So you want to learn how to program Ruby on Rails, the most common language used by tech start-ups? Well I’m only a few months ahead of you, and with my first project mostly complete Innoblue’s new website, I’m ready to share my insights on how to get started.

Edit:Innoblue has since changed their website to use Weebly

Rails for Zombies

First things first you should know the very basics of the Rails framework, and the ruby syntax. To begin to understand the basic framework I recommend following the Rails For Zombies tutorials. It’s a little childish, but it really teaches you how to create an object, relate them to another object, and display them in your view. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about don’t worry about it they explain it in detail)


After you complete the free tutorials it is time to install the Ruby On Rails 3 framework on your computer. 

  • For Mac users please follow this tutorial
  • For Windows users please follow this tutorial
    • I am a Mac user so I have never followed or used this tutorial. It looks correct to me but it may need some major modifications, just use Google or Lynda if you need help

It is important to note that we are using RAILS 3 and Ruby 1.9.3 these are the newest versions of both Ruby and Rails. It is critical to always use the newest released versions of both the framework and Ruby.

Build a Blog in 10 minutes

After you have the framework installed and you can create a basic application, it is time to follow the tutorial for creating ablog on your personal machine. Most of the things done you should already know from Rails For Zombies, but it’s interesting to actually build the whole application on your own computer.  It’s a little fast, but you should be able to follow along.


To complement this video I recommend taking advantage of your PSU access account and head over to PSU Lynda and search for Ruby on Rails. They have hundreds of video casts to help you learn more about the language including debugging techniques, about the rails console, and all of the other things you can easily do with the language.

Rails Cast

Once you feel like you have a grasp on the language, Rails Cast is a great site to visit on how to do specific things. They have a lot of useful tutorials that make building your application a lot easier like user registration, creating friendly URLS andsending emails to your users. All of these tutorials helped me build the basics of the Innoblue website and should help you as well.

HTML & CSS Templates

After you have the basics of the language you will also need to know some basic CSS and HTML, both of which can easily be learned at W3 Schools. The best way to build a website is not to start from scratch but use a licensed template. One site is CSS Templates Free, which will allow you to choose a template, download it, and then you can just copy and paste the necessary files to their prospective place in your rails framework. There are thousands of template sites like this, just Google “CSS 3 HTML templates”

Stack Overflow

Lastly, if you EVER run into a problem the best place to post your problem, no matter how difficult, is Stack Overflow. The people there are more then willing to help you with whatever you need. As long as you post in a way that it is easy for another person to understand you should receive an answer relatively quickly. I personally struggled writing an algorithm for about an hour, gave up, posted it on Stack Overflow, made a sandwich, and by the time I was done eating someone had posted a solution for me. It is important to give back to the community and answer a few questions once you are a more advanced developer.


If all else fails feel free to email me at, and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Good luck, have fun, and if you find yourself not enjoying developing and building applications, maybe it’s not for you. Its important to note that if you have mastered the business world and have built enough connections, you can still be a part of a tech start-up.

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Mike Silvis