Integration of Data Validation and User Interface Concerns in a DSL for Web Applications

October 05, 2009

One of the tricky aspects of getting a web application right, is data validation. That is, checking that inputs to forms is correct in some sense that is relevant for the application. For example, the input for a year field should be an integer that represents a year that sensible in the context of the application. Data validation actually goes beyond checking validity of single input fields in a form and includes invariants over the data model that should be maintained, and assertions that should hold at some point in processing input data.

The problem of data validation is two-fold. First, we’d like a declarative way to specify validation rules. Second, the checking of these rules should be integrated in the rest of the application. In particular, injecting error messages in the UI. In a paper that Danny Groenewegen will present this afternoon at the Software Language Engineering (SLE 2009) we describe how we have extended WebDSL with declarative data validation rules that are checked automatically and for which error messages are injected in the UI.

Danny M. Groenewegen, Eelco Visser. Integration of Data Validation and User Interface Concerns in a DSL for Web Applications. In Mark G. J. van den Brand, Jeff Gray, editors, Software Language Engineering, Second International Conference, SLE 2009, Denver, USA, October, 2009. Revised Selected Papers. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer, 2009. [researchr]

Abstract: Data validation rules constitute the constraints that data input and processing must adhere to in addition to the structural constraints imposed by a data model. Web modeling tools do not address data validation concerns explicitly, hampering full code generation and model expressivity. Web application frameworks do not offer a consistent interface for data validation. In this paper, we present a solution for the integration of declarative data validation rules with user interface models in the domain of web applications, unifying syntax, mechanisms for error handling, and semantics of validation checks, and covering value well-formedness, data invariants, input assertions, and action assertions. We have implemented the approach in WebDSL, a domain-specific language for the defi- nition of web applications.