What is Ruby on Rails? An Introduction For Beginners

What is Ruby on Rails? An Introduction For Beginners

Understanding Ruby on Rails for beginners

The expression “Ruby” on “Rails” combines two terms and it would be better if they were explained separately. The first term “Ruby” is a basic programming language just like Java and C. However, the Ruby programming language is mostly used for web programming and mobile web applications.



Since its creation Ruby has been well acclaimed because it’s dynamic, open source and easy to learn programming language that has a focus on simplicity and productivity. It has an elegant syntax that is natural to read and easy to write.

The Ruby language was developed 20 years ago by Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto, who was the mastermind behind its development. In terms of popularity it is ranked very highly as choice for developers. More on his twitter page here.

Yukihiro Matz Matsumoto



The second term “Rails” is a software that works with Ruby Programming language. This software was created by David Heinemeier Hansson. He named his software “Ruby on Rails” but today it is mostly referred to as “Rails.”

David Heinemeier Hansson

Rails forms a framework for website building. It brings about conventions for simplified website maintenance and collaboration. These conventions are in the form of Rails API (applications programming interface).

Rails Application Programming Interface is available online and documented on a number of blog posts, books and articles.

Rails beginners must learn Rail conventions as well as its Application Programming Interface (API). This software gives website builders the ability to combine Ruby Programming with other languages like CSS, JavaScript and HTML in order to create advanced website applications to run on web servers.

A Beginners Guide and Introduction to Ruby on Rails

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As per the Rails philosophy, the following principles are the major guidelines when using the framework.

  • Avoid repeating yourself: save time, this is in fact the major guiding principle for this software development which requires that every idea should be unambiguous, singular and have authoritative presentation in the system.
  • Convention over the configuration: Simply put, this means that, by default, Rails assumes that its expert developers will follow “standard” best practice conventions (for things like naming, code structure, and so on) and, if you do, things will work for you “auto-magically” without your needing to specify these details.
  • Rails is considered to be opinionated: Ruby on Rails, by its own admission, is an opinionated framework. From day one it has positioned itself as the Kryptonite to enterprise software, providing an easy to use, rapid development framework.

This basically means that it has its own way of tackling many problems that a web application developer will face. With its conventions, the developer usually faces far fewer decisions as most of the required solutions are already there in the framework. These results provide improved collaboration, faster development and above all easier maintenance.

What are the advantages of using Ruby?


Ruby is popular among most programmers due to its concise and neat syntax which doesn’t demand a lot of punctuation’s. This is a modern programming language that enables the use of high-level programming abstractions like metaprogramming. Metaprogramming simplifies the task of developing “domain specific language”. When compared to Java, Ruby programming language can be termed as streamlined since it requires less code to develop basic structures like data fields.

Ruby’s greatest benefit is RubyGems. This is a package that enables creation and sharing of software libraries known as gem. It provides simplified guidelines of installing gems. It does not require technical knowledge for anyone to upload a gem to RubyGem’s central website thus making it immediately available for installation to anybody.

However Ruby has its disadvantages. Some programmers argue that Ruby is characterized by slow processing performances when compared to Java or c++. As a matter of fact, the language’s execution speed is rarely of any importance.

This language is less suited for a website that may require many multi simultaneous activities, since it is not the best for managing highly sophisticated software that are needed to perform such activities efficiently-does not support “parallelism.”

Finally, some programmers term Ruby programs as “magic”. This is due to the reality that complex operations are executed through simple directives.

Related: Five reasons smart startups use Rails

Why should you use Rails?


Rails popularity and its wide-spread use is mainly due to its conventions. Programmers find them astute and intuitive. Web development applications are defined by complex requirements which include basic functions like processing form submissions, generation of HTML or accessing the database.

Without a framework, the programmer usually faces a huge task of implementing all the necessary infrastructure. Rails API provides an extensive intelligent experience in implementing these infrastructure requirements to any development framework.

Web applications produced through “Rails way” can be easily understood by other developers, which means quicker development, and easy collaboration. This has created a larger platform of open source libraries for enhancing Rails. Though the idea of creating conventions can appear obvious, within first year of its release it had caught the attention of prominent web developers such as Dave Thomas and Martin Fowler.

What is a web application and why is it important?


Web servers display CSS, JavaScript and HTML ether from static files stored on your server or from “application server” that is used to create the files dynamically by a programming language like Ruby. A web application can be any software that is written in Ruby programming language and organized according to Rail conventions.

A web browser only requires single HTML file in order to display a web page. But if several web pages are needed, the HTML file has to be assembled from smaller components. For instant, if you want to include footers which are known as “partials” in Rails. Or if you want to include contents from a database, the integration with your HTML might need a lot of complex programming.

Rails web application server enables you to include features developed and tried by other developers to your website without having to build them yourself.

Different users of Rails and different uses


There are several views for who would be using Rails and the way in which you can use it. They are known as perspectives. Here are some aspects that can help give a better understanding of Rails. They include:

  • Web browsers aspect (perspective)

From this aspect, Rails is seen as a program that can be used to generate CSS, Javascript and HTM files. It does so dynamically.

  • Software Architect’s aspect

From this perspective, one can say that Rails is a web application with hierarchical organization that is determined by its API

  • Coder’s aspect

In Rails, files have a specific organizational structure. It is this unique structure that enables easy collaboration. From this perspective one can say that Rails is a unique set of files that are organized in a certain way.

  • Tester’s aspect

Testing is very important aspect of web development. It serves as an oversight to the managers and also it serves as a user experience to identify problems before the product is launched. Rails provides an automated way of testing which was never the case before its introduction.

  • Gem hunter’s aspect

Selection of gems requires an experienced and skilled Rails developer. However, there are gems that are already recommended by its original designer. Advanced developers usually use alternative gems to replace “official” gems.

Where to start as a beginner?


Assuming that you a newbie without any prior experience or knowledge of Rails. You will need the following prerequisites.

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