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Database Design for e-Commerce


The first step in database design is to get out a sheet of paper, and write down in no particular order the tables that you think you may be using, and draw a little box beneath each table. Each table is like a single Excel spreadsheet, with rows and columns of data. Like in Excel, each column has a name, with data in the rows beneath. By writing down the tables first, you'll quickly see if the little boxes can be filled with column names, and 3 data elements beneath each column.

Let's try an example. If you were designing a travel site, and selected one city name like Boston as the first table, the columns might be 'Hotels, Attractions, and Restaurants.' In the 'Hotels' column, you could list specific hotels in Boston. The collection of different city-tables would collectively be your 'Travel' Database, with table names of Boston, Chicago, Miami, etc, and column names of Hotels, Attractions, and Restaurants in each table. Congratulations, you have just designed a simple database. However, even in this simple example, things begin to get complicated if you'd like to add reviews for each hotel. Where would you put the reviews in this structure, as the smallest detail level is the name of each hotel?

That's where the paper diagram comes in handy, as you simply redesign the database, again naming tables, and drawing a small box under each. In this case, let's name the whole database Boston, and make the tables be 'Hotels, Attractions, and Restaurants.' In the Hotels table, the columns could be 'Reservations, Price, and Reviews,' with each review listed under the 'Reviews' column. On your travel website, when visitors click on a particular city, that database is called from the page, loading the results they are seeking.

Database Administration

Most hosting companies have Cpanel loaded for database administration, as well as file storage. Click on phpMyAdmin to create a database, and tables, according to the instructions on the screen. You can contact your hosting company's tech support for basic questions, but not for database programming issues. Luckily, most of the basic database manipulation that we'll need for setting up an interactive MySQL database is pretty easy. There are a few hurdles, and I'll walk you through those in coming tutorials, but the main thing is to know how many databases you'll need, and what the table names and column names will be. If using two or more words when naming anything, be sure to use an underscore_between_words not dashes. Next, we'll take a brief look at data types, string length, and indexing, to actually begin building a test batabase. After the database is functional, you'll need to know how to add records, delete records, and update individual entries, whole columns, tables, or the entire database.
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