What is Ruby on Rails & What is it Used For?

Published May 20, 2019 by Bryan Miller

Ruby on Rails is an exceedingly popular open-source web application framework that’s written in the coding language Ruby. While this framework can be difficult to master if you’ve never worked with the Ruby programming language before, Rails allows you to reduce the amount of time and effort you spend on trying to create a website application with Ruby.

The framework was first built in 2004 and has since been used by many companies to create web applications for their brand. Among the top reasons that this framework is easy to use is because it utilizes a model-view-controller (MVC) development environment that provides users with a more streamlined approach to creating web applications through a structured platform.

This approach is largely beneficial because it separates the creation of an application into three distinct phases of the model, the view, and the controller. The model is the core of the application, the view consists of the data, and the controller handles the input for the application. This separation means that you can manage these three elements one at a time.

The main goal of the Ruby on Rails framework is to provide application programmers with a much easier and more organized way to use the Ruby programming language. The most popular code, utilities, and tools like HTMl, JavaScript, and JSON are encouraged and facilitated through this framework, which lessens the possibility that a website developer doesn’t have the tools they need and access to popular libraries when creating a web application.

Developers coding with Ruby on Rails

Who Uses Ruby on Rails?

Nearly every programmer and developer that wants to use the Ruby programming language for their web application will use Rails in order to facilitate development workflow. There are a wide array of large companies that have built with Ruby on Rails, which includes GitHub, Twitch, SoundCloud, Hulu, Shopify, Airbnb, Square, and Zendesk. Rails is flexible enough to allow businesses to build any website application no matter how simple or complex it is.

Ruby on Rails is an open-source software platform, which means that it’s free-to-use and develop on. The Rails framework brings together numerous components into one place, which provides you with an array of benefits that should make creating a website or custom web application much easier. Some of the custom web applications that can be easily created with Ruby on Rails include shopping carts, login forms, and many other facets of a website that can make it stand out. Ruby on Rails also handles many aspect of website and web application development for you, which allows you to focus entirely on creating the application itself.

For instance, active record allows you to create, read, and update the records in your database without needing to understand much about databases. Another component like the routing mechanism gives you the ability to map an URL to a specific action. For instance, entering login information will automatically take the user to a different web page, which is accomplished through the routing mechanism. If you needed to code the active record and routing mechanism yourself, you would likely find it difficult to understand how to do so.

Ruby on Rails handles all of this for you, which makes it simpler to develop a web application and frees up the developers time to focus on work that matters to the completion of the project at hand. Because of its ease-of-use, many websites and companies turn to Rails instead of attempting to use Ruby or other development languages and platforms.

Coders working in Ruby on Rails

What Makes Ruby on Rails Different?

Since there are a wide variety of web development environments that you can use when building a website or web application, you’re likely wondering what makes Ruby on Rails different from the rest like Python, Java, and WordPress (php). While Python, Java, HTML, and other web development tools are certainly useful when building a website, Ruby on Rails works somewhat differently than the rest.

Along with allowing you to effectively use the Ruby coding language even if you have little experience with coding, Rails is different because it operates as an object-oriented programming language as opposed to a procedural programming technique that merely provides a computer with a list of tasks that it needs to execute.

An object-oriented programming language provides developers with the ability to create virtual objects out of the code that they write, which is considered by many to be a simpler way to visualize and organize code and features. Every one of these virtual objects has its own abilities and attributes. These objects can interact with other objects that have been created to eventually form a website or web application. Since virtual objects mirror objects that are found in the real world, the developer has something tangible to remember their code by as opposed to just lines or lists. Every virtual object that you build can also be saved and used for future projects.

The Ruby programming language is also simpler to use than something like PHP for many programmers and developers. When using PHP or other web programming languages, even simple commands require various syntax you must remember to ensure successful execution.

When you’re writing thousands of lines of code, the extra symbols with PHP and other programming languages would quickly add up and increase your chances at making mistakes which could result in broken code. The Rails framework allows you to take the simple aspects of the Ruby programming language and apply them to a website or web application.

