Making Database Systems Nowadays Usable Computer Science Essay

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This paper focuses on why database systems nowadays are so difficult to use. It explains the usability of a database is as vital as its capability; as well as that it describes the current research activities related to database usability. This paper outlines the usability challenges facing database systems and looks into some strategy for future.


The main purpose of a database system is to offer users with a non-figurative observation of the data; it's controlled by a data processing system for a specific purpose. A database system is often use to organise information on a computer, and executed by a set of computer programs. For example:

* stability - this is to avoid losing data;

* simple - straightforward to access and display information;

* security - this is to defend accessing private/personal data;

* speed - quick results, and effortless protection

These are commonly used in database to put in a structure or object, i.e. table. For the most part of databases it uses standard query language (SQL). Structured query similar to Standard query language SQL and XQuery provides database systems to let users to express query semantics[1]. These structures are quite hard for users to take on mainly because they need users to completely understand the structure of a database.

Advantages & Disadvantages of using database


All the information is as one.

Information's easily transferable.

Ease access to information.

Info's are easily recoverable.

Several of users can access the same database at the same time.

Database security's better.

The relational database system is more recitals; as a result it's faster to locate a data, which basically makes it cheaper than a file System.


Database systems are slow, time consuming, and difficult.

Training is must for all programmers and users.

Price of hardware and software are expensive.

Poor consequence of failure


In usability engineering, Jokob Nielson talked about how usability is measured by having several of tests to use the system to perform a prespecifed a set of task. Its relative to certain users and certain tasks, it could well be the case that the same system would be measured as having different usability characteristics if used by different users for different tasks, [J.Neilson 1993].

The paper focuses on several aspects of interfaces; visual interface; text interface, and context and personalization. The initial usability illustrates that the visual interface is usable and efficient for majority of users. The file system interface to the database which makes information matching to a set of database objects available to the file system based application as a file system structure having one or more file system objects. D. Braga, A. Campi, and S. Ceri have talked about how many visual query interfaces have been proposed to assist users in building queries incrementally, including XQBE [2].

Furthermore, Nielson how usability may lead to designs violating some usability principles. For example, security considerations often require access controls that are decidedly non-user use friendly, such as not providing constructive error messages in case of an erroneously entered password. As another example, museum information systems and other publicly used systems may have hidden options, such as command to reboot the system in case of trouble, in cases where the options are not intended to be used nu the regular user. [3]


Database systems have been viewed as repositories that store the information required by an application, and that are accessed either by user programs or through interactive interfaces. In such a context, a range of different tools and systems are used together to support the requirements of the application [Norman W. Paton 1999]. Mainly database systems link tables, these programs run a database, and present an interface for entering, retrieving and managing database, frequently using the SQL commands. I.e. MySQL.

Database systems are notorious for being hard to use. There are two main reasons for their usability challenges. First, there are the systems aspects of installing such systems and getting them to run efficiently on a particular hardware setup. Second and perhaps more importantly, is the conceptual difficulty of creating models of data as the first step in building an application [Alon Y. Halevy 2009]. The advantages of a DS is it reduces errors as well as it enhances stability, though it might improve security it also has it disadvantages, cost, its expensive to start and buy the hardware and software also its cost in moving from a file -based system to a database system.

Nielsen [4] recommended using a simplified usability measure, success rate, which he defined as the percentage of tasks that users complete successfully. It divides task completion into three groups: Success, partial and fail [4]. How to choose and which to select as usability measures is a difficult task, especially so as recent studies have offered more than 54 usability measures [5]. However, this also affirms the importance of studying the relationships between usability measures, besides what to measure for Internet websites and how. However, recent research seems to combine usability measures [6].

The usability tests endue from several of problems. Though it can control usability tests results.


This paper reveals how hard it is to use database systems, regardless how much research and testing been done. Database system allows effective user interaction with the database through direct data manipulation. In particular, the usability can easily pressure usability testing results. Although it can be very difficulty for users to interact and can't just be fixed by improving the query interface.

Citing References Intext and Compiling the References List and Bibliography

Database Management, What is database managaement system? [online] (Updated 02 Nov 2010) Available at: < >[1]

D. Braga., A. Campi., and S. Ceri. XQBE: A Visual Interface to the Standard XML Query Language. ACM Trans. Database Syst., 30(2), 2005. [Accessed on 04-Nov-2010] [2]

Jakob, N.,1993 Active database systems published by Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco. Available on < >[Accessed on 04-Nov-2010] [3]

J. Nielsen., 2001. Success Rate: The Simplest Usability Metric. Available from: <>. [Accessed on 04-Nov-2010] [4]

Alon, Y. H., 2009 User-focused database management. Available on < >[Accessed on 04-Nov-2010]

Jakob, N., 1993 Usability Engineering. Available on < >[Accessed on 04-Nov-2010]

File system interface to a database, 1999. Information in a database is accessed with a computer system. [Online] Available at: <> [Accessed on 04-Nov-2010]

K. Hornbaek, and J. Stage, 2006. "The Interplay Between Usability Evaluation and User Interaction Design". International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction Vol, 21. pp, 117-123. [5]

K. Hornbaek, and J. Stage, 2006. "The Interplay Between Usability Evaluation and User Interaction Design". International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction Vol, 21. pp, 117-123. [6]