Seven Practical Tips to Getting Started With Ruby on Rails

Knowing how to get started with Ruby on Rails can be confusing when migrating from the world of conventional web development techniques. This article recommends that you take a stepped approach and makes some suggestions on how to do that. So let’s get started!

1. Learn an MVC Framework for your own language

Learning the MVC pattern is quite a daunting task, never mind learning a new language and a framework at the same time. Learning a framework that applies to the language you currently program in can ease this learning curve. For instance, if you’re a PHP developer, why not try learning CakePHP first or if you’re a Python developer, you could try learning Django. Once you get use to how the MVC pattern works it makes moving to another MVC based framework much easier.

2. Learn Ruby Language

Invest some time in learning, at least the basics of, the Ruby language. Ruby is a really nice language, and you’ll be a better developer for learning it. Ruby is a fully capable object-oriented language with some superb advanced features. Some resources, which you will find useful, are:-

  • Interactive Ruby Tutorial
  • Humble Little Ruby Book
  • Poignant’s Guide to Ruby
3. Buy a book

There’s something about having a new book which makes you just want to read it. Maybe it’s because you spent a lot of money on it, and you feel obligated!

Reading small articles on the internet can give a fragmented view of how Ruby on Rails is tied together. And yes, I know this is a bit ironic, considering this is an internet article. However, I’m not saying internet articles are wrong, just that they should be used in conjunction with some sort of consolidated reference material, like a book.

4. Install Rails and play with it

I can’t recommend this enough. Reading all the books in the world is nothing compared to actually making use of Rails. Practical work seems to embed concepts, more deeply, into your brain. Using books and practical work in conjunction with each other is much more productive for learning than either alone. Install Rails and get started!

5. Get Motivated

There are plenty of things to get excited about with Rails. Database agnosticism, separation of business logic from view logic, convention over configuration, a built-in web server… I could go on. Finding out about these exciting things will motivate you to learn Rails.

6. Suggest that your workplace uses Rails

This might be a hard one… but it’s worth a go. If you make your boss aware of the advantages of Rails then she, at least, might consider it. Some companies are scared of open source technology because they think it is risky. This, of course, is absurd, but you will have to be prepared for any doubts they have. Have an answer ready for anything they throw at you. If you don’t get anywhere, forget it – let them waste their money on an inferior framework.

7. Give yourself a Task

Creating a website like a blog is extremely useful for learning the concepts of Rails and the Ruby language. I did exactly this, and it has been great for speeding up the learning process. Plus at the end of it, you will have a fully working blog which you can make good use of, blogging about what you’ve learnt.

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Paul Andrew

Paul is the founder and editor of Speckyboy Design Magazine. He has many years experience within the web design industry and a passion for the latest web technologies and design trends. He lives in the small town of Inverness in the north of Scotland. Follow him on Twitter.