These days, databases are an integral part of the web. Although you don't need a database to create a website, you will be limited with what you can do without a database.
In the early days of the web, most websites were static. That is, they didn't have a database. The whole website consisted of HTML files sitting on a server. While there are still many static websites on the web today, database driven websites have become the norm.
Examples Of Database Driven Websites
Most large corporations have database driven websites. These are usually updated via a content management system (CMS) and/or a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Any website with a shopping cart is certainly a database driven website, as product info and order info needs to be stored somewhere.
One of the more popular types of database driven websites is a blog. When you install blog software, you usually need to install a database along with the web files. The database holds all the configuration information, as well as all posts, comments, and more.
What Is A Database?
A database is a collection of data. A database could be as simple as a text file with a list of names. Or it could be as complex as a large, relational database management system, complete with in-built tools to help you maintain the data. Regardless of how simple or complex your database is, it can be a powerful tool in extending your website.
When we think of databases, we often think of a large repository of email addresses or contact info or the like. But while storing individual/company contact details is a key application of a database, it is not the only application. Especially when it comes to websites and blogs.
What Is A Database Used For?
Most database driven websites today use the database to store all sorts of data. While this often includes individual info, it can also include data that is essential to the operation of the website. For example, a database can store data to assist in the following website or blog functions:
- It can store all website/blog content, including articles, posts, user comments, and more
- It can store data related to the navigation of the website. For example, the menu items on a website could be pulled from a database. This allows the content providers to modify the information architecture via an administration area of the website. Therefore, there's no need to modify HTML files.
- It can store product info that's available for sale.
- It can store customer details.
- It can store data related to the layout of the website or blog. Administrators can change the layout via an administration panel.
There are many more possible reasons for why website may have a database.
How Do I Learn About Databases?
Start by checking out this database tutorial at Quackit. This will give you a high level overview of what a database is and how it is used.
After that, you should learn about SQL with this SQL tutorial. SQL is what your website uses when it needs to access the database.