Whether you’re interested in becoming a web developer, a software engineer, a data analyst, or another type of coder, having knowledge of the Ruby programming language can be an invaluable skill to have.
Over the years, Ruby, a general-purpose programming language, has become a skill in high-demand, as more and more applications are built using the technology.
Basecamp, Airbnb, GitHub, Hulu, and Kickstarter are a few of the thousands of large-scale websites built using Ruby on Rails, a framework based on Ruby, which gives you an idea of just how widespread the Ruby programming language is in the technology industry.
This guide will discuss the best way to learn how to code in Ruby online and give you a set of clear next steps to help you effectively start your journey to learn Ruby.
What Is Ruby?
Ruby, created by Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto, is a programming language with a wide range of potential applications. The creator of Ruby built the language by combining his favorite parts of other languages, and the result is a balanced technology that uses both functional and imperative programming principles to provide a good developer experience.
The Ruby language is known well for its simplicity, which makes it a great language for beginners to learn. But, even though the language is simple to use, it is still a very powerful technology with its own complexities.
Ruby is often considered to be one of the most popular programming languages in the world. In fact, on the TIOBE index, which measures the growth of programming languages, Ruby is currently ranked 13th (as of April 2020). Ruby is a free to use programming language, too.
Why Should You Learn Ruby?
There are a lot of reasons why learning Ruby is a good investment, but there are a few that really stand out.
First, Ruby is easy to get started with. The language was designed with simplicity in mind, and as a result its syntax—the rules that govern the language—resemble in many ways the English language. Because it’s so easy to get started with Ruby, once you master the basics you can quickly move on to building more advanced apps.
That’s not all—Ruby is also a very flexible language. When you’re coding in Ruby, you’ll notice it is more accepting of errors and has few hard rules on how to build features because the language is dynamically-typed. This makes it even easier to get started using the language.
If you’re not yet convinced, you should also consider how learning Ruby could impact your career. As we mentioned earlier, thousands of top websites are built using Ruby on Rails, and once you learn the basics of Ruby, you can go on to master Rails. Knowing how to code using Ruby and Ruby on Rails is a great combination, as more and more companies rely on the technology to build their websites.
How to Learn Ruby Fast
We’ve discussed a few of the many reasons why you should learn Ruby, but there’s still one big question that we need to address: How do you learn to code in Ruby?
To answer this question, we’re going to break down a few top tips to help you get started on your journey, and make the most of the time you spend learning.
Step 1: Learn the Basics
The only limit to what you can build using Ruby is your imagination. But, before you start working on an ambitious project, you need to focus on mastering the fundamentals. Learning the basics of Ruby will set you in good stead as you go on to explore more complex topics later in your journey.
First, you should focus your attention on basic topics like syntax, control flow and loops, and then you can go on to exploring other facets of the Ruby language such as hashes and object-oriented programming. Here are the main topics you should focus on to help you build a good foundation of knowledge about Ruby:
The Ruby Syntax
Syntax may seem like an intimidating word, but its definition is rather simple—syntax refers to the rules that decide how you can use a programming language. Before you start writing advanced programs in Ruby, knowing the syntax for the language is a must.
Here are a few of the topics you need to master:
- The data types used in Ruby
- How to use variables
- How to print data to the console
- How Ruby uses the object structure
- How to write comments on your code
- How to perform basic math in Ruby
- How to work with strings and string methods
Conditional statements allow you to execute certain blocks of code depending on whether a condition is or is not met. For instance, you could run a block of code if a user’s password is correct, or if a user has not inserted an email address into your program.
