At some point in your life developing Ruby you’re going to have to build a microsite, whether static or dynamic. It may be for a client, a campaign, or your own business. Maybe you just want to learn. The point is, you’ll have to do it. Sinatra is the perfect framework for it. I recommend learning Sinatra before Rails anyways because Sinatra forces you to write more Ruby and rely on less magic. Not to mention RoR is overkill for the majority of the sites out there.

We’re going to use the following technologies:

  • Sinatra – Light, lightening fast, and well documented Ruby app framework
  • Sinatra Assetpack – Convenient asset handling with awesome features.
  • PostgreSQL – Ya. You won’t even use it now, but we’re going to get you set up in case you decide to add more features than this tutorial.
  • Rspec, Capybara – For the test suite this is pretty standard and makes life easy.
  • slim – The most simple and Ruby like HTML markdown language out there. Makes HTML much more readable.
  • Twitter Bootstrap – I can’t recommend this enough. These guys rock and save me so much time finding buttons, writing CSS, and JS.
  • Capistrano – Capistrano is how we deploy at codelitt. You can write the perfect recipe to make every subsequent deployment a breeze, even over multiple servers.
  • Thin in development and Passenger in production Thin is a great and light app server for development and production, but I use Passenger I have Nginx running the version compiled with Passenger already. DRY.
  • Nginx – The most amazing piece of Russion engineering. It blows Apache out of the water in handling requests, speed, and static assets.
  • Ubuntu Server 12.04 – All this technology is running on Ubuntu 12.04 Server Edition LTS. I know I’m usually a huge Arch Linux advocate, but frankly Ubuntu what I use on a server because of stability. Currently looking at Debian for my next server though.

Alright so Sinatra has no generators so you’ll need to create the files and directories. You’ll want an app directory for assets, db directory for migrations, and a views directory for the views. I’m calling my app codelitt so before anything get your app directory made and inside of it the other mentioned directories.

mkdir codelitt

cd codelitt

mkdir app db views

You’ll also need your basic files made. Make a file with the same name as your main app directory. This will be the name of your app. The majority of the model and controller logic will go in this file. It’s going to be a large piece of your application.

touch codelitt.rb

We’re using Bundler to handle our gems and dependencies so:

touch Gemfile

Rake file for Rake tasks:

touch Rakefile

In our Gemfile we’re going to put the basic gems which we’ll need to get things fired up.

And a settings file where you’ll enter information for your database connections.

touch settings.rb

You may have noticed that this is a bit more built out than a very simple, single-file Sinatra app. You could do the same things in a single file app, but this gets really messy. I prefer to build it in a more modulular approach.

For your environment you’ll want to setup a rvmrc file in the application directory. This ensures that RVM pairs your app with the right versions of your gems and Ruby.

‘touch .rvmrc’

We’re also going to want to create the gemset.

rvm gemset create codelitt

Now edit the .rvmrc file when you cd into your application directory it always uses the same version of gems and Ruby as are installed by bundle in your app.

vim .rvmrc

Inside this file you’re going to enter this with the name of your gemset/ruby version instead of mine:

rvm use 2.0.0-p247@codelitt

Now we’ll initiate a git repo to handle the version control of our development process.

git init

Create a new repo on Github. If you are lost, check out these directions for creating a new repo.

git add --all

git commit -am "First commit with basic files"

git remote add origin

git push origin master

Now we’re going to get our basic gems setup so our app fires up for the first time.

vim Gemfile

source ''
gem 'sinatra', '~>1.4.3', :require => 'sinatra/base'
gem 'sinatra-activerecord', '~> 1.2.3'
gem 'pg', '~> 0.16.0'
gem 'sinatra-assetpack', '~> 0.3.1', :require => 'sinatra/assetpack'
gem 'slim', '~> 2.0.1'
group :development do
gem 'thin', '~> 1.5.1'
group :test do
gem 'rspec', '~> 2.14.1'
gem 'capybara', '~> 2.1.0'

