Customising model-binding conventions in ASP.NET Core

A pattern I use when building Web APIs is to create commands to represent an API operation and models to represent resources or results. We share these "common" objects with our .NET client so we can be sure we're using the same parameters names/types.

Here's an excerpt from Fabrik's API for creating a project:

public HttpResponseMessage Post(int siteId, AddProjectCommand command)
{
    var project = new CMS.Domain.Project(
        session.GetSiteId(siteId),
        command.Title,
        command.Slug,
        command.Summary,
        command.ContentType,
        command.Content,
        command.Template,
        command.Tags,
        command.Published,
        command.Private);

    session.Store(project); 

    var model = CreateProjectModel(project);
    var link = Url.Link(RouteNames.DefaultRoute, new { controller = "projects", siteId = siteId, id = project.Id.ToIntId() });

    return Created(model, new Uri(link));
}

We also use commands for GET operations that have multiple parameters such as search endpoints. So instead of:

public IActionResult GetProjects(string searchTerm = null, int page = 1, int pageSize = 10) 
{

}

We have a GetProjectsCommand:

public class GetProjectsCommand 
{
    public string SearchTerm { get; set; }
    [MinValue(1, ErrorMessage = "Page must be greater than 0.")]
    public int Page { get; set; } = 1;
    public int PageSize { get; set; } = 20;
}

This provides a single place to encapsulate our default values and validation rules, keeping our controllers nice and lean.

 Model-binding in ASP.NET Core MVC

To bind complex types to query strings in ASP.NET Web API we had to change the parameter binding rules. This is because the default was to bind complex types from the HTTP Request body.

When implementing the above pattern in ASP.NET Core I was pleasantly surprised to see that the following worked out of the box:

// GET: api/values
[HttpGet]
public IEnumerable<string> Get(GetValuesCommand command)
{

}

I thought that perhaps the framework detected that this was a HTTP GET request and therefore bound the parameter values from the query string instead.

Actually this is not the case - in ASP.NET Core, complex types are not bound from the request body by default. Instead you have to opt-in to body-based binding with the FromBodyAttribute:

// POST api/values
[HttpPost]
public void Post([FromBody]AddValueCommand command)
{
}

This seems an odd default given that (in my experience) binding complex types from the request body is far more common.

In any case, we can customise the default model-binding behaviour by providing a convention:

public class CommandParameterBindingConvention : IActionModelConvention
{
    public void Apply(ActionModel action)
    {
        if (action == null)
        {
            throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(action));
        }

        foreach (var parameter in action.Parameters)
        {
            if (typeof(ICommand).IsAssignableFrom((parameter.ParameterInfo.ParameterType)))
            {
                parameter.BindingInfo = parameter.BindingInfo ?? new BindingInfo();
                parameter.BindingInfo.BindingSource = BindingSource.Body;
            }
        }
    }
}

Which is registered like so:

public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services)
{
    services.AddMvc(options =>
    {
        options.Conventions.Add(new CommandParameterBindingConvention());
    });
}

This convention checks to see if the parameter type implements ICommand (a marker interface I created) and if so, instructs the framework to bind the values for this parameter from the request body.

All I have to do then is update my command with this interface:

public class AddValueCommand : ICommand
{
    public string Value { get; set; }
}

Then I can drop the unnecessary [FromBody] attribute:

// POST api/values
[HttpPost]
public void Post(AddValueCommand command)
{
}

Much better!

Changing the default behaviour

If you'd like to change the default behaviour to always bind complex types from the body, here's a gist for that courtesy of Tugberk.


Ben Foster

About Me

I'm a software engineer and aspiring entrepreneur with 12+ years experience in the tech industry and have worked with startups and SMB’s in areas such as healthcare, recruitment and e-commerce (I even worked in enterprise, once). I founded my first startup Fabrik in 2011.

I now head up the engineering team at Checkout.com. If you're interested in working in an exciting fin-tech company, drop me a message on Twitter.

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