Many web hosting packages will include one or many databases. If you don’t know what to use them for or how they will benefit your website, you can read on for the answers to these questions. A database will save all your data, but most importantly, allows the data to be more easily accessible. Data can be product information, customer names and addresses, sales records, or even the content that appears on your web pages. By using a database to get that information, you will be able to better serve your visitors and enhance their experience as a customer on your website.
One of the broadest uses of databases on the internet environment is to serve a dynamic form of information as it is asked for. In a large eCommerce site, for instance, the actual product information is kept on a database so that updating the site becomes a simple matter of getting the data changed. Without the use of this system, website managers would have to create more static pages for each product. When dealing with hundreds or thousands of products, this task would become almost unmanageable in an efficient way.
Dynamic pages make use of a template for the site’s static content such as headers, menus and footers. The contents of the database are then inserted into the template by the server software before the page is sent to be seen in a browser. You can place any content from the database anywhere on a dynamic page. This will allow you to set up pages which are more visually appealing and which include text and pictures and also add shopping suggestions such as: ‘Customers who bought this also bought…’’
You can also use your databases for storing and gaining access to customer records. This will allow you to tailor your pages according to what your customer previously bought. Each page could contain a personalized greeting (Welcome back John for example) and when they make another purchase all their personal data including address and credit card number could be taken from the database so they don’t need to fill in the same form yet again.
Mailinglists is yet another use for databases. Many websites send information out to their visitors to remind them about the site and to encourage them to come again. Email addresses can be kept in a database for sending out newsletters and announcements. The newsletters can also be archived in a database so that the visitors can browse or search through previous mailings.
Each database can be separated into tables which are a more complete set of data, so one database can be used for most of your website information by arranging a number of tables. The amount of databases that your site needs will depend on how many applications you are going to be running.
Having a database is one thing, accessing the data is another. There are many ways to get information from a database so that it can be applied more usefully to your website. One of the combinations which is more popular is PHP along with MySQL. PHP can be used in order to create dynamic web pages that pull data from a MySQL database. The language of programming is quite straightforward and can be used to set up interactive forms which are more complex. Other database applications included are MySQL with ASP, MSSQL with ASP, and PostgreSQL with PHP.
Martin Redford is contributing editor at WebDesignArticles.net. This article may be reproduced provided that its complete content, links and author byline are kept intact and unchanged. No additional links permitted. Hyperlinks and/or URLs must remain both human clickable and search engine spiderable.