Ruby on Rails vs PHP: The Top Choice For Your Web Application

Ruby on Rails vs PHP – which one should you choose to develop your next web application?

This is the question on the forefront of business owners mind as they attempt to decide the technology to base their product on. If you hail from a tech background, the choice becomes easier but in the case of non-tech entrepreneurs, the task of choosing the tech becomes quite a challenge.

The solution to this dilemma isn’t as straightforward as you may want it to be. A number of factors need to be considered along with their applicability in terms of unique business needs.

This is why we have compiled this exhaustive comparison between Ruby on Rails and PHP that would help you take the decision which is in the best interest of your application. If you’re comparing PHP with Python though, read our detailed PHP vs Python guide to help you make that decision.

Let’s get started.

Ruby on Rails vs PHP: The Comparative Analysis

Pitting PHP against Ruby on Rails is like comparing apples to oranges. The former is a scripting language while the latter is a web development framework. Ruby is the actual programming language and rails is the framework the language operates in.

PHP also has a number of web frameworks like Laravel, CodeIgniter, Symfony, Zend etc. While Ruby also has other frameworks like Sinatra, Padrino etc, neither these nor the PHP frameworks have been able to achieve the level of popularity and adoption Ruby on Rails enjoys.

Both Ruby, as well as PHP, are open source interpreted programming languages which have a large developer community and enjoy robust support. In order to pick the one for your business, let’s delve into the specifics of both, shall we?

1.Ruby on Rails vs PHP: Performance

In terms of performance, the disadvantage with web frameworks is that they gain productivity at the expense of performance speed. Hence PHP outperforms Ruby on Rails which in turn outperforms the PHP frameworks such as Laravel while computing requests per second.

The newest versions of PHP as well as Ruby on Rails run on JIT engine which considerably improves on the speed.

PHP 7.0 onwards has in-built web development capabilities which boost the performance without gobbling up more memory which amps up its performance making it a powerful server-side scripting language. Ruby on Rails effectively speeds through the requests but as a tradeoff, it also results in higher memory consumption. In order to offset this, web developers need to change the runtimes to compensate for the slowdown.

Rails 6 that operates on Ruby 2.5+ is slated for a release in the near future and shows promise of overcoming the buggy performance issues and resulting in shorter runtimes as well. The lines of code required to be written in RoR is also lesser than PHP.

While both of them have slower runtime speed as compared to other languages like Node.js and Java, the difference only becomes palpable in case of applications that receive large scale traffic. Additionally, the performance also depends on the server architecture as well as database management so you need to keep these in mind to ensure a high performing web app as well.

Verdict: There is no definite winner when comparing Ruby on Rails vs PHP in terms of performance as each of them comes with its own pros and cons.

2. Ruby on Rails vs PHP: Cost of development

In any business, cost of app development plays a major role in driving the decision to pick the technology. Between PHP and RoR, the former turns out to be comparatively more cost-effective.

There is an abundance of PHP programmers out in the market whereas finding skilled Ruby devs is a difficult task owing to the disparity in numbers and availability. PHP comes with a low learning curve and is a good language for beginners who do not have a coding background. Learning Ruby, on the other hand, is not so straightforward and the language comes with a steep learning curve.

The popularity of PHP as a programming language and the ease of learning is one of the reasons there is a wide gap between the availability of skilled PHP developers and Ruby developers. It is also primarily the reason why PHP is more cost-effective and you may want to hire PHP developers.

Skilled developers are hard to find. While Ruby is an extremely powerful programming language, the level of difficulty that it comes with makes it difficult to master which makes the task of hiring Ruby developers difficult. The imbalance in the demand-supply ratio also ensures that the cost of hiring Ruby developers is higher.

And so, hire Ruby developers from software development companies like Arkenea that have the necessary experience in using RoR to create web applications and also have enough people to ensure your project is always sufficiently staffed.

The hosting costs are also on the higher side in case of Ruby on Rails. Not all hosting services support Ruby on Rails and the ones that do charge premium hosting fees as well which rakes up the associated costs. The ones that provide cheaper hosting often run the application on older versions of Ruby on Rails which would negatively affect your application’s performance.

Hosting applications with newer PHP versions also requires extensions called as PECL (PHP extension community library) and in order to install them, you need a dedicated server which also raises the costs and makes hosting of PHP applications comparable to Ruby on Rails.

