The best bits of Codegarden 2019

Matthew Wise
By Matthew WiseSolutions Architect
8 minutes to read

Umbraco’s annual conference took place at the end of May and, as ever, was packed full of enlightening sessions and plenty of opportunities to socialise.

Here’s some of my personal highlights from Codegarden 2019.

Embracing community from the get-go

Umbraco prides itself on the community its built. So after travelling to Odense with a group from Umbraco Leeds, we eased ourselves into the conference with the pre-party. This gave us the chance to network, catch up and get excited for the coming days… and pick up a few pieces of swag too.

Codegarden Umbraco swag

A big part of the Umbraco community focuses on wellbeing as well as skill. So at regular intervals throughout the day there were mindfulness sessions intended to take time out and decompress in the breaks. By the end of the conference you couldn’t even fit into the tent, mindfulness was that popular.

The keynote

The main event kicked off with a keynote speech by Umbraco’s founder, Niels Hartvig. He had a lot to cover but here are some of the points that stood out for me.

He began by covering what Umbraco 8 means for version 7. Umbraco 7.15 will be the last planned release and it’s great to see HQ having such confidence in Umbraco 8. The uptake stats prove that 7 doesn’t need to be supported for much longer anyway.

Umbraco Cloud and Umbraco Headless are hosted solutions. Headless is currently in beta with a target release of Q3 this year. Both of these solutions provide more options to use Umbraco for non-web-based development projects like mobile apps.

Cloud is ramping up its features this year with a built-in Content Delivery Network (CDN). This means media can be served from a server nearer the user, as well as moving the search indexing off the main website resources.

Both Cloud and Headless provide great support so for the right site they make for a strong hosting solution.

Umbraco is an open source content management system (CMS) which means that people can freely develop and expand the code.

HQ has introduced request for comment (RFC) in an effort to increase openness as well as provide structure for the ongoing open source work by themselves and the Umbraco community. The idea is that RF will empower the community to guide and shape HQ’s plans, making the CMS a truly collaborative piece. Current discussions include:

  • A new grid system
  • Replacing tinyMCE
  • .NET core

 The full list of topics open for comments which can be found here.

HQ are also starting the process that will lead to Umbraco running on .NET Core. We don’t know when it’s going to happen and it will certainly require a lot of work but watch this space!

Welcoming the newcomers

This year I volunteered for the Codegarden buddy system to help break the ice and welcome newcomers into the fold. This was a great initiative to get more of us introverts out of our shells!

I was buddied with a group of guys from Sweden and we met up a few times throughout the conference, high fived even more, had a great game of naily log all while providing some  guidance on which talks they might want to catch. 

I hope I enhanced their experience – they certainly added to mine!

Credit: Umbraco HQ

Grids all the way down

Rachel Andrew, co-founder of the CMS Perch and Editor in Chief of Smashing Magazine, gave a presentation about CSS sub grids, a new feature within the spec that is currently only available in the Firefox nightly build. 

One thing that I learnt from Rachel’s talk is that CSS is an open source community like Umbraco. So developers who use the language can help shape the way CSS works for the entire web and have a tangible impact.

Another great point that Rachel made is highlighting how much power there is in the browser now. We need to ensure we use that power correctly so we can build a web that’s as accessible and inclusive as possible.

Accessibility is for everyone

Tiffany Prosser, Web Management Officer at Leicester City Council, gave a talk on how Windows and browser work together to enable things like Screen readers. Accessibility should be a forefront of our minds as the web is for everyone, so it was interesting to learn more about how these functions work. 

Tiffany wrote a fantastic post for Skrit.io which goes into more detail about what she covered at Codegarden.

Members of the Umbraco community have taken up the torch with regards to accessibility in Umbraco’s back office. As you can see there are a lot of accessibility issues we need to make out way through but since April, there’s been 16 pull requests and 12 merges so we’re getting there. 

I have a dream about Umbraco 8.x

An interesting conceptual presentation, Jeffrey Schoemaker, Software Engineer and co-owner of Perplex Digital, seems to dream in such a well thought out and structured manner!

This talk focused on five traits that Jeffery would work on if he were in charge of HQ.

1. Media

Jeffrey would allow images to be stored on the page, within the media section, or even work with that media service your company uses for everything else. He would also introduce a function which allows you to track media so you can see what impact uploading new versions has on the site and where you may need to fix links.

2. Insights

Insights would include what’s happening within the site, the last published page, how many pages are being edited and so much more. In fact so much more that we could even add our own data and metrics.

3. Working in teams

Working in teams would focus on the back office and empower teams to work intelligently and efficiently. Items on Jeffrey’s wishlist included developing the user interface to show the state of the page, enabling comments between editors, raising awareness of pages that need attention, improved workflow management, content owners and content expiration so everything stays up to date, and A/B testing.

4. Connecting the front-end and back office

Jeffrey would improve the content editing experience by moving users closer to the end result with better content previews and front-end editing tool bards. This could maybe even go one step further with in page editing.

5. Marketing

Finally, Jeffrey would introduce a suite of marketing tools including personalisation analytics campaigns and everything in between.

There are probably a lot more things that Jeffrey could introduce but, as he said, making decisions is hard when faced with a lot of choice.

Some of these ideas could work better as packages which means that we need to rally the community to work alongside HQ to make them happen. 

The long-tail of performance

As a performance junkie myself, I really enjoyed this talk but not just for its content. Tim Kadlec, Performance Consultant, delivered a talk that was engaging, easy to follow and interesting to boot.

Highlights:

  • Embedded browsers share resources with the main app, such as Facebook's in app browser. So if your site is heavily reliant on social media, you should probably make sure you aren't using too much CPU or memory otherwise your users will need to wait and you risk them leaving.
  • Speaking of load times: Slow site? Here is what your users do: 11% yell, 23% swear and 4% throw their phones. Do you really want to cause 4% of your users to break a phone? Data is king when it comes to finding out if your site is slow. Bounce rates by site speed and other metrics like device, screen size and connection can all help you find weak points to improve retention time and boost conversions. Do you really need those extra fonts when they could be costing you users?

The missing pieces

There were so many great talks this year that I missed! Easily though one of the highlights of every single Codegarden is the community Umbraco has built. I’ve already mentioned it a few times, but it really is supportive as everyone shares details on their projects and tech or whatever they’re working on. It’s not just for developers too, I actually ended up meeting other people’s clients!

 

Credit: Umbraco HQ

I’ll definitely be back next year for more swag, to learn more about how we can make the web even better, and to mingle with the community.

If you missed out on Codegarden but are keen to get involved in the Umbraco community, have a look at our Meetup page for details on upcoming events.

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Articles by Matthew Wise

Biography coming soon!