Choosing the technology stack for a minimum viable product is often critical for your business’ success. Ruby on Rails can accelerate its creation and cut the development costs. In this article, I will list the pros of ROR and show you a case study of a successful Rails MVP we have built.
What is Ruby on Rails? A short recap
Ruby on Rails (RoR or Rails) is a web development framework that has been around since 2004. Created by David Heinemeier Hansson while he was working on his flagship Basecamp work organization tool, it made programming in Ruby language even faster than it previously was.
Ever since, many popular Rails-based websites appeared. They include, among others:
- Shopify etc.
Ruby on Rails also is one of the most popular technologies to build a minimum viable product (MVP) nowadays.
Why build an MVP with Ruby on Rails?
As the goal of every MVP is validated learning about the product, and improving in subsequent iterations, you need a toolset that will make incremental changes easy and fast to apply.
In addition to an often limited budget, the quick time-to-market requirements for an MVP make RoR a natural candidate for building it.
Let’s take a look at what makes Ruby on Rails ideal for building a minimum viable product.
Rails is the framework for Ruby, the language created in mid-1990s by Yukihiro Matsumoto. Ruby’s main ideas are a programmer’s comfort and productivity, which in turn allow for rapid app development.
Ruby might not be the most performant language available, but it’s no issue when it comes to an MVP, which needs to enter the market quickly, with minimum number of functionalities, and most probably won’t be gaining hundreds of users overnight.
Even if it would, Ruby is still fast enough to power most web applications. There are also ways to scale up ROR apps as well as examples of services with a really big user count that still use Rails, such as the already mentioned Shopify and GitHub.
In the end, performance and scalability depend on your app’s entire architecture, not only the backend language and framework.
ROR’s huge community
The Rails community on GitHub has nearly 4,000 contributors when I write this article. Compared to 2018, it has grown by around 500 people. This is reflected by the recent RedMonk report, which lists Ruby as the 8th most popular language among developers.
What does it mean for startup owners willing to build and launch their MVPs? Day by day, this huge community creates new free libraries, called gems containing ready, reusable solutions to common problems.
‘There’s a gem for that’, goes the community’s popular saying, meaning that if there is a problem to be solved, there most probably exists a library that solves it.
This, subsequently, leads us to the next big advantage of Ruby on Rails.
Speed and efficiency
Thanks to its huge ecosystem and a vast array of gems, Ruby on Rails wins over other technologies. As a result, developers don’t need to write extensive lines of code, which in turn makes programming and an MVP’s release to the market faster.
A study has indicated that developers need 30-40% less time to program an application in ROR than in other frameworks, which definitely makes this technology popular among startups.
Ruby on Rails comes with two basic principles that foster developers’ productivity: convention over configuration and don't repeat yourself. The first one shortens the development time and reduces the costs.
Convention over configuration means that instead of requiring devs to write lots of code with little benefit for the actual application, Ruby on Rails favors code’s maximum productivity. Many things have been already configured, so the developers can move on and focus on programming what really matters.
David Heinemeier Hansson wrote about this principle in an article:
“Part of the Rails’ mission is to swing its machete at the thick, and ever growing, jungle of recurring decisions that face developers creating information systems for the web. There are thousands of such decisions that just need to be made once, and if someone else can do it for you, all the better.”
Meaning that it’s relatively easy to connect a Ruby on Rails application to any database. The backend database in your MVP or a more mature app can thus be modified with little extra effort.
Ruby on Rails applications have built-in protection against various types of attacks, such as XSS, CSRF and SQL Injection. Its creators continuously add new security patches to the framework which makes it one of the safest environments available.
Rails MVP Case Study: Reinventing Servicelovers
Ruby on Rails is the main technology at Prograils. We used this framework for rebuilding Servicelovers, a platform rewarding customer service employees.
What is Servicelovers?
Servicelovers started in 2015, as a Danish mobile app in which customers assessed the quality of service at stores, telecom companies etc. Initially, they had to download the app on their smartphones, create an employee profile and rate their experience. It was supposed to promote the most accommodating workers or notify the management if customer service needed any improvements.
Why Servicelovers 1.0 didn't take off
Swiftly after the app’s test release, its usage declined significantly. It became clear that customers had found it uncomfortable to use. The app required too much action from them while giving no value back. Servicelovers didn’t hit the product-market fit. It needed a pivot.
After collecting feedback, Servicelovers’ owners came to the conclusion that customers should have an easy way of expressing their feedback on the service.
The new Servicelovers Rails MVP
The new Servicelovers MVP introduced standing tablets on which they can rate the service quality. The feedback goes straight into the staff mobile app, a sort of “LinkedIn for service employees” and to the management dashboard.
We used Ruby on Rails for building the new API allowing the platform to communicate with tablets and to design a completely new management dashboard with diagrams showing the customer satisfaction with the service. Given the efficiency of ROR, it took us about two weeks to build the first version of the dashboard and circa 3-4 weeks to create the tablet app with the Rails API.
From MVP to enterprise
With tablets at IKEA and Jack & Jones stores, hotels and restaurants, around 70-80,000 ratings a month and Servicelovers growing from a startup to a nearly enterprise size, we treat the story of the company as a perfect example of a successful Ruby on Rails MVP that developed into something bigger and continues to grow.
If you seek a cost-effective solution with a relatively short time-to-market for your app’s MVP, you should consider choosing Ruby on Rails for it.
Ruby on Rails is an open source, mature framework with a huge worldwide community around it. This, in turn brings a variety of ready and tested gems available for free which can be applied to your application, reducing development time and costs.
Rails is one of the most stable solutions around: security patches are released all the time, the built-in automated tests feature helps developers release a bug-free product to the market.
Even though performance is often listed as the main disadvantage of RoR, remember that performance issues may appear only when the product gains huge numbers of users. The main goal behind an MVP is to release fast, cheap and start learning immediately. Ruby on Rails achieves these goals perfectly, which has been proven by famous brands such as Airbnb and Dribbble, as well as those from the Prograils portfolio.
Thinking Ruby on Rails would fit your MVP and looking for a Rails dev team? Drop us a line.
A huge 'thank you' to Szymon Soppa and Tomasz Błachut for consultations when writing this article.