Andy from Webcrunch

Subscribe for email updates:

Ruby on Rails for Beginners: A Comprehensive Overview and Guide to Developer Growth
Portrait of Andy Leverenz
Andy Leverenz

June 23, 2023

Last updated November 5, 2023

Ruby on Rails for Beginners: A Comprehensive Overview and Guide to Developer Growth

Ruby on Rails, commonly referred to as Rails, is a popular and powerful web application framework written in Ruby programming language. Its simplicity, efficiency, and elegant syntax have gained significant traction among developers.

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced programmer looking to dive into web development, Ruby on Rails is an excellent choice.

In this blog post, I’ll provide a comprehensive overview of Ruby on Rails, its key features, and why it's worth learning and leveraging.

Heads up, this article is always a work and progress and will be updated as the framework and resources are available. Check back often!

What is Ruby on Rails?

Ruby on Rails, often called Rails, is an open-source web application framework that follows the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architectural pattern. It was created by David Heinemeier Hansson and released in 2004.

Rails aims to simplify the development process by emphasizing convention over configuration, providing sensible default settings and guidelines, and reducing the need for explicit programming decisions.

The Key Features of Ruby on Rails

Convention over Configuration

Rails follows the "Convention over Configuration" principle, which provides sensible defaults and guidelines, reducing the amount of repetitive code and making development faster and more straightforward.

MVC Architecture

Rails follows the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architectural pattern, which separates the application into three interconnected components: the Model (handles data and business logic), the View (presents the data to the user), and the Controller (handles user interactions and requests).

Rapid Development

Rails is renowned for its ability to enable rapid development. It offers a wide range of built-in tools and libraries that streamline everyday tasks, such as database migrations, testing, and scaffolding, allowing developers to focus on implementing unique features.

ActiveRecord

ActiveRecord is an essential component of Rails that provides an Object-Relational Mapping (ORM) layer. It simplifies database interactions by mapping database tables to Ruby objects and providing a rich set of methods for querying and manipulating data.

Gems and Plugins

Ruby on Rails has a vast ecosystem of gems and plugins that extend its functionality. Gems are prepackaged libraries that can be easily integrated into Rails applications, while plugins offer additional functionality and can be easily shared among Rails projects.

Why Learn Ruby on Rails?

It’s beginner-friendly

Ruby on Rails has a gentle learning curve, making it an ideal choice for beginners. Its syntax is clean and readable, which makes the code easier to understand and maintain. Additionally, Rails' convention-over-configuration approach provides structure and guidelines, reducing decision fatigue for new developers. Conventions are easier to follow when starting, so this leads to initially following the “Rails way,” but as you get more comfortable gives you enough confidence to break outside those “rails” when necessary.

Productivity and Efficiency

With Rails' emphasis on convention and its extensive collection of built-in tools, developers can build web applications quickly and efficiently. Rails' ability to generate boilerplate code and automate repetitive tasks saves time and effort, allowing developers to focus on implementing unique features. You don’t need a team to build an app anymore. One developer could build a fully featured application on many devices.

Active Community and Vast Resources

Ruby on Rails has a vibrant and supportive community that actively contributes to its growth and development. Many contributors to Rails work at brands you’ve heard of and make the framework even more powerful.

You'll find numerous online resources, tutorials, and forums to help you learn and troubleshoot any issues you encounter. The community's enthusiasm and willingness to share knowledge make learning Rails an excellent experience.

Job Opportunities

Ruby on Rails remains in high demand, and many startups and established companies use Rails to power their web applications. Many job offerings of late cater to seasoned Rails developers, but there has been a resurgence of the framework lately, which could bring forth more junior and intermediate roles.

By learning Rails, you open doors to exciting job opportunities in web development. Additionally, Rails' emphasis on best practices and code quality will enhance your programming skills, making you a valuable asset to any development team.

Why not use Rails?

If you don’t like opinionated conventions or prefer to build your services, adapters, and tools, Rails might not be for you. Much of the framework is full-stack, minus a few features like authentication. For some, this is the main reason to use Rails; for others, it's a reason to steer clear.

Ultimately, I’d recommend trying it out and seeing for yourself. Coming from the PHP world, I’ve found the developer experience and general productivity boost Rails offers to be a massive game changer in how I approach building and designing software.

Where do I start when it comes to learning Ruby on Rails?

To get started with Ruby on Rails, you can take a DIY approach like I did or lean on those who make it easier to get up to speed fast.

For those that value time more and don’t have enough to commit, I recommend a course, boot camp, or following a series of YouTube videos to allow you to hit the ground running.

For the DIYers

Install Ruby

Visit the official Ruby website and download the latest stable version of Ruby. Installation instructions are provided for different operating systems. Most developers use some Ruby version manager to make this process less chore.

Install Rails

Once you install Ruby, open a terminal (I use iTerm2) and run the following command to install Rails: gem install rails. This will install the latest version of Rails on your system.

Create a New Rails Application

After installing Rails, create a new Rails application using the command rails new your_app_name. This will generate a basic Rails application structure.

