This question applies to any database table design, where you would have system default items and custom user defaults of the same type (ie user can add his own custom items/settings).
Here is an example of invoicing and paymenttypes, By default an invoice can have payment terms of DueOnReceipt, NET10, NET15, NET30 (this is the default for all users!) therefore you would have two tables "INVOICE" and "PAYMENT_TERM"
PAYMENT_TERM (System default)
Now what is the best way to allow a user to store their own custom "PaymentTerms" and why? (ie user can use system default payment terms OR user's own custom payment terms that he created/added)
Option 1) Add UserId to PaymentTerm, set userid for the user that has added the custom item and system default userid set to null.
UserId (System Default, UserId=null)
Option 2) Add a flag to Invoice "IsPaymentTermCustom" and Create a custom table "PAYMENT_TERM_CUSTOM"
IsPaymentTermCustom (True for custom, otherwise false for system default)
Now check via SQL query if the user is using a custom payment term or not, if IsPaymentTermCustom=True, it means the user is using custom payment term otherwise its false.
Option 3) ????
As a general rule:
- Prefer adding columns to adding tables
- Prefer adding rows to adding columns
Generally speaking, the considerations are:
Effects of adding a table
- Requires the most changes to the app: You're supporting a new kind of "thing"
- Requires more complicated SQL: You'll have to join to it somehow
- May require changes to other tables to add a foreign key column referencing the new table
- Impacts performance because more I/O is needed to join to and read from the new table
Note that I am not saying "never add tables". Just know the costs.
Effects of adding a column
- Can be expensive to add a column if the table is large (can take hours for the
ALTER TABLE ADD COLUMN to complete and during this time the table wil be locked, effectively bringing your site "down"), but this is a one-time thing
- The cost to the project is low: Easy to code/maintain
- Usually requires minimal changes to the app - it's a new aspect of a thing, rather than a new thing
- Will perform with negligible performance difference. Will not be measurably worse, but may be a lot faster depending on the situation (if having the new column avoids joining or expensive calculations).
Effects of adding rows
- Zero: If your data model can handle your new business idea by just adding more rows, that's the best option
(Pedants kindly refrain from making comments such as "there is no such thing as 'zero' impact", or "but there will still be more disk used for more rows" etc - I'm talking about material impact to the DB/project/code)
To answer the question: Option 1 is best (i.e. add a column to the payment option table).
The reasoning is based on the guidelines above and this situation is a good fit for those guidelines.
I would also store "standard" payment options in the same table, but with a
NULL userid; that way you only have to add new payment options when you really have one, rather than for every customer even if they use a standard one.
It also means your invoice table does not need changing, which is a good thing - it means minimal impact to that part of your app.