Generating Representations

This component provides two renderers, one each for creating JSON and XML payloads.

Additionally, as noted in the introduction examples, this component provides Zend\Expressive\Hal\HalResponseFactory for generating a PSR-7 response containing the HAL representation. This chapter dives into that with more detail.


All renderers implement Zend\Expressive\Hal\Renderer\RendererInterface:

namespace Zend\Expressive\Hal\Renderer;

use Zend\Expressive\Hal\HalResource;

interface RendererInterface
    public function render(HalResource $resource) : string;

Two implementations are provided, Zend\Expressive\Hal\Renderer\JsonRenderer and Zend\Expressive\Hal\Renderer\XmlRenderer


The JsonRenderer constructor allows you to specify a bitmask of flags for use with json_encode(). By default, if none are provided, it uses the value of JsonRenderer::DEFAULT_JSON_FLAGS, which evaluates to:


When your application is in "debug" mode, it also adds the JSON_PRETTY_PRINT flag to the default list, in order to provide human-readable JSON output.


The XmlRenderer produces XML representations of HAL resources. It has no constructor arguments at this time.


HalResponseFactory generates a PSR-7 response containing a representation of the provided HalResource instance. In order to keep the component agnostic of PSR-7 implementation, HalResponseFactory itself composes a callable factory capable of producing an empty PSR-7 response.

As an example:

use Slim\Http\Response;
use Slim\Http\Stream;
use Zend\Expressive\Hal\HalResponseFactory;

$factory = new HalResponseFactory(
    function () {
        return new Response();

Additionally, the HalResponseFactory constructor can accept the following arguments, with the described defaults if none is provided:

  • A JsonRenderer instance is created if none is provided.
  • An XmlRenderer instance is created if none is provided.

We provide a PSR-11 compatible factory for generating the HalResponseFactory, described in the factories chapter.

Using the factory

The factory exposes one method:

use Psr\Http\Message\ResponseInterface;
use Psr\Http\Message\ServerRequestInterface;
use Zend\Expressive\Hal\HalResource;

public function createResponse(
    ServerRequestInterface $request,
    HalResource $resource,
    string $mediaType = self::DEFAULT_CONTENT_TYPE
) : ResponseInterface {

Generally speaking, you'll pass the current request instance, and the resource for which you want to generate a response, and the factory will return a response based on its response prototype, with the following:

  • A Content-Type header with the base media type of application/hal.
  • A message body containing the representation.

The request instance is used to determine what representation to create, based on the Accept header. If it matches a JSON media type, a JSON representation is created, and the Content-Type will be appended with +json; for XML, an XML representation is created, and the Content-Type will be appended with +xml. If no media type is matched, XML is generated.

One practice often used is to provide a custom media type for your representations. While they will still be HAL, this allows you to document the specific structure of your resources, and potentially even validate them against JSON schema.

To do this, pass the media type when creating the response:

$response = $factory->createResponse(

Do not pass the format (e.g., +json, +xml) when doing so; the factory will append the appropriate one based on content negotiation.

Forcing collections for relations

HAL allows links and embedded resources to be represented as:

  • a single object
  • an array of objects of the same type

Internally, this package checks to see if only one of the item exists, and, if so, it will render it by itself. However, there are times you may want to force an array representation. As an example, if your resource models a car, and you have a wheels relation, it would not make sense to return a single wheel, even if that's all the car currently has associated with it.

To accommodate this, we provide two features.

For links, you may pass a special attribute, Zend\Expressive\Hal\Link::AS_COLLECTION, with a boolean value of true; when encountered, this will then be rendered as an array of links, even if only one link for that relation is present.

$link = new Link(
    [Link::AS_COLLECTION => true]

$resource = $resource->withLink($link);

In the above, you will then get the following within your representation:

"_links": {
  "wheels": [
    {"href": "/api/car/XXXX-YYYY-ZZZZ/wheels/111"}

To force an embedded resource to be rendered within an array, you have two options.

First, and simplest, pass the resource within an array when calling withElement(), embed(), or passing data to the constructor:

// Constructor:
$resource = new HalResource(['wheels' => [$wheel]]);

// withElement():
$resource = $resource->withElement('wheels', [$wheel]);

// embed():
$resource = $resource->embed('wheels', [$wheel]);

Alternately, you can call the HalResource::embed method with only the resource, passing the method a third argument, a flag indicating whether or not to force an array:

$resource = $resource->embed('wheels', $wheel, true);

In each of these cases, assuming no other wheels were provided to the final resource, you might get a representation such as the following:

"_embedded": {
  "wheels": [
      "_links" => {"self": {"href": "..."}}
      "id": "..."

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