What is a web database? It’s a general term for something that helps you manage online data. It allows you to keep and handle large amounts of data even if you’re not a technical person. Like everything else though, it can either free you from repetitive tasks or expose intimate details of your business.
For webmasters, databases are a necessary evil because they enhance a site’s design and maintenance but require detailed technical knowledge and additional resources.
Does your site need a database?
To know if your business website is in need of a database, ask yourself these questions:
Does your site content often change?
If your site content changes daily, having a database can ease administration. A good example of this would be a newspaper site which publishes several articles by different authors every day. It has different index pages for each section. In this case, a database stores articles, images, author information and page layouts. Once data is stored, the webmaster can use a server-side scripting language like PHP to automatically create web pages with content from the database. This saves them countless hours on layout. Readers can also easily search for content by author, topic or date, thanks to the database software.
Does your business extensively use e-commerce?
An online seller’s survival depends on a database-driven site. The database stores product details including prices, descriptions, reviews and similar or complementary products. Every time customers look for products, server-side software works to pull out related data from the database. This information is then inserted into a predesigned page and displayed. It’s fast, ensures a good, uniform presentation of requested information for customers, and minimises data maintenance for you. Such a database can take a while to develop but once implemented, it should be easy to add and remove products from it and automatically update web pages.
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Does your site post user-driven content?
Many sites today post user-generated content. Some have means for visitors to join discussions about related topics. This can take many forms such as user forums or discussion boards, feedback forms and invitations for comments or reviews. Popular news sites can use a database to store reader comments with articles, allowing other readers to access not just the articles but also informed comments. This type of interaction can improve user experience, engage users and generate user commitment and allows you to get feedback about products, your industry and user preferences for free. To enjoy the benefits of getting user-driven content though, you’ll need a database to automate feedback receipt and posting. Your database will collect data from users, which your web server will reference when it generates web pages.
Do you have the resources to support a database-driven site?
A database is a specialised application that requires certain skills. You’ll need to consider whether or not you have the necessary skills to implement and maintain a database-driven site. You may even have to hire a full-time database administrator.
Such sites also typically require their own servers, which could cost you quite a bit to buy and host on your network. It is therefore important to make sure the capabilities you build into your site match the amount of time and financial resources you have for administration and maintenance.
If you replied ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, then you could benefit from having a database designed and built for your website. Find out what you’ll need to build your site and be sure to let your site visitors know about your extra effort. One thing’s for sure though, you’ll certainly have a dynamic site that can attract more visitors and attention.
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