Saturday, May 14, 2011

TEAM.Commons: MVC + Single Responsibility Principle (SRP) = Single Action Controller

Since a long time ago I've been concerned about the increasing size and complexity of our ASP.NET MVC controllers: we have been clearly going against the Single Responsibility Principle.


an improved version of this implementation is available here.

Common controllers

This is some sample code to illustrate how one of our typical controllers looked like:

using MyCompany.MyProject.Models.Author;

namespace TEAM.MvcSACDemo.WebUI.Controllers

  public class AuthorsController : Controller

    // Dependencies (smell: too many dependencies)
    protected readonly IDbSessionFactory DbSessionFactory;
    protected readonly IIndexQueries IndexQueries;
    protected readonly IEditQueries EditQueries;

    // Actions
    // Smells: too many methods; too many qualifications in the classes' names)
    public ActionResult Index(AuthorsFilterDataModel filter) { ... }

    public ActionResult Create() { ... }

    public ActionResult Insert(AuthorInsertDataModel newAuthor) { ... }

    public ActionResult Edit(long id) { ... }

    public ActionResult Update(AuthorUpdateDataModel) { ... }

The violation of the Single Responsibility Principle should be obvious.

Our new approach

My initial thought was to change the rule we have been using to create a controller, which is one controller per entity, and find some other rule that produces more controllers with less actions while keeping or increasing the organization level.

A few days ago I stumbled on this post by Derek Greer, and immediately asked my friend Yaniel Díaz help me to develop this idea. After a couple of iterations we had a couple of classes and extension methods that will let us (and also you if you like) implement Single Action Controllers keeping must of the nice ASP.NET MVC conventions.

First, let's see how do Single Action Controllers look like:

using MyCompany.MyProject.Models.Author.Index;

// Name your namespace after your controller.
// This works very nicely with the directory structure you create in your project.
namespace TEAM.MvcSACDemo.Controllers.Author
  // Name your class after your Action and inherit from SingleActionController
  // You could choose to name it IndexAction instead
  public class Index : SingleActionController
    // Only one dependency
    protected readonly IIndexQueries IndexQueries;

    // One single action (notice the use of namespace to remove extra qualification in the classes' names)
    public ActionResult Execute(FilterDataModel filter) { ... }

And this is how it all looks in the Solution Explorer:

Except for the "Author" and "OtherEntity" nested folders, it's all like "traditional" MVC.

Using it in your application

All the required classes are available in the TEAM.Commons package under the TEAM.Commons.Web.MVC.SingleActionControllers namespace. TEAM.Commons is also available as a NuGet package, which is the preferred way to share code these days.

After you install TEAM.Commons in your solution (or copy the code you need), you must register your routes using the custom SingleActionControllerRoute:

public static void RegisterRoutes(RouteCollection routes)
  // Best practice to avoid MVC handling the favicon request
  routes.IgnoreRoute("{*favicon}", new { favicon = @"(.*/)?favicon.ico(/.*)?" });

  // Only change the original MapRoute by our MapSingleActionControllersRoute
    new { controller = "Author", action = "Index", id = UrlParameter.Optional },
    new { }

and then register SingleActionControllersFactory as the ControllerFactory:

// You must pass the fully qualified name of the assembly
// and the namespace of the controllers. 
// In future versions we'll simplify this step.
ControllerBuilder.Current.SetControllerFactory(new SingleActionControllerFactory(Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly().FullName, "TEAM.MvcSACDemo.Controllers"));

The internals

Thanks to ASP.NET MVC design we just had to implement a custom ControllerFactory, a custom Route and a custom base class for controllers.

Check the source code at the TEAM.Commons repository. It should be self-explanatory and could give you ideas about how to do it yourself in case you don't want to use TEAM.Commons.


The implemented solution is not perfect and I'm sure it could be improved, but we needed to go back to SRP in our controllers as soon as possible. I'll update this post when we find a new solution.

I hope you find this as useful as we do :-)
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