Multiple Controllers

Multiple Features : Multiple Controllers

As our application grows, we can continue to add more actions to our \Suggestotron\Controller\Topics controller but this would make it harder to maintain.

To help our future selves, we should allow for us to separate our features in to multiple controllers.

This means our router needs to be able to tell which controller is being requested, and to call the correct one.


  • Allow our app to grow using multiple controllers

  • Automatically route to controllers and actions

  • Allow easy setup of routes via configuration


Step 1

We are going to start with the configuration as it will determine how our code needs to work.

Our configuration needs to determine several things:

  • The URL to match
  • The default action, if none is specified
  • The default controller, if none is specified
  • An error controller for when an error is encountered

Our configuration file, routes.php, might look like this:

return [
    'default' => '/topic/list',
    'errors' => '/error/:code',
    'routes' => [
        '/topic(/:action(/:id))' => [
            'controller' => '\Suggestotron\Controller\Topics',
            'action' => 'list',
        '/:controller(/:action)' => [
            'controller' => '\Suggestotron\Controller\:controller',
            'action' => 'index',

Here we have defined two routes. Within the path specified, we have variables, which if specified in the URL, will replace the default values within each route.

In our first route, /topic(/:action(/:id)), if a user browses to /topic/add, then the action will be set to add. If they go to just /topic, it will be set to the default, list.

In our second route, we have two placeholders, :controller, and :action. This means that we can now dynamically choose the controller based on the route itself.

If the were to browse to /vote, it will use the \Suggestotron\Controller\Vote controller, and call the default index action.

Step 2

Now that we have our config, we can use it to re-write our \Suggestotron\Router->start() method:

class Router {
    protected $config;

    public function start($route)
        $this->config = \Suggestotron\Config::get('routes');

In our config we defined a default, so our first step is to check if we need to use it:

if (empty($route) || $route == '/') {
    if (isset($this->config['default'])) {
        $route = $this->config['default'];
    } else {

Try... Catch

To help with error handling, we can wrap our code in a try { } catch { } block. Whenever an error is encountered, the code within the catch { } block is run instead.

Step 3

We are going to use a try... catch around our routing, in case something goes wrong!

try {
} catch (\Suggestotron\Controller\Exception $e) {

Inside our try block, we will iterate over each of the defined routes, trying to find a match for the URL:

Here we are using a regular expression with preg_replace() and preg_match(). Regular expressions is a way to match patterns in text. We are using a complicated one here, so don't worry if you don't yet understand it!

try {
    foreach ($this->config['routes'] as $path => $defaults) {
        $regex = '@' . preg_replace(
            str_replace(')', ')?', (string) $path)
        ) . '@';
        $matches = [];
        if (preg_match($regex, $route, $matches)) {

If we find a match, we merge the defaults from our config, with the values specified in the URL:

$options = $defaults;
foreach ($matches as $key => $value) {
    if (is_numeric($key)) {

    $options[$key] = $value;
    if (isset($defaults[$key])) {
        if (strpos($defaults[$key], ":$key") !== false) {
            $options[$key] = str_replace(":$key", $value, $defaults[$key]);

Then finally, we check that we have a controller and action, and if valid, we call it:

            if (isset($options['controller']) && isset($options['action'])) {
                $callable = [$options['controller'], $options['action'] . 'Action'];
                if (is_callable($callable)) {
                    $callable = [new $options['controller'], $options['action'] . 'Action'];
                } else {
            } else {

Step 4

We then call $this->error() in our catch block:

catch (\Suggestotron\Controller\Exception $e) {

Step 5

We must also define the \Suggestotron\Router->error() method:

public function error()
    if (isset($this->config['errors'])) {
        $route = $this->config['errors'];
    } else {
        echo "An unknown error occurred, please try again!";


Step 6

Now that we have a configured default, we should update index.php to no-longer handle this:

Replace the following:

if (!isset($_SERVER['PATH_INFO']) || empty($_SERVER['PATH_INFO']) || $_SERVER['PATH_INFO'] == '/') {
    $route = 'list';
} else {
    $route = $_SERVER['PATH_INFO'];

With this:

$route = null;
if (isset($_SERVER['PATH_INFO'])) {
    $route = $_SERVER['PATH_INFO'];

Step 7

Our first new controller, is going to be our error controller, \Suggestotron\Controller\Errors, however, now that we will have multiple controllers, this is a good time to refactor again!

We will first create a base controller, \Suggestotron\Controller:

namespace Suggestotron;

class Controller {
    protected $config;
    protected $template;

    public function __construct()
        $this->config = \Suggestotron\Config::get('site');
        $this->template = new \Suggestotron\Template($this->config['view_path'] . "/base.phtml");

    protected function render($template, $data = array())
        $this->template->render($this->config['view_path'] . "/" . $template, $data);

Here we have consolidated our common constructor, and our render() methods that all controllers will need.

Step 8

Our error controller, will then extend our base controller, which means that it will inherit all of it's properties and methods.

namespace Suggestotron\Controller;

class Error extends \Suggestotron\Controller {
    public function indexAction($options)
        header("HTTP/1.0 404 Not Found");
        $this->render("/errors/index.phtml", ['message' => "Page not found!" ]);

This simple controller sends the 404 error header, and then renders the appropriate view, errors/index which looks like this:

<div class="alert alert-danger">

Step 9

We can now take advantage of the options passed to the action via the URL, making our URLs even prettier!

We need to update \Suggestotron\Controller\Topics so that each action can take an argument, $options, and for our edit/delete methods, we can now switch to using $options['id'] instead of $_GET['id'].

Additionally, be sure to correct any header() redirects, to point to the new locations:

For example, the delete action, will look like this:

public function deleteAction($options)
    if (!isset($options['id']) || empty($options['id'])) {
        echo "You did not pass in an ID.";

    $topic = $this->data->getTopic($options['id']);

    if ($topic === false) {
        echo "Topic not found!";

    if ($this->data->delete($options['id'])) {
        header("Location: /");
    } else {
        echo "An error occurred";

Prettier URLs

With these new changes, our URLs are now as follows:

We should update our views, to reflect these new URLs.

Step 10

In our base.phtml, our Add Topic link, should now point to /topic/add:

<a href="/topic/add" class="btn btn-default">
    <span class="glyphicon glyphicon-plus-sign"></span>
    Add Topic

Step 11

In our index/list.phtml, our links should be updated:

<a href="/topic/edit/<?=$topic['id']; ?>" class="btn btn-primary">Edit</a>
<a href="/topic/delete/<?=$topic['id']; ?>" class="btn btn-danger" data-container="body" data-toggle="popover" data-trigger="hover" data-placement="top" data-title="Are you sure?" data-content=" This cannot be undone!">Delete</a>

Notice how we now use /topic/<action>/<id> as our URL, no more GET arguments!

Step 12

Almost there! We just need to update our <form> tags.

In index/add.phtml:

<form action="/topic/add" method="POST">

In index/edit.phtml:

<form action="/topic/edit" method="POST">

Step 13

Our final step, is to update our existing controller, \Suggestotron\Controller\Topics, to use the new base controller:

Just like with \Suggestotron\Controller\Errors, we extend the base controller.

class Topics extends \Suggestotron\Controller {

Then we can start removing the now-duplicated code.

protected $template;
protected $config;

Our constructor can be simplified too:

public function __construct()
    $this->data = new \Suggestotron\TopicData();

We use a special method called, parent::__construct() to call the \Suggestotron\Controller->__construct() method.

We can also remove the render() function entirely.


By adding the ability for multiple controllers, we have given ourselves a structure in to which we can continue to add new features to our application easily.

Next Step: