Codechats: Codegarden 2018

Matthew Wise
By Matthew WiseSolutions Architect
5 minutes to read

I’ve already talked about Codegarden from the perspective of a first timer – but now it’s time for the meaty stuff. Codegarden is after all, a conference so I had the opportunity to learn plenty about Umbraco.

Here’s just a taster of the talks and lessons I took away from Codegarden 2018.

#1 An editor’s life can always be improved

BackOffice editors are something I’ve taken a keen interest in over the last few months, so I was eager to hear what others had to say about it.

The first keynote I attended was all about editors. Specifically, what makes an Umbraco editor happy – now and next year?

Led by Gitte Karringhad, a project manager at The Municipality of Vejle, there were some interesting stats taken from their 120 editor users.

One key takeaway was that editors generally fell into two categories:

High frequency

  • They use Umbraco day in, day out
  • They have time to work with the back office
  • They tend to push for changes or new ideas and flexibility

Low frequency

  • The site is part of a wider job
  • 54% wanted a fixed template
  • They want to be done as fast as possible
  • They tend to have a lower digital skill level
  • They will become less common as we continue in our digital world

These two categories will help us identify the key users in our current clients and shape an experience that works perfectly for them.

Small steps for a better editorial experience

Niels Lyngsø gave us the designer/UX view on the BackOffice experience with some elegant solutions to common problems, such as different types of hero areas.

Below is just one of the ideas Niels gave us. As you can see, the stacked content editors allows users to easily identify and manage their content.

Niels also prompted us to think about the user’s journey. By limiting options we can encourage users to create better content as easily as possible.

I can alre4ady think of a few instances where a similar approach would work wonders for clients!

Applying atomic design to Umbraco

Lee Kelleher

This talk focused on how as developers we can create a well-structured experience that’s easy to follow, flexible and can be built upon as user needs evolve.

By using compositions to group common properties together and building our doc types from these ‘molecules’, we can leave room for rapid evolution of a doc type. They also introduced the periodic table of property editors and suggested we are still missing some core property editors, but none of us have found all of them yet.

Each content talk has spurred me on to think of how we can improve the experience for our editors. And of course if we discover a property editor, we’ll share it with you!

 

#2 No task is too big if you break it up

The lesson learnt from this talk is exactly what it sounds like. If you take on a project that’s too big, you can tackle it one piece at a time.

This was demonstrated by the guys at Endzone who took on a large scale legacy ecommerce platform. They tackled on element of the eco system a bit at a time in order to produce something for their client that met the brief.

They wrote converter APIs to self-contain the legacy requirements and make the project easier to work with.

It gave me a great insight into how to modernise large, complex systems without feeling overwhelmed!

 

#3 Faster is better. Always

Pete Duncanson and his team recently showed us how to save 700KB by loading moment.js once and with the only locale we need. So, it’s fair to say I was interested to know what other speed hacks Pete had up his sleeve. 

Pete showed us how a few simple changes to Umbraco’s media section would allow the images to lazily load. This is a huge pro for editors as it means those with slower connections won’t have to wait painfully for everything to load!

By making a few small changes like removing customer fonts, Pete showed us how we can save 400KB. The custom fonts look remarkably similar to the default font, so this one is a no brainer!

  

#4 Good things come to those that w8

The talk from two of Umbraco’s core developers showcased the long awaited V8 Alpha release. And there is certainly a lot to look forward to!

There’s a 20% code reduction so far, inbuilt multi-language support, variants and cleaner code for us all to work with. It’s like all of our Christmases have come at once.

 

#5 Look after yourself

As a developer, it’s quite easy to become quickly overwhelmed with work. A project might have an unexpected sticking point or a client may ask for challenging elements.

Every morning there were sessions to help you reset and get perspective on the day. Kris Deminick held mindfulness sessions followed by a yoga class to help get into the right mind set. It was a great way to kick off the day and left me feeling focused and ready for everything the conference had to throw at me.

Along with Kris promoting positivity, Alexander Kjerulf gave a great talk on happiness called WTF are we even doing here?

Now, this might sound like a bit of an existential crisis, but it was all about how happiness breeds success.

We took part in a paired exercise and I was lucky enough to chat to THE Chief Unicorn, Niels Hartvig.

It was really inspiring to be able to talk face-to-face with the people who have created Umbraco. The kind of time and transparency they give their users is definitely something I’m keen to replicate with clients.

 

#6 The community is great (but we already knew that)

After the notorious annual game of Bingo, we took part in open forum sessions where people shared ideas or spoke about a specific issue they were facing. There was a good, free flowing conversation and just went to demonstrate how the Umbraco community works and succeeds together.

I particularly liked the discussion on how we can make the community hub, our.umbraco.org, a better place for not just developers but for designers and editors too.

 

Overall, Codegarden was a fantastic experience and I’m still digesting some of the talks! I can’t wait to go again next year.

 

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Articles by Matthew Wise

Biography coming soon!