Numerous web developers are using Ruby on Rails, or simply Rails, to quickly build powerful and robust web applications. Rails makes assumptions about what you'll need to get started when developing a new web application in order to simplify your life as a developer. You can use it to accomplish more with less code.
David Heinemeier Hansson, also known as DHH, created Rails in 2003. Rails was developed as a result of his work on Basecamp, a project management tool, but it wasn't until 2004 that the source code was made available as an open-source project. Ruby on Rails version 1 was released in 2005, and it really took off in 2006 when Apple included it with its sixth major release, Mac OS X Leopard. Almost 20 years later, Rails is on version 7 and has been tested and used by huge names such as Twitter, Hulu, Shopify, Airbnb, GitHub, Zendesk, and SoundCloud, to name a few.
In this article, you will learn what Ruby on Rails is all about, its benefits, and why you should consider using it for your projects.
What is Ruby on Rails?
Ruby on Rails is a server-side web application framework written in the programming language Ruby. Three components of Ruby on Rails make it very beneficial to a developer. The first is the model-view-controller component. This architecture pattern helps developers reuse code in other applications and work in parallel, making it very efficient for teams. The software is divided into three parts: the model, the view, and the controller. These three parts are decoupled, which allows developers to work on them independently at the same time.
The second component is conventions over configurations. In simple terms, a framework like Rails comes with pre-coded situations, so developers can either adapt or ignore them. Basically, it means pre-built features are already present out-of-the-box, so developers don't have to configure everything from scratch. Besides pre-built options, you can also tinker under the hood if you want to. The main benefit of conventions over configurations is flexibility. The flexibility to choose between the two options makes it very valuable for developers. You can use a convention if you just want something pre-built right out of the box, or you can configure your own. You can pop up under the hood, take a look, tinker, fix, or build from scratch.
The third component is don't repeat yourself or DRY. This is just keeping code as simple and unrepetitive as possible. The basic principle here is don't unnecessarily repeat code. For example, suppose you have a website with several pages and want to make some changes to the header section, which is the same for all of them. Rather than changing the header on each page one by one, which is time-consuming, the idea is to centralize that piece of code to change it on all of those pages so that you only have to change it once. This is beneficial to developers because it allows them to make changes much more easily, and it also makes upkeep or maintenance much more manageable.
The three components, MVC, conventions over configuration, and DRY, aren't unique to Rails, but when combined, they are extremely powerful and form the framework's power.
Benefits of Ruby on Rails
Some of the main reasons you should consider Ruby on Rails for your next project are listed below:
Easy to Use
Overall, Rails is easy to use and has a short learning curve. It's built on a more forgiving and simpler language like Ruby, and it's geared toward complete ease of use, which saves developers a lot of time. Developers prefer it because it does not necessarily require writing much code. Less code simplifies and accelerates the process of developing a web application.
One of the primary reasons developers prefer Ruby on Rails is the support and collaboration they can get from its large and active community. Rails is free and open-source, and users can share tips and tricks with each other. There are many websites and forums where you can find the solution to any problem you might face.
Due to Rails' popularity, you can access a large talent pool of programmers who can help you with your projects. In comparison to other programming languages, finding a highly qualified Rails developer willing to help you is relatively easy. If you run into problems or have questions about something, chances are that other developers have faced the same struggles as you before. You can access instant answers from more experienced developers via the Rails online community.
Libraries and Gems
You can extend Rails capabilities, and functionality via libraries and 3rd party modules called gems within the Rails community. Due to the vibrant community and the open-source nature of the framework, there are a ton of gems you can find among the pre-configured apps that you can plug into your website, similarly to how you would use a WordPress plugin. If you run into trouble using or installing these, community support can help you.
To extend the previous benefit, the Ruby on Rails community is well known for providing 3rd party modules of high quality. When using Ruby on Rails, programmers are strongly advised to conform to certain coding conventions and standards. As a result, code libraries are well-supported and frequently updated. When programmers use these libraries, they can be sure that the code is reliable and well-maintained.
Ruby on Rails is one of the most effiecient option for web development when your budget is tight. The development stage is fast because of its accessible code libraries, energetic community, and simple to read and write code, and as a result, it requires less time and money. The Ruby on Rails framework's simplicity makes it easy to maintain, which also lowers overall costs. Lastly, Rails is completely free and open-source. Depending on the size of a project, software licensing costs can add up quickly, but with Rails, both large corporations and startups can save money when building their solutions.
Ruby has been around for nearly two decades, and there have been many security advances. The framework is installed and enabled with security features, so developers automatically follow a secure development process. Furthermore, the user community allows developers to seek assistance with security issues. This community also provides opportunities for testing the latest features, resulting in enhanced stability and fewer bugs.
Rails is a marketable skill to have. There are still a lot of businesses looking for Rails developers, as you can see if you visit popular job boards or listing websites. Web developers find Rails to be very appealing due to its low learning curve and high demand.
Disadvantages of Ruby on Rails
As with any technology, Ruby on Rails has disadvantages that you should keep in mind before deciding to use it.
One of the most common criticisms against Rails is that it's slow, especially compared to other frameworks, runtime, and boot speed, affecting performance and making it more challenging to scale your Rails applications. Although it's sufficient for smaller apps, it might cause problems when you need to create a reliable web project with millions of users. However, given all that Rails has to offer, this disadvantage in most cases is not particularly important and can easily be overlooked.
Lack of Proper Documentation
Finding good documentation can be challenging, especially for less well-known libraries and gems. Even though there are some alternatives, like relying on the test suite to understand the behavior of a 3rd party module, it's more like a last resort solution.
Lack of Flexibility
Rails ships with many dependencies and has many default objects set during configuration that can't be modified by developers and therefore limit their ability to build flexible applications. This is often considered the most serious drawback of Rails that leads developers to search for other solutions.
Wrapping Things Up
Ruby on Rails is one of the best backend web development frameworks you can use in your next project. Rails is easy to use and maintain, has a vibrant community, a large 3rd party module database, and is a budget-friendly solution. Companies like Airbnb, Hulu, Shopify, Github, and many more, trust Ruby on Rails for their projects. Of course, Rails isn't without its weaknesses. Lack of flexibility and some performance issues make the framework a less lucrative choice if you need to develop certain types of applications like real-time applications that have critical scalability and performance concerns.
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