infoTECH Feature

May 06, 2016

6 Tips to Becoming Better at Ruby On Rails

With over 250 programming languages to choose from, it’s common for aspiring programmers to feel overwhelmed when choosing a new language to learn. Among all of this choice, however, one programming language that has become especially popular recently is Ruby on Rails.

Known for the versatility of its default structures in databases, web pages, and web services, Ruby on Rails is growing in popularity among coders, and many Ruby on Rails jobs can fetch very good salaries. The flexibility and power of the language makes it great for building web applications, and popular web apps such as GitHub, SoundCloud, Airbnb, and Hulu (News - Alert) were all built with Ruby on Rails.

Ruby on Rails is certainly a very useful language to learn these days, but its many applications and wide functionality mean that there’s a long road between beginning to learn and mastering the language. With that in mind, here are six tips to becoming better at Ruby on Rails:

1. Learn Ruby

As its name might suggest, Ruby on Rails is a streamlined, efficient upgrade of its predecessor, Ruby. While they are different languages, there are certainly a number of overlaps, and many of the shortcuts and frameworks upon which Ruby on Rails is built come from concepts in Ruby. Having a good conceptual understanding of Ruby will only help you as you broaden your understanding of Ruby on Rails, since it’s always good to know exactly how and why you’re making certain programming decisions. With Ruby on Rails, the understanding of those decisions often comes from a good foundation in Ruby.

2. Know How the Internet Works

As touched upon earlier, one of Ruby on Rails’ most popular uses is for building web apps. This might sound a bit obvious, then, but having a really thorough understanding of how the internet works is crucial for mastering Ruby on Rails. Really understanding the internet doesn’t just mean knowing how to browse or knowing what cookies are. Because Rails serves as the foundational framework for something like a web app’s operation, it’s crucial to get a thorough understanding of the request-response relationship (as in HTTP) that makes up interactions on the internet. Once you have that knowledge under control, you can build a site or app for optimum performance.

3. Work in Open Source (News - Alert)

While a conceptual understanding is very important for the mastery of any programming language, you won’t really be able to call yourself proficient in Ruby on Rails until you get your hands dirty and actually start coding. Practice makes perfect, right? Getting involved in a collaborative community is a great way to learn as you go and pick up on the best practices and tricks from true masters of Ruby on Rails. Open source communities like GitHub offer great opportunities to practice your skills and contribute to ongoing projects, and as mentioned before, GitHub was built using Rails frameworks. You can bet at least a few people from the GitHub community know a thing or two about Ruby on Rails. 

4. Do Your Own Debugging

Ruby on Rails is largely popular for its many shortcuts and streamlined functions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should jump right into it without learning the processes behind them. The same is true for debugging. While there are all sorts of debugging tools out there to help you when you’re working on larger projects, a true understanding of Ruby on Rails includes knowing how to locate, diagnose, and fix any problems that might arise. There are some great Rails debugging guides out there to help you learn the manual debugging process, and you can rest assured that learning how to fix problems without shortcuts will greatly complement your understanding of the language. 

5. Experiment With Alternate Frameworks

The versatility of Ruby on Rails means it can be used across many different technologies for a wide array of projects. The language typically runs on Rack, a webserver interface that allows for all sorts of mixing and matching between frameworks and servers. Familiarizing yourself with the various alternative frameworks for Ruby can give you a good glimpse at just how many directions you can take the language, and it can give you some inspiration for innovative deployments once you’re ready to tackle bigger projects. 

6. Learn the Shortcuts

Speaking of big projects, as has been mentioned before, one of the great upsides to Ruby on Rails are the many shortcuts and efficiencies built into the language. Ruby on Rails is popular in part because its code is streamlined and easy-to-read, and deploying shortcuts in your code can really help trim the fat on larger projects. This tip comes last on the list because you don’t want to start making shortcuts before you have a good foundational understanding of the language. However, once you’ve mastered the basics and are ready to dig deep into a major project, a solid familiarity with the tricks and shortcuts in Ruby on Rails can save you a lot of time and energy.

Some of the Internet’s most popular sites are built with Ruby on Rails, so it’s a language that is in high demand and can fetch very impressive compensation. If you’re just starting out, be sure you have a foundational understanding of the language before you dive in by taking the above steps. Soon, you’ll have all the knowledge necessary to become a Ruby on Rails expert.  

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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