Databases come in two different formats. Flat file database records are made up of a string of information such as company names, addresses, city, zip code, etc. This is like a spreadsheet, where all information is present. A relational database is one where you have a main data file of records such as company names, addresses city, zip code, etc. and you can create other datafile of records, such as contact names, title, phone number, etc. that can relate to the table of company names.
An example of the flat file type database platform that runs on a desktop computer is Ms Works and Ms Excel. Each column is a piece of information, each row is a record. To display a report or just query the information, you will process the entire row of information each time. You can choose which column you want to display. The problem is filtering the information you want to see. Since you are processing the entire row of information, it is hard to keep out what you don’t need.
An example of a relational database platform that runs on a desktop computer is Ms Access, FoxPro, or Filemaker. Here you can define information such as company name, address, zip code and call this your main table. You can define another table of information such as contact name, title, phone number and then relate the two tables together. A contact name table is usually called a many table because you can have several contact names relating to only one company record.
There are tools available over the Internet such as ASP, HTML, SQL, etc. They require you to know the language so you can program how the information should work. The more simpler solutions are InfoDome and Caspio where you define your fields and can start tracking your information.
The way you define the fields of information, entry forms, and reports are standard throughout all platforms. Some platforms will allow you to program each characteristic of a form or report as to define it’s behavior to you. Other platforms already have this defined, so all you do is make your form and then start entering your information.
Designing and building a database is an art form that can be compared to painting a picture. A poorly built database is like a painter just throwing the paint onto a canvas with hopes to sell it. A good database design takes time to do and perfect, like a painter taking time to make sure the colors are defined perfectly and the canvas is of good quality. In this stage, the painting becomes pleasing to the eyes, where a good database design makes it enjoyable to work with.