Apps generally require a database, which as the name suggests, is a centralized base where all of the data that the app requires is stored. This data can be accessed in various ways by the app and other related systems. A database management system is usually what controls the database.
In order to make processing and data querying efficient, the data in most common types of databases is generally modeled into rows and columns. Structured query language or SQL is normally used by most databases for writing and querying data. This allows for easy access, modification and organization of the data.
An app without a stable and optimized database at its core will not be able to perform at its full potential. Therefore, this is an important part of the app development process, one that requires as much thought as design and functionality.
What is database development?
As you now know, the organization collection of data is what makes up a database. It doesn’t just materialize out of thin air, though. The process actually starts with database design, which requires creating a detailed data model of the database that's to be built.
This model includes all logical and physical design patterns that will be utilized to create the database. The data model needs to go into great detail particularly with the requirements for the app and future scalability in mind.
Once that's done, the process moves on to the actual database development. By then, it's only a matter of bringing the database design to life and developing it according to the schema specifications. Design standards must be followed precisely so as to limit the chances of data anomalies.
Another important consideration when designing a database is access time. For example, if a complex query needs to be accessed frequently, the database needs to be designed in a certain way to allow that to happen in order to optimize the overall performance.
Where does it fit in the software development lifecycle?
At its very core, software engineering divides the development process up into a series of phases. Each phase focuses on one particular aspect of the development, this entire series is what's called the software development life cycle.
An app will go through this entire lifecycle when it's being brought to life from a mere concept and it may go through the lifecycle multiple times, depending upon how frequently it's redeveloped and refined further with additional functionality.
Database development is an integral part of the development stage of the life cycle. Typically, a life cycle model includes planning, requirements, design, development, testing, deployment and maintenance. These phases are defined very broadly and may vary for certain kinds of applications, but generally the work proceeds in this manner.
Database development is a step by step process.
Much like the software development life cycle, database development is very much a process-based system. This “waterfall” process has five main steps that developers follow when executing a project.
One of the first things they do is sit down with the client to understand what their requirements are and what sort of functionality they’re looking to get out of their app. This helps them form a clearer picture of what’s required of them, how much time it will take to complete the project and what it might end up costing the client.
Once there is an understanding between the client and the developer and the I’s have been dotted and the T’s have been crossed, work begins and follows the process as detailed below. It largely remains the same regardless of the type of app that’s being developed, since database development is at the core of it all.
- Thorough Planning
One of the first stages of database development is planning. Without adequate planning, it can't be guaranteed that the work will deliver optimal results. Therefore, it's vital that the framework and the requirements of the database being developed are determined first.
This is also important because it's only in the planning stage that you'll find out whether the scope of this database project will permit it being completed within the timeline without exceeding the budget.
What resources would be required for the job and the allocation of people and budgets is carried out during this stage. All of the people who are to work on the project are notified about their responsibilities and targets.
- Requirement Analysis
This can be considered as an extension of the planning phase as it entails a more detailed examination of just how the database development needs to be performed. The idea here is to look at the requirement and expectation of the client and ascertain how much of that can be achieved.
This step requires the database designers to interview the clients and obtain functional requirements from them. For the process to be a success, there needs to be agreement among all parties involved because there would just be too much unnecessary back and forth if they're not on the same page.
The functional requirements aren't really meant to explain how the data is going to be processed. It's basically a guideline for the developers so that they know what the data items are and what attributes they possess. This also helps them understand the relationships between different data items.
This is one of the most critical steps in the database development lifecycle. All of the work that was carried out in the earlier phases comes to the fore here. Everything done during the planning and the analysis stage is implemented at the design stage.
This is the part where developers actually design the database. It's usually going through the trial and error phase at this stage so it's not uncommon for developers to provide clients access to the new database on a limited basis. This is done to form an assessment of the function and to figure out if any changes need to be made to the plan in order to achieve the stated goals.
The output at the design stage is the logical schema of all the data tables and constraints based on the conceptual data model. It's also decided at this stage which tables will be used for representing data in the database.
- Implementation and deployment
After the specification of the logical schema has been defined in the previous stage, then comes implementation, which involves the construction of the actual database. Implementation heavily relies upon the choice of available database tools, operating environment and the database managed systems.
The database management system can be installed on a new server if need be, or on existing servers. Virtualization is a new trend that's increasingly being used for the management systems. It involves creating logical representations of the computing resources that can be deployed independent of the underlying physical computing resources.
Once implementation is done, the database undergoes a series of tests to evaluate its performance, security and integrity. Any further fine-tuning that may be required is then carried out. Finally, the database is deployed.
The process doesn’t end when the database has been deployed. To ensure that it keeps functioning as needed, regular maintenance needs to be carried out on the database, particularly if there are scalability challenges.
The database administrator is tasked with performing routine maintenance activities. They can include preventive maintenance which requires backing up the data or corrective maintenance which deals with the recovery of data.
Additional work may also be carried out to improve the performance of the database as well as for managing access permissions for users. If there happens to be a major issue with the database platform somewhere down the line, the administrator will also need to rebuild the database and put it through the implementation and testing phases once again.
Get app developers who understand database development.
It goes without saying that your app project can’t be a success until you’ve got developers onboard who understand database development and know just how important it is in ensuring that your app delivers optimal functionality.
This is why it’s essential to work with developers who are not only skilled in the conceptualization, design and development of applications but can also perform this crucial task. Your developer should be able to provide a one-stop solution, instead of having you find a separate resource for database development.
No wonder Zibtek is preferred by companies ranging from Fortune 500s to startups for app development. It has over a decade's worth of experience in app development, building everything from custom ERM-integrated mobile experiences to education apps.
Zibtek is based in the United States with offices in Salt Lake, Utah. It also has a global talent pool of developers, all managed from within the United States, that are experts in iOS and Android development with proficiency in React native, Phonegap and hybrid development. Their team understands the importance of database development and has the necessary skills to bring apps of any complexity to reality. Contact the team at Zibtek today to find out how they can take care of database development for you.