How to Streamline Your Database Schema Management with Laravel Migration

Posted on September 11th, 2023

If you’re diving into the world of web development with Laravel, you’ve likely encountered the term “migration.” But what exactly is Laravel migration, and why should you care?

In this article, we’re here to demystify Laravel migration in the simplest terms possible. No tech jargon, no complex theories – just plain language and practical examples.

So, what’s the deal with Laravel migration? Think of it as your trusty tool for managing your database structure. Whether you’re creating new tables, tweaking existing ones, or even rolling back changes, Laravel migration has your back.

Stick with us as we walk you through the ins and outs of Laravel migration, step by step. By the end of this guide, you’ll be wielding the power of migrations like a pro, making your web development journey smoother and more efficient.

Ready to simplify your database management? Let’s jump into the world of Laravel migration!

Getting Started with Laravel Migrations

First things first, you’ll need a Laravel project up and running. If you haven’t already, follow our Laravel deployment guide that provides detailed instructions on getting started. Once you have your project created and set up, open terminal and navigate to your project directory.

Laravel migration revolves around migration files. These files act as blueprints for your database tables. Creating one is straightforward. In your command line, run this command:

$ php artisan make:migration create_products_table

Here’s the breakdown:

  • php artisan is Laravel’s command-line tool.
  • make:migration tells Laravel to create a migration file.
  • create_users_table is the name you give to your migration file. You can pick any name that makes sense for your project.

And just like that, you’ve got your very own migration file ready to define your database structure. This file will be located in the database/migrations directory of your project.

In the next section, we’ll dive deeper into creating and modifying database tables, rolling back changes, and more.

Creating Database Table Schema

Open the migration file you’ve created (it should be in the database/migrations directory). Inside, you’ll find two methods: up and down. We’re interested in the up method for now.

In this method, you define your table’s structure using Laravel’s fluent schema builder. It’s much simpler than it sounds. Let’s break it down with an example.

public function up()
Schema::create('products', function (Blueprint $table) {
$table->id(); // Auto-increment ID
$table->string('name'); // Product name
$table->text('description'); // Product description
$table->decimal('price', 8, 2); // Product price with 8 digits and 2 decimal places
$table->integer('stock_quantity'); // Stock quantity
$table->timestamp('created_at')->useCurrent(); // Created at timestamp
$table->timestamp('updated_at')->nullable(); // Updated at timestamp

In this example, we’re creating a products table with the following columns:

  • id: An auto-incrementing primary key.
  • name: A string column to store product names.
  • description: A text column for product descriptions.
  • price: A decimal column to store the product’s price with 8 digits and 2 decimal places.
  • stock_quantity: An integer column to track the quantity of the product in stock.
  • created_at: A timestamp column set to use the current timestamp when a record is created.
  • updated_at: A nullable timestamp column to track when a record is updated.

Feel free to customize this structure to fit your project’s needs. Want more columns? Just add them using the $table->dataType('column_name') syntax. You can find all the available data types and the options in official Laravel documentation for migrations.

Once the migration is ready, Execute the following command to run the migration and create an actual table in your database.

$ php artisan migrate

Once the command is executed successfully, You will be able to see the table in database and add rows to it, just like any other project.

Note: The up() method is used when the migration is being executed and the down() method is used when we rollback the migration due to any reason. If you don’t understand it now, No worries. We are going to cover the detailed modification of tables in the next section.

Modifying the Tables

Laravel migrations are not only capable of creating new tables, but you can also document changes in the migrations too. As your project evolves, you might need to add new columns, alter existing ones, or even drop columns from your database tables. Let’s dive into how to perform these operations using Laravel migration.

Note: For any of the following changes, You need to create a new migration. In a new migration, You can replace the up or down method with the following code according to your requirements. Also, Note the difference between “Schema::create” and  “Schema::table”.

Adding New Columns

Adding a new column to an existing table is a common task in web development. Laravel migration makes it a breeze. Here’s how you can add a manufacturer column to your products table:

public function up()
Schema::table('products', function (Blueprint $table) {
$table->string('manufacturer')->nullable(); // New 'manufacturer' column

This is how you can add more columns to your tables using Laravel Migrations. In this example, we use the Schema::table method to specify that we’re modifying the products table. Then, we add a new column called manufacturer. The nullable() method allows this column to have null values.

Altering Columns

Sometimes, you may need to change the type or attributes of an existing column. For instance, let’s say you want to increase the length of the name column in your products table:

public function up()
Schema::table('products', function (Blueprint $table) {
$table->string('name', 100)->change(); // Change 'name' column to have a maximum length of 100 characters

In this example, we use the change() method to modify the name column, setting its maximum length to 100 characters.

Dropping Columns

If you no longer need a specific column in your table, you can remove it using Laravel migration. Here’s how to drop the manufacturer column we added earlier:

public function up()
Schema::table('products', function (Blueprint $table) {
$table->dropColumn('manufacturer'); // Drop 'manufacturer' column

With the dropColumn method, you specify the column you want to remove, and Laravel will take care of the rest.

