Umbraco Codegarden, the premier community event for the year kicked off with a bang this week, here are some of the highlights from the keynote in no particular order.
Umbraco is officially in it's 18th year as an open source Content Management System (CMS) having it's birthday on February 16th 2005 when version 2.0 was released to the world. In that time it's gone from strength to strength to become the leading open source CMS based on Microsoft's .Net technology.
In recent years, Umbraco's offerings include Umbraco Cloud, a mature platform for managed Umbraco hosting; Heartcore, Umbraco's Headless CMS offering; and a growing suite of commercially supported add-ons such a Forms, Deploy, and the newly acquired Workflow and Commerce plugins forming the basis of the move to a Digital Experience Platform (more on that later).
Let's dig into some of the announcements made during the Keynote and Business Summit at Umbraco Codegarden this year.
Umbraco cloud has come a long way in recent years and sports a mature set of features supporting users and developers with automatic updates, built-in content delivery network, and custom domain names and ssl certificates, and automatic deployments to name a few.
The roadmap for Umbraco Cloud includes some exciting features over the next 12 months which we'll briefly cover below.
Let's dig into what some of these look like:
Umbraco is building custom Continuous Integration/Delivery blocks for Azure DevOps that allow things like deploying changes to the Cloud environment and promoting changes from one environment to the next while allowing a high degree of customisation as part of the Pipeline.
Currently, to access the Umbraco back-office on Cloud you need to be registered using Umbraco's built-in Identity provider. This now supports Multi-Factor Authentication, but what if you already had all your users in Azure Active Directory or another system? This feature will allow you to connect to your user provider directly, making administration and management much more streamlined.
This is a game changer. Currently, Umbraco Cloud supports 3 environments - Development, Staging and Live. While this is great and works well for testing changes on Development before allowing editors to update content in Staging, then push those changes to Live, it becomes a problem if we wanted to test a particular feature in Development but then another feature needs to go to Staging before the first feature is ready.
What flexible environments provides is the ability to not only have more environments in the normal flow of things, but also to spread some of those environments in parallel. Allow that to sink in for a moment.
We will be able to set up additional environments based on, say, experimental feature branches for testing, while still allowing updates to flow down the primary branch to the Live environment.
Other possibilities here may include publishing multiple sites, each with slightly different features for example.
Load balancing on Umbraco Cloud is something that isn't going to be used by everyone, but nonetheless is a great enhancement to have. We've had a number of clients request a load balanced solution and so we've hosted them on Azure. With this update, a lot of the configuration will now be handled for us, streamlining the process. We expect this to be a great addition to the feature set.
The DXP is a term that's started to come to the fore in the last couple of years - some say it's the next evolution of the CMS. Essentially this means integrations with other systems or plugins to enhance the user experience both for editors but also end-users of the website or app that you're building.
Umbraco is tackling the DXP from two angles - it's fast becoming both a Composable DXP (integrating with third party services such as HubSpot, Stripe and Zapier to name a few) and a Platform DXP (providing a base for extension plugins such as Forms, Workflow, Commerce and a host of third party plugins). You can see a full catalog of what's available at the Umbraco Marketplace.
There's been a lot of movement in the Umbraco Package (otherwise known as Plugins) space, this year we've seen the introduction of the Umbraco Marketplace showcasing the wide variety of packages available; the acquisition of Vendr which - just announced this week - is now Umbraco Commerce; and major improvements to Umbraco Forms.
On top of this, the quality and depth of offerings from the Umbraco community with third-party packages is richer than ever, with many focussing on the DXP initiative featuring third-party integrations.
Umbraco Forms has been a mainstay plugin in the Umbraco stable for a long time now, and continues to go from strength to strength. With it's easy to use form editing interface for building complex forms and configurable workflows for managing entries, it's a go-to for many builds dealing with data capture from users.
Recently Umbraco Forms has enjoyed performance improvements to the submission workflow process and the introduction of an API supporting headless and application scenarios.
This week, Umbraco announced support for previewing form changes - this allows an editor to make changes and then preview them before they go live. This should be a big boost in productivity - for one thing this means editors will be able to edit complex forms on a live environment and test them out without affecting the published site.
Umbraco Commerce, previously Vendr, is a mature, easy to implement eCommerce extension to Umbraco with out of the box support for orders, vouchers and discounts, