Author - Sunil Kumar Post Views - 89 views
Database Design

PHP – Single Table Inheritance: Simplifying Object-Oriented Database Design

Introduction: In object-oriented programming, inheritance allows us to create hierarchical relationships between classes, enabling code reusability and logical structuring. Similarly, in database design, the concept of inheritance can be applied to tables, resulting in a more streamlined and efficient database structure. Single Table Inheritance (STI) is one such technique that enables the representation of diverse object types in a single database table. In this blog, we will explore PHP’s implementation of STI and provide a practical example to illustrate its benefits.

Understanding Single Table Inheritance (STI): Single Table Inheritance is a technique where multiple object types, each having its own set of attributes and behaviors, are stored in a single database table. This approach is particularly useful when dealing with a small number of distinct object types that share common attributes but have a few unique properties as well. By consolidating all objects into a single table, we eliminate the need for multiple tables and complex joins, resulting in a more efficient and simpler database structure.

Implementation in PHP: To demonstrate how STI works in PHP, let’s consider a scenario where we have a base class called Vehicle, with two derived classes, Car and Motorcycle. Both derived classes share some common attributes, such as color and manufacturer, but also have specific properties, such as numDoors for Car and hasSidecar for Motorcycle. Here’s an example of how we can implement this using STI in PHP:

class Vehicle {
protected $color;
protected $manufacturer;
// Common methods and properties
public function getColor() {
return $this->color;
public function setColor($color) {
$this->color = $color;
// Other common methods
class Car extends Vehicle {
protected $numDoors;
// Car-specific methods and properties
public function getNumDoors() {
return $this->numDoors;
public function setNumDoors($numDoors) {
$this->numDoors = $numDoors;
// Other car-specific methods
class Motorcycle extends Vehicle {
protected $hasSidecar;
// Motorcycle-specific methods and properties
public function hasSidecar() {
return $this->hasSidecar;
public function setSidecar($hasSidecar) {
$this->hasSidecar = $hasSidecar;
// Other motorcycle-specific methods

In the database, we can have a single table called vehicles, which contains all the attributes of the Vehicle base class along with additional columns for the specific properties of each derived class (numDoors for Car and hasSidecar for Motorcycle).

Conclusion: Single Table Inheritance (STI) is a powerful technique in database design that allows us to efficiently represent multiple object types in a single table, eliminating the need for complex joins and reducing redundancy. By leveraging the inheritance mechanism provided by PHP, we can easily implement STI and create a more streamlined and maintainable codebase. However, it’s important to note that while STI offers advantages in certain scenarios, it may not be suitable for every situation. It’s essential to carefully analyze the requirements and structure of your application before deciding to use STI or any other database design technique.

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