A database is an integral part of a software/web application as it stores crucial information such as sign-ups, customer data, and transactional data, to mention a few. ER Diagrams help in designing databases to meet the requirements.
A database enables an administrator and users of web applications to retrieve data from a given website/ web application.
Before a software application goes live, it goes through different steps, such as designing, developing, and testing. Entity Relationship Diagrams (ERDs) are used to visually represent a database.
What are ER Diagrams
Entity Relationship Diagrams, also known as ER Diagrams, ERDs, or ER models, are structural diagrams that are used to design databases. ER Diagrams have different connectors and symbols that visualize all the major entities within the desired system and the interrelationships among these entities.
Entities may vary from one web application to another. For instance, if we have a school management system, we can have different entities with different roles, such as admin, students, teachers, and subjects. On the other hand, if it is an eCommerce platform, we will have entities such as admin, users/ customers, and products.
A typical ER Diagram will have symbols such as rectangles and connectors that come with different styles depicting the entities, their attributes, and the interrelationships associated with them.
Benefits of ER Diagrams
- Explicit visual representation. Users can easily comprehend the database structure by checking the ER Diagram.
- ER Diagrams are flexible. The design may change as a web application grows. An ER diagram is flexible to take care of such needs.
- Simple to understand. As long as the different symbols in an ER Diagram are understood, it is easy to understand the relationships.
- Makes communication more effective. An ER Diagram makes it easy for users to understand the relationship between different entities in a database. Users can always study the standard symbols on the diagram to understand how various entities communicate with each other.
Who can use ER Diagram Tools
A database designer is tasked with creating a visual representation of how a database will look. If a database is already in existence and you want to improve it, it is unwise to alter it directly without a clear plan. An ERD helps designers identify flaws and mistakes and make the changes before executing the changes in the database.
Once the database has been designed, developers are tasked with the actual creation. The database creators will always refer to the ER diagram to determine the entities and relationships to create a functional database.
Identifying mistakes in a database can be challenging, especially if the web application is big and has many tables. An ERD helps the debugger visualize the database schema and have an entire database picture.
Features of ER Diagram Tools
Should have multiple diagramming options
Workflow diagrams, ER diagrams, UML diagrams, and flow charts are just examples of diagrams you can draw using diagramming tools. The ideal ER drawing tool should support the modeling of various database objects such as tables, one-to-many (1:M) and one-to-one (1:1) relationships, views, triggers, sequences, and procedures, or else you end with an incomplete diagram.
Database Engine Support
You may likely use different database engines as your web app grows. The ideal ER Diagram maker should understand various data engines to validate the data model based on the constraints provided.
You may sometimes work with an already existing database as a database engineer. Your task will be to tweak or upgrade the database components from existing files. Most modern tools will come with a “reverse engineering” feature that allows you to import an existing database to make changes.
Below are the best ER Diagrams Makers in the market today.
Lucidchart is an ER diagram maker with templates, symbols, and notations to help you visualize a database. Lucidchart has a drag-and-drop interface, which makes it easy to use even if you are not an artist.
- Real-time collaboration. Database engineers should be good collaborators. Lucidchart comes with a collaboration tool to effect real-time changes.
- Importation feature. Lucidchart allows you to import your data which will then create your models and connections automatically. This feature will also update these models anytime you update your data.
- Customizable templates. Lucidchart has ready templates you can easily customize to create your models and their relationships.
Lucidchart pricing starts from $7.95/month, and it also offers a free plan with limited features.
Creately presents itself as the visual workplace. The drag-and-drop interface comes in handy when creating diagrams, charts, and relationships on your database.
- Customizable ER diagram templates. You don’t have to create everything from scratch, as there are templates you can customize to fit your project.
- Real-time visual collaboration. You don’t have to worry if you are working as a team as you can invite members and start working instantly.
- You can reuse your models. You don’t have to create models from scratch every time, as you can reuse the existing ones. You can also create reusable templates to reduce your database design time.
Creately has a free plan with paid plans starting from $4/month.
Smartdraw is a web-based application for ER diagramming. This tool has a drop-and-drag feature and integrates with various applications such as Microsoft Office, G Suite, and Confluence.
- Automatic generation. All you need is to import a CSV file of your table definitions and launch the Automatic ERD Database Extension to generate a visual representation of the database.
- Integration with other apps. To streamline your workflow, you can connect Smartdraw with various apps from Microsoft, Atlassian, and Google.
Smartdraw pricing starts from $9.95 for the Individual plan.
Canva, one of the most popular design tools, can also be used for ER diagramming through the Canva ER Tool.
- Over 20 Professional graphs. If your ERD requires a graph, there exist graphs to choose from.
- Professionally designed templates. Canva’s ERD maker comes with templates that you can easily customize to suit your needs.
Canva has a free plan, while the paid plans start from $6.49/month.
Visual Paradigm Online
Visual Paradigm Online ERD tool comes with various symbols and connectors to enable you to create industry-standard and professional ER models. You can create conceptual, logical, or physical data models using this tool.
- Many templates to choose from. You don’t have to worry if you have never used an ER diagramming tool because Visual Paradigm has over 2000 templates to choose from. Pick a template and start customizing.
- Collaboration feature. You can get instant feedback on your designs by inviting your team members to this tool.
Visual Paradigm has a free plan with paid plans from $4/month.
Visual Paradigm is an ER diagramming tool that you can use to create a variety of diagrams. This drag-and-drop tool makes it easy to create a visual representation of your models, even if you are not a professional designer.
- Sweeper and Magnet. The Sweeper feature allows you to extend the space between diagram elements conveniently. Magnet, on the other hand, enables you to reduce space between your elements through dragging.
- Color Legend. You can visually represent priority, development stages, and maturity levels in ERD through Color Legend.
- Format Copier. Replicating style settings from one shape to another can be time-consuming. Format Copier allows you to replicate your ERD’s font style, line, and fill settings.
Visual Paradigm’s pricing starts from $4/month.
Figma ER Tool
Figma ER Tool allows you to create a visual representation of relationships between users, products, and processes. You can thus design better pathways or even debug existing databases with the help of this tool.
- Real-time Collaboration. You can share your design and get real-time feedback. You can also add members as either viewers or collaborators on your designs.
- Document database design. Figma ER Tool allows you to document the design process. It is thus easy for future employees to follow along when interacting with the models.
- Easy flow. FigJam’s ER diagramming tools make it easy for your team members to follow along as you design your database.
Figma has a free package, while the paid packages start from $12 per editor/per month.
EdrawMax is an ER diagramming tool that produces diagrams with an in-depth look into the system. You can view how the entities are interconnected and even detect problems using logic before you go far with the design.
- Effortless Imports and Exports. You can import data from your database, and EdrawMax generates a visual representation. Once done with the design, you can export your file in various formats such as PDF, JPG, SVG, MS Visio, MS Word, and MS Excel.
- Hundred of templates. You can reduce your design time by almost half by selecting existing templates that you can customize.
- Easy Collaboration. You can get real-time inputs as you design your database. You can even invite other designers to help with various tasks on your design file.
EdrawMax pricing starts from $7.41 per month.
Designing a database is an under-the-hood process, but it definitely influences how users interact with the final web application. The choice of the ER Diagram Maker will depend on your needs, budget, taste, and preferences. Ensure that the tool you select supports all the features you are looking for.