Database driven websites
Published : Tuesday 22 August 2006
Web based applications offer competitive advantages to traditional software based systems allowing businesses to streamline their systems and processes, and reduce costs ...
Please note: this content is 15+ years old, from a time when I produced content for SEO and key word purposes. It may be of lower quality and no longer accurate.
Databases are a fantastic way to store most types of relational data and they can be relevant to more website projects than you might think.
In this article we’ll explore some of the benefits of having a database driven website as well as looking at some of the draw backs.
What is a database?
We’re fairly confident that these days most people have encountered databases such as Microsoft Access or software based on databases.
Essentially a database allows us to store relational information in a logical format making it easy to manage and retrieve.
It is possible to take almost any existing database and integrate it into your website allowing both you and your customers to have access.
Why use a database in my website?
Traditional web pages are nothing more than a collection of images and text files containing styling information and html. This can make maintaining and updating regularly changing content a chore.
By incorporating a database into your website you can not only reduce the hassle and complexity of maintaining and updating your website but also realise some of the real power behind the web that comes with dynamic database driven website’s.
One of the distinct advantages of database driven website’s is the power it gives you when designing and redesigning your pages or even customising the experience for individual users and content types. With a database powering your website you need only design and maintain a handful of pages to deliver thousands of pages of dynamic content.
Another distinct advantage of a database driven website is that it can be made to be highly searchable and organised making your content far more accessible to the end user. By having static pages you immediately restrict the way in which the user can interact with the content.
You can even migrate entire traditional software based systems to database driven website’s and realise the benefits of web based applications.
What could I use database for?
If you have frequently changing content whether it be news, products, articles, links, etc a database can be used to manage these more effectively.
Typical examples where a database driven website would be beneficial :
- e-commerce website’s with more than a handful of products.
- Content management with regular updates, categorisation, etc.
- Forums and discussion groups.
- Subscription services such as newsletters.
Of course this is not a definitive list by any stretch of the imagination and the scope for using a database within a website is massive.
What are the down sides?
In the majority of cases the advantages of database driven website’s far out weight the disadvantages but it is important to bare the disadvantages in mind when embarking on such a project.
You will certainly need someone with a reasonable level of programming and database knowledge to develop your website for you and this may be an on going costs during the early stages of development and support for your website. Due to some of the complexities involved this may limit your ability to make changes to the website yourself as you would with a static website.
There will also be some technological requirements on your hosting plan. Many hosting plans support databases and server side programming languages however if yours doesn’t you may need to upgrade or move to another service provider who does.
The cost of the database is usually minimal and in many cases Microsoft Access will more than meet the needs of your database driven website. In some cases where you have large amounts of data or a high volume of traffic you may need to go with a more robust database server such as Microsoft SQL Server or mySQL. Such databases are very affordable but they increase the technical requirements of your website developer and website hosting provider.
Many people often overlook the benefits of database driven website’s and yet even the smallest website will develop over time and could benefit from being database driven.
Databases add a new dynamic angle to your website giving additional leverage and accessibility to your content providing a richer and more interactive user experience whilst at the same time reducing the support and maintenance overhead associated with maintaining static website’s.