Ruby on Rails: A Path to Sustainability for Apps and Developers

Ruby on Rails: A Path to Sustainability for Apps and Developers

Ruby on Rails is an open-source web application framework that enables the creation of powerful applications quickly and easily. Created by David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) in 2004, the framework has gained popularity among developers due to its simplicity and flexibility. Many companies, such as Basecamp and GitHub, have used Rails as the foundation for their products.

At Neomind Labs, we’re big fans of Ruby on Rails - as you may have guessed. One of the reasons we love Ruby on Rails so much is because the framework– Rails – lends itself to longevity and sustainability without burnout. We argue that Rails not only creates better products, but also creates a better development process overall. 

Improving Software Development with Rails

The benefits of using Rails are numerous. First, it reduces the time it takes for new developers to get up to speed on a project. This is because Rails advocates “convention over configuration,” meaning many projects end up resembling each other by default. 

Second, Rails has a built-in automated test framework that can help prevent bugs from being introduced into your application during development or after deployment. 

Third, the Rails ecosystem is incredibly mature (in longevity and personality.) There are well-documented and maintained libraries that have been around for a really long time that you can tap as a resource for most things you'd want to do. You’ll find resources for everything from e-commerce to authorization and authentication, Excel or PDF generation, libraries for interacting with third-party APIs, and more. There are plenty of things you’ll still have to figure out as a developer, but you likely won’t be the first person attempting that problem and you’ll find the tools to cut down on the time it takes you to implement your solution. 

Rails Impact on Onboarding

Poor onboarding processes can have far-reaching effects. Teams may end up with a lot of custom code that needs constant maintenance and updates. Rails reduces the time it takes for new developers to get up to speed on a project since most of the code and architecture follows a familiar structure.  Because Rails advocates “convention over configuration,” many projects end up resembling each other by default in the ways that they share functionality and goals.

This can significantly expedite and improve the onboarding process. 

The Impact of Rails’ Automated Tests on Development

Automated tests are a great way to ensure that your software is working as expected. They're also useful for detecting regressions and reducing the workload of testing, which can be time-consuming and error-prone.

Here are some benefits of automated testing:

  • Find bugs quickly - Automated tests can be run whenever you make changes to your codebase, so they'll catch bugs immediately after they're introduced into the codebase. You will have a better chance of fixing them before they become too serious or widespread in nature.
  • Detect regressions - If there's a bug fix in one part of your application, but it causes another part of your application not to work correctly anymore, this would be considered a regression because it regresses to its previous (bad) state. In other words, things get worse! Automated tests help prevent these kinds of situations by ensuring everything still works properly after each change has been made. If something breaks down due to a  change made elsewhere,  we know what needs fixing before we deploy next time around!
  • Clarify your approach. By testing as you design, you come up with a clearer, more modular design (developers should be striving for “loosely coupled code”, meaning the components are more reusable)
  • Save time! It may feel like writing tests is slower than manually testing, but consider that if you’re doing proper QA, the number of times you have to manually test things to ensure they still work adds up quickly with each commit of new code.

The Impact of a Steady Signal-to-noise Ratio 

Boilerplate code is a type of code that you can reuse in multiple places. It's like a template, so you don't have to write the same thing over and over again. It’s effective when used strategically. The pros? You can stand up code efficiently. The cons? When you inherit a boiler-plate-laden app, it can be incredibly hard to identify what modifications were made to the boilerplate sections. Rails makes it easy to implement a high signal-to-noise ratio by providing an architecture (framework) as a starting point and cutting down on the amount of redundancy (Don’t repeat yourself & Convention over configuration.)   With Rails, you can use convention where it makes sense at the start of the project and generate some defaults, without sacrificing the integrity and readability of your codebase.

Here are some benefits:

  • Reduce coding time by relying on the mature ecosystem of “Gems” (Ruby libraries) code instead of writing it from scratch each time you need it. This will save you hours over the course of your career!
  • Consistent code makes it easier for other developers to read and understand your program without having to figure out how each piece works separately before seeing  how they fit together as part of an overall system (or "architecture").   Maintenance becomes much easier, too!

Using Rails (and frameworks) for Long-Term Sustainability

Rails is a framework that encourages rapid development and high productivity. It provides a framework for organizing and managing your code, as well as making it easy to add new features. Using Rails for long-term sustainability will help you reduce costs, improve scalability, and increase quality.

Choosing the Right Framework

Maybe you’re convinced Rails is the right framework for your next project, maybe you’re not. Choosing the right framework is important because it can help you build better software. There are many factors to consider when choosing a framework, including:

  • The language you want to use (e.g. Ruby, JavaScript, Python)
  • The project's requirements and scope. (Is it small or large? Do I need to support mobile devices? What libraries exist that I will need to leverage?)
  • Your team's skill set(Is everyone comfortable/happy with writing Ruby code?)

If you feel inclined to try out a new framework, consider the longevity. Does this framework show indications that it will last, or could it be one of the X that doesn’t survive its first year?

Rails as a top choice for Framework

When you choose Rails as your framework, you stand to benefit from:  

  • Keep attackers out: Security is crucial when building web applications. Make sure to implement proper measures to keep bots and other malicious actors out of your application.
  • Convention over configuration: Rails follows the principle of "convention over configuration," meaning that it provides sensible defaults and conventions that make it easy to get started and maintain your application.
  • Batteries Included: Rails comes with a wide array of built-in features and tools, making it easy to build feature-rich applications without having to rely on external libraries or plugins.
  • Availability of talent: Rails is widely taught in coding boot camps, making it easier to find developers with experience in the framework. While most frameworks are not taught in college, students are often expected to learn them on their own or through employer-provided training.
  • Conferences and community: The turnout at conferences and other events can be an indication of the talent pool and investment in a particular technology. A strong community and corporate backing can be indicative of a stable and well-supported framework, such as Ruby on Rails versus Elixir.

As you get ready to build out your next app, think about the full picture. If you’re the developer, imagine the life of app after you’ve moved on. How easily can someone step in and take over the project for you? How comfortable will you be if you are the only developer who can work on the application ever, even after you’ve grown bored of it (we know maintenance isn’t the most fun)? If you’re the project manager, how long do you need the app to be functional for? How many different developers could you imagine playing a hand in its maintenance over the next five to ten years?

Whether you choose Ruby on Rails as your framework or not, we challenge you to take the steps to ensure your application and all developers involved can be sustained indefinitely. Set yourself up for longevity from the beginning and your app, and developers, will be much happier for it.