Conditionals help programmers control the flow of their program and customize how their code should work given different scenarios. Here are a few of the main topics you’ll need to cover when mastering conditionals:
- if statements
- else and elsif statements
- unless statements
- equals, less than, and greater than operators
Loops allow you to perform repetitive actions in your code. For instance, a loop could print out every item in a list to the console, or ask a user to insert a number into a program three times over. The main topics you should explore when it comes to loops are:
- while loops
- until loops
- for loops
- How to use assignment operators
- How to use the .each and .times iterators
Arrays and Hashes
An array is a type of data that allows you to store lists of information. For instance, an array could include a list of items on a menu, or a list of books sold at a bookstore. This data type comes up all over the Ruby language, and is something you need to know about.
Hashes, on the other hand, allow you to store data using keys and values, and are just as important in Ruby. Here are the main topics you should learn related to Ruby arrays and hashes:
- How to create an array
- How to access an array by index value
- How to create two-dimensional arrays
- How to iterate over arrays and multidimensional arrays
- How to create a hash
- How to add values to a hash and access a hash
- How to iterate over a hash
Methods and Blocks
Methods are reusable parts of code that perform a specific function in your program. Blocks, on the other hand, are similar to methods and provide another way to group code together.
When you’re coding in Ruby, you should be able to use both methods and blocks. Here is a list of the main concepts you should master around methods and blocks:
- The purpose of a method
- How to define and call a method
- How to use arguments and parameters
- return statements
- How to use code blocks
Ruby is an object-oriented programming language, which means that programmers can use a structure called classes to define the structure of data in a program and also the operations that can be performed using that data.
To master Ruby, you need to have a good understanding of the basics of object-oriented programming, and how those ideas relate to the Ruby language. Here is a list of topics you should explore to help you along your learning journey:
- The basics of classes and objects
- How to create a class
- How to initialize an object
- Scopes in classes
- How to name different types of variables
- Inheritance and method overriding
- Multiple inheritance
In this section, we’ve covered the main topics you need to know about to code in Ruby. But, there is still more to learn, which you’ll encounter as you continue on your journey.
Where to Learn About Ruby
Now you know what you need to know, great! But how do you actually learn about the topics we have discussed above, and practice your skills?
There is no right answer to this question because everyone learns differently and has their own unique motivations in mind as to why they are learning to code. Some learners prefer following interactive tutorials, whereas others prefer mentorship-driven online courses.
No matter how you learn best, though, there are plenty of resources out there to help you get started. Here are a few of the top resources that you can use to learn Ruby:
- Introduction to Programming with Ruby by Launch School
- Why’s (Poignant) Guide to Ruby
- Learn Ruby the Hard Way
- Learn Ruby on Rails as You Modify a Craigslist Clone
- Try Ruby
- Codecademy’s Ruby coding resources
- Career Karma’s Introduction to Ruby tutorials
- Learning Ruby (book)
These are only a few of the many resources out there. If you’re looking for something else that is not listed above, go over to Google and perform a search—you’ll find plenty to work with!
Step 2: Build a Project
Once you’ve started learning how to code in Ruby, you’ll be ready to start taking on your own projects on which to work.
Working on projects is a great way to learn Ruby because it allows you to put the knowledge that you have learned in the classroom into practice, and build something that you really want to build.
To get started, ask yourself: What problems do I have right now? Then, think about whether there is an opportunity to solve one of those problems using code. Maybe you want a way to test your coding skills. If that’s the case, you could build a trivia app. Or maybe you want a place to share your bird log online. If so, you could create a bird log.
Need some additional inspiration? Here are a few ideas:
- A simple web forum
- A Twitter or Reddit bot that shares a random fact about your favorite TV show every day
- A Slack bot that allows you to interact with Twitter using Slack
- A web scraper that collects information on your favorite movies from IMDB
- A Ruby version of poker
There are two great features to a programming project: (i) it should be challenging; and (ii) it should interest you. If you have an idea that you want to build, go build it! Even if the idea seems really simple, the only way you’ll know for sure is by building it out. And, there’s always an opportunity to make your project more advanced as you learn new skills.
Step 3: Join Ruby Communities
As soon as you start learning to code, you’ll want to try and connect with other developers who are also learning to code, or who already know how to code. That’s where developer communities come in.