After making all these changes in your migrations, You need to execute the migration as usual using the following command.

$ php artisan migrate

So, this is how you can alter tables in Laravel using Laravel migrations.

Rolling Back Migrations

Rolling back, in other words, is Undo. So, If you have performed the migration by mistake, You can simply roll back the migration to undo the changes in the database schema. Laravel migration makes rolling back changes as straightforward as applying them in the first place.

Let’s say you recently ran a migration, and you want to roll it back. The following command will undo the last batch of migrations:

$ php artisan migrate:rollback

Laravel will revert the last batch of migrations, effectively undoing the changes you made. This is handy for quickly fixing mistakes or making adjustments to your database structure.

Rolling Back to a Specific Migration

Sometimes, you might want to roll back to a specific migration rather than the last one. You can do this using the --step option. For example, to roll back the last three migrations, you can run:

$ php artisan migrate:rollback --step=3

Laravel will reverse the last three batches of migrations, effectively taking your database back in time to the specified state.

Refreshing the Database

If you want to roll back and re-run all your migrations from scratch, you can use the refresh command:

$ php artisan migrate:refresh

This command will roll back all migrations and then re-run them, essentially resetting your database to its initial state. Use this with caution, as it will erase all data in your tables.

Database Seeding or Data Population

In real-world applications, databases are not just about creating tables and altering columns; they’re also about populating those tables with meaningful data for testing and development. Laravel makes this process easy with the concept of seeding. In this section, we’ll explore how to seed your database tables with initial data using Laravel migration.

Creating a Seeder

To get started with seeding, you’ll need a seeder class. Laravel provides a command to create one:

$ php artisan make:seeder ProductsTableSeeder

This command generates a new seeder class named ProductsTableSeeder in the database/seeders directory. You can use any meaningful name for your seeder class based on the table you want to seed.

Defining Data in a Seeder

Open the generated seeder class, and you’ll find a run method. This is where you define the data you want to insert into your table. Let’s create some sample data for your products table:

use Illuminate\Database\Seeder;
use Illuminate\Support\Facades\DB;

class ProductsTableSeeder extends Seeder
    public function run()
                'name' => 'Laptop',
                'description' => 'Powerful laptop for work and gaming.',
                'price' => 999.99,
                'stock_quantity' => 50,
                'name' => 'Smartphone',
                'description' => 'Feature-packed smartphone with a great camera.',
                'price' => 499.99,
                'stock_quantity' => 100,
                'name' => 'Headphones',
                'description' => 'Noise-canceling headphones for an immersive audio experience.',
                'price' => 149.99,
                'stock_quantity' => 25,

In this example, we’re using Laravel’s database query builder (DB::table) to insert data into the products table. You can add as many rows of data as you need.

Running the Seeder

To populate your database with this initial data, run the following command:

$ php artisan db:seed --class=ProductsTableSeeder

This command instructs Laravel to execute the run method in your seeder class, inserting the defined data into your products table.

And that’s it! Your products table is now populated with initial data, ready for testing and development. Seeding is a powerful feature that helps you ensure your application functions as expected with realistic data.

Common Issues and Solutions

If you are using Laravel Migrations for the first time, You might run into some common errors. Here are some of them with the logical solution that you can apply on your code.

Missing Tables

Issue: Your migration appears successful, but you don’t see the expected tables in your database.

Troubleshooting: Check the migration file’s up method to ensure you’re creating the table correctly. Also, verify that the migration file is saved in the correct location (database/migrations) and has a unique name.

Migration Rollback Issues

Issue: Rolling back a migration doesn’t work as expected, or you encounter errors.

Troubleshooting: Make sure that your rollback code in the down method of the migration file accurately undoes the changes made in the up method. Check for any dependencies or order of migrations that might affect the rollback process.

Foreign Key Constraints

Issue: Migrations involving foreign key constraints can sometimes fail due to dependencies.

Troubleshooting: When working with foreign keys, make sure you define the tables and their relationships in the correct order within your migration files. Laravel’s foreign method should be used to define foreign key constraints.

Rollback Conflicts

Issue: When rolling back migrations, you might encounter conflicts with existing data.

Troubleshooting: Handle data conflicts explicitly in your migration’s down method. For example, if you’re deleting a column, ensure any dependent data is also removed or updated.

Remember, troubleshooting is an integral part of the development process. When you encounter issues, take the time to diagnose the problem, use error messages and logs to your advantage, and don’t hesitate to seek help from the Laravel community if needed.

By addressing these common issues with patience and a systematic approach, you’ll become more proficient in working with Laravel migration and ensure the stability of your database management tasks.


In this article, we covered setting up your Laravel project, creating and modifying database tables, rolling back changes, seeding data, adhering to best practices, and troubleshooting common issues. You now have the knowledge and skills to confidently manage databases as your projects evolve. Here’s to your continued success in web development with Laravel!

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