Stop knocking Rails – it’s easy to learn!

It seems fashionable to knock Rails as beginner unfriendly these days, but I think that’s wholly unfair – because I found Rails *much* easier to learn, and a better option for web development than most (if not all) of the other ‘options’ (some I tried, some I researched and rejected). Easier because Rails is written in a more natural, easier to understand language, and better because Rails teaches you a tremendous amount of best practises that would otherwise take you a lifetime to learn. It also saves you from wasting weeks or months agonising over which technologies to use or methodologies to follow – that in itself is priceless, and that is a large part of why it is so appealing to (and a good bet for) us n00bs.

Almost anyone can learn almost anything, if you just go about it the right way. Let’s explore that here from the perspective of learning Rails.

First up.

What is a beginner?

A person just starting to learn a skill or take part in an activity.

And how do you learn anything?

You start at your entry point – based on what you already know.
And then you keep progressing, by learning what you need to know, next.

Rails is easy.


Anyone wanting to learn Rails is in luck – because it’s written in Ruby – which is arguably one of the easiest languages to learn. Imagine learning a comparatively powerful framework in another language – that is if such a framework exists 😉 but anyhow, I did. I tried to learn CakePHP in PHP – let’s just say I’m glad I made a lucky escape when I did!

Learning Material

How many other frameworks has as many learning resources as Rails? And it’s not just the sheer amount of what’s out there, it’s the quality – of both Ruby & Rails material.

Eloquently written books, beautifully crafted online courses, diligently prepared screencasts. Then there’s the usual professional training courses, and other community initiatives, such as camps and conferences.

There’s so many because both Ruby and Rails have a unique buzz about them – and an army of passionate Rubyists, who love helping others see what’s so special about this magical thing they have found and grown to love. Check out my What’s Special about Rails article for the low down.

Learning Curve

You can learn practically anything if you learn it from the ground up. The ‘ground’ being based on your current knowledge of course. Again, luckily for us, Ruby & Rails has learning material to suit people of all levels – from the absolute beginners to the hardened language geeks. So whoever you are, whatever level you’re at – you can find a spot to jump in.

Back to beginners – so how *do* I learn Rails?

I was there, a n00b – and the hardest thing wasn’t learning Ruby, or Rails, it was working out how best to go about it (maybe that’s actually what people have a gripe about – that people are just not learning it right?). Anyway, I just wanted someone to give me 10 or 20 steps to become somewhere close to a proficient Rails developer – and I was prepared to do every one of them – just so long as I knew that I would be close to my goal at the end of it (which was to create my own custom sites, relatively quickly – ie not have to spend 10 years learning or getting experience to do it).

I never really found such a prescriptive guide. So did lots of research into well thought of and highly recommend learning material, did most of what I found – then came up with my own Best way to learn Ruby & Rails guide – in just 15 steps, you can go from knowing practically nothing, to having enough knowledge to build your own custom site. If you dedicate the time, you can do it between 3 and 4 months. Yes – just 3 or 4 months!

With a bit of self-belief and hard work – you can do anything that Tom, Dick or Harry can do. And there’s no reason why you can’t do it that little bit better, either.