all the more accessible.
RoR influences the world of web development in a very positive way. Many other frameworks adapted the methods and approaches developed in Ruby on Rails and, as a result, a huge number of “Rails-like” frameworks have spawned.
Its stability, reliability, and a tendency for constant further development make RoR an appropriate choice for long-term projects. All necessary adjustments can be made on the go without impinging upon performance too much. Additionally, the platform’s huge popularity prevents situations where the whole project crumbles right after a team member leaves because they were the only member with knowledge of a specific coding language or platform. With RoR, you won’t have any problems finding a substitution or replacement.
If you are a developer
Many developers have divulged that RoR makes their work less painful and makes their working environment more enjoyable and less stressful. It does so by employing, among other things, a “convention over configuration” approach. You simply won’t even see the complex, slightly problematic part of the system until you’re following standard conventions. Thus, much can be done without the need for any manual configurations whatsoever. However, RoR leaves a large degree of configurability for even advanced use: the platform is extensively customizable and welcomes modules. Advantages offered to developers by the platform include:
- Advanced default capabilities. For instance, there is a standard way to expand or redefine the behavior of certain components, such as easily modifying letters for mass newsletters.
- ORM – ActiveRecord. Use a data-access template that relieves of the burden of manual configurations with convenient conventions.
- Routes. A prominent feature, especially if you are a conventional user. It enables you, for example, to generate a whole package of routes for CRUD with this one tiny line: “resources :books”.
Some other advantages include: fast and accessible database migration, a dedicated framework for unit-testing from the standard Ruby library, and out-of-the-box functionality and integration testing support.
When to use it
Whether or not you should use Ruby on Rails in your startup depends directly on your perspective as a project director/manager. The question you need to answer for the sake of your startup’s ultimate success might not be “Why use Ruby/Rails?” but rather when to use it.
Ruby on Rails should be used:
- if you would like your project to be long-term and intend on continuous further development
- if you need community support
- if you don’t want to put much effort into hiring an expert or a team of experts
- if you expect there to be inevitable adjustments to both the system’s functionality and requirement over the project’s lifespan
- if you need to implement rapid prototyping.
Alternatively, you’d be better off with some other solution if you don’t expect any sudden project changes or adjustments (e.g. you have a readymade architecture or prototype); you’re looking for features unsupported by dynamically typed languages (low server resource consumption & significantly increased speed of performance); and, obviously, if you already have a team which prefers another solution.
Ruby on Rails, as much as we deservedly praise it, isn’t a con-free solution (if such a thing even exists). There are non-critical but still unpleasant flipsides to some of its aspects, namely:
- Conventions. Conventions are everywhere. Following conventions, you get an elegant, readable code on the outside. On the inside, however, you can come across such mishaps as models and controllers that are too thick and components that are related too closely.
- Updates. It is a good thing in essence, but when it comes to the framework which is constantly evolving, updates may be too frequent. Transfer to new versions of libraries and the framework itself may be quite time-consuming (takes at least 1-2 days).
- You’ll still have to learn. Documentation is good, but the knowledge of a source code and its nuances is still required for proper understanding of the whole project.
If you ultimately decide to employ the framework, you should know a few things. Ruby on Rails is properly compatible with many types of web-servers and database management systems. It can be deployed with the help of Thin or, what we’d recommend, Apache or nginx web-server with Phusion Passenger module. Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, or SQL Server can be used as DMS. We’d also recommend deploying the framework within an OS that supports *nix extension.
Summary of RoR advantages for startups
We’ve already said a lot on the subject. Now, to make it simpler for you to see what, in particular, makes RoR one of the best solutions for startups, let’s summarize its key beneficial points:
- Infrastructure maturity. Initially released in the far distant past of 2004, the solution hasn’t stopped advancing and evolving ever since. The proven-with-time integrity is always an advantage to take into account.
- Speed. An extensive set of dedicated tools and an amazingly advanced way of interacting with databases – these two factors allow for an ability to create even a large web-solution from scratch in the shortest time possible.
- Easy to learn. It is used for creating web-solutions with complex architecture but is still very easy to learn, mostly due to the fact that Ruby is an object-oriented programming language, which limits code construction in many ways. This makes RoR education pretty accessible for beginners.
- Cost-efficiency. Due to a simple paradigm and mentioned speed of performance, RoR also allows you to save money. Increased speed and accessibility of workflow equals decreased consumption of man hours, which saves time, money, and prevents sudden bumps in budget requirements.
- Eager recruitment base. Developers are eager to work with and grow alongside Ruby on Rails. You don’t have to look very far on the market to hire good, keen experts.
- Add to that great community, scalability of the created solutions, support of a huge number of free plugins, simple means of introducing changes to existing solutions, and more. We could go on and on, but it isn’t really in our interests to bombard you with facts of how great this framework is. Ultimately, try to consider all this objectively and compare the provided information with other options. That way, you’ll be able to make the decision that’s best for you.
To put it simply, whether you work in a large or a small company, if you prefer not to wait but act, as well as to always grow and evolve in the aspect of long-term startup projects, RoR is your in-between-“good”-and-“excellent” choice! Why choose Ruby on Rails for startup? It’s an accessible, constantly growing (both in functionality and popularity) solution, and it kind of symbolizes the whole startup culture with its “startup-friendliness focus” style. We didn’t really want to boast this solution that much, but what can we do? It’s just so damn good! Especially for open-minded startuppers. Some top names in the industry had the chance to prove it.