Why is Ruby on Rails one of the best choices for building web apps and for application development?

Why is Ruby on Rails one of the best choices for building web apps and for application development?

Posted by: Nayab Naseer
Category :Free & Open Source

Among the many options to develop software, Ruby on Rails, the open source web framework, is turning out to be really popular. More than 200,000 websites now use Ruby on Rails in one form or another and this list includes big names such as Amazon, BBC, Cisco, CNET, GitHub, Hulu, JP Morgan, LivingSocial NASA, Twitter, Yahoo, NASA and Scribd. Such popularity and wide acceptable is owing to the versatility, agility, speed and ease of adaptation that this platform offers. Unlike PHP, Ruby is Object Oriented from the ground up and offers a very concise and powerful code.


Using Ruby on Rails speeds up the development time considerably. Ruby on Rails is extremely automated; much more than any other language. This not just speeds things up, it also allows developers to devote their entire energies to the business problem on hand instead of hacking their way around the framework, doing menial tasks.

In most development technologies, developers need to spend a significant amount of time setting up file structures, establishing the structure of communication between the code and the database, changing settings in configuration files etc. Ruby on Rails comes with such tasks already inbuilt, which works fine in most situations. Only in rare cases do the default values require change.

Ruby on Rails also enables automated testing. The test codes run with a single command, to test all of the various cases for the application, to make sure everything works correctly. This is a significant improvement over manual testing, or clicking around in a web browser testing things out. Apart from speeding up the process, such automated testing makes it easy to get a working prototype up and running extremely fast, to check the feasibility of a project without actually committing too much on it.

Extreme Agility

Like many software, Ruby on Rails embraces the DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) concept where the architecture encourages writing code for a task only once and sharing this code at other places as required. This eliminates the need to copy-paste the code, making it easier to affect changes later and making the code length considerably shorter. Ruby on Rails take this function to its logical end, allowing plug-and-play functionality extending across projects. The developer can easily take elements of their current custom application and use it for future projects.

Also, like almost all high-performing software, Ruby on Rails also adopts a modular design, wherein libraries make it possible to add specific functionality to the software. Ruby tops other languages here as well, as it has a fairly extensive set of libraries or plug-ins, known as “gems”. The range of gems extend from all basic functions such as login, creating PDF files, social media integration and more, to specific ones such as displaying information on Google Maps and  integration with third-party text messaging services.


As is the case with all open source programs that have gained traction, Ruby on Rails has a huge community built around it, populated by many enthusiasts who are eager to experiment and improve code, develop tutorials, and also help individuals troubleshoot. Ruby, in fact, has more tutorials for the different aspects of the Rails framework compared to any other web framework. And when any user faces a roadblock, the odds are that someone has already built something similar to the module causing the issue and would be happy to fix it.

More importantly, Ruby’s fairly extensive coding conventions means that just about anyone familiar with the language can start working on any Ruby based project at any stage. What this means is that the product is not handcuffed some years down the lane, when there is a pressing need to update the code but everyone associated with the project has moved on. This spares the backbreaking and painful, yet not too uncommon task of extensively rebuilding everything from the ground up.


Open source options such as PHP and Ruby cost considerably less than .NET. Ruby reduces cost even more, and is the most cost effective among open source options.

The Ruby on Rails framework, as all open source frameworks are, is 100% free. However, developing software still requires cost, least of which is the developer’s time. Ruby on Rails, by offering many ways to speed up the development process, can cut significant chunks out of web project, save the developer’s time and effort considerably and by extension, reduce costs.


Ruby on Rails is ideal across-the-board, for large enterprises as well as small start-ups and for global conglomerates to small businesses. Regardless of the nature of business, organizations can easily leverage the functionalities on offer. Businesses such as travel portals, which basically sell the same product, have to depend on their website and apps to position their products better. Developing apps using Ruby on Rails allows them to roll out highly customized and powerful apps in double quick time, and react to a new development quickly.

  • The speed allows businesses to deliver information to targeted customers in double quick time.
  • The modular nature of software development and the DRY concept make affecting changes very easy, offering unmatched flexibility and multiple options.
  • Automated testing ensures that the app remains robust always and never hangs or goes awry despite frequent changes.
  • The extremely agile nature of the software makes it very easy to integrate third party functions and integrations. It becomes very easy for a hotel accommodation portal, for instance, to pull in reviews from various social media sites, offer an interactive experience and display prices that change in real time.

The icing on the cake is the fact that all these are made possible without investing a small fortune, essential in a highly competitive environment with cut-throat margins. It is possible to achieve almost all of this using other languages and frameworks, but the high cost, time and effort that they take make them a non-starter and unviable for businesses. The biggest advantage of Ruby on Rails is making technology viable for businesses.

A live example of a business that has thrived using Ruby on Rails is Groupon. Groupon, the popular web app that offers a daily deal on the best things to do, see, eat, and buy in more than 500 markets across 44 countries and with 38.5 million+ subscribers in North America alone, uses Ruby on Rails to effectively manage the website. The powerful features of Ruby allow the website to remain stable even when there is a burst of traffic at times when hot offers come out. The speed ensures that all these customers go back happy.

Ruby on Rails stakes a strong claim to be the most productive way to build web applications. The endless possibilities it offers are worth the steep learning curve that this language demands.

Image Credit: hisa fujimoto

Comments (1)
Shiju (2 years ago)

Ruby on Rails is a great stack for building highly productive web systems. However, in 2015, you can expect big let down of RoR, as this stack is having lot of limitations when we build larger systems. Groupon was the largest system built with RoR, but, last year, they had moved to Node from RoR due to the maintainability problems of developing larger systems. The era of using dynamic languages for Web development, is going to end in 2015.

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