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Learning PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript by Robin Nixon

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Database Design

It’s very important that you design a database correctly before you start to create it; otherwise, you are almost certainly going to have to go back and change it by splitting up some tables, merging others, and moving various columns about in order to achieve sensible relationships that MySQL can easily use.

Sitting down with a sheet of paper and a pencil and writing down a selection of the queries that you think you and your users are likely to ask is an excellent starting point. In the case of an online bookstore’s database, some of the questions you write down could be:

  • How many authors, books, and customers are in the database?

  • Which author wrote a certain book?

  • Which books were written by a certain author?

  • What is the most expensive book?

  • What is the best-selling book?

  • Which books have not sold this year?

  • Which books did a certain customer buy?

  • Which books have been purchased along with the same other books?

Of course, there are many more queries that could be made on such a database, but even this small sample will begin to give you insights into how to lay out your tables. For example, books and ISBNs can probably be combined into one table, because they are closely linked (we’ll examine some of the subtleties later). In contrast, books and customers should be in separate tables, because their connection is very loose. A customer can buy any book, and even multiple copies of a book, yet a book can be bought by many customers and be ignored by still more potential customers. ...

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