You are a small business owner who wants to make your business better. You want to improve efficiency or increase sales with help from software. But, you can’t find an off-the-shelf product that fits the bill. Getting one created might sound daunting and expensive.

What does that have to do with Ruby on Rails and what is Ruby on Rails?

You just want a piece of software that works, the geeky code bit doesn’t interest you. Here’s why we’ll explain it.

Before we start, we’ll make it simple… It speeds up development. So, you get working software faster and without a high price.

Ruby on Rails helps developers like us build websites such as Shopify (one of the largest e-commerce platforms) and web applications such as Basecamp (a popular project management tool). It makes it possible for developers to get started on projects without having to configure everything from scratch. This saves time and money.

One of the main advantages of Ruby on Rails is its emphasis on simplicity and productivity. It’s made to make common development tasks easier and faster. It lets us focus on building the core web application features, instead of getting stuck in repetitive coding.

Here are some well-known and popular platforms that are built using Ruby on Rails:

  1. Shopify is one of the largest e-commerce platforms. It powers over 1 million online stores.
  2. Airbnb – The online holiday rental marketplace relied on Rails in its early days.
  3. GitHub – The popular code hosting and collaboration platform for developers.
  4. Basecamp – A well-known project management and team communication tool (we use it).
  5. SoundCloud – An online audio distribution platform for sharing music and audio files.
  6. Twitch – The live streaming platform for gamers with millions of users.
  7. Bloomberg is a global finance software company. They use Rails for their client web terminals.
  8. Hulu – The video streaming service uses Rails for its customer-facing web application.

Most of those sites above started out in somebody’s basement with small teams, most had no more than 2 developers! Fast forward to today and those sites are now leaders in their respective industries with users across the globe.

Ruby on Rails emphasises productivity, versatility, without the need for repetitive coding. This makes it a powerful choice for software development. It’s great for startups and small companies that need to build web apps fast, efficiently, and without a big team of developers.

I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I can deduce that if we get a sh*t brief in, the outcome isn’t going to be pretty.

Why is it that when a brief with holes all over it comes in, the sender assumes that we’ll join up all the dots and magically turn the turd into gold?

Web development is no different from any other project, the bit that’s often seen as dull, i.e. the details, is the most important. Get that bit right and things are much more likely to go to plan and schedule. Get it wrong and, well…you get the gist.

Ok, so what makes up a decent brief?

  1. Clear goals and objectives – Clearly outline what you (or your client) want to achieve from the project. Knowing expectations from the start makes it a lot easier. If it’s a website, what is the main purpose, is it to capture leads, sell your stuff or maybe it’s just an online brochure. If it’s custom software for the business, what problems will it solve? How does it align with business goals? This context helps guide decisions.

2. A defined scope and set of requirements – Detail what features, functions, and pages need to be built and how they should work. Prioritise by importance. Also document any technical, integration, or compatibility requirements.

3. Know your audience and create personas – Describe who will use the site/software. Develop buyer and user personas that outline their anticipated behaviours, motivations, pain points, and preferences.

4. Content Strategy – Explain the role of each content piece and what types of content will help achieve your goals for the website or software. Also provide guidelines on tone of voice and how to incorporate branding elements.

5. Design guidelines – Share design standards and style guidelines like colour palettes, font usage, element spacing, imagery direction, etc. If you have a branding guidelines document, they should all be in here.

6. Sitemap or diagrams – Visual representations of required functionality, flows and linkages outline how you expect everything to connect.

7. Specific deliverables – Clearly define what tangible final deliverables we should provide upon completion, such as technical documentation, online knowledgebase etc.

8. Timeline expectations – Share milestone dates or project phasing so expectations around timelines and schedules are set and agreed upfront.

9 Budget ranges – Provide general budget parameters for the work to keep things inline with expectations and what you have available. Pretty much anything is possible, but it has a time and monetary cost attached to it.

Outlining these key details, objectives and requirements in one document provides us with direction and reduces the chances of miscommunication and wrong assumptions. The clearer the brief, the better the outcome. It might feel like a bit of a chore doing it, but think about what comes out of the other end if you don’t!

If your business still relies on manual workflows and legacy systems, it could be time for an upgrade. Modern web and software development solutions enable businesses to solve real business problems that hinder growth and productivity.

Some questions to ask yourself

  1. Do tedious administrative tasks eat up your team’s time? Web apps with automation streamline processes and help to free up their time.
  2. Is your customer data scattered across outdated programs? New integrated systems centralise information helping you to collect and report on data from one place, which in turn helps you make more informed decisions.
  3. Are you losing sales from a poorly-performing website? An optimised web presence can help to drive better quality leads that should in turn lead to more conversions.

The sky’s (and budget/time) the limit, as there are as many potential applications as there are business challenges. Identifying how web or software initiatives target your specific pain points is key.

Look for ways to alleviate bottlenecks, increase visibility, capture insights, boost security, improve agility, enhance collaboration, and deliver happy customers. The solutions that move those needles in the right direction are worth investing in.

Approach web and software projects as business investments, not just a cost. The right partnerships and solutions deliver demonstrated ROI through:

With the right vision and expertise, your web and software investments will pay for themselves many times over. Don’t let current challenges become a “we’ve always done it like that”.

The first step is identifying gaps and inefficiencies. Then, partner with proven web and software experts to turn plans into reality.