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Database Design: The Development Process


When start on the design of a database there are few questions you need to ask right away:

Now, let’s look at database development through the lens of a software development cycle

Keep in mind, this process is not simply linear. This process, in the real world, goes through many iterations. Change management is good idea to put in place. It helps you to deal with issues like:

  1. New data sources
  2. New requirements from business users
  3. Technology platform changes in your organization

To get started, we need to come up with a problem statement, something that can describe the problem we are trying to solve. Use cases are commonly used when developing problem statements. Use cases help to demonstrate how a user will be interacting with your database:

You can use Unified Modeling Language (UML) to create your use case. UML uses a series of diagramming techniques to help visualize system design. Below, the stick figure represents users and each oval will show one of the tasks the user hopes to be able to use the database for. UML is great for mock-ups, but you should also include a detailed document that provides deeper insight into the tasks below.

Now imagine we want to create a database to store plant data:

Using this data, we can come up with a few basic use cases

Use case 1: Enter (or edit) all the data we have about each plant; that is, plant ID, genus, species, common name, and uses.

Use case 2: Find or report information about a plant (or every plant) and see what it is useful for.

Use case 3: Specify a use and find the appropriate plants (or report for all uses). 

How does our existing table design handle our use cases:

1.Can we maintain data?  Yes

2.Given a plant can we return the uses?  Yes

3.Given a use can we return the plant?  Not really

We need to re-examine this data from a class point of view

We are dealing with 2 classes in the Plant data:



•One plant can have many uses

•This is an example of a relationship between classes

•Relationships between classes are represented with a line in UML

•We need more details besides just a line to know how classes relate

•The pair of numbers at each end of the line indicates how many objects of one class can be associated with a particular object of the other class 

•The first number is the minimum number (0 or 1 to indicate whether there must be a related object)

•The second number is the greatest number of related objects (1 or n to represent many)

Design Phase

•You spend a lot of time in the top 2 quadrants

•It is an iterative process, not simply linear

•Keep reviewing the model to ensure it satisfies the problem

•Once you have a model that works, move on to design

•For the database world, design involves:

Converting our Class Diagram into Database Objects: Tables, Keys, and Relationships

Application Phase

•Now that you have a database foundation in place, the Application phase builds upon it by adding additional functionality for the users

•The Application phase satisfies the Use Cases:

Input Use Cases will most likely be satisfied with Forms

Output Use Cases will most likely be satisfied with Reports

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