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Ruby on Rails Vs DjangoIf you are looking to develop a new application and you are torn between choosing Django and Ruby on Rails application frameworks, take it easy. This article explores the various issues you should consider before choosing an application framework. It also introduces the frameworks, shows their major features and concludes by making a function-by-function comparison of the two frameworks. However, those who are not familiar with any of the two frameworks are encouraged to learn the basics of either Django or Ruby on Rails.

Key Considerations When Shopping for a Web Application Framework

Before you decide to purchase a web application framework, consider the checklist below;

1.  Usage

Before you go out looking for a framework, review your needs to establish whether you even need a framework in the first place. Mainly, you will need one if your application will be based on CRUD operations, in case you don’t have time to separate the UI and underlying logic. On the other hand, you don’t need a framework if all you want is a stylish URL system or if you want only a definite part of the framework.      

2. Licensing

Before you develop an app using a certain framework, do your research and establish whether the license will allow you to distribute the app. Most licenses are liberal but there are others which are stricter. This extends to plugins and extensions.

3. Ease of Installation

If a framework is not easy to install, no matter how many features it has or how quickly it can be installed, it will normally pose problems if you have to go through numerous steps during installation. It is advisable to choose a framework which is get you up and running swiftly.

4. Core Library

The framework should allow you to manipulate it when you need more control or additional features. Check whether the framework offers AJAX, caching, data sanitization and validation, URL mapping or rewriting. Currently, frameworks are developed as library of libraries, allowing you to exchange sections of the library with others, based on your preferences.

5. Unit Testing

This involves verification and validation of software where a programmer tests whether individual units of source code are good enough to use. A unit comprises the smallest testable component of an application. Look out for frameworks that allows for custom and core tests to review the key components of your application.

6. Documentation

Documentation of a framework is the key to its success. A good documentation attracts users who help spread the gospel further. With an ill-prepared and confusing documentation, no one will give your framework a second glance.

Look for a framework that has comprehensive documentation with numerous examples, sample code, articles and tutorials.

7. The Community Behind the Framework

Once in a while, you will run into problems with your app, forcing you to contact support or members of a community that use your framework  Choose a framework whose community is willing to take you through the tricks to succeed in the trade.  The community behind a framework always determines its success or failure.

Fixing Bugs and Updating the Framework

A big framework will definitely require several programmers who have to constantly go through the code and squash bugs as soon as they discover them. On the other hand, if you create your own framework or adopt a small framework, more often than not, you will find yourself in charge of fixing bugs and updates.

If you select a stagnant framework, you will receive a message from a hacker informing you of the existence of vulnerability of a page that he or she has hacked. It is better to receive such a message from framework developers who might even provide links to resolve the issue.

Nonetheless, taking an expert-level course on Ruby on Rails framework is highly recommended for Django users who wish to fully learn how to fix any kind of bugs on this framework.

Django Defined

This is a free and open source web application framework written in Python. It follows the model-view-controller architectural pattern. Django facilitates fast development of clean and practical web design. This framework was mainly designed to solve two problems which are; strict requirements of its veteran developers and the rigorous requirements of newsrooms. It pushes the user to come up with excellent and innovative applications.

Django’s goal is to aid creation of complex, database-driven websites.  It emphasizes reusability and plug-ability of components, fast development and the ‘don’t repeat yourself” principle. Python is used extensively for files, data models as well as settings. It also offers optional interfaces such as create, read, update or even delete. The interface is generated dynamically via introspection and configured through admin models.

Instagram, Mozilla, Pinterest and The Washington Times are some of the top sites that use Django.

Ruby on Rails Defined

Ruby on Rails or just Rails refers to an open source web application framework that operates via the Ruby programming language. The framework allows creation of web pages and applications that gather data from the web server. It also allows querying and rendering templates out of the box.

Thus, the framework features a routing channel that does not depend on the web server. It gives emphasis on using already known software engineering patterns like convention over configuration (CoC), don’t repeat yourself (DRY) as well as model-view-controller.

Features that Distinguish the Two

Let’s have a look at the features that separate the two frameworks from each other, starting with Django;

MVC Controller Framework

Its framework is a completely configurable one that allows developers to tailor it to their specific requirements. Its applications are independent and can be reused. Its apps include models, templates and views.