Ruby on Rails doctrine

The Ruby on Rails Doctrine

The goal of Ruby on Rails is to make things easier and more manageable for developers, which is described in detail within the Ruby on Rails doctrine. This doctrine consists of nine key pillars that continue to drive the development of Ruby on Rails to this day. These pillars include optimize for programmer happiness, convention over configuration, the menu is omakase, no one paradigm, exalt beautiful code, provide sharp knives, value integrated systems, progress over stability, and push up a big tent. Nearly all of the pillars of this doctrine relate to making things simpler and more intuitive for the developer.

When you use Rails, you won’t need to repeat yourself since all of your code is saved. Since you don’t need to write the same lines of code over and over, you’ll be less prone to error and will be able to develop a web application more rapidly. The convention over configuration pillar is also an essential aspect of this framework that makes things much easier for developers and programmers.

When you use Rails, you’ll notice that this framework defaults to a set of conventions as opposed to requiring you to create countless configuration files. If you try to code without a framework, you’ll need to be very specific when writing code in order for the development environment to accept your command.

If the necessary command is supposed to be “posts_id” but you instead write “postsId”, the development environment likely wouldn’t accept this command. The Rails framework takes these issues into account, which means that the code you write doesn’t always need to be 100 percent precise. The same is true of certain words – when using Rails, you can type both exit and quit at the end of a command and the terminal will understand what you’re trying to accomplish. With PHP, only exit is recognized even though both commands mean the same thing.

This is a convenient feature of Rails that should cut down on the amount of time you spend correcting bad or misspelled lines of code. The other pillars of the Ruby on Rails doctrine are just as important. For instance, the progress over stability pillar means that changes will be made with Ruby on Rails consistently as opposed to letting the current framework be the lasting one.

The individuals behind Ruby on Rails believe that this framework can only survive for years to come and be beneficial to developers if it continues to evolve and avoids stagnation.

The Ruby Dev Environment

When Should You Use Ruby on Rails?

Ruby on Rails can be used for practically any kind of website development or web application project, which means that you could use it whenever you want develop with the Ruby programming language. This framework is powerful and can be an entry point for you into web development and programming.

However, there are projects that are more ideal for the Ruby on Rails framework than others. Ruby on Rails is designed first and foremost to be used for the creation of full web applications, which refers to something like GitHub and Kickstarter. This framework is also known to be ideal for APIs, which are systems of resources and tools that can be used by developers to create certain software applications. Custom integration of this API into your website can be performed easily via Ruby on Rails.

This framework also makes it easy to create custom functionality for any aspect of your website. While Ruby on Rails provides you with a basic set of functions for a variety of tasks, it’s possible for you to create your own functions that allow your website to react exactly how you want. For instance, custom functions can be added to make a login redirect to another page on your website. All kinds of custom projects can be built with Ruby on Rails since it supports both back-end and front-end development.

While Ruby on Rails is built for most coders to get into it rather quickly, this framework is typically used by more experienced developers to create a full-stack environment, which means that they will focus on both front-end and back-end web development. Front-end development involves the processes of HTML and Java that are seen and interacted with by the user, which includes the menus, sliders, fonts, words, and colors of a website.

On the other hand, back-end web development essentially maintains the code and database that allows the front-end to exist. If you’re solely looking to develop the front-end of a website as opposed to the underlying code, you might find it more beneficial to familiarize yourself with JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. However, Ruby on Rails is great if you want to add a back-end dimension to the front-end skills that you already have. If you know how to use CSS, JavaScript, and HTML, learning how to develop websites with Ruby on Rails should be relatively straightforward for you.


Ruby on Rails is an extremely powerful development platform which should make your life as a developer much easier and your workflow much smoother. Once you fully understand the benefits of this MVC platform and object oriented programming, you will be able to harness the full capabilities of this especially robust platform!

Bryan Miller

Bryan Miller

Bryt Designs

Bryan Miller is an entrepreneur and web tech enthusiast specializing in web design, development and digital marketing. Bryan is a recent graduate of the MBA program at the University of California, Irvine and continues to pursue tools and technologies to find success for clients across a varieties of industries.

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