We went to the Umbraco UK Festival, and this is what we got up to
Here at Etch HQ, we love Umbraco. It's our content management system of choice, because (among other reasons) it truly allows for great content management experiences, at the scale and security our partners require. Not to mention the excellent community, and the fact that it plays well with others. And did I mention it's open source?
So as Umbraco fans, or as Phil reliably informs me, Umbracians, we like to go along to community events, both to learn more about the latest and greatest from the world of the biggest .NET CMS in the world, and also, let's be honest, to have a few drinks and chat to some nice people.
One such event is the Umbraco UK Festival, held every year in London. And this time, I was one of the hearty Etch crew chosen to go along, hear some talks, and mingle. It was an early train up on a slightly wet Friday morning, and a long day overall, but I think I speak for all of us when I say it was a day well spent.
There are a few ways to approach a roundup blog, but my favourite thing is always takeaways - real, actionable intel you can start thinking about and using right now - so if you've got five minutes, I'd like to take you through some of what we got up to, in the form of what we learned.
Takeaways for agencies
Don't be fooled into thinking this was a conference just for the guys who live and breathe Umbraco, working away behind the scenes on amazing websites. Oh no, this year's talks were jam packed with great tidbits about how to run an effective agency.
The main point? To find your lane, find what makes you unique, and to obsess on the core three parts of the business that help you grow: strategy, marketing, and your team.
The agency world is full of competitors, and to break through the noise, you need to be very special indeed. We like to think we're doing a good job of that around here!
One of those essential aspects of becoming a good business is helping people to learn, and we heard plenty of advice on that too... Take it away Phil!
"Emma Burstow's talk on "Developing Talent" was a superb insight into the process of learning, and hence how we can be (and help others to be) better learners. Previously a teacher, Emma's explanation of learning behaviours was expertly delivered, scientifically backed, and especially relevant to our industry. Her explanation of Fixed- vs Growth- mindset is especially relevant to us as we're always facing new challenges."
"I also really enjoyed Chris Howard's community-space presentation on diversity and inclusion, and how vital it is to promote a positive workplace for all, not just for the usual topics of race or sexuality. As a people-focused organisation, it was reassuring to hear how much we're already doing."
Takeaways for product owners
Umbraco is great technology, but it still needs to be sculpted (ahem, by people like us!) into truly great digital products. The good news is, there was lots to be thankful for in this regard too. We got to witness and discuss the latest and greatest iteration of Umbraco, known as V8, and discovered how it's going to help us build fantastic editing experiences for customers, a dashboard that truly gives content creators the power to make something exceptional.
Easier multi-lingual variations, deep integrations with third parties like analytics, and even the possibility of tantalising single page apps driven by a headless version of Umbraco - there's so much coming up to be excited about.
Takeaways for developers
And of course, there's people like me, who love code! We were well catered to, with a wide variety of technical talks to whet our appetites and leave us hungry to experiment with more.
My history is in front end development, so I was especially excited to hear about Workbox by Google, which makes Service Workers (and by association, great performance and offline-friendly functionality) easier to handle. If that wasn't enough, I also got introduced to CSS Grid Garden, a fantastic tool for picking up the basics of the latest and greatest way to do layouts for the web.
But enough about all the shiny bits you actually see. What about under the hood? You're up, Joe...
"Jeffery Schoemaker gave us some tips to make our Umbraco sites more secure, walking us through the steps a prospective hacker might take. There's no one solution to make a site secure but there are plenty of preventative measures we can take to ensure our sites are less at risk than everyone else's."
"There was also a talk on GraphQL. Developed by Facebook and then released into the wild, GraphQL is an API technology that puts the power in the hands of front-end developers. Pete Duncanson broke down the benefits of using GraphQL and explained how the open-source team built a GraphQL endpoint for Umbraco Headless, opening up Umbraco development for non-.NET developers."
We're all in this together
Perhaps the biggest takeaway of all, for me, came from Sebastiaan Janssen (who works for Umbraco), and it was echoed by Niels Hartvig (who invented Umbraco!) - This is a community endeavour. I've had the pleasure of working with Umbraco for almost six years now, and there's a few people here who have even longer than that under their belts - it's obvious, over that period of time, how far the platform has come. And that's down to... Well, all of us.
Every package author, every pull requester, every developer diving in headfirst (like Jacquie, one of the speakers), every product owner choosing Umbraco for their project, and of course, people like us at Etch, striving to build the best experiences, using Umbraco as a strong foundation. We're really looking forward to the future, and working not just alongside our colleagues, but the entire community, to build exceptional things.
Thank you to The Cogworks for hosting this event, and on a personal note, thank you if you talked to me or any of my Etch pals. We really appreciated getting to know you.
We'll see you soon, and until then... High five, you rock!