When to Use a Database in Website Development

The website development landscape has changed a bit since I last tackled this issue. Many websites are now built on content management systems like WordPress that do technically store all page content in a database. This differs from a traditionally “static” website where the page content resides in individual HTML files. Although content-managed sites store page content in a database, most still treat each page as its own separate content with little relation to other pages on the site.

Sometimes we need to use a database in a more active sense, such as when structured information needs to be searched and displayed in a variety of different selection and sorting methods. Examples of such uses are membership directories, product selection tools, and insurance rate lookups.

How to Know If and When You Should Use a Database

It is important to recognize when website content should be implemented in a database rather than as individual pages of content. Key elements to consider:

  • How much information? If there will be more than 25 or so individual pages or records of information, then a database might be in order.
  • How often does the information change? If once a year or even less frequently, then maybe static pages will do.
  • How complicated is the display of content? If calculations are required, or each page features multiple documents or links, then databasing is good. Especially if the content administrator is not technical.
  • How personalized is the display of information? Will site visitors typically see all the pages or records in a list, or will they be searching or combining criteria to view only certain information. In that case, get a database!

Here are some real-world examples of database-driven website features:

National Association of Estate Planners & Councils

This national association website uses a database to keep information about its 240 local councils (chapters). That information can be used to drive a search mechanism that uses a map and a pull-down list of states.


First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association

This fraternal insurance company site allows visitors to generate a customized life insurance quote based on criteria they input. This features thousands of data records and complicated calculations:


Novelist Warren Adler

Adler’s site features detailed listings of his 33 published novels in a fairly structured manner that uses WordPress’ inherent database capabilities for displaying structured information for each novel.


Dynamics Online specializes in the development of customized website solutions that power complex business relationships. Please contact us for help to determine if your project needs to a databased solution.

Bruce-G+-ImageBruce Newburger is the Founder and President at Dynamics Online.
You can reach him by calling (216) 292-4410.