My first MVC application goes to production

Published August 19, 2009 by Toran Billups

Over the past few years I have invested a great deal of time learning presentation patterns because I feel they help to provide a cleaner programming model for GUI driven systems. In addition to the separation of concerns, you also get increased testability and increased maintainability for large scale systems.

With the recent release of the Model View Controller framework from Microsoft I thought it was time to make a paradigm shift and learn a new pattern. The 1.0 release of the MVC Framework was available on March 17th and to be honest, before the RTM/RTW release I did not look at it much. Not because I am against community feedback, but instead because I had no time to work with beta and ctp releases during my current project.

I started my last project back in November of 2008 and it was intended to be a simple forms over data application but as they usually do, the business wanted to add some behavior to the system. And with any web application that I wanted to unit test, I started with the usual model view presenter implementation. But after the 1.0 release of the MVC Framework I thought it would be a worthy proof of concept to see what type of application this new framework was good for.

I soon found that the webforms model had me thinking about web development in a very unconventional way. When I typically requested HTML, XML or JSON for any AJAX like functionality, I had to work around the page life cycle (and this added a ton of unneeded complexity).

Looking back now it is clear that what I enjoyed most about the MVC approach, was that it fit my style of web development. Let me explain - see I prefer to do a lot of AJAX like requests and manipulate the client side dynamically. With webforms you would need to create a new HTTP Handler or ASMX service to get a simple url to request XML/JSON/HTML. Or if you decide to stick with the usual ASPX + Codebehind you have to suffer the pain of the page lifecycle. The nice thing about MVC is that you simply create a new function in your controller and call it directly - done.

But in addition to fitting my style of development I wanted to mention a few things I really liked about this new framework.

  • No code behind! - This was always a nasty mix of view and behavior that ended up as one un maintainable nightmare
  • Much less work/code than something like passive view but you get all the same benefits (separation of concerns/testability/maintainability)
  • Update Model A very cool way to have aspnet map a form post coming in to the properties on your entity. One line of code instead of the usual - = request.form('magicstrings') over and over again
  • Action Filters A simple way to do AOP like programming - write a filer and attach it via attribute to any controller action to do some type of work before the action occurs.
  • It is still ASP.NET so calm down the 80% who fear anything new
  • Increased control over the markup generated / clean urls

Not to turn this post into the usual 'anti-webforms' rant, but for me the only thing MVC 1.0 lacked was support for sorting and paging tabular data. Beyond this I cannot think of any reason to use webforms ever again. And to be clear if you want this type of functionality, the MVC contrib project has a grid like control. But as I enjoy the jQuery stuff, I went with a new (and excellent) client side plugin for this functionality - JQGrid.

Although the project I mentioned here was decent sized, I have worked on a few small projects since and don't miss webforms in the slightest.

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