Is it acceptable to use id in HTML forms and subsequent code processing (controller, view, model, repository layers)?

For example I need to show something like this on a web page:

Select Motor Choice:
* 460/50/3
* 380/50/3
* 460/60/3

In HTML this can be done with a radio control, where each line has a value attribute, which is not shown, and text, which is shown on the screen.

I have above encoded in the database like so:

id, motor_description
1, "460/50/3"
2, "380/50/3"
3, "460/60/3"

I can use the id for the value in HTML radio control, and i can use that id internally as well in my Controller where I process the input to do lookup on the motor.

But since id is a surrogate key, and it doesn't mean anything, will I do better instead to avoid using it, and instead to perhaps use more user-meaningful information, such as the motor_description field to look up the data in the table and do other processing related to my business needs?

My concern here is ... even though I am using surrogate key in the database table, do I continue using it as well in the rest of my application, or is it best to avoid doing so?

In other words, do I let the database's surrogate key "spill out" into other aspects of my code, or do I avoid doing so?

2 Answers 2


Yes. You need a unique Id for these things and the DB id fits the role.

Ideally the unique id is independent of the database though. Have a GUID on your business object and use that as the DB key rather than the other way around. But 99.9% of the time its going to be a purely conceptual difference.


Using surrogate keys outside of a database is fine if

  • those keys are 100% immutable and are guaranteed to never change afterwards (since you typically cannot update them in external systems)

  • even though those keys get more visibility this way, you can restrain any stakeholders from inventing new "business requirements" for these keys (like "lets use a magic ID 9999 for a motor template")

  • the value of those IDs does not provide internal information to the outside world you don't want to show anyone (like a number which lets competitors see how many offers or orders of a certain kind your company gets per month)

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