A Developer’s Insight into The Pros and Cons of Ruby on Rails
What are the pros and cons of Ruby on Rails? Well, as with anything, it’s a mixed bag.
Ruby on Rails is a popular web development framework. It was launched in 2004 to make development easier, sleeker, and faster.
Since then, it’s become a classic. Today, it’s often regarded as crucial ‘startup technology’ – excellent for quickly getting new projects off the ground. It’s been used to build various groundbreaking apps, including Airbnb, GitHub, Shopify, and popular Proposify competitors.
However, it’s not without its flaws. Like anything, how well it works depends a lot on what you’re building and the kinds of tools and flexibility you need. Here, we’ll go through the pros and cons of Ruby on Rails, so you can decidedly choose whether it’s the appropriate development framework for your project.
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The Pros of Ruby on Rails
There are good reasons for the popularity of Ruby on Rails. Let’s dive into some of its advantages.
It’s Easy for Novices to Learn
Ruby on Rails was designed to reduce the complexity of coding for startups and novice devs. As such, it’s as simple, clean, and easy to learn as they come. Even a novice developer can get familiar with Ruby on Rails and start writing code quickly. Some aspects can even be automated, making things even faster.
Because of its stringent development standards (more on that in a bit!) Ruby on Rails has standardized readability. It’s not only easy for novices to read and use; it’s also hard to add complexity, even if you try! This means that a new developer can pick up where a previous one left off, see what’s going on, and continue the work.
Because it’s easy to pick up and readable, Ruby on Rails is very time efficient. It doesn’t take long to train new developers in the framework.
Furthermore, if one developer leaves, another can quickly pick up where they left off, and there are plenty of tools out there that can help you speed the process even more.
Ultimately, this means that you can massively reduce the time it takes to get your product to market, save development costs, and start reaping the rewards sooner. Some claim that using the Ruby on Rails framework reduces their development times by 25-40%. This speed is one of the reasons that Ruby on Rails has been used to build some of the world’s most popular apps.
Huge Amounts of Helpful Resources are Available
There are hundreds of libraries for RoR developers: from pre-written code to instruction videos and even debugging tools. Best of all, most of it is free – which makes Ruby on Rails an even more cost-effective framework to use!
A Strong, Supportive, and Active Community
All the resources we mentioned are created by the Ruby on Rails community, which is very large and actively exchanging ideas.
A glance at GitHub will show you the sheer scale of the RoR community. Over 5000 Git developers have contributed to the RoR code so far, and the number is growing. This community isn’t just large and active – it’s also supportive. So, if you or your team are having issues with Ruby, reaching out to the community should quickly get the answers you need.
RubyGems is the RoR community term for software packages containing pre-written Ruby applications, libraries, snippets, etc. All gems follow the same rough organizational structure:
RubyGems makes it very easy to slot pre-written portions of code into your program. Again, this reduces development time and makes the entire framework easier to use.
Strong and Solid Standards
Ruby on Rails has a set of pre-built conventions which are strongly backed at all stages of development. This means that each developer must follow set design paradigms, including ‘Don’t repeat yourself’ and ‘coding by convention.’
As we’ve already covered, this adherence to standards makes it much easier for different developers to collaborate or for one developer to easily take over for another. It also adds to the general usability of the framework.
Cons of Ruby on Rails
Sounds good so far? Well, it is! But it would be wrong only to show one side of the picture. Nothing is perfect, and Ruby on Rails has its downsides, too. Here are some of the main cons of using Ruby on Rails as your web development framework:
It Can be Inflexible
One of Ruby on Rails’ greatest strengths also doubles as one of its main weaknesses.
RoR’s standardized nature and the amount of ready-built code it uses makes it easy to learn and fast to work with. However, it also means that developers don’t have a lot of flexibility to play around with the code. They’re limited to a reasonably strict scaffold and don’t have much scope for creativity.
So, for example, if you were building an inventory management app, you couldn’t push the envelope too far in terms of innovation. Your inventory management software features would have to conform to Ruby on Rails’ needs rather than vice versa. And that might not be able to provide everything your customers need.
Slower Performance Times
Applications built with Ruby on Rails may have slower runtimes than applications built with other frameworks. The boot time of the Ruby framework is also notably slower than most. However, in fairness to Ruby on Rails, this is a debatable point. Many RoR devotees point out that run speeds are only a problem if you’re trying to build a gigantic app – and even then, it can still work smoothly and speedily if you keep your app optimized.
Many developers acknowledge that Ruby on Rails can be slower but don’t find the difference in speed significant enough for concern. For others, speed is of the essence. Whether this factor affects you depends greatly on what you’re developing and your priorities when dealing with end results.
It’s Constantly Changing
Generally speaking, evolution is a good thing – especially in today’s fast-paced world. Any framework has to adapt and evolve to stay relevant. However, with Ruby on Rails, the constant changes to the framework and the library of tools can get overwhelming. If you’re not plugged into the community and constantly monitoring updates, it can be a struggle to keep up.
That said, things do seem to be leveling out. There was a boom in development during the pandemic, and Ruby on Rails was no different. Since then, the volume and speed of updates and changes have calmed down.
It can be hard to find the proper documentation for resources like RubyGems. This means that developers have to waste time hunting through the code to find the gems and libraries they need.
This can often be resolved by bringing the RoR community on board. Asking questions, reading blogs, and so on is usually a fruitful way of getting the information you need. But the lack of documentation at the source is frustrating.
This one might seem a bit odd given that we earlier listed constant evolution as a con – but bear with us! One of the reasons why there are so many (and so frequent) changes to the Ruby on Rails framework is that the framework itself is – arguably – a bit outdated.
Think of it like a railroad line that’s getting battered and rusty. Rather than replacing the tracks with something new, the engineers instead keep closing the line to buff out dents, etc. – making constant tiny fixes here and there rather than fixing the whole thing in one go.
Now, whether or not Ruby on Rails is getting old and rusty is up for debate. Plenty of developers say it’s perfectly fit for purpose and doesn’t need any major overhauling. But others think it needs to evolve a long way to meet the changing needs of the development community.
Mistakes Can Cause Considerable Setbacks
Ruby on Rails isn’t very agile. This means that making mistakes at any part of the process can undo a lot of hard work.
You can’t easily head back and overwrite a mistake – instead, you will most likely have to redo entire sections of code to rectify things. What’s more, some developers say that the speed of Ruby on Rails means that you’re also more likely to make mistakes.
Is Ruby on Rails Right for Me?
Ruby on Rails has a lot of advantages. It’s fast, it’s readable, it’s easy to learn, and it’s great for getting products to market quickly. However, if you’re looking for something more flexible, speedy, and complex, Ruby on Rails might not be for you.
Ruby on Rails is capable of building some amazing things – and most developers would agree that it’s an excellent framework for pretty much anything you could need. But it can have limitations at the cutting edge of things.
So, make your decision wisely!
Is Ruby on Rails Right for Me?
Yauhen Zaremba is the Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on the electronic signature, consulting proposal example, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences, where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips yearly.