DataBase Application Development by David Nye

David Nye Case Studies


LAMDA Examinations (London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art) administer over 50,000 examinations each year in 150 subjects related to the dramatic arts, from their offices near Earls Court (London, UK). Around 100 examiners are contracted to travel to over 1,200 examination centres worldwide.

When I was approached via my web site, LAMDA were using a system developed in DataEase. Scheduling and processing the results for this number of exams requires several users to be updating non-stop at peak times, so performance and robustness are key, and the old system was simply not keeping up. The internal IT resource was one part-time support technician, so LAMDA also needed a supplier able to take the project from requirements analysis through to live implementation.

The developer needed to work closely with the users to ensure every feature exactly matched their working practices.

As a registered charity, the budget was limited and predetermined. As an educational establishment, the implementation timeframe specified was within the summer holiday season, requiring strict deadlines.

Together we selected MS Access for the client side front-end because of the Rapid Application Design (RAD) features and ease of maintenance. We chose SQL Server for the server database engine back-end to ensure scalability, excellent high transaction volume performance, and good security.

The system was delivered and implemented within budget, and on time.

The Access run-time system was installed to avoid having to install expensive Access licences on all workstations, and to make the interface user-friendlier. Improvement in performance over the old system has allowed the department to be more pro-active, having more time for data analysis, faster billing and efficient marketing.


Wisermove was a good example of a Web site requiring a database back end. The business concept was straightforward; house owners register their property for a small fee, and potential purchasers search the database for details matching their requirements.

Talking Webs were commissioned to design and develop the visual elements of the site, and asked me to handle the database side. SQL Server was eventually selected as the database engine, to ensure that the site coped with high traffic levels as it grew. The Web interface was provided by VBScript in ASP.

Database design for Web applications presents a very different set of problems compared to conventional LAN systems. The property registration process needed to be robust and very user friendly, because the sellers input their own details, yet the property presentation must be professional and reasonably consistent. The form was designed to avoid the common complaint that input is easily lost and has to be repeated. So long as the seller noted the property reference (generated automatically) and the password they choose (or optionally generated by the system), they could very easily add or amend all other details at any time.

The search logic required the most careful design, to provide a good compromise between relevancy and ease of criteria selection. The automated emails were another key feature. Buyers could save their searches to receive details of new properties as soon as their details were published. Property details were only made visible once paid for and published, using the password protected secure administrative pages, where the digital photos were also uploaded.