The ABCs of the best practices in database design for web developers

By: thomassujain

Like behind every successful man there is a woman, on every website, there is a database.  Databases are omnipresent in the web world without any exception, and it is therefore not a surprise that it also finds a place in web development.  From directories and blogs to robust user-oriented websites, you will find the use of databases everywhere.  From the simplest to the most complex sites, there is a database behind it.  However, regardless of how simple or complex websites and the databases are, you have to plan diligently to ensure that the site functions smoothly.

Unless you have a good plan for website database, you will not be able to achieve the desired goals in web design. What kind of database would be required for the website depends on the type of functionality the site has to perform. It is the task of the web developer to follow the best practices in database design to create the most functional website. In the end, the database design helps to keep the site organized and smart so that it can deliver the results. How to plan for a good design of the database is the topic of discussion of this article.

Consider how the database has to function

According to the experts at, the fundamental planning begins with the consideration of what kind of information the database has to store and what kind of information would be useful for the website.   Start with the bigger picture that presents the complete view in a general manner and then gradually narrow down to reach the nitty-gritty of the design. Do not make the mistake of trying to figure out first the tables and individual fields of the database because these would come at a much later stage when you gain enough clarity about the overall design. Doing it early could delay the process and make things difficult.

Focus on the functions of the website to get direction about the type of database that would be required. If it is a membership website, then information of users would constitute the bulk of data. Next, consider what actions the members might undertake like uploading photos, sending messages and making posts. The database must have capabilities of accommodating the elements. Moving forward, think about what information from the database the users would require. The database should make provision for holding all such information and serve it to users in the way they want.

Determine fields and tables

Having obtained enough clarity about the overall design of the database, the next step is to determine the fields and tables that would be required in the database.  This is the time for deciding on the database structure and is the most crucial stage of the design. You have to think about methods of linking tables together; figure out how data sorting will happen within the tables and whether to keep the data separately or in a group. This can be quite a challenging task, and through the process, you can think about reorganizing or rearranging items that could enhance the security and efficiency of the database.

Focus on information that needs to be stored

By this time you know well what the site has to do and what information is most relevant for use in the database. Now you have to organize the information by using a database design tool. Choose a tool like MySQL WorkBench that can help to set up database models that you can visualize. Get used to the tools and the icons and flowcharts that come with it. Use flowcharts and diagrams in the early stages so that you can sort out logical errors before creating actual databases.

Relational databases

Since the information is related to one another in some way, when you place the information in the tables, it is imperative that the tables also uphold the relationship. This means that there would be some relation between the tables.  For a blog database, there is a relation between the titles and the writer, and similarly, on an e-commerce platform, there is a relation between products and buyers. Relational databases are ideal for storing substantial information in an organized manner within separate tables.

Data grouping or separation

Even within a field, it might be necessary to keep some data separated while some other data can group. Whether to group the information or keep it separated depends on how the website wants to consume the information. Whatever has to be done, do it efficiently by considering the end use of the information.

Follow the guidelines of database normalization that governs the best practices in planning and designing databases. What we have discussed so far is part of the best practices, but there are some others that you have to learn about.


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