How To Choose: Rails, Mobile, or Front End Development


Once you decide to learn to code, the next decision is “What programming languages should I learn?”

It’s a lot like choosing a major in college. How can you choose a concentration, when you have too little experience to understand the different paths?

My code school, The Iron Yard, currently offers 3 coding courses: Ruby on Rails, Mobile Engineering (iOS), and Front End Engineering.They all offer excellent job prospects, but each course appeals to a unique type of student with differing goals.

Here are a few of the differences I have noted:

  Rails iOS Front End
What you can build Complex websites, such as Twitter or Groupon, which handle large amounts of data (including large numbers of users). Fully functional mobile apps. The side of a website that users interact with. You will be able to make visually stunning websites with interactive features, like spinning graphics and interactive features that run in the browser (meaning the page doesn’t have to reload or redirect).
What you won’t have the skills to build This course won’t give you the skills to make your websites pretty. To have pretty websites, you will need to learn more HTML, CSS and Javascript than this course has time to teach you. You also won’t be able to make mobile apps, but your “backend” skills can be used to support the data of a mobile app. This course won’t give you the skills to make apps that require storing a lot of data or apps that run on a desktop or laptop rather than a mobile device. This course won’t give you the skills to make mobile apps or websites that store large amounts of data. It does not focus on the “backend” skills to make an app that can store user profiles and content that needs to be saved (like “tweets”).
Personality Traits that are Common in this Course Likes abstract concepts, not very visual, cares what the app does but doesn’t care how it looks. Perhaps a little more social than the other classes. I hear this group goes out to non-networking events together more often than the other classes.  More visual, more likely to have a design background. Would rather have a website that looks great than one that has complex features.
Who You Might Build For Start-ups and small, established tech companies are the most common customers (either as an employee or freelancer). Non-technical companies probably won’t understand what you do. You can charge the end user directly (by charging for downloads), but it is difficult to make money this way. It’s generally more profitable to freelance or work for a consultancy company that makes apps for start-ups. Can work for a start-up or freelance. Non-technical companies may hire you to make websites.


If you know Rails, iOS, or Front End Development, what do you like or dislike about your specialty? What common characteristics have you seen among the people who enjoy it?


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