Explore and Learn

Dive into the Rails documentation, tutorials, and online resources to familiarize yourself with the framework. Start by understanding the MVC architecture, routing, ActiveRecord, and basic CRUD operations.

I have many videos and articles on this site. There are also good resources out there. Here are a few I’ve compiled:

Ruby on Rails Free Resources

Learning

Below is a mix of articles, documentation, YouTube videos, and more.

  • Official Ruby on Rails Guides: The official Ruby on Rails guides provide comprehensive documentation and tutorials that cover various aspects of Rails development. It's a great starting point for beginners.
  • Ruby Docs - A dynamic, open-source programming language focusing on simplicity and productivity. It has an elegant syntax, is natural to read, and is easy to write.
  • Web-Crunch (You are here)
    • Ruby on Rails Collection - Dive deeper into specific tutorials about Ruby on Rails and the tips and tricks I’ve discovered along my journey in learning and leveraging the framework.
    • Let’s Builds – Real-life builds of various applications that give you a more realistic take on building applications with Ruby on Rails.
    • Rails Quick tips - These tips are fun and useful features I discovered about the Ruby on Rails framework, as I've learned over time.
    • Hotwire + Rails – A combination of Ruby on Rails and Hotwire frameworks to make highly interactive web apps
  • Railscasts - The OG of Ruby on Rails tutorials. It started a ways back but still has valuable content to help you learn and understand best practices or new approaches to coding web apps.
  • GoRails – The modern version of Railscasts. Find more intermediate and advanced topics here. There is some beginner content as well.
  • RailsGirls Guides: RailsGirls is an organization that aims to increase diversity in the tech industry. They provide beginner-friendly guides and tutorials for learning Ruby on Rails. The guides are well-structured and cover the basics of Rails development.
  • The Odin Project - Free full-stack curriculums supported by a passionate open-source community.
  • Rapid Ruby - Screencasts for beginner to intermediate web developers using Ruby, Rails, Hotwire, and JavaScript.
  • Deanin - Videos building modern software with many focused on Ruby on Rails.
  • SupeRails - Videos building Web Apps, mainly using Ruby and Rails.
  • Evil Martians - A blog about many things but great Rails content.
  • Dev.to - Ruby on Rails is a popular web framework that happens to power dev.to. This is a category within Dev.to devoted to rails content.
  • Thoughbot’s Upcase - Now a free learning platform. I love this one.
  • RubyFlow - The Ruby and Rails community link log
  • Ruby Video - Ruby-related videos
  • Awesome Rails - More links like those in this post

Newsletters

  • Ruby Weekly - A free, once–weekly e-mail round-up of Ruby news and articles.
  • This Week In Rails - Your weekly inside scoop of interesting commits, pull requests, and more from Rails.

Developer Blogs

Jobs

Community

Extending Rails

  • Rubygems.org - Add gems to quickly build feature-rich apps and services
  • Rails UI - My latest project that brings professional UI to Rails.
  • Jumpstart Rails - A Rails template designed to get you moving quickly.
  • Bullettrain - A Rails template to supercharge your app.
  • Railsbytes - Ruby on Rails templates that allow you to add features to both old and new apps

Ruby on Rails Paid resources

Learning

  • Hello Rails - It’s biased, but I'll first link to my course for Ruby on Rails beginners and enthusiasts. Learn the foundations of using Ruby on Rails, all while building a Reddit clone.
  • GoRails - The modern version of Railscasts. Find more intermediate and advanced topics here. There is some beginner content as well.
  • DriftingRuby - Ruby on Rails Screencasts
  • RapidRuby - Learn Ruby, Rails & Hotwire – Screencasts and video courses brought to you by an experienced developer with 15+ years building web apps using Ruby.
  • The Rails Tutorial - Probably the defacto learning guide that used to be free but now is paid.

Companies who use or have used Rails

Below is a list of some companies that leverage Ruby and rails. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it gives you some perspective as to why Rails is not dead.

  1. Airbnb
  2. GitHub
  3. Shopify
  4. SoundCloud
  5. Basecamp
  6. Hulu
  7. Twitch
  8. Bloomberg
  9. Groupon
  10. Zendesk
  11. Kickstarter
  12. Yellow Pages
  13. Couchsurfing
  14. UrbanDictionary
  15. Cookpad
  16. Dribbble
  17. Ask.fm
  18. Instacart
  19. Goodreads
  20. Slideshare

Final thoughts

Ruby on Rails is a robust web application framework known for its simplicity, efficiency, and productivity.

It offers a beginner-friendly environment while providing the flexibility and scalability required for building robust web applications.

By embracing convention over configuration and providing a wide range of built-in tools, Rails streamlines development processes, allowing developers to focus on delivering unique features.

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced programmer, learning Ruby on Rails will equip you with valuable skills and open doors to exciting opportunities in web development.

Link this article
Est. reading time: 12 minutes
Stats: 1,173 views

Categories

Collection

Part of the Ruby on Rails collection