Following proper database design is the only way your application will be efficient, flexible, and easy to manage and maintain. An important aspect of database design is to use relationships between tables instead of throwing all your data into one long flat file. Types of relationships include one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many.
Using relationships to properly organize your data is called normalization. There are many levels of normalization, but the primary levels are the first, second, and third normal forms. Each level has a rule or two that you must follow. Following all the rules helps ensure that your database is well organized and flexible.
To take an idea from inception through to fruition, you should follow a design process. This process essentially says "think before you act." Discuss rules, requirements, and objectives; then create the final version of your normalized tables. In this hour, you applied this knowledge to the creation of a simple discussion form, using PHP and MySQL to create input forms and display pages for topics and posts.