The thing that most layman don’t understand about database design is that on the surface the interface may look intuitive, but that type of simplicity comes at a heavy cost of discernment on the part of architects and developers.
Most people take for granted the ease in which they seem to navigate the world around them, relationships between people, places, and things are often over simplified; and frequently misunderstood. This type of assumption often leads to conflict, and conflict leads to dissent.
A developer’s work cannot be shaped by this type of delusion, they’re forced to observe and express the real-world in it’s true terms. A task that’s challenging at best.
Lately I’ve been exploring this reality, as it applies to modeling database design, through the creation of Entity-Relationship Diagrams (ERD). An ERD is a graphical representation of the real-world interaction of data that defines transactions and relationships in an organization.
My tool of choice for creating ERDs is Microsoft Visio. Having been around since 1992 Visio is widely recognized as an industry standard platform for database modeling, and with that type of history it pays for professionals in the tech field to be familiar with its application.
To sharpen my modeling skills, I’ve been applying my knowledge of database design to model the relationship between students and faculty; as part of a case study dealing with the doctoral tracking database for a business school.
In my experience, I’ve found that I work best when I work iteratively through the modeling process. I can’t stare at a paragraph of data on a sheet of paper and see how they interact, it’s too abstract. The faster I can reduce that data into sets of entities and graphically place it on my screen, the faster a database design begins to manifest in my mind.
The conceptual design of the doctoral database I’m looking at is currently in its third iteration. It’s incomplete but I’m presently working on defining the cardinal relationship between student advisors and groups of students.