Ruby on Rails development is trending for many reasons, but the most important one is how easily you can start using it.
Want to build a simple website or some platform with an administrative panel? You barely need more than just pure Rails and its default installed gems. In a couple of hours, you can end up with something really nice-looking and almost ready to deploy.
But then, requirements start to grow.
Indeed, those basic skills won’t be enough to continually deliver an application that is stable, easy to maintain, and has really good performance. There are so many factors when dealing with complex applications that require really good knowledge of Rails and its capabilities.
Only an experienced professional is able to advise you of the best solutions.
As a project owner or manager, sometimes you’ll already know you could use more help as your day-to-day team administration duties grow. But there are cases where it’s your code that reveals this need, and only a Ruby on Rails consulting specialist will suffice.
You can use the following situations to identify when your application has reached this point.
1. Outdated Gems, Rails, or Ruby Versions
This is one of the most common situations we face in Rails development. The application uses gems or even Ruby builds that are really old. Sometimes they don’t even have support anymore. It’s really important to try to keep everything, from tools to databases, as updated to the last stable version as possible.
Rails itself is one of the most important things that should be updated. Its releases sometimes focus on security. This is one of those things that you should never avoid, for obvious reasons.
And Rails is famous for providing some really interesting features on every new minor version. Maybe that feature that was not available months ago is now ready and really well tested in some other gem. Your project will no longer need the custom-made code it was using instead.
With this switch, the open source community can take some of the burden of maintenance off your project’s shoulders.
But outdated dependencies can bring so many headaches, especially because some versions are incompatible with one another. A specialist will already be used to tackling these issues while bringing your project up to date. Better still, they will know where to use techniques or features available in the new versions to improve all sorts of aspects of your project.
After that, your project will be in a much better position to keep current.
2. No Integration Tests
These are different from unit tests, which are theoretically intended to test a single piece of code and “mock” most external behaviors. In contrast, integration tests are automated tests that get as close as possible to the user experience.
Setting up integration tests is one of those time-consuming tasks that most developers simply ignore. Later on in the project, when they feel the need for it, it’s often too much of an obstacle to bother with.
But it’s even more time-consuming, and sometimes even resource-consuming, to rely on manual tests alone.
Sometimes, there are too many steps to reach the part that needs testing. Other times, there are too many possibilities to check. Especially in these cases, it’s quite inefficient for someone to spend precious time checking every single path.
That’s when integration tests come in handy in RoR web development. You can test complete flows, from start to end, and ensure that buttons with the expected texts lead to the correct locations and the application is all perfectly tied up.
If your growing application doesn’t have this kind of automated test yet, a Rails specialist who knows integration tests very well can save you a huge amount of time. There are so many gems and inherited tests that can be implemented that don’t require too much time and will save a lot of headaches in the future.
3. Too Much Logic in the Controllers
It’s a common scenario, especially among new Rails developers. They tend to think that any logic about handling database entries, form data, security checks, or anything else should go right in controllers. (And sometimes even worse, in views.)
It’s easy to think that. This is a more neutral place where everything connects and there is some sense that this is a “place where things happen.”
But it’s among the very core concepts of RoR development: Controllers should be very thin and as similar as possible to each other, while models hold the most of the logic.
There are many ways to avoid this problem. A Ruby on Rails specialist will know that the answer isn’t as simple as “move everything to models.”
Knowing how Rails works, especially its lesser-known inner parts, can save a lot of lines of code. This keeps your code simpler and focused better on your project’s actual requirements, instead of the infrastructure gluing your codebase together.
4. Too Much logic in the Models
Very similar to the last situation, but a little bit less common, are those models that seem to have an almost infinite number of lines. Or, in some other cases, a seemingly infinite number of models, all in the same folder, each one with a name more confusing than the last.
Most intermediate programmers end up with big applications that are just like those described, and they can hardly figure out how to solve it.
After all, we’ve just said that models are meant to hold most of the logic. That’s what they’ve conformed to here, isn’t it?
But it’s hardly maintainable.
A Rails consultant will know many ways to solve this and even plenty of coding concepts that can be used to save your app from it in the first place.
You may face a huge change of architecture here by deciding to make your code easier to understand. But only those that have decided to do this understand just how much it can come in handy. They’ve seen the difference it makes in the time it takes to implement a new feature when the code base is readable.
When your goal is to create an application that is not only really big, but also well modularized and readable without too much effort, such a refactoring is sometimes the only way. This is one of those life-changing initiatives that separates medium-sized code bases from humongous ones—given the same functionality.
5. Does Not Take Advantage of Using POROs
This is one of the ways that you could solve both points 3 and 4, but less experienced developers often don’t know how to use it properly.
