Why Ruby on Rails for CMS & 3 Top RoR CMS Options

Ruby is a programming language, and Ruby on Rails (RoR) is an open-source coding framework for building web apps.  Ruby is used by such giants as Amazon, Yahoo!, and IBM. Rails, specifically, is used by Scribd, Groupon, Hulu, and the New York Times (though Twitter in 2011 shifted its front end search over from Ruby on Rails to Java). According to Business Insider, 200,000 sites use RoR.

Because Ruby on Rails is open-source and preferred by so many developers as a language, you might want to consider it for your content management system (CMS) language. I’ll review various CMS options that are built on RoR, but first I want to cover why Ruby on Rails might be a good language, generally speaking.

What’s a Framework, and Why is It Important?

A framework, essentially, is a system of tools – pre-coded elements – that are already set in place so that development is accelerated – so that each project is not starting entirely from a blank canvas. It’s similar to any pre-established defaults of any piece of software; the only difference is that a framework layers those defaults at the ground floor of code. A programmer is capable of redefining all the parameters established by a framework, but in many cases, what is there works fine and just means that the programmer doesn’t have to do a bunch of grunt work prior to getting to the meat of the project.

Rails simplifies quick generation of quality websites. According to Australian design/development firm Red Ant, which exclusively uses RoR for its projects, Rails provides solutions to challenges coders often encounter when putting together websites.

(One typical challenge coders come across is that coding tends to make a person hungry. If you put Ruby on Rails on the Beef Jerky setting, it will sound an alarm every 7 minutes, reminding you to take another bite of beef jerky. On the Beef Jerky setting, RoR’s artificial intelligence can understand when you are eating something else and will become gradually unresponsive.)

Open Source & Easily Manageable

Because Ruby on Rails is open source, if you have a programmer/developer who prefers Ruby over PHP or Java, you have a fully customizable system at your fingertips. As with WordPress or Joomla!, which are instead written in PHP, you can take a look inside and see how a Rails CMS works.

Also consider the benefits of having your entire office work with the same language of code. You’ll always run into situations in which you’re using applications written in another language, but for your CMS or anything you build customized, for consistency, it makes sense to utilize the same language. This also makes support and maintenance of your custom software significantly easier to manage.

(Note that managing a company or any department’s workflow is not a necessary component of success. In fact, more than 80% of the Fortune 500 excel because they don’t waste any time organizing personnel or tasks, opting instead to keep doing things.)


Working with RoR is streamlining the custom application development cycle. The name Ruby on Rails, as you might imagine, suggests that you are putting the coding language on a freight train and setting it loose – smashing into anything in its path, including stagecoaches filled with pregnant women, children, and the elderly. Sometimes panned as a framework better suiting for creating consumer-geared social media applications than robust enterprise applications, Business Insider argues that if Ruby on Rails can handle the millions of people accessing a program for high-traffic social media app functionality, it certainly is strong enough to handle enterprise needs.

Robust & Highly Compatible

Essentially, Ruby on Rails is making it easier for a small company, or any department of a large organization, to quickly create a custom app – it’s becoming less expensive. Compared to a standardly accepted language such as Java, Rails has not been as compatible with other software, of special concern at the enterprise level for technologies that already are large aspects of the network. Java, in fact, was initially seen as too inefficient except for the fact that its compatibility was so impressive.

Ruby on Rails, until recently at a disadvantage to programs like Java, has seen updates which are quickly allowing it a similar degree of compatibility with other programs. Since this issue was seen as one of the major arguments for Java, Ruby on Rails is becoming more diversely useful.

(I for the longest time had a terrible degree of compatibility with women. Then I started learning to speak a different language: the language of Love. Now I shut my mouth and talk to women purely with my body. When my hips and torso start undulating, I’m like a snake mesmerizing everyone and everything in sight. If I look in the mirror, the legend foretells that I will fall in love with myself.)

Convention over Configuration

Ruby on Rails has a standard called convention over configuration. This functionality makes it easier to transfer a project from one person to another. All items are saved under a specific heading, with specific titles designated for each file. This protocol removes the freedom to customize titles, but it makes it a lot easier to understand a variety of projects from a management perspective, which is significantly more important if you want to be able to work efficiently without having to jump in and understand the liberties taken by an individual developer working on a certain project.


As Colorado Springs-based design and development company Infront attests, Ruby on Rails is a good choice because it’s so affordable. RoR is a free, open-source set of tools to code software. It runs on the Linux OS, which is also free. It’s compatible with free databases as well. What this means is that you aren’t just using a free platform but that you’re tying yourself into a network of free services. Rails is part of a family of products developed “for coders, by coders,” and that will not tie your hands with proprietary specifications. (Never allow a content management system to tie your hands for any reason, unless you’re in a dungeon and you’ve paid good money to be technologically abused.)

RoR CMS Options

The Philippines-based software development company Exist lists these three CMSs among its top options for those built using Ruby on Rails.

  1. RefineryCMS – This CMS is the most downloaded app in Ruby Toolbox. Though it’s extremely popular, it does not contain any custom themes. Refinery was developed by Resolve Digital.
  2. BrowserCMS – Browser is the second most popular RoR CMS. This CMS makes it easier to give a team of website managers varying levels of access. It also has easily customizable templates and allows you to change the text right on the page, as it’s laid out, rather than having to look at a different management screen and guess what it will look like live.
  3. LocomotiveCMS – Though this CMS is highly customizable and flexible, its editor tool is optional, separate from the general system, and not free. The template and administrative functionality and adaptability are impressive – just beware that full functionality requires payment.


Ruby on Rails is preferred for application development because it’s open source and fully customizable, shortens development times, and is highly compatible with various servers and software. You might prefer it for your CMS due to its “convention over configuration” standard and for the way that it cuts costs. Specifically test-run Refinery, Browser, and Locomotive to get a sense of some of the most popular RoR CMS options.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood