One Year of Production ASP.NET MVC

Last week marked the one year anniversary our team’s first ASP.NET MVC application in production. We really have two different types of production. Internal and external. While an internal application might get used by 2 to 100 people, our external applications get used by millions. After chatting with some members of the team and looking at the source code from a year ago, I’d like to share some thoughts with you. Let’s take a look back into the past, all the way back to the year 2009.

What Did We Learn?

Sacrifices Were Made

I’ll be the first to admit that the project wasn’t where most of us wanted it a year ago, but the sacrifices we did make were consolations we were willing to live with. The easy one to point out is stuffing objects/data in ViewData. This seemed like a good idea at the time (and it was fast), but just gets messy in a hurry. You wont find this in many places anymore. We’ve been cleaning up that sort of thing while we’re in those areas and things look much tidier now.

Flexibility Was Achieved

The ability to cover our code with tests in MVC was much easier than the previous code in WebForms. This has allowed our code to be quite malleable. There are still some areas that are harder to test, but they disappear each week as we simultaneously see our code coverage marks rising.

Treat Routing With Respect

Routes are great, but they’re better when created earlier rather than later. If you’re starting on something new, be sure you thinking about your route conventions towards the beginning of the project and not as an afterthought. Wanting to change these up after the application is in production, you might have to end up breaking URLs or having to do some re-writing. The other big factor is realizing your site’s information architecture and how this is important to your site’s URL/directory structure. Big bonus points if you can nail this down right away and not have to worry about it after version 1.

Comments From the Team

With the ability to keep views small and concise I am left with significantly less (duplicated) code to wade through while working with CSS and jQuery. I’ve noticed a definite decrease in time spent working in individual files allowing me more time to spend on enhancements and improvements. This last year I’ve designed more pages and worked on far more new features than any other year before, and hoping to continue that trend into the next year. – Jessica

MVC provides the hooks to quickly and easily do what we want.  Case in point, the other day using in our dev session looking at overriding a "default" page with a custom page just by the existence of the page (view). With webforms this is possible but it’s a pain with the page controller pattern dictating the flow of things.  This allows us to more quickly respond to the needs of the business with less code in a more discoverable location – arguing the code we implemented is much clearer than an HttpModule (with webforms). – Tim

What am I Looking Forward to in the Coming Year?

Conventions, Conventions, Conventions

Nothing new here. The more time we spend in our code, the more certain parts of it look alike. Humans are good at spotting patterns and our group is very “humany”. (If that word isn’t invented yet… patent pending!) In all seriousness though, adhering to conventions can greatly reduce the time to market for new features, just ask the Ruby crowd. We’re finding more and more opportunity for conventions all the time.


Essentially just more conventions ideas. MVC2 will allow us to use model templates (like input builders in MvcContrib), that we’re likely going to be taking advantage of. The typical usage I’m seeing is input forms, but we don’t have tons of forms within our project. We do have a lot of code that can make use of jQuery and progressively enhanced displays as well as templating many of our repeated and/or similar models.


Obviously we’re not the only ones out there who use MVC. There seems to be many that are blogging about the pros/cons as well as giving tips and tricks on how to make MVC work better. I just want to say thanks, and keep it up!

About Chris Missal

Oh hey, I'm a Senior Consultant for Headspring in Austin, TX. I've been working in software professionally since 2006 and I really, really love it. I'm mostly in the Microsoft world, but enjoy building computer things of all sorts (to be vague). When I'm not slinging code, I'm probably out and about slinging discs, bowling balls, or good beer with great friends.
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  • I am currently 6 months in to a complete re-write of an internal project and have opted for MVC. It was a bit of a learning curve at first, but now it has become second nature. The ease of being able to test code without even having to bring up a browser saves me an immense amount of time. I agree with your point about ViewData, we rarely use it unless it is for some trivial variable that just won’t sit happy in the model.

  • I hope, You would not be disappointed. MVC teams at microsoft has different set of values and practices and they are thinking out of the box as compared to the other older teams. For eg. Phil Hack has just announced, MVC Teams are going to contribute to JQUERY which is great.

  • David

    Thanks, I’m just kicking off an MVC project so it’s useful to get a retrospective view.

    “stuffing objects/data in ViewData”
    I’m curious as to what you meant by this and what you do differently now. Do you mean you were putting Domain objects into ViewData and now you use DTOs/simple properties?

  • @David

    I could have been more clear there, sorry. I mean using ViewDataDictionary like so:

    ViewData["options"] = options;

    instead of using ViewModels. See this:

  • David

    Ah, makes sense! Cheers.

  • These information helps me consider some useful things, keep up the good work.