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3chillies Umbraco 2024 Codegarden Takeaways

  • By 3chillies

Codegarden is always the most important date in the annual Umbraco calendar. Umbraco HQ’s annual flagship conference continues to build both the brand of the platform, but also strengthen the professional community worldwide. There are also usually product announcements and strategic updates that lay out the roadmap for the period ahead.

Umbraco is a physical conference held in Odense, Denmark and it’s fair to say it’s a true experience, with a strong emphasis on community networking, social events and a feel-good factor. Unfortunately, we were too busy to attend in person this year, but we were able to attend some of the sessions virtually.

In this post we’re going to list some of the key takeaways from Codegarden revealed through two major sessions:

  • the opening conference keynote delivered by Filip Bech-Larsen, Umbraco’s CTO and Emma Burstow, Director of Developer Relations
  • a session looking at the product roadmap and beyond, delivered by Lasse Fredslund, Umbraco CMS Product Owner.

Here are eight takeaways from these two Codegarden sessions.

  1. The developer community is still at the heart of Umbraco
  2. Umbraco HQ works hard to preserve two of the platform’s key USPs – one the ease and usability of its interface for admins and editors – and the second the strength and friendliness of the global Umbraco developer community.

    The opening keynote went a long way to celebrate the community by showcasing its strengths with an opening speech by Emma Burstow, Umraco’s Director of Developer Relations. She reflected on professional events throughout the year, celebrating many contributions from the community, emphasising the continuing opportunities to contribute, and how this is also reflected in the Codegarden event. She also gave her own personal experiences on the friendships she had built that had started with the event. At the end of the keynote all the new Umbraco MVPs were also brought up on stage, with a lot of whoops, cheers and applause.

    A slide near the end of the keynote reflected on Umbarco’s status as having the “#1 editing experience and most loved by devs”. It’s clear that Umbraco HQ is never going to mess with that positioning and works hard to maintain it.

  3. Umbraco continues to grow
  4. The next part of the keynote was delivered by Filip Bech-Larsen, Umbraco’s CTO, who started by emphasising Umbraco’s growth.

    While a Codegarden keynote is obviously going to focus on delivering good news about Umbraco, the platform is clearly moving forwards and continuing to compete with other content management systems (CMSs) and digital experience platforms (DXPs). Filip listed a number of facts and milestones including 25% growth for each of the past four years, a raise in usage of products like Umbraco Cloud, increasing adoption from larger organisations, sustained community growth, a rise in the number of Umbraco packages available from partners and the community, and more.

  5. There were actually no new big product reveals
  6. In talking about the product roadmap much of the opening keynote focused on what has been released in the past year – including the recently arrived Umbraco 14 and substantial updates to Umbraco Commerce – rather than making any surprise product announcements. To a certain this is a reflection that Umbraco HQ has already been very busy rolling out an active roadmap in the past few months. Having said that, the roadmap continues with Umbraco 15 due to be released in November 2024.

    However, the keynote and the product roadmap session did cover some imminent or on-the-horizon updates and events, most of which have been mentioned before. A few of these are now possible due to the introduction of Umbraco 14 and the complete re-coding of the backoffice; 14 is more of an “enabling release” that extends the possibilities and potential for the evolution of the platform.

  7. The product roadmap continues to support more complex builds
  8. A direction of travel for the evolution of Umbraco has been to appeal more to enterprises and support more complexity. From the stability that has been brought to the release schedule to the greater support for headless publishing, all these make Umbraco potentially more engaging for larger organisations. There are more roadmap items which support this trend towards scale and complexity:

    • the introduction of load-balancing in Umbraco Cloud.
    • the ability to schedule content to go live within Umbraco Workflow.
    • better support for Active Directory (now Microsoft Entra ID) authentication into Umbraco Cloud.
    • collaborative editing tools to help organisations with multiple editors work together.
    • and more!

    Another change that will appeal to larger organisations and the agencies that support them is the introduction of “Flexible environments'' – previously mentioned in Umbraco’s January keynote. This allows more flexibility for teams in how they set up their environment for Umbraco Cloud.

    This has the potential to positively impact everything from testing to making changes to deployments. Flexible environments is based on the basic premise of Umbraco supporting the way developers want to build, and again will appeal to larger organisations with preferred ways of working. It will move into Beta in Q3 and is opening up for private testing.

