Webforms vs. MVC, the desire to rewrite everything, an unexpected benefit

I read a good post today about the silly wars that go on in versus debates, in this case the arguments about whether to use Webforms or MVC for ASP.NET. I kind of saw this storm coming when people started describing themselves as part of the alternative "movement" in the ASP.NET community.

The truth is that MVC gets me really excited, for a thousand different reasons. My win comes from the fact that I feel like I'm no longer fighting the statelessness of the Web by conforming to a framework that simulates statefullness. Maybe I never really realized I was doing that. But the nice thing about MVC is that it has forced me to break down what I'm doing into simple actions. There are two benefits developing that I had not previously considered.

The first is that the stripped down nature of the MVC pattern causes you to back off if you're someone who does UI development. It can be argued that many of the apps out there now that get all of the press and attention are ridiculously simple and easy to use because they don't try to do a lot, and, by no coincidence, happen to be developed on another MVC framework, Rails. Whether it be Twitter or my wife's favorite site, Ravelry, there is a simple style that seems representative of sites developed using this design pattern.

The second benefit is that adhering to a strict seperation of concerns, whether it be for reasons of testability or the desire to decouple your pieces parts as much as possible (or because "they" said so), makes your code infinitely easier to maintain.

That said, when bouncing back to a Webforms project, I'm amazed at just how much cleaner everything I write is in terms of keeping the moving parts minimally coupled to each other. It's not that I had 10,000-line code-behind files before, but my mindset has changed enough since spending time in MVC that I'm a better developer now when using Webforms.

And when all of the crazy zealots go on and on about how awesome MVC is, I'm not writing that image gallery control for the hundredth time, because I did it once years ago. The simple content management apps, handlers and diagnostic pieces are all there still for me to use, and now I'm wiring it all together in a much cleaner way.

I love MVC. I mean I really dig it. I can't wait to get some of my projects based on it out into the open (other than my personal blog, anyway). But the truth is that the value already built into years of ASP.NET Webforms is not trivialized or bested by the new framework. Instead, there's a great compliment in place now where I can use which ever gets me to market the fastest. At the end of the day, rewriting things for the sake of science doesn't get me paid. Shipping stuff is what puts food on the table. Now my toolbox is a lot bigger.


  • Jeff, I very appreciate your non bigot sight which is rare in this flame.I hope such voices won't be a shout to the darkness.

  • Very much agreed. I learned rails before playing with ASP.Net MVC, but I had the same experience. I found my work in Webforms improving based on the new perspective. Besides, you do get a lot "out of the box" in the webforms world.

  • Well, yeah. That's why I've always been somewhat puzzled by all the attention ASP.NET MVC got. I've been writing MVC apps on the web for over a decade, and well, a lot of the design can be carried over to WebForms.

    And there's a few naive people out there that seem stunned when they see a "bad" MVC app. No matter how much "good design" is enforced at the framework level, someone will come along and mess it up good.

Comments have been disabled for this content.