Database Design for Mere Mortals

By Robbe D. Morris

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Robbe Morris
Robbe & Melisa Morris
Database Design for Mere Mortals by Michael J. Hernandez is a must read for database developers who have had no formal training on database design.  Especially if they have been creating databases for awhile now in Excel.  Those bad design habits tend to stick around over time.  While various reviews state that experienced database developers with reasonably solid design skills will benefit greatly from this book, I just didn't see enough to warrant spending your hard earned cash if you fall into this group of developers.
Unlike many database design oriented books, this one is database generic.  You won't learn coding syntax or much about performance optimization.  This book focuses entirely on relational design.  The author does a great job of taking you step by step through the entire design process without using terminology that beginners have a hard time following.

The design process involves a review of a wide variety of areas that affect your application.  How is data to be presented?  Who will need access to what types of information?  What type of data needs to be stored?  How are data relationships defined properly?  How do I know which column(s) should be a primary key or a foreign key?  What are Views and how can I utilize them?  How do I ensure that my database design works well with business rule requirements?  I could go on and on.
The author presents the reader with real world situations and walks them through each area step by step.  This includes how to interact with users, reviewing business rule requirements, performance and environment requirements, and reporting requirements.  These are all areas that I've found beginners to be extremely lacking in.  Reading thru this book is very much like having someone sit at your desk and train you how to properly design your database.  The author combines the simplicity of terminology with specific details better than most authors.  He'll answer the question just as you are about to ask it.
I believe beginners will find the discussion on the different types of relationships to be enlightening.  There are several graphical representations of data that demonstrate each type of relationship to make it easy for developers to accurately communicate their design to DBAs.  The process diagram starting on page 537 will also prove useful as a check list to ensure you haven't skipped a key portion of the design process.
As I mentioned earlier, if you haven't yet gone through a formal training process for database design, this book is a must read.  Database Design for Mere Mortals is one of the better titles on the market for this subject and will undoubtedly prepare you for more complex database oriented applications in the future.  The links to the book in this review contain sample chapters and a full table of contents not duplicated here.

Robbe has been a Microsoft MVP in C# since 2004.  He is also the co-founder of which provides .NET articles, book reviews, software reviews, and software download and purchase advice.