Database Driven Website 101
In recent years, more and more websites are offering personalized content for their users. Whether your website includes recommended purchases or client reviews, you may want to consider using a database to keep the information up to date. In this blog, we take a closer look at database driven web design and how it can improve your website user experience.
What is a Database Driven Website?
Database driven websites are a specific type of dynamic website. Traditional websites are non-dynamic – the appearance and content are the same for every user, and in order to change the content, you need to change the page itself. Dynamic webpages may appear different to an individual user, and they can change every time the user logs in, even if you haven’t made any changes to your website.
A very simple example of a dynamic website is a survey. As users click through questions, their answers may lead them to additional questions or allow them to skip over others. For instance, if you’ve used an online doctor’s website, they may ask you to provide details like your age, location, and symptoms. As you answer these questions, the dynamic webpage pulls from a number of additional steps that may follow based on the information you provide.
Database driven websites are a form of dynamic webpages that use databases to update the information a user sees on the site. As the database is updated (manually or through programming), the webpage is updated as well. One place you have likely encountered a database driven website is checking your bank account online. Your balance is constantly updated as debits and credits are applied and transferred to the bank’s website database via computer software.
Why Would My Website Need to Function off of a Database?
Database driven websites and other dynamic webpages can be essential to maintaining a website where the information needs to be changed frequently. Can you imagine a bank website that had to be manually updated every time an account balance changed? Some examples of website functions that benefit from being driven through a database include:
- Ecommerce sites – the last thing you want is to oversell products and have disappointed clients. An ecommerce database can ensure you only sell as much product as you have available, keep pricing consistent on every page of the site, and otherwise remain up to date.
- Patient portals – if you have clients who provide payment, update personal information, or otherwise interact with your website, you can store their account information in a database to ensure they are always seeing the most relevant data.
- Education & testing – if you offer online training or education materials for your users, a database can help track correct and incorrect answers, scores, test times, and other variables.
- Reviews & feedback – when you request reviews or feedback from your clients, this new information is stored and sorted through your database, updating the existing content.
How Does it Work?
Hopefully, the many uses of database driven websites are clear, but how do they work? This is where things get more complicated. Unlike static sites that have content sitting on the page that remains unchanged (unless you change it), database driven website content is housed within a database (think of a more complex spreadsheet).
What Happens to Non-Responsive Designs?
Don’t get me wrong, there are still some hold outs, and you may come across a non-responsive website every so often. However, if you’re like most users, you quickly click away to find an easier to use site. If your website is still non-responsive, you could be missing out on new clients who find you from their mobile devices. Non-responsive sites are less likely to be found in search, mobile users are more likely to leave the site right away, and even if a mobile user stays on the site, they are less likely to be able to complete their task (making a purchase, scheduling an appointment, contacting you, etc.).
In order to create a database driven website, you need a database to pull from. You can create these from scratch or use software that pulls the information from another location. In order to create a website database, you’ll need to use a programming language, usually Structured Query Language (SQL). This database language is actually fairly easy to learn, but there are also numerous programs and apps available that allow you to create databases without learning a query language. Whichever method you use to create a database, you’ll need to determine what information will be stored there and how that data will be used. To get started:
- Make a list of all of the information you should have in your database.
- Make a list of how that information could be used to provide specific data to users on the site (updating shopping charts, changing contact information, etc.).
- Create categories for the information (dates, names, etc.).
- Enter the information into a table (you can use a simple spreadsheet tool to get started).
- Determine how the data will be sortable and what information will be seen on the website based on the user’s selections.
Can FHG Create Database Driven Websites?
If you have the time and inclination, learning how to create a database for your website isn’t actually the most complex process. However, if you would rather rely on professionals to set up and maintain your database driven website, you’ve come to the right place. At FHG, we partner with our clients to create custom websites that promote their brand, exceed user expectations, and look great too. To get started, call our team. We look forward to hearing from you.