The majority of database users only enjoy a fraction of what their database can offer, and that makes sense. After all, databases can be intimidating, confusing, and with minimal training the users want to dive right in. However, not all databases are created equally, which is why you should shop around for databases that offer the features you need first (and want second). There are many database mistakes being made, and one of the biggies is choosing a database that can’t support the size of material you have.
Which features should your database have, then? It all depends on what you need and want in a database. For example, a non-profit will want a database like Raiser’s Edge that has an input column for in-kind donations (tough to find with many databases!). However, there are also a few key features that everyone deserves:
1. An actually helpful Help menu
Even with training, there will come a time when you just can’t remember how to do something and it’s not intuitive to figure it out. This is when the Help menu can be your saving grace or drive you crazy. Before purchasing a database, make sure you play around with the Help menu and make sure it lives up to its name. If not, you’re signing up for frustration.
2. A non-obnoxious display
There’s a chance you or some of your employees will be staring at this database for hours every day. If it induces headaches, is obnoxious, or just not easy to use, that means 40+ hours per week of needless migraines. Recently, Shape magazine featured on article on which (paint) colors are most relaxing, but those same rules can be applied to database designs, too. Who wants to start at a neon orange database all day?
3. The ability to customize (easily)
Even if you spring for a database that was created just for your industry, it’s not going to be perfect. Maybe you want to include fields for your contact’s dog’s name. If you can’t customize your database, you’re going to be stuck settling. That’s not what you’re paying for.
4. Free, auto updates
Your database is no good if it doesn’t regularly offer updates (at the very least to keep your data secure). You should also be able to customize this, choosing how often updates happen, whether you want to do it manually, and it should happen without making your entire computer unusable.
What do you want in your database? Write a list and use it when comparison shopping.