We’ll create and setup a file to work with bundler so we can install and keep these gems updated easily.

require 'rubygems'
require 'bundler/setup'
root_dir = File.dirname(__FILE__)
app_file = File.join(root_dir, 'codelitt.rb')
require app_file
run Codelitt

Finally we’ll require the basic files needed and write our first route to our main app file so we can fire it up!

vim codelitt.rb

require 'rubygems'
require 'sinatra'
class Codelitt < Sinatra::Base
get '/' do
"Hello world!"
run! if app_file == $0

Now let’s install all the gems before trying it out locally.

`bundle install’

Start your local server (which in development we have used Thin), by running

ruby codelitt.rb

And then pointing your browser to http://localhost4567

Everytime you change your app file you’ll have to restart your server with ctrl + c and then running that command again, but for css and view file changes you can just reload the page in the browser.

For styling, I really can’t recommend Twitter Bootstrap enough. It makes life much easier, especially for those of us who like to focus on the backend.

Download Twitter Bootstrap here

Now create the css, image, and js directories in your app directory.

mkdir -p app/css

mkdir -p app/js

mkdir -p app/image

Unzip the bootstrap archive you just downloaded and copy the bootstrap files into these directories.

cp ~/bootstrap/css/bootstrap.min.css ~/code/codelitt/app/css/bootstrap.min.css

cp ~/bootstrap/css/bootstrap-theme.min.css ~/code/codelitt/app/css/bootstrap-theme.min.css

cp ~/bootstrap/js/bootstrap.min.js ~/code/codelitt/app/js/bootstrap.min.js

cp ~/bootstrap/fonts/glyphicons-halflings-regular.svg ~/code/codelitt/app/image/glyphicons-halflings-regular.svg

We’ll also create the theme.css file which we can use to edit parts of our site that aren’t taken care of by Bootstrap.

touch app/css/theme.csss

Now we’ll setup sinatra-asset pack to pick these up. You already have it in your Gemfile. You’ll just need to alter a few things in your main app file to make sure it works. You’ll add this to your main app file. Note that we also are now requiring the assetpack and slim gems in our main app file.

require 'rubygems'
require 'sinatra'
require 'sinatra/base'
require 'sinatra/assetpack'
require 'slim'
class UberUrlShortener < Sinatra::Base
set :root, File.dirname(__FILE__)
register Sinatra::AssetPack
enable :inline_templates
assets do
serve '/js', from: 'app/js' # Default
serve '/css', from: 'app/css' # Default
serve '/image', from: 'app/image' # Default
css :cssapp, [
# '/css/bootstrap.css', # bootstrap.less
js :jsapp, [
css_compression :simple
js_compression :jsmin

Now we are going to create our home page. We’re also going to create our basic layout file which will be consistent across the site.

touch views/layout.slim

touch views/index.slim

The slim extension is what you’ll use if you went ahead and added slim to your Gemfile. It’s the templating engine we’ll use in this tutorial.

In the layout.slim we’re going to include all of the basic information of a normal page and then you’ll notice in the main diff that we pull in the specific page with yield.

doctype html
title codelitt technology innovation
meta name="keywords" content="codelitt, technology innovation, technology, technologist, consulting, web, mobile, apps, custom operating systems"
meta name="author" content="Cody Littlewood"
meta name="description" content="codelitt helps companies innovate like startups and works with them to prototype and build new technology. Our specialty is in emerging technologies and media."
meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0"
link rel="icon" type="image/ico" href="favicon.ico"
/This next line adds the routes for css from assetpack
== css :cssapp
nav class="navbar navbar-default navbar-fixed-top" role="navigation"
div class="container"
div class="nav-header"
div class="navbar-collapse collapse"
button type="button" class="navbar-toggle" data-toggle="collapse" data-target="navbar-ex1-collapse"
span class="sr-only"
span class="icon-bar"
span class="icon-bar"
span class="icon-bar"
a class="navbar-brand" href="/" codelitt
ul class="nav navbar-nav navbar-right"
a href="/" home
a href="/technologies" technologies
a href="/contact" contact
div class="main"
== yield
==js :jsapp

Now we’ll add basic content to our index.slim file as a placeholder.

h1 Hello world!

