In this tutorial, we’ll talk about the naming conventions for databases, tables, and columns.
We’ll provide helpful tips and share best practices.
2. Importance of Naming Conventions
Naming conventions are crucial in database design and management as they offer consistency, clarity, and structure to the organization and accessibility of data within a database. They ensure a uniform naming approach for all database objects, making it more straightforward for developers, administrators, and stakeholders to understand each object’s role and functionality. Additionally, maintaining consistent naming helps us identify related entities faster.
Let’s consider a database a company uses to manage its employees and projects. There are two tables there: and . In this case, follows the singular-noun naming convention, while is in the plural form.
Now, the tables are named in different ways. As a result, a query writer may mistakenly use instead of and instead of :
SELECT * FROM Employees JOIN Project ON Employees.ProjectID = Project.ID
This inconsistency leads to errors and confusion in accurately querying the data, slowing development.
3. Database Naming: Guidelines
Database naming conventions are the rules for naming diverse elements within a database: tables, columns, indexes, constraints, and various other objects.
Although there are various conventions in practice, we can formulate general guidelines and principles.
First, we need to be consistent. Consistency in naming conventions should be maintained throughout the entire database.
In a team setting, we must ensure all team members know and follow the established conventions.
Then, we should choose the names that accurately represent the purpose or content of the database objects. Unclear names should be avoided, as they might confuse others. In cases where we use abbreviations, it’s essential to document and explain their meanings for future reference.
Similarly, we should avoid special characters, spaces, and non-alphanumeric characters to prevent compatibility issues and misunderstandings. Further, we should apply and adopt a consistent capitalization style.
Finally, we shouldn’t use reserved words for table and column names.
4. Naming Conventions Methods
There are three widely adopted naming conventions structuring the names of variables, functions, files, and various elements in programming and database design:
We adopt one of these three conventions for our tables and columns when designing databases.
4.1. Snake Case
Snake case uses underscores to separate word elements of a name, with all letters in lowercase.
It’s advisable to avoid single-letter or exceedingly brief names that lack clarity.
4.2. Camel Case
Camel capitalizes each word in a name except the first one and concatenates the words without a separator:
4.3. Pascal Case
Pascal case is the same as the camel case except that it capitalizes every word in a name (including the first one):
5. Table Naming Conventions
Table names should precisely convey the content or purpose of the data. So, we should avoid ambiguous or excessively truncated names.
Whichever naming case we choose, we should apply it consistently. So, all tables should follow the same rules. For example, there’s no point in defining conventions if we use the camel, snake, and Pascal cases interchangeably in the same database.
However, a table naming convention should define more than the naming case. An important question is whether to use singular or plural nouns. Opting for singular nouns when naming tables, rather than plural nouns, is a recommended approach. This choice serves to sustain clarity when making references to individual data rows. For instance, if we name a table , we know that refers to its rows and a group of teachers in the table. However, if the table’s name is , there can be ambiguity.
Specific databases incorporate prefixes to distinguish between table types. For instance, might denote regular tables, while could represent views. This practice proves beneficial in promptly discerning the objective of the respective object but affects readability and makes queries longer.
6. Column Naming Conventions
As with table names, column names should effectively and precisely define the data they contain. This practice makes it easy for developers, analysts, and other relevant stakeholders to understand a column’s meaning.
Similar to the approach for table names, we need to apply a naming style uniformly and consistently. So, whichever case we choose, we must stick to it for all the columns.
Further, column names should be singular nouns. This practice aligns with the notion that each column within a table embodies an individual attribute or piece of data of a specific row.
We should avoid redundant words or information in column names, mainly when such details can be inferred from the broader context of the table or the presence of other columns.
For example, our e-commerce website has a table named , which contains information about each order. Within this table, columns and denote the ID and the order date. Since those columns are in the table called , it’s clear that they refer to orders. So, the word in the column names is redundant, and the better approach would be to name the columns and .
7. Importance of Documenting Naming Conventions
We should document the chosen naming conventions. This is especially important for teams since every member should know the conventions to avoid confusing other members when writing queries and naming tables and columns.
Also, documented conventions make it easier for newcomers to the team to start working.
Unified adherence to established guidelines streamlines the implementation of modifications, code refactoring, and the integration of novel functionalities.
Naming conventions frequently encapsulate the business logic of the application. Documenting them, we let them play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between technical and non-technical stakeholders, rendering the technical aspects more comprehensible.
Let’s summarize the benefits of adopting a naming convention:
Clear and consistent naming conventions facilitate long-term maintenance and updates. When modifications or improvements are necessary, individuals can swiftly locate the pertinent objects and comprehend their roles, minimizing confusion and the number of mistakes.
A transparent naming convention mitigates errors stemming from the misinterpretation of object names. Developers are less inclined to make errors when an object’s purpose is evident solely from its name.
A meticulously designed naming convention guarantees that the reasoning behind object names remains comprehensible even as time progresses. This is particularly important due to the often-prolonged lifespan of databases, enabling individuals not involved in the initial design to comprehend the decisions made.
In this article, we discussed naming conventions for databases. The key advantages are consistency, readability, maintainability, searchability, and error reduction. Those benefits make it easier for developers and database administrators to understand and work with the database.