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6 takeaways from the Umbraco Codegarden 2021 conference

  • By Paul Thomas
Paul Thomas

Here at 3chillies, we work with multiple content management systems including Sitecore and Optimizely (formerly Episerver) to deliver websites and digital experiences for our customers. As a developer, Umbraco is my favourite CMS to work with; it is a highly flexible open-source system based on .NET that offers a low barrier to entry for customers because of the light associated costs, but without any compromise on the quality of the output. As an agency, we’ve been working with Umbraco for many years, and we’re proud to still be Gold Partners.

Like most other content management systems, Umbraco holds an annual global conference. Umbraco Codegarden, as its name suggests, is mainly focused on the Umbraco global developer community. Previously held in Denmark as an in-person event, this year the conference ran in early June and was completely virtual, giving me with the opportunity to attend for the first time.

This was a well-run event with a many interesting sessions, announcements and valuable networking with the wonderful Umbraco community. Here are six of my key takeaways from the Umbraco Codegarden 2021 Conference.

1. The virtual format opens up the conference for all

Early on in the pandemic, the jury was still out on whether virtual conferences could work. But I think the consensus is now that they can provide real value, opening up participation to a much wider and diverse group of people and providing a more practical approach for attendees who need to balance a heavy workload with viewing the sessions.

The Codegarden was another excellent virtual conference, and while it provided something different from an in-person meet-up, it was a lot less time-consuming and costly to attend. I was able to dip in and out of the sessions that were of most value and interest to me, and catch up on some sessions on-demand. Umbraco has now posted all 37 sessions on a YouTube playlist so everything is open and available to view.

There were even opportunities to network, and I “met” both old and new faces (you could order a virtual coffee via Twitter!). There were also a lot more people involved than usual, with over 1,000 people from all over the world in attendance at the conference’s peak.

2. Umbraco 9 is nearly here

The big Umbraco event of the year is undoubtedly the arrival of Umbraco 9 this summer, which was referenced across multiple sessions within the conference. Because 9 is based on .NET 5, which is the effective .NET Core offering, it means Umbraco will be truly cross-platform at last. This opens up options around hosting, for example running on Linux, which will mean lower costs. Utilising .NET 5 will also result in significant performance gains, ultimately resulting in better customer experiences. There’s also good news for Umbraco developers who code on their Mac, as it means you can use Umbraco 9 natively at last. While perhaps these changes don’t sound that ground-breaking – the look and feel is still the same – in the long run, this will open up some interesting possibilities and ensure Umbraco remains a great choice for development.

At the conference, there was an interesting session given by Microsoft’s Scott Hunter, Director of Program Management at .NET, who gave us the lowdown on what to expect from .NET 6, explaining how it will be a unified platform to build more or less any kind of experience. For me, this highlighted the importance of Umbraco keeping up to speed with .NET Core, so the release of Umbraco 9 is very welcome.

3. Umbraco 8 to 9 will be an easier upgrade

Moving from Umbraco version 7 to 8 was a little painful in places, mainly because the underlying database structure changed and it required some planning around the content migration. The good news is that the underlying database structure from version 8 to 9 is not changing, so moving involves a far more straightforward upgrade path, rather than a fully-blown migration project.

The ability to upgrade will depend on the main packages like uSync being able to work with Umbraco 9, but overall, the consensus at the conference was that we’re in for a much easier process in upgrading websites to the very latest version of Umbraco.

Going forward, we can expect accelerated release cycles accompanied by longer-term support for each version, which, combined with a far easier upgrade process, means Umbraco versions will be more current across different sites, ultimately leading to better and more sustainable experiences for visitors.

4. Improvements to Umbraco Cloud

In recent years, we’ve seen the continuing development of hosted offerings across each of the major content management systems. At Codegarden, it was good to hear about some significant improvements to Umbraco Cloud that could make it a viable option for some digital teams. The first of these extends the Cloudflare integration that is already possible with Umbraco Cloud, giving admins more granular controls over their site, particularly around caching policies; this should reduce some of the unintentional issues that can arise when Cloudflare goes to work.

Secondly, Umbraco Cloud can now be hosted in the US as well as Europe. While this may be welcomed from a performance standpoint for companies with US-based customers, it is most likely to impact companies who require their customer data to reside on US territory to navigate privacy and data laws and regulations. Umbraco Cloud will now be an option for more American companies.

5. Extending Umbraco Deploy

One rather handy capability within Umbraco Cloud is Umbraco Deploy, which allows you to easily move code and content across environments. This has now been extended so it can be used on non-hosted Umbraco instances (it’s branded as Umbraco Deploy On-Premises, but it can be used in the cloud), and Codegarden held a good session on how this works. It will be very useful to anybody who has a complex set of websites, sets up multiple microsites or likes to experiment with their content in the staging environment. I’ll be honest, I felt the price point of this was a little high, but it could really add value for some heavy Umbraco users.

6. The global Umbraco community

One of the pleasures of working with Umbraco is the very helpful, positive and inclusive professional global community that works with the product. Everyone is trying to collaborate to improve the product, and we all benefit from that mindset. The Codegarden conference managed to convey that spirit through the sessions and interactive elements, and I think that’s why the event was a success.

See you next year?

Umbraco Codegarden 2021 was well worth attending. I hope Codegarden 2022 will be a hybrid event and still allow for online participation. If so, perhaps I’ll see you there next year? recommend the use of an official certified Partner for all Umbraco developments. As Gold partners, 3chillies would love to hear about your requirements. 

For more information, visit our Umbraco Partner Page, or get in touch today.

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