The original release of ASP.NET MVC used HTML helpers with a syntax like the following:


These worked, but if you renamed the property in your model (for example, from “Title” to “Subject”) and forgot to update your view, you wouldn’t catch this error until you actually tried out the page and noticed your model isn’t populating properly. By this time, you might have users using the site and wondering why stuff isn’t working.

ASP.NET MVC 2 introduced the concept of strongly-typed HtmlHelper extensions, and ASP.NET MVC 3 extended this even further. An example of a strongly typed HtmlHelper is the following:

@Html.TextAreaFor(post => post.Title)

These allow you to write more reliable code, as view compilation will fail if you change the field name in your model class but forget to change the field name in the view. If you use precompiled views, this error will be caught before deployment.

Creating your own

The built-in helpers are good, but quite often it’s nice to create your own helpers (for example, if you have your own custom controls like a star rating control or rich-text editor). These new helpers are very easy to create, since we can make use of two different classes that come with ASP.NET MVC:

  • ExpressionHelper — Gets the model name from a lambda expression (for example, returns the string “Date” for the expression “post => post.Date”, and “Author.Email” for the expression “post => post.Author.Email”). This is what you’d use in the ID and name of the field
  • ModelMetadata — Gets other information about the lambda expression, including its value

These two classes give us all the information we require to make our own HTML helpers (internally, these are what all the built-in strongly-typed HTML helpers use).

Here’s an example of a simple HTML helper that uses both of the above classes:

public static MvcHtmlString NewTextBox(this HtmlHelper htmlHelper, string name, string value)
	var builder = new TagBuilder("input");
	builder.Attributes["type"] = "text";
	builder.Attributes["name"] = name;
	builder.Attributes["value"] = value;
	return MvcHtmlString.Create(builder.ToString(TagRenderMode.SelfClosing));

public static MvcHtmlString NewTextBoxFor<TModel, TProperty>(this HtmlHelper<TModel> htmlHelper, Expression<Func<TModel, TProperty>> expression)
	var name = ExpressionHelper.GetExpressionText(expression);
	var metadata = ModelMetadata.FromLambdaExpression(expression, htmlHelper.ViewData);
	return NewTextBox(htmlHelper, name, metadata.Model as string);

Given a model like this:

public class Post
	public string Title { get; set; }
	// ...

A view like this:

@Html.NewTextBoxFor(model => model.Title)

Will produce HTML like this:

<input name="Title" type="text" value="" />

For helpers with larger chunks of HTML, I’d suggest using partial views. These can be rendered using htmlHelper.Partial().

Hopefully this helps someone!

Until next time,
— Daniel

Short URL for sharing: This entry was posted on 22nd May 2012 and is filed under C#, Web Development. You can leave a comment if you'd like to, or subscribe to the RSS feed to keep up-to-date with all my latest blog posts!


  1. Avatar for Mark Mark said:

    Those HTML builders are hideous. Partials or nothing.

    1. Avatar for Daniel Lo Nigro Daniel Lo Nigro said:

      I don't think they're *too* bad. I like them.

  2. Avatar for rnd rnd said:

    Partials don't let you program one piece of code to show a customizable table of any type of object though!