In your main app file you’re going to change your route to recognise this change. Going forward you’ll use this basic format to add any new pages/routes that you’d like.

class Codelitt < Sinatra::Base
# goes at the end of the class before you close it with "end"
get '/' do
slim :index

Now I’m going to assume that you already have Ubuntu, Nginx, and Passenger already set up. If you don’t then follow this guide except don’t worry about installing the rails gem if you don’t want.

We’re going to deploy with Capistrano which is a sweet little diddy that I use for all of my deployments. It automates things. You just need the right recipe. First we’ll add the two gem’s we’ll need to our Gemfile

gem 'capistrano', '~> 2.15.5'
gem 'rvm-capistrano', '~> 1.3.3'

Run bundle install

And then capify .

This will build the main files you need.

You’ll want to edit your file so it looks like this for my capistrano recipe.
rure 'rubygems'
require 'bundler/setup'
root_dir = File.dirname(__FILE__)
app_file = File.join(root_dir, 'codelitt.rb')
require app_file
set :environment, ENV['RACK_ENV'].to_sym
set :root, root_dir
set :app_file, app_file
disable :run
run Codelitt

Here is the Capistrano recipe for a near zero downtime deploy. Change the variables for your own app.

require 'rvm/capistrano'
require 'bundler/capistrano'
#RVM and bundler settings
set :bundle_cmd, "/home/deploy/.rvm/gems/ruby-2.0.0-p247@global/bin/bundle"
set :bundle_dir, "/home/deploy/.rvm/gems/ruby-2.0.0-p247/gems"
set :rvm_ruby_string, :local
set :rack_env, :production
#general info
set :user, 'deploy'
set :domain, ''
set :applicationdir, "/var/www/codelitt"
set :scm, 'git'
set :application, "codelitt"
set :repository, ""
set :branch, 'master'
set :git_shallow_clone, 1
set :scm_verbose, true
set :deploy_via, :remote_cache
role :web, domain # Your HTTP server, Apache/etc
role :app, domain # This may be the same as your `Web` server
role :db, domain, :primary => true # This is where Rails migrations will run
#role :db, "your slave db-server here"
#deploy config
set :deploy_to, applicationdir
set :deploy_via, :export
#addition settings. mostly ssh
ssh_options[:forward_agent] = true
ssh_options[:keys] = [File.join(ENV["HOME"], ".ssh", "id_rsa")]
ssh_options[:paranoid] = false
default_run_options[:pty] = true
# if you want to clean up old releases on each deploy uncomment this:
# after "deploy:restart", "deploy:cleanup"
# if you're still using the script/reaper helper you will need
# these
# After an initial (cold) deploy, symlink the app and restart nginx
after "deploy:cold" do
# As this isn't a rails app, we don't start and stop the app invidually
namespace :deploy do
desc "Not starting as we're running passenger."
task :start do

Now ssh into your deploy server and make a directory where you keep your websites called your app name.

mkdir codelitt

Next you’ll need to add the site to your sites-available and then make a symlink to sites-enabled.

touch /etc/nginx/sites-available/codelitt

server {
listen 80;
root /var/www/codelitt/current/public;
passenger_enabled on;

sudo ln -nfs /etc/nginx/sites-available/codelitt /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/codelitt

We’re pulling from the git repository so commit and push your final changes.

git add --all

git commit -am "final changes before deploy"

git push origin master

Now you can deploy your site. The script should automatically restart Nginx for you.

cap deploy

That’s it! You’re all done.

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Cody Littlewood



Cody Littlewood - /.codelitt

Rants, raves, & ramblings about technology, innovation, R&D, business, software & building things for the web

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