ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How To Learn Ruby on Rails - A Beginner's Guide

Updated on October 18, 2014
Credit: Matthew (WMF) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Matthew (WMF) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Welcome Aboard!

If you're at all familiar with the tech industry, you have undoubtedly heard of Ruby on Rails -- otherwise you wouldn't be reading this article! Rails has been the driving force behind sites both past (Digg), present (GitHub), and future (your own site!). It is an exciting time to be learning web programming, and there is no better time than the present to get started!

Getting Started with Ruby on Rails

Before we get started, let's first check where we are at. Now I'm guessing there will be two types of readers reading this: those who already have programming experience and those who none or very little. If you are a member of the first group, I recommend skipping ahead to where I begin talking about Rails in specific. If you're in the latter, however, read directly on! :)

A Brief Introduction To Programming

If you are completely new to programming, I recommend first running through some of the Ruby and Web lessons on Codecademy and doing some of the computer science exercises on Khan Academy. Both of these sites are free to sign up for, and offer interactive lessons that will help you learn the basics of programming.

Despite what the books on the shelf at Barnes and Noble will tell you, programming is not something that you can learn in a day, a month, or even a year. It is a skill that some say takes over 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master -- and even then there will still be more to learn. Don't feel discouraged if the lessons are difficult at first, perseverance is key and you will get better!

So after you have practiced with some of those interactive lessons and have gotten a feel for what code looks like and what it's like to write it, I recommend graduating to book learning. One series of books that I highly recommend is the "Learn Code the Hard Way" series by Zed Shaw. Don't worry, his books really aren't that hard. What they are, however, is highly informative and a great next step. I recommend working through his "Learn Python the Hard Way" book even though you will be using Ruby with Rails. "Learn Python the Hard Way" was Shaw's first book in the series and it is still the most mature that I have found.

Besides, it's not learning the syntax that is important, but the programming concepts that are. If you can understand and write a little bit of Python, writing code in Ruby should be no trouble!

def proceed_onward
  puts 'Keep reading!'

proceed_onward unless confused?

If you can understand the code above, then you're ready to move on. Congratulations! If you can't, then shame on you! Just kidding, but be sure to get some of the basics of programming down before moving on. :)

What Is Ruby on Rails For?

So by now you should be familiar with some basic programming concepts including variable assignment, functions/methods, if/else, and loops. Now it's time to become familiar with the web.

I am going to assume a basic understanding of HTML, so first let's take a basic page:

<!-- index.html -->
    <title>My Page</title>
    <p>Welcome to my site!</p>

Looks pretty simple, right? It's functional and it works, however there's one small problem with it. This page is completely static! Let's say we want the page to be a bit more dynamic -- say we would like it to be more personal and welcome the current user by name? How could we do this? Well one answer is by writing a Rails web application. With Rails, we would extract this HTML and put it in a view and be able to use embedded Ruby code within it. So our ERB (embedded Ruby) version of this page would look like this:

<% #index.html.erb %>

    <title>My Page</title>
    <p>Hello <%= %>! Welcome to my site!</p>

That's a small taste of the power that Rails gives you. So if you're interested, now I'll point you in the right direction for learning more about the web framework.

Learning Ruby on Rails

One of the best resources for learning Rails that I have found is the Rails Tutorial book by Michael Hartl. This book is available for free online and covers the basics of setting up your first Rails application and will guide you through the process of creating a rudimentary Twitter clone. On top of this, it will even introduce you to the RSpec testing framework to help you get acquainted with test driven development and ensuring that your code is high quality.

Once you've worked through that book, the only other advice I have is to read other's code (GitHub is great for this) and continue practicing. Make your own Rails application and then continue reading Rails literature and try incorporating some of the new best practices that you have learned into your app. By continued, deliberate practice your skills will improve and your site will look better and better.

Eventually your skills will be at a high enough level that you will be able to actually create something that people will want to use or they'll be good enough to land you a job developing Rails applications.

Happy coding! :)


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)