Maybe it’s because it can be hidden behind too many different names, like Services or Libs. Maybe it’s because it can have different approaches, like the feature-to-gem approach (separating a piece of your application logic out into a gem.) Or maybe it’s because these are not interchangeable, yet are all based on the concept of using POROs.
Whatever the case, an inexperienced developer might use POROs on the wrong scale, or worse, not leverage their power at all. Specialists, in contrast, will know how to use POROs appropriately to produce complex and interconnected code that’s still nice to read.
But what are they, anyway?
Plain old Ruby object (PORO) simply means using object-oriented concepts on Ruby classes and objects. Most Ruby developers, especially Rails-focused ones, don’t even know how powerful the language behind the Rails framework is on its own. There are so many impressive built-in features that can be used to solve everyday problems.
If you need a very unique piece of code, sometimes it’s better to build a small structure under the
lib path, without relying on other Rails classes. That way other developers don’t feel like there’s any magic happening: They can read, check, and even improve what’s there.
It’s important to know Rails and Ruby very deeply, and then use different solutions for different problems. The framework is built so well that you can take advantage of its features outside of the common MVC structure. Many modules can be reused to build amazing classes that work as excellent toolboxes, and a specialist will know how to do that.
6. Does Not Take Advantage of Using Inheritance in MVC Classes
It’s a very common situation to find: Every single class inherits from only the default Rails base classes.
This is a really basic approach. It works fine for small applications that don’t have too many behaviors repeated internally.
But, when things grow, requests should flow from generic to specific, passing through several steps to reach the final result. Rails specialists know that’s desirable: They know that providing a few layers to avoid repetition can save other developers’ time, keeping the code as sharp as possible, and way easier to understand, because those layers will be a very common part of your application.
When doing this, someone that really knows object-oriented design can take advantage of it, saving steps and time to produce a feature. This is one of the easiest approaches to expand your project, and works for almost everything, like models, controllers, and even views. Partials, direct inheritance, and polymorphism not only save development time, but help ensure consistency when it comes to user experience.
Although, to implement this in the correct way, you must plan your code very well.
To fix this afterwards, you’re going to need a very skilled Ruby on Rails consulting specialist. They won’t just segment and distribute the logic of your application, eradicating copied and pasted code. They will also know when to use a concern or a service instead of a helper to do so, keeping your code well-organized.
7. Keeping Everything Under Rails
A common mistake is to think that in web development, once you have decided to use this coding language, with that framework, everything should be under it, or use the same stack.
Any framework will have its limitations. Likewise, it will have its moments where it’s clearly the best tool for the job. Most frameworks can be used for everything that your project may require—but sometimes, this can give you really bad headaches when it comes to performance.
For instance, if you just need some sort of landing page, with some text and links, maybe even some translations, the best solution is to avoid Rails and go with something like Sinatra. Yes, a Ruby on Rails expert will know when not to use Rails for a given task.
Keeping the same tech stack is not something that a company should necessarily be proud of, because it sometimes only shows its limitations regarding expertise in how to solve things with the best tool possible.
Not that you need to use several programming languages and different code standards. Ruby by itself has so many frameworks for different situations. It has many really easy ways to deliver web-related tools. But many people are completely unaware of the ecosystem of the language behind the framework.
Sometimes, rare times, the idea of using another language should also be discussed. For instance, Go: It’s similar to Ruby, and delivers much smaller and faster message queuing applications than Ruby. However, this will add complexity to your overall project. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, if done for the right reasons.
The bottom line: If your application’s needs are growing more complex and more difficult to fulfill, but your tech stack is completely static, you likely need a specialist to know when to branch out from Rails or even from Ruby itself.
8. Too Many Steps to Set Up a Developer Environment
People who work in several projects, or change projects very often, may face this scenario. Each project has its own tools and processes that require many steps to get a development environment up and running.
Again, there are many easy and not-too-time-consuming solutions for that. But only someone who has had this experience will be effective in addressing that.
If your project requires more than fifteen minutes to be set up, it may require some automation. Rails was developed to be basically cloned and run, and the way it does that allows you to extend its original behavior and execute any project-specific steps before starting its web server.
Less experienced developers don’t know the Rails web servers, like Puma and Webrick, tend to create custom code, layers, or even some Gems to make sure that the development environment runs correctly. Only someone who knows RoR web development very well, and stays current with its tool and web server ecosystems, can provide a suitable answer.
Once their answer is implemented, the next developer you hire can start working in less than fifteen minutes.
When a Ruby-on-Rails Expert is Essential
It’s clear that the difference between a new Rails developer and a RoR specialist may be found just about everywhere in their work.
A rookie will probably present you with something useful in a short time, just because Rails allows them that. However, as things grow, someone with a better understanding of what’s under the hood can save you from spending valued resources.
Even if your project has already begun and grown, it’s not too late. A Rails consultant can still help your project become healthy, maintainable, and extendible—and stay that way.