What is MySQL?
Say the word ‘Database’ and your initial reaction may be to think of a large table of data, perhaps names and addresses, stored within a program such as Microsoft Access. As a Web Designer however, you are far more likely to have contact with the relational database management system known as MySQL. A MySQL database can be created on your web-server, and can store a multitude of data relating to your website, from blog posts to image information.
There are several reasons that MySQL has become the predominant database structure for information on websites around the globe. Amongst these reasons is the fact that the technology is completely free and open source, and that it is also supported by the vast majority of website hosting accounts. As long as your hosting provider can support MySQL and PHP you are good to go! There isn’t an attractive graphical user interface as in the case of the Microsoft Access program when using MySQL, instead you’ll need to learn a variety of SQL statements to input and extract data, but don’t let that put you off. Particularly as a Web Designer can easily create websites using MySQL databases, without ever touching the tables filled with the information.
How is that possible? It’s done through the use of content management systems such as WordPress. Instead of manually inputting SQL statements to let your database know of the data that is required for a particular web page, you can simply have WordPress, or your CMS of choice, do the hard work for you.
So how does this actually work? Well let’s think of your MySQL database as a real thing; a filing cabinet filled to the brim with individual files relating to the different elements on your website. Let’s say you, the visitor to the website, want to access one particular piece of information, one particular file. As you head to the page in question the database is sent a PHP query asking for the relevant piece of information. In our filing cabinet example, this PHP request would essentially be your hand as you reach for the right record within the cabinet. Once the file is retrieved you can read it, gleaning the information that you require; once the PHP query is executed, the website will update with the information from the correct table and field of the database.
Essentially this all means that you, the web designer, doesn’t actually need to understand the finer details of SQL statements and the inner workings of MySQL as your CMS of choice can handle the requests for you. Despite that, it is still always worth grasping the basics of any technology that manipulates the workings of your website, on the off chance that something should ever go wrong.
If you enjoyed reading the above, you may like to read more articles like this in our Articles For Web Designers category.