Database Schema Design Guide: Rules & Best Practices
If your end goal is to build a high-performance and scalable application, you need to have a good database design. Everything begins with the database and a badly designed one is like having a bad foundation on your house. No matter how many quality elements you add to it, it won’t matter.
One of the most important things you need to do when designing your database is to find a good database schema example that will show you all the important elements of a reliable database. Apart from that, you can search for tips and rules that will take you to a better design, and that is exactly what this guide list is here for.
Choose the type of database you want
When it comes to different types of databases, there are some specific ones appropriate for certain projects that are more complicated. However, for most projects, people usually choose between SQL and NoSQL.
SQL database is the standard for structured data and it’s the go-to choice for those who put data integrity above all else. As for the NoSQL database, it’s required for emerging technology to demand speed and scalability, which is just one of the reasons why NoSQL is the future of IoT.
Either way, if you know what you want from your database, it will be easy for you to choose between one of these two types. And when you’re making your choice, it’s also important to think about your business’ long-term needs.
A well-designed database needs to be scalable and to keep working even when there is a high workload and increased usage. So if you are looking to scale your business and increase your workload, you have to factor that during the database design process.
Think about privacy
In today’s modern world, privacy concerns keep growing among internet users, as the number of hackers keeps increasing. Damage related to cybercrime is projected to hit $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, so if you want to keep your business, customers, and money, you need to think about security.
But this isn’t the only reason why privacy needs to be a primary concern for you, since all companies within the EU and those who do business with EU companies need to comply with the GDPR. And if you want to be GDPR compliant, you need to follow certain rules.
Some of the things you should do is to ensure all passwords used in your company are encrypted, provide your administrators with privacy training, and ensure they all have well-documented qualifications. Another way you can keep your data safe is to use a different server for the database than your application.
Don’t take database modeling and design for granted
A common mistake among developers is ignoring the modeling and design of the database. They usually skip this step because it’s time-consuming and requires a lot of time and effort and instead put most of their focus into the different aspects of the software development process.
While software development is essential, if you want a good database, you need to invest your time and effort into modeling and design. After all, good design is what ensures the functionality of an application.
And don’t think that if you skip this step, you will save yourself time. A database with poor design and modeling will require a lot more maintenance and redesigning down the line.
Create and use stored procedures
Stored procedures are prepared codes that you can use when you need to manipulate your data quickly and hassle-free. However, very few people use stored procedures and if you make the same mistake, you’ll make some tasks much harder for yourself than they need to be.
Let’s say for instance that you use one SQL query very often and you don’t want to spend time writing the same code over and over again, you can code that query into a stored procedure. And every time you need that query, all you need to do is execute the procedure and you’re good to go.
It’s undoubtedly going to be a tiring job, but when you code all of the stored procedures your database needs, you’ll make it much easier for end-users of the database.
Don’t forget about normalization
The process of organizing all of the information you have within a database is known as normalization and its purpose is to avoid data replication and redundancy.
In other words, through normalization, you don’t store all of the data in one large table and instead distribute it into multiple different smaller related tables. This is a good practice for anyone who is looking to normalize their data for efficiency.
However, you need to be careful with normalization as there is such a thing as over-normalization. If you distribute your data into a lot of tables, you’ll make everything confusing, so try to find a good balance where everything makes sense and you can find what you need effortlessly.
Know how to name conventions
Everyone has their own way of naming conversions. While some choose to adhere to an ISO standard, others don’t like that practice, but it doesn’t matter either way. The only thing that matters is that you’re consistent in how you name your fields.
Aside from staying consistent, here are a few more tips you could find helpful:
- Don’t use SQL Server reserved words in table and column names since using these words will result in a syntax error. You can avoid this error if you use square brackets around the value, but that will only make the development process slower.
- Don’t include any spaces, quotes, special characters, and hyphens in your names because they will be invalid or also require square brackets.
- Use singular words instead of plural so you can avoid consistency issues. Besides, since a table represents a collection of multiple things, there’s no need to create a plural title.
- Omit any prefixes and suffixes that aren’t necessary.
Document your database design
Most people find documentation boring and annoying, but it’s a necessary step. The reason why documentation is so important for database design is because it keeps track of every detail and is filled with instructions, stored procedures, and diagrams.
Good documentation is filled with all the information programmers and end-users need to understand the database.
Database schema design is arguably one of the most important things for any data-centric project and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. But there’s no reason to worry because if you follow all of the rules and practices you read about here, you can be sure that your database will meet all of your expectations and more.