Django or Rails: A Visual Comparison — Infographic

It is important to get familiar with a framework before deciding to streamline web applications. Choosing the right framework can sometimes be a challenging scenario, but then, it all depends on your project requirements and what you stand to gain from your framework.

With the parity of characteristics and the amazing plethora of features each come in, it is definitely a difficult situation. So to make a tedious task easy, we can analyze two main frameworks, Django and Rails and categorize them according to their various capabilities.

1. Type

Django is an open source web framework following an MVC pattern. It was released in 2005 and named after the famous guitarist, Django Reinhardt. The aim of Django is to make web application development faster and create complex, database driven websites with ease. Famous applications built on Django are Instagram, BitBucket and Pinterest.

Rails is a web application framework and comes with everything required to create database-backed web applications in the MVC or Model-View-Controller pattern. Rails was released in 2008 and is known for powering up popular websites like Basecamp, Github, Fiverr and Airbnb.

The biggest advantage of using Rails is the gem libraries, with its huge inventory of available gems. These gems are third-party libraries. This makes tasks highly easy.

2. Programming Language

Django is written in Python. It is released under a 3 clause BSD License, a copy of this can be obtained in the source code. The license talks about the redistribution of the source code and the conditions to be followed.

Rails is written in Ruby, with very easy to learn and understand syntax. Rails is available under a MIT License, a permissive license issued by Massachusetts Institute of Technology that talks about the reuse of the code within the permissible limits.

3. Usage

Django helps build complex database-driven websites and web apps in a shorter time. Hence, Django is a stronger choice for when you are looking at scientific programming, system administration, data manipulation and analytics.

Rails helps in building database-backed modern web applications by giving the programmer better usability and freedom, and therefore more power. The flexibility of Ruby makes it suitable for meta programming and for creating aesthetically pleasing codes. You can use the adapter Coffeescript for Rails to write Javascript precisely and smoothly. Rails ships with Coffeescript by default.

Here is an example of that:

orders.js.coffee

CreditCard =  
cleanNumber: (number) -> number.replace /[- ]/g, ""
validNumber: (number) ->    
total = 0
number = @cleanNumber(number)
for i in [(number.length-1)..0]
n = +number[i]
if (i+number.length) % 2 == 0
n = if n*2 > 9 then n*2 - 9 else n*2
total += n
total % 10 == 0
jQuery ->  
$("#order_credit_card_number").blur ->
if CreditCard.validNumber(@value) $("#credit_card_number_error").text("")
else
$("#credit_card_number_error").text("Invalid credit card number.")

Credits: RailCasts

4. Development Principles

The reason why developers love Django is that it enables super fast development. There are many design principles in Django.

One of the principles is “Explicit is better than implicit”, where you can create apps that are easily understood and maintained by a huge number of people. It is also a core design Python principle listed in PEP. It means that Django shouldn’t do too much magic. Magic should be done only when there is good use for it. It shouldn’t confuse the developers.

“Don’t Repeat Yourself or DRY” is another design principle of Django that gives you the potential for not repeating dozens of similar information, thereby saving time and eliminating errors). Other noted principles are it is easy to read and write codes and the codes can also be reused.

The design principles of Rails are many; the most important one is “Convention over Configuration”, a concept that says if you follow the conventions, you can be productive. In simpler terms, it means that you can reduce the need of heavy configuration then you can use the rules to ease up working with the application.

It means that the environment will assume the situation by default and adapt the systems, libraries and languages so you don’t have to do it manually. It eliminates the complexity of working with Ruby and decreases the number of decisions the developer has to take.

Other principles include “Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY)” to help you reduce repetition of codes and information, ActiveRecord Pattern — a standard library of Ruby rails that helps developers to access databases, read and write data into it. Rails helps in writing cleaner and shorter codes.

5. Architectural Pattern

The architectural patterns for both are slightly different in how they are called.

Django follows a Model-View-Template architecture. Here, the Model is the Relational Database that describes your data structure. View is the Regular Expression based URL Dispatcher that controls what a user sees. The Template is Web Templating System mixed with Django Template Language (DLT). The Controller part is taken care of by Django.

Rails, on the other hand, follows a Model-View-Controller architecture. The Model represents the data of the database, where you have user profiles, posts, comments and the like. It is handled in ActiveRecord. The View wraps the data in HTML template and delivers it to the Controller and is handled in ActionView. The Controller connects Model & View, handles user requests, send responses to the web browser. It is handled in the ActionController.

6. Main Servers

The common web servers used for Django are Apache, NGINX using WSGI, Cherokee and Gunicorn. The database servers include MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle and SQLite.

As for Rails, WEBrick, Apache (running Phusion Passenger Module), NGINX, and Cherokee are the main web servers. And the main database servers used are MySQL and PostgreSQL.

7. Installation

A major advantage of Django is that it is quicker to install, even less than a minute. For a Linux distribution of Django installation, first you can create a virtualenv, followed by the command pip install -e Django.

Check out https://docs.djangoproject.com/en/1.11/intro/install/ to get a clear idea about the installation steps of Django.

For Rails, the process of installation is a bit longer. Need about ½ hour for the whole process to complete. You will have to install both bundle and gem first, followed by the command gem install Rails to install the latest version of Rails.

For more details about the installation process, visit https://github.com/rails/rails.

8. Learning Curve

Interestingly, the learning curve for Django is small due to better readability of the code while for Rails, the learning curve is steep. As there are a lot of independent concepts to be mastered, Rails is more suitable for seasoned programmers.

There are plenty of online resources to help learn both these languages quickly. Python is the easiest language to learn, while Rails has become indispensable in many modern web development projects. Development is also fast, unlike compiled languages because they are interpretative.

Due to the steep learning curve of Rails, it is recommended for seasoned professionals, while beginners can start with Django and then move on to Rails.

9. Top Websites

A number of popular websites have been created using Django. Some of them are Bitbucket, Instagram, Pinterest, Mozilla, PBS, NASA to name a few.

Websites built on Rails include Basecamp, Airbnb, GitHub, Zendesk, Hulu, Shopify among a few.

10. Community Support

Django has a small community, but boasts of a comparatively bigger repository of GitHub stars — 26269 (as on June 16th, 2017). You can keep in touch with the developers through blog posts, mailing lists and using the site, Stackoverflow.

Being extremely versatile, Rails has a huge, and strong community of developers. And a huge repository of GitHub stars — 35,974 (as on June 16th, 2017). As there is continuous interaction through conferences, books and open source libraries, you can accelerate your development process.

Both Python and Ruby are favorable when you compare their performance, security and speed. Django gets the support through middleware and Rails through active records.

Conclusion

We hope by now, you have got an idea about which framework to use for creating robust web applications including enterprise web apps. If you prefer to get the biggest details out of the way first, then try Django. But if you are looking for a quick launch and worry about the details later, then Rails would be better. The automation and shortcuts feature in Rails, makes it easier for you to implement complex features in your web applications.

Below is an infographic that sums up all the wonderful features of Django and Rails.

If you like this post, please share!!

Originally published in Cabot Solutions Blog on June 7, 2017.