– ASP.NET MVC model binding and validation question

I'm trying to use MVC for a new project after having been around the block with all the samples and tutorials and such. However, I'm having a hard time figuring out where certain things should take place.

As an example, I have an entity called Profile. This entity contains the normal profile type stuff along with a DateOfBirth property that is of type DateTime. On the HTML form, the date of birth field is split into 3 fields. Now, I know I can use a custom model binder to handle this, but what if the date entered is not a valid date? Should I be checking for that in the model binder? Should all my validation go in the model binder? Is it ok to have only a few things validated in the model binder and validate the rest in the controller or the model itself?

Here's the code I have now, but it just doesn't look right to me. Seems dirty or smelly.

namespace WebSite.Models
    public class ProfileModelBinder : IModelBinder
        public object BindModel(ControllerContext controllerContext, ModelBindingContext bindingContext)
            DateTime birthDate;

            var form = controllerContext.HttpContext.Request.Form;
            var state = controllerContext.Controller.ViewData.ModelState;

            var profile = new Profile();
            profile.FirstName = form["FirstName"];
            profile.LastName = form["LastName"];
            profile.Address = form["Address"];
            profile.Address2 = form["Address2"];
            profile.City = form["City"];
            profile.State = form["State"];
            profile.Zip = form["Zip"];
            profile.Phone = form["Phone"];
            profile.Email = form["Email"];
            profile.Created = DateTime.UtcNow;
            profile.IpAddress = controllerContext.HttpContext.Request.UserHostAddress;

            var dateTemp = string.Format("{0}/{1}/{2}",
                form["BirthMonth"], form["BirthDay"], form["BirthYear"]);

            if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(dateTemp))
                state.AddModelError("BirthDate", "Required");
            else if (!DateTime.TryParse(dateTemp, out birthDate))
                state.AddModelError("BirthDate", "Invalid");
                profile.BirthDate = birthDate;

            return profile;

Building on the sample code above, how would you do the validation message for a 3 part field? In the case above, I'm using a completely separate key that doesn't actually correspond to a field in the form, because I don't want an error message to appear beside all 3 fields. I only want it to appear to the right of the Year field.

Best Solution

I think it is reasonable to do validation in the model binder. As Craig points out, the validation is mostly the property of your business domain, however:

  1. Sometimes your model is just a dumb presentation model, not a business object
  2. There are various mechanisms you can use to surface the validation knowledge into the model binder.

Thomas gives you an exmaple of #1.

An example of #2 is when you declaratively desribe validation knowlege using attributes (like the DataAnnotation attribute [Required]), or inject some business layer validation service into a custom model binder. In these situations the model binder is an ideal place to take care of validation.

That being said, model binding (finding, converting, and shuffling data into an object) and validation (data meets our specifications) are two seperate concerns. You could argue that they should be seperate phases/components/extensibility points, but we have what we have, although the DefaultModelBinder makes some distinction between these two responsibilities. If all you want to do is provide some validation for a specific type of object you can derive from the DefaultModelBinder and override the OnPropertyValidating method for property level validations or OnModelUpdated if you need the holistic view.

Here's the code I have now, but it just doesn't look right to me. Seems dirty or smelly.

For your specific code I would try to write a model binder for DateTime only. The default model binder can take care of binding firstname, lastname, etc., and delegate to your custom model binder when it reaches a DateTime property on the Profile. In addition, try using the valueProvider in the bindingContext instead of going directly to the form. These things can give you more flexibility.

More thoughts here: 6 Tips for ASP.NET MVC Model Binding.