With Django, a developer has the freedom to incorporate configuration and layout options that will be of great importance in his/her application. Different Django apps are structured differently. Therefore a developer has complete control in choosing the layout and configuration options.

Template Layer

The framework incorporates a customized template language with an extendable tag library. As such these templates are clean because the level of manipulation and abuse is low. As well, it allows for alternative templating which gives you a choice in case the default one doesn’t meet your specifications.

Free Administration

Through its built-in support, the framework is able to generate an admin user interface for websites.

Now, let’s have a look at the features that are unique to the Ruby on Rails framework;

Convention over Configuration

The key selling point of rails framework is their philosophy called convention over configuration (CoC). To be specific, this means the framework has an already structured layout with rational defaults. It is made in a way that all components involved such as JavaScript views and layouts have specific places where they should be placed. After placement, the application just picks them up without any added input from you. CoC makes it easy to think about a project and consequently configure it.

Model-View-Controller Framework

It handles all dimensions of a web application. It takes domain objects as resources and handles them in a standardized way using HTTP verbs such as GET and DELETE among others. The business logic of the application is contained in the model, all the controller does is invoke functionality from the model layer and channel the data obtained to the view layer which then displays data in an understandable manner to users.

Database Migrations

The initial database schema might change i.e. some fields might be added or deleted, also, one might introduce new tables among other changes. It is these changes that are called “Migrations’. This feature comes for free with Rails.

Ajax Integration

JavaScript and AJAX are heavily integrated in Rails. This integration makes it easy to create and handle AJAX requests in Rails which is very beneficial in the modern world that is full of rich and vibrant web UIs.


The framework is extendable though a number of community-supplied plugins which improve the functionality of your application. The good thing is such plugins are available for free. Some popular plugins include Rails Admin and jQuery for Rails.


Testing your code is a highly critical. All Rail generators usually generate test stubs that you have to fill out. It supports almost all test frameworks such as Test::Unit. It is one of the major frameworks that take testing very seriously.

Function by Function Comparison

  1. Both programs utilize HTML templates- However Rails templates utilize Ruby code, while Django uses a specific tag language. Rails is designed to allow for more complex functions if required, while Django is just simplified to even allow users with little programming expertise to build templates.
  2. When it comes to presentation layer, Rails and Django are different in their outlook towards JavaScript and AJAX. Rails model includes a prototype of JavaScript framework with its controls and visual effects library. In contrast, Django is only shipped with a JSON module. JavaScript decisions are left to the developer
  3.  The two frameworks both use object relational marking as a way of linking to the underlying database. However, they have different definitions of model objects. When it comes to Django, the developer has the task of specifying each attribute of every class, after these specifications there are custom tools to develop database schema from the model definitions.  When it comes to Rails, the model attributes are not stated in the class definition. However, all this information can be retrieved from the database based on the class name.
  4. When it comes to managing the database, Django has an inbuilt system for generating admin pages automatically for model objects with various ways of customizing the presentation. On its part, Rails has no inbuilt automated way to generate admin pages, it relies on 3rd party plug-ins which are widely available in the market to perform the similar task.
  5. Both Django and Rails permit use of common expressions to tailor the mapping of URLs to controller actions. The good thing is that both are flexible to allow developers to create any kind of mapping scheme. In addition, Rails permit automatic URL mapping based on the class and function names that are within controllers. This function further exhibits its Convention over Customization philosophy.

From this feature by feature analysis, it is evident that there is a slight but visible difference between the two philosophies. Ruby on Rails mostly focuses on developing a framework to work behind the scene for the developer with the intention of making work easier.

Django also does the same stuff, but it concentrates on saving your efforts from doing these things on your own. Any user who has enrolled for a good Django course instinctively understands that the underlying idea between the two frameworks is similar. Django is all about convenience while Rails features a much better facade.


It is very hard to deduce that one is better than the other. To be honest, both are great. If you are using one of them, there is no need to switch for the other one. Therefore, if you are looking out for a framework to use in a new project, the key factor for determining which to use boils down on whether you prefer Python or Ruby programming language.

Page Last Updated: April 2014

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