There are hundreds—if not thousands—of developer communities out there where you can meet other programmers, share ideas, and discuss your interests. The great part about joining communities is that they give you an opportunity to interact with other people just like you who can help you along your coding journey.
Don’t worry if you are still new to Ruby—everyone starts somewhere! In fact, many online communities have areas specifically for newbie developers like yourself. Here are a few of the communities you may want to consider joining:
- StackOverflow: StackOverflow is a community for developers of all backgrounds. On StackOverflow, you can ask pretty much any question related to programming and receive an answer.
- GitHub: GitHub is a platform that allows you to share your code with others and collaborate on projects together. On GitHub, you’ll find a number of open-source projects to which you can contribute, which can help you increase your reputation as you refine your skills.
- freeCodeCamp: freeCodeCamp is a non-profit that provides support to people looking to learn how to code. They have a wide developer community that is perfect for beginners to join.
Once you’ve joined a few Ruby developer communities, you should start participating in them as soon as possible. Share your code, your ideas, and your thoughts about Ruby more broadly, and get to know other people on the platform.
Even better, if you see someone in need who you think you can help, reach out and offer your support. This will give you an opportunity not only to refine your skills, but also to build out your network as you continue learning to code in Ruby.
Step 4: Seek Feedback
One of the most common mistakes newbie developers make is to build in a vacuum. That is to say that, instead of seeking support from others, they learn how to code by themselves, and let issues trouble them without going out and asking for feedback.
But, you don’t have to make that mistake! If you want to become an expert Ruby developer, a crucial part of your journey will be to seek feedback from other people and get their thoughts on your code.
At the start, you may say to yourself, “Oh, what if I make a mistake? Will I be seen as a bad coder?” Ignore those thoughts and instead tell yourself this—getting feedback from others is the sure-fire way to improve your coding skills.
Once you’ve built a portfolio project, send it to any other developers you know and ask them for your support. If you are stuck in a tutorial, go to a community like StackOverflow and ask for feedback on your code so you can find out where you are going wrong. Whatever you do, ask for feedback at any opportunity you get and take it on board to help you improve your code!
Step 5: Practice Your Skills
It’s something that comes up time and time again, but it bears repeating once more: practice makes perfect.
Learning to code in Ruby, like any other programming language, is a skill. It’s a skill you can use for the rest of your life and can provide you with a number of both personal and professional development opportunities. And, as you can imagine, the best way to get better at a skill is to practice.
How do you practice your Ruby coding skills? Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Build projects. Think of an idea, then build it out using your skills. It’s that simple.
- Commit to coding for a certain amount of time per day. When you start learning Ruby, you should try to commit to coding for a certain amount of time each day. Do you have free time? Spend it coding. The more time you spend coding, the better you’ll get.
- Try coding challenges. Platforms like Exercism, Coderbyte, Codewars, and Rubymonk host coding challenges that you can use to level up your skills. If you’re looking to practice more often, you could set yourself a goal to complete a few of these challenges each day.
Any way in which you practice your coding skills will set you in good stead as you continue to learn Ruby. And, if you practice hard enough, you’ll find that over time you will become an expert at coding in the Ruby language.
Learning how to code in Ruby—especially if you don’t have any technical experience—can seem intimidating at first. However, you should not let your fears put you off learning how to code in Ruby.
The Ruby programming language is a great technology for beginners to learn, in large part because of its simple syntax. In addition, because Ruby is used by so many companies, from Dribbble to Bloomberg, there is no shortage of resources out there that you can use to help you master the programming language.
Step one on your journey is to learn the fundamentals of Ruby: syntax, loops, arrays, and everything else we mentioned in this article. Then, you can go on to build your own projects, and take on coding challenges to help you refine your skills.
Ruby is so powerful that it is used for everything from web scraping to building websites, and knowing how to code in Ruby can open up so many opportunities for you. It’s just a matter of getting started!