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Create a web site in 53 seconds

N.B. Make sure to read the follow-up to this article that explains how to support Office 365 authentication.

Do you want to create a responsive web site built on Bootstrap with support for Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google+ login in less than a minute? Read on!

I have been a fan of Ruby on Rails since 2007. For those who are not familiar with the framework, Ruby on Rails, or just Rails, is a platform that makes it possible to build web sites in no time at all. But what is even more important is that the focus on convention over configuration, one of the pillars of Rails, makes it simple to extend upon a site later on, even by someone not involved in the original development. Other platforms I have had experience with do not necessarily share the level of adherence to conventions that allow this with the same ease. Or at all.

Most of the web sites I build these days are based on Rails, whether they are small simple concept sites or big complex sites. I create private sites as well as solutions for my work. And most of the time I find myself adding the same set of features to every site. They are responsive and based on Bootstrap, they allow users to log on with OAuth using Devise and they include role based permissions based on CanCan. I got tired to redoing the same steps for every single site and created a template. You can check out a demo version of the output of the template by looking at – please note that due to inactivity the site may need a few seconds to spin up. The purpose of this article is to share this template and how it is used.

To follow the instructions below you need to register at various sites:

  • A git repository. I recommend Bitbucket since creating private repositories is free for personal use. Github is a popular alternative but without an paid account the code will be open. That may or may not be acceptable by you depending on your project.
  • The OAuth providers you want to use (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+). My guess is that most already have an account with these. Note that for Google+ the email address of the account will be visible to users logging in so you may want to consider creating an account specifically for your app.
  • Somewhere to host the site. I use Heroku and the example below is based on that. Heroku provides a free tier for small web sites that can then scale with the load. It is certainly possible to host this elsewhere, including on a server of your own. That may be a topic for another article some other time.


Create Heroku site, DNS name and code repository

First, log onto Heroku and create a new app. You have a choice of hosting the site in the US or in Europe. You can also define a name for the site if you don’t want Heroku to create a name for you. I normally define a name as that makes it easier to tell them apart later on and I also add a suffix to the hostname to identify the location where the site is hosted.

For this walkthrough I will use the name “myweb” as the name of the app. A possible name in Heroku would then be The part is added by Heroku and is common to all sites hosted there.

If you want to use a custom DNS name now is the time to go into the configuration settings for your domain(s) and create an alias hostname that points to the name provided by Heroku. Please note that the Heroku hostname may not resolve to a static IP address so you want to create an alias for the Heroku hostname, not an A record for the IP address currently used by Heroku for the site.

Again, continuing with the example a record in the DNS zone could be
myweb IN CNAME

If you add a custom DNS name you also need to go back into the Heroku settings and add that alias to the list of names for the site. Otherwise, Heroku will not be able to associate incoming requests to the correct site. In Heroku there would thus be both the name as well as

Finally, you should create a repository for the code. For Bitbucket this is quickly done by clicking on “Create” and giving the repository a name (e.g. myweb). The rest of the information there is optional and pretty self-explanatory.

Create apps within the various OAuth providers

Next step is to select which OAuth providers you want to use. The template currently supports Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google+ and they are selectively enabled by setting the variable at the top of the script to true for the services you want to use. Within the template there are also links to the developer portals of each of the four supported OAuth providers. In addition to these it supports local users. It is easy to configure the script to use any combination of these. You may want to include all of them or perhaps just one. The choice is yours. One thing to keep in mind is that currently the template does not support associating users with one another. If an individual user logs on using different OAuth providers those will be different local accounts. A special caveat is that if those accounts use the same email address it most likely will not work. For this reason you may want to use all of the providers but instead pick based on your app. Twitter does not provide the email address of the user and can safely be combined with any of the others.

For all of the providers you need to provide the URL of the site. This would be the or, if you do not use a custom hostname, In many cases you can also provide an application icon that is shown to the end user when logging on. Some specific things to keep in mind for each provider are:

  • Facebook: Copy the “app ID” & “app secret” values to the template. Do not forget to publish the app. If you do not do this only yourself (or other developers you designate) will be able to log on. It will work fine for you but when you ask others to try it out they will not be able to log on. In order to publish the app you need to provide a contact email address.
  • Twitter: Copy the “API key” & “API secret” values to the template. Twitter also requires the callback URL to be specified –
  • Linkedin: Copy the “API key” & “secret key” values to the template. Enable the r_emailaddress and r_basicprofile scopes.
  • Google+: Copy the “client ID” & “client secret” values to the template. Turn on the two APIs “Contact API” and “Google+ API”

Note: The template makes a differentiation between development and production mode. The keys and secrets for the production site must be unique for the individual application. However, if you plan to use this template for multiple apps you can share the development amongst them, that is how I do it. The development keys and secrets needs to be created separately. They would be very similar to the production site but the hostname would be localhost:3000 instead of

Create the actual site

OK, so I lied slightly. This has taken way more than 53 seconds. That time was for the actual creation of the site from the template, which is what we are getting to now.

Download the latest template from, currently fourteen-twelve.rb. In theory you could use the template directly from GitHub as described in the readme file but you should adapt it to your needs so I recommend you make a local copy, either by cloning the entire project or by downloading just the template.

Then edit the local template file with your favourite editor. If you use a Mac for your development I would personally recommend Textmate.

Some things you want to edit in the file are:

  • The choice of authentication providers
  • The keys and secrets to the OAuth providers used
  • The choice of Bootswatch theme
  • The data model
  • In general, search for the text TODO in the template file and follow the instructions.

    When you have finished updated the template it is time to actually create the site. Just run the command:

    rails new myweb -m

    Depending on your computer and your Internet connection this will take around a minute (or more). If everything worked you should be able to do:

    cd myweb
    rails s

    After that you should be able to open your browser and access http://localhost:3000.

    If you intend to deploy the code to Heroku you should add the gem rails_12factor. You do this by adding this to the file Gemfile in your application root and then run “bundle install”:

    gem 'rails_12factor'


    Now it is time to push the code to the repository as well as to Heroku. First Bitbucket (other repositories would be similar):

    git remote add origin[username]/myweb.git
    git push -u origin --all
    git push -u origin --tags

    Where [username] is your Bitbucket username. The above commands can be found in the repository web page.

    Then push the code to Heroku to deploy:

    heroku git:remote -a myweb-eu
    git push heroku master

    Finally, with the code on Heroku you need to migrate your database. To do so run the following command from the root folder of your application:

    heroku run rake db:migrate

    Good luck! If you run into problems or need help, please send a tweet to @spotwise.