Verdict: While comparing PHP vs Ruby on Rails in terms of the development costs, Ruby on Rails emerges as the more expensive option. Developing and hosting PHP applications is always more cost effective than Ruby on Rails.

3. Ruby on Rails vs PHP: Time to deployment

Web is baked into the backbone of PHP. The PHP developers can directly embed the script into HTML and execute it without needing a framework.

PHP is easy to implement because you simply need to transfer the files onto the web servers which makes deploying your app a breeze. The actual speed of development, on the other hand, is considerably faster in Ruby vs PHP.  

RoR follows rapid application development by following agile software practices. Ruby is truly an object-oriented programming language so unlike PHP, the coding is never a laborious or time-consuming process. On top of this, Ruby on Rails has library integrations called Gems.

The whole purpose of these gems is to accelerate the development process by eliminating the need to reinvent the wheel. There supposedly is a gem for everything in Ruby which brings down the development time and results in the application getting to market real quick. The gems encapsulate the solutions to standard problems resulting in faster deployment of the web application.

Instead of coding from scratch, Ruby programmers can simply browse through the gems and get the required solution. The syntax followed and the writing of the code in Ruby is also easier to comprehend.

Ruby ranks among the most human-friendly programming languages and it is often said that reading Ruby’s code is like ruffling through a well-written book. This adds to the ease of deployment and development speed as well.

Verdict: In the comparison of deployment speeds between Ruby on Rails vs PHP, RoR emerges as the winner

4. Ruby on Rails vs PHP: Community support

Both PHP as well as Ruby on Rails enjoy robust community support. While PHP is more widely used which translates to wider community support, Rails framework has more contributors as compared to PHP frameworks.

The advantage of ongoing community support is that the developers working on your project have resources to fall back on if the need ever arises.

The importance of this to application development cannot be emphasized enough as there would always be others ready to answer the technical questions and solve the challenges that your development team may face in due course of the software development life cycle.

PHP has a larger pool of developers and hence greater support than Ruby on Rails. While there are plenty of resources available for both PHP as well as RoR with newer versions of both coming into the market, what matters is the availability of recent up-to-date support.

Verdict: In terms of engaged community and support while comparing Ruby on Rails vs PHP, PHP emerges as the stronger contender and wins over Ruby on Rails.

5. Ruby on Rails vs PHP: Maintainability

Maintaining a web app is easier with Ruby on Rails. The number of lines of code is lesser, syntax is standardized and everyone in the developer community follows standard approaches to solve similar issues.

Convention over configuration is a principle that Ruby on Rails follows. This implies that instead of formulating custom solutions, Ruby developers need to choose common solutions. A common approach ensures lesser maintainability challenges.

Ruby also has advanced text and string manipulation techniques that ensure that programs written in Ruby are easily maintainable. The clean syntax followed by the developers ensures uniformity and ensures easy maintainability of the applications.

PHP programmer, on the other hand, follow a personalized style of coding. Despite existing PHP standard recommendations, there is a minor percentage of coders who actually follow the norms which makes maintenance of a web application built in PHP a challenge.

Unlike RoR, PHP doesn’t have document versioning which essentially means that ones the new version of PHP is launched, the documentation for the older versions get replaced and cease to exist. This poses huge maintainability challenges for applications that may still be running on the older versions of PHP.

Verdict: When comparing Ruby on Rails vs PHP in terms of ease of maintainability, Ruby on Rails trumps over PHP any day.

Closing words

Ruby on rails is a startup-friendly framework that can be used to build business-critical applications. The versatility, scalability and maintainability it offers makes it a compelling technology for business owners who need to develop high performing web apps with quick deployment.

RoR is a popular choice for developing robust applications especially in the eCommerce space. Shopify, AirBnB, Github and Basecamp are a few examples of applications that have been developed in ruby on rails framework.

PHP is arguably the most popular programming for developing web applications. The web is dominated by applications that use PHP as their framework. Apart from being the basis for websites such as Facebook, Wikipedia and Flicker, PHP is also used for content management systems like WordPress, Drupal etc.

The widespread availability of PHP developers combined with low learning curve and abundance of resources for support makes it an appealing choice for developing your web application at low costs.

In the hands of experienced web developers, Ruby on Rails is also an excellent pick for building complex applications. The speed of development and ease of maintenance makes it the framework of choice for building robust web applications 

The choice boils down to what your business needs do you hope to accomplish from your web application.