Photograph of a man sketching a database on a glass pane

Databases are one of the major web development solutions to the problem of dealing with large amounts of changing data. Traditional web pages are perfect for presenting static and unchanging information, but as a site grows in scope and complexity creating individual pages for each new product or post rapidly becomes an overwhelming task.

Of all the database formats and languages available, MySQL remains one of the most popular, the “glue” that allows Content Management Systems like WordPress to work. For basic CMS management, a developer might need to know only to know the database name, username and password, but for more ambitious tasks - such as gathering and displaying information in ways never supported by a “stock” CMS install - a deeper understanding is called for.

This reading list presents the very basics of MySQL: database concepts, the creation of a simple table, writing a custom query, and displaying the results. There is obviously much more that can be done with MySQL, but as this site focuses mostly on front end development, it’s enough to gain an understanding of the role and purposes of the database language.

Time: 2 hours

Prerequisites: A basic understanding of HTML, PHP and servers. You’ll need a development server setup with MySQL to work through the examples and exercises.

  1. Introduction to Database Concepts
  2. Introduction to MySQL
  3. Create a Simple MySQL Table with phpMyAdmin
  4. Configure DreamWeaver for MySQL
  5. Write a MySQL Connection with PHP
  6. Simple SQL Syntax
  7. A Customisable MySQL Query
  8. A Simple INSERT
  9. Handy MySQL Queries
  10. Sync Databases from the Command Line

Additional Reading

Databases store local, often private information. At their inception, databases often lack any information - no blog posts, no employee data - which can be challenging to fill for testing purposes.

When that information is complete and exposed to the outside world, it is often presented as an API - an application programming interface. I’ll have much more to say about these wonderfully rich sources of information in future posts, but for now I’d suggest reading the following as an introduction:

  1. Information Sources For Forms and Databases
  2. Profile Generators & Random User Images

Supplementary Material

SQLBolt has a series of lessons and interactive exercises that do not require a development server, and is highly recommended for learning SQL syntax.

Banner photograph by tec_estromberg, licensed under Creative Commons.

Enjoy this piece? I invite you to follow me at to learn more.