What Do Database Designers Actually Do?

Think of a few things in your life that might have poor design.  Like the universal remote with a million buttons that you only use to change the channel, or that pesky umbrella that folds inside out at the slightest wind gust.  One thing remains the same between them: if they’re poorly designed, we rarely use them.

But what if your database system—the brain of your business—is incorrectly designed?  At some point we’ve all dealt with programs or operating systems that have made us want to throw our computers across the room.  But that’s not an option when you can’t get what you need out of your database.  That’s why it’s the job of the database designer to implement thorough, comprehensive design practices to ensure a system operates flawlessly for its users.  It takes a real pro to do it right.  Database designers have many critical responsibilities in custom software development.  Let’s take a look:

Database designers methodically plan and scale software projects

In a nutshell, database designers plan how your business data will be organized. They play a central role in any development team and are responsible for executing many key planning and scoping activities. They are often the most crucial person involved in a software project’s requirements assessment, meeting with key users to ensure the database system is tailored properly to their business.  They connect the dots between related information, planning the structure of data tables and also making sure there’s no redundant data. A good database designer must be able to truly understand their client’s business and the ways they will use the finished software product.  They must also think multiple steps ahead and balance current costs with a system’s future uses. After all, the database foundation must be solid in order to build an efficient user-interface later on.

When we develop custom database software at J Street, we consider the database design throughout the process.  We start with an Architectural Framework stage, where you meet with a database designer  and system architect to thoroughly examine your requirements and needed features.  Our designer produces essential “blueprint” documents that serve as a roadmap to the finished product.  After evaluating and prioritizing each software component, our designer will explain the costs and benefits of each feature and help prioritize what’s needed now, and what can wait for a later phase.  An experienced database designer is the key ingredient to effectively scaling and scoping a new software application.  But their work doesn’t stop in the planning stage.

Database designers listen, communicate, and lead a team during development

It’s common to have a lot of intersecting roles and personalities on a software development team.  An efficient development team must bring different experiences, disciplines, and capabilities to the table.  Competent designers must harness and leverage those personalities to ensure the finished database system meets their client’s needs. Database designers play an essential role in connecting myriad parts of business information into a cohesive whole that works for everyone.  They must work with developers to translate requirements into technical terms to build a sound, foundational database. 

Database designers essentially bridge the gap between clients and programmers.  They are communication experts that can speak both the client’s and the development team’s languages.  A practiced database designer must also be technical enough to be able to meet new requirements that appear throughout the development process. Many requirements aren’t planned for in the beginning, but it is the database designer’s job to leave room in the database structure to account for unplanned improvements.  A skilled database designer can harness the overlapping capabilities of their team and keep a project aligned while accounting for a system’s future needs.

Database designers test and teach finished database applications

Once the database structure is in place, database designers are responsible for making sure it works appropriately.  This includes loading existing data from an old system (if available), checking its validity, and making sure the database has good performance.  They also design queries to ensure that the database is providing the correct information.  Database designers must make sure the database can answer the questions posed to it before it is implemented across an organization.  A variety of testing activities take place at all stages of the development cycle so that the finished system works exactly as the designers, developers, and clients intend.

The final role of the database designer is to coach the users of the system.  Designers retain so much technical knowledge of the database which must be transferred to the users the system was designed for.  Users are taught how to enter and manipulate data, run reports and queries, and be aware of all of the system’s functions before it can be successfully deployed. At J Street, we help our clients understand their custom systems by delivering documents that outline the database’s structure. This includes a database diagram, which breaks down all the tables of information, and a screen flow diagram, which shows all the screens users interact with.  We also train users on custom reports we’ve designed so they can get the most use out of their data.  Your custom database system is only worth the investment if your users know how to use it!

Every software development team needs a skilled database designer

Database Designers are often the most multi-faceted members on any software development team.  A properly designed database is like the foundation of a house, and you need a well-versed database designer to design the foundation correctly.  Without a strong foundation, the system can fail and pose serious risks to business operations.  Designers are involved in every step of the process of developing a custom database system.  From assessing requirements and planning the system architecture, all the way to testing and deploying the system and training its users.  A professional database designer makes sure all of your business information is organized efficiently in its right place.

At J Street, we offer a team of database designers with combined decades of experience building database applications of all sizes.  They work alongside our skilled developers to construct practical, high-quality software that allows our clients to make their data work for them.  Want to know more about our software designers and their backgrounds?  Check out Our Team or schedule a free consultation to learn how we can benefit your database project.

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