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One thing that has always pinched me is the long URLs that I used to see in several of my projects. Due to better manageability, I used to have several folders, i.e. folder hierarchy for maintainability of my application. But the thing that I didn't ever like was the full physical path of pages in URLs. There are other ways which allow us to get rid of it like URL rewriting, but I didn't like that.
We could also have our own custom URL route handler or some third party solution, but they have never been strong enough for an application.
Frankly speaking, one of my clients asked me several times, "Why does this .aspx extension displays in the URL" and also told me that he does not like these long URLs. I used to tell him, this is the normal behavior of ASP.NET application. But we can change it with our own custom solution. However, that will require a little bit of time and also require a lot of testing.
But when Microsoft released ASP.NET MVC 2 with .NET Framework 3.5 SP1, and provided this Routing feature with it, I was very happy and started exploring it. In the meantime, I thought that it should also be provided with ASP.NET, because every time you may not require to follow MVC architecture and also found that MVC has nothing special to do with URL Routing. So I was expecting and waiting for ASP.NET Webform Routing.
Now Microsoft introduced URL Routing with ASP.NET 4.0. URL routing is fully integrated, very powerful and straightforward.
We access our webapplication using some URL that is normally the physical path of the pages. So URL Routing is a way to provide our own URL in lieu of the physical path of the page. One other way, Routing allows us a way to configure our application to accept a requested URL which actually doesn't map to physical files. From the security perspective of the application, it's important because one can easily know the solution structure of the application.
Fig 1.0: URL Routing Processing
In 1999, on usability Jakob Nielson wrote on his blog "URL as UI" 6 essential points about URL. These are:
- A domain name that is easy to remember and easy to spell
- Short URLs
- Easy to type URLs
- URLs that visualize site structure
- URLs that are "hackable" to allow users to move to higher levels of the information architecture by hacking off the end of the URL
- Persistent URLs that don't change
As from all these points, we can see the URLs as a part of user interface and it should be simple and easy. URLs should also made us visualize the structure of our application which might be a security concern for us, etc.
ASP.NET 4.0 provides us the features, taking care of all the points mentioned above.
Also, these URLs helps in SEO (Search engine optimization) and improve the page hits but put in the appropriate keywords.
Earlier, URL routing was not so easy. For that, we require to have our own custom handler in a way that whenever a URL is requested, our custom route handler class should be invoked, and forward the request to the appropriate requested page or we could have some third party solution. So let's say if we are going to develop our own custom handler, then what do we need to do.
- We define the mapping in Global.asax, which maps a route pattern to route handler class.
- We require to develop a Route handler class which actually receives the URL, parses it, stores any route parameters into some location that should be accessible to the requested page and returns the instance of requested page or forwards the request to the
HTTPhandler that handles the requested route.
- Writing code in the target page in the way so that it can fetch the route parameters and renders the page accordingly.
So you can imagine that it was not a straightforward task. It also requires some considerable amount of effort to develop it.
As I already discussed in my introduction section, that ASP.NET 4.0 provides us a simplified and robust way to handle the entire URL routing mechanism. To provide URL routing, ASP.NET is now equipped with myriad classes and a number of methods to provide this feature, which allows to easily decouple the URL with physical files. We just need to use them.
Fig 2.0: ASP.NET 4.0 URL Routing Flow
ASP.NET 4.0 router enables to define any kind of custom routes and we can easily map it to our webform page.
ASP.NET 4.0 also made our life simpler by providing us the feature "Bi- Directional routing" with the help of several components like Route Table, Page Routehandler and ExpressionBuilders.
With the help of the Route table, we can not only decode the Routed URL with the Route table and with the help of other methods provided by the ASP.NET 4.0, we also generate the URL with the ASP.NET routing mechanism, which gives us the opportunity, not to hard code the URL at several places, rather it will be dynamically generating the URLs with the help of Routing Definition.
So we just require to change the Route Table on any changes in the URL, and don't need to change it in several other places throughout the solution.
Fig 3.0: Bi-directional Routing
There are two main components of ASP.NET 4.0 URL Routing.
This is basically a normal
HTTPHandler, which is responsible for looking into all the incoming URL requests, and looking for any Routing definition available for the URL, if yes, then pass the request and data to the corresponding resource.
Expressions are provided with ASP.NET 4.0 to facilitate Bi-Directional Routing and more. Basically there are two types of
RouteURLExpressionBuilder: As the name suggests, it provides the syntax which results in the value, i.e., URL based on
Parameter according to the Route definitions we have.
RouteValueExpressionBuilder: As above, it generates the URL,
RouteValueExpressionBuilder provides a syntax which receives the value from the
There are also a few new properties
Page.RouteData which facilitate the availability of the parameters to all resources.
In this example, I will be displaying the image and name of the book on my web page.
Here, I will be going to an ASP.NET application and will take you step by step to create the application.
- I have used
VS2010 Beta 2 version for this sample.
- We have to use the namespace
System.Web.Routing in our application to access Routing specific classes and methods.
Define the Route in
Application_Start of Global.asax. Also include
void Application_Start(object sender, EventArgs e)
- Now in ViewBookDemo.aspx, I have four links. In the first two, I have hardcoded the URL and in the last, I used
RoutURLExpressionBuilder to generate the URL dynamically. That is known as Bi- Directional routing. This is the one I also liked the most, in several cases, we have had links in our pages that were generally hard coded.
- I also have a
Label in the page and I set the
Text property dynamically with the help of Routing information as above.
Here, I fetch the parameter from the Routing Table and set the
Image1 URL dynamically.(Include namespace
string name = Page.RouteData.Values["Name"] as string;
if (name != null)
if (name == "CSS")
Image1.ImageUrl = "~/images/css.jpg";
else if (name == "Django")
Image1.ImageUrl = "~/images/django.jpg";
else if (name == "IPhone")
Image1.ImageUrl = "~/images/iphone.jpg";
else if (name == "Linq")
Image1.ImageUrl = "~/images/Linq.jpg";
To view the entire code, please download the attachment.
Now my solution hierarchy in the demo application is:
Fig 4.0: Solution Explorer
And according to it, my URL should be http://localhost:2039/Webpages/BookStore/ViewBome.aspx?Name=CSS as:
Fig 5.0: Demo Application
Now when a user requests this application, the
request is processed as:
Fig 6.0: Request Processing
Feedback is the key for me. I would request all of you to share your feedback and give me some suggestions, which would encourage and help me in writing more articles.
- 29th April, 2010: Initial post