    There is also new support for organisations with more complex or multi-site environments with the concept of “global blocks” of reusable content that can be used across more than one site, can easily be edited or unpublished from one place, and also act as a template for other blocks. The full launch of reusable content blocks is likely to appear in 2025.

  9. Future changes revolve round several main pillars
  10. While it was perhaps surprising that we didn’t get a major product announcement, we did get an indication of where the focus for future changes will be. In the main keynote, four “lighthouses for the future” were mentioned that will guide the medium- and long-term direction of the platform:

    • Search
    • Personal experiences (personalisation)
    • Generative AI
    • Orchestration.

    All four of these are areas which other CMS and DXP providers are working in. They are also linked, for example with generative AI clearly driving advanced search where capabilities may evolve towards natural language prompts and more meaningful “answers” returned. AI will also aid personalisation, doing much of the heavy lifting to create real-time, hyper-personalised content and experiences.

    Interestingly during the keynote and in the product session, Umbraco seemed to be being positioned as a “platform to build your own AI on top of” while acknowledging that there could be some value in adding more discrete AI features into the core platform.

    Search and personalisation are also being addressed on the roadmap . There is a confirmed roadmap item for support for search abstractions making it easier to “plug and play” with existing search providers. In terms of personalisation, one aim is to bring variants of blocks that can be targeted to different groups of users; the aim is for this to be part of Umbraco 15.

    Beyond this, Lasse Fredslund expressed a desire to bring in more sophisticated personalisation capabilities driven by generative AI, with his ultimate “dream” of “built-in personalisation” within Umbraco.

    In addition to these four topics, the keynote and product roadmap session, also emphasised future commitments around:

    • Sustainability
    • Security
    • Composability (which is linked to the need for Orchestration).

    These are covered in more detail below.

  11. Sustainability is a a new priority
  12. Better support for sustainability has been on the agenda for Umbraco for a while and was reflected at this year’s Codegarden. Lasse Fredslund explained that the IT industry is responsible for between 5% to 8% of all greenhouse gases, which is even more than the airline industry.

    Umbraco has already launched the Umbraco Community Sustainability Package which runs a sustainability report on every page, proving a sustainability rating, while also providing the ability to test pages.

    The Sustainability Dashboard for Umbraco Cloud has been frequently mentioned, and this will be made generally available soon. This leverages the Cloud Carbon Footprint open-source tool to measure potential emissions.

    Another area that positively impacts sustainability is caching, reducing data transfer and therefore the carbon footprint. A roadmap item set for release in Umbraco 15 is support for a “Lazy loaded content cache” which will help to load larger assets faster.

  13. As the future looks more composable, orchestration will increase in importance
  14. Umbraco has been on a journey in the past two years to better support both headless publishing and composable architecture. There is every indication that is going to continue.

    Lasse Fredslund pointed out that the composable market has been growing, with over 14,000 composable SaaS-based solutions, including over 3,000 launched in the last year. He also affirmed that he wanted to see alignment with the Umbraco Heartcore product roadmap (the platform’s main headless offering) and that of the main CMS.

    The product roadmap session quoted research that suggests by 2026 70% of all organisations will have to rely on composable DXP technology rather than monolithic platforms. While no solution was actually given, Fredslund envisaged a situation of a content delivery platform with GraphQL capabilities on top of it, with the Umbraco CMS (or cloud CMS), DAM, Commerce, search and other solutions all working together as a cohesive whole.

    The session emphasis on orchestration also recognises a future which is increasingly headless and composable and where low code no code solutions help tie disparate systems together for end-to-end publishing. Lasse Fredslund said he had “dreams'' of “Umbraco-facilitated orchestration”.

  15. Support for security
  16. The product roadmap session also focused on the need to ramp up security in Umbraco to meet continuing threats in today’s uncertain world. This includes adding more granular and flexible permissions to provide appropriate access across Umbraco. Umbraco HQ also plan to create a new Security and Privacy Community Team (including one or two incident advisors) to help promote awareness and knowledge about security,

Umbraco continues on its path of evolution

Overall Codegarden confirmed the platform continues to grow and evolve, offering alternatives to other solutions, while also preserving its core strengths around the editing experience and active developer community. If you’d like to discuss any of these points or discuss your Umbraco project, then get in touch!

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