There is nowhere you can run away from databases, including web development. The most straightforward directories and blogs to the most powerful user-directed websites obtain their functionality from a database in the background. The simplicity or complexity of the database will depend on the quality of the site.

Every database, however, requires careful planning from the designer and developer in order to ensure efficiency and security of both site and database. This article provides the foundational practices for proper planning of a good database, regardless of its final use.

Each database design has its set of best practices and standard procedures that should be followed so that information in the database remains well organized.

Determining what functionality you need

One of the ways to plan a database is to brainstorm what will be stored in the database and what the website will need from the database. You need not concentrate on individual fields or tables on the outset – that happens later.

For a good plan, start with a general view of the whole database, working your way into specific functionalities. It’s important to get it right at the first try, because adding forgotten items later can be very difficult. Think about what you need the website for; what will it do?

If you’re creating a membership website for instance, it makes sense to think about the users of the site and what information they’ll need to retrieve from the site. What are site members going to do – upload pictures, write posts, send messages and/or hold discussions? You should have a way to store the files, posts, messages and discussion threads in that case.

Next, think about what information they’ll want to derive from the site – e.g. favorite recipes, content with member-only access, product directories, recent purchases or recently accessed content etc. This means that you’ll have to have a place in the database that stores information for general access and those for members only. The recipes will be stored somewhere, as will products and user IDs for purchases made.

Determining the tables and fields

Once you have your overall layout, you can delve into the specifics. At this stage, you may enlist the brains of a database management professional to help you in case anything gets left out. This stage is the most crucial and naturally the most difficult.

You should use the correct schemes to draw relationships between tables, to sort data in separate tables and to group different data sets. List out the tables and fields that come to you clearly-ensure that you are as specific as you can. You may rearrange items in the process if you think it will lead to better efficiency and security.

Finally, use a database design tool to organize the exact information that you’ll need to store. Choose a tool with the capability for setting up visual models; you can get a few of these online and for free. However, if you want top-notch capability, you’ll have to dig into your pocket for the premium tools.

This process will help you get familiar with the standard visual elements and common icons you need to know to create working database models. Flowcharts and diagrams prior to this stage can also help, especially when it comes to sorting out logical errors before designing any database actually begins.