What's wrong with MVC?
The best practices and patterns used by MVC are good but they come at a price. I feel that MVC is not flexible enough to fit in with my preferred way of building sites. Specifically:
- The default view engine requires files to be in predefined places, making it difficult to migrate existing ASP.NET sites to MVC without rebuilding the whole application.
- The default view engine uses hierarchical view composition. That's nice but not flexible enough; I want the controller to decide what view(s) to render and I want to be able to use multiple partial views on one page.
- MVC uses very loose binding. I prefer strong typed binding.
I've addressed the third point in an earlier post, so I won't go into that here.
The first point, about the folder layout of MVC projects, is a matter of taste. I have my reasons for not wanting to conform to the default layout. Mostly because I don't want to rebuild an application just to be able to use MVC for some new functions I'm adding. In addition to this, I find that MVC is very much centered on physical files to represent views.
In many cases I'll build a view from controls already available or by generating HTML in a helper method. Using files (aspx or ascx) to hook all this up adds a layer of complexity I don't need and certainly don't want to maintain. It would be much easier to let the controller handle this.
This brings me to the second reason from the list above. I want the controller to be able to dictate the views that need to be rendered, I do not want to delegate this to an aspx for every conceivable view.
Pros and Cons
In my previous post I've introduced a technique that solves both the first and second issue. In combination with the strong typed routing solution described in another blog post this yields a very usable variation of MVC. In short, the solution I'm offering here has the following benefits:
- Compose views using master pages, controls and view controls (no .aspx required).
- Load (partial) views by type (custom controls) or virtual path (user controls).
- No strict requirements on site structure.
- Strong-typed routing for controllers.
- Use MVC with any ASP.NET 3.5 website.
As always, there are some downsides as well:
- Not using an .aspx file for a view means no visual designer support for views.
- Most of the nice Visual Studio productivity features for MVC no longer work.
Open source on GitHub
I've made the sources available through GitHub under a BSD license. I will provide best-effort support through GitHub's issue tracking. The sources include a sample website, so check it out if you're interested.
Version 22.214.171.124 is an exact copy of production code I've been using for a couple of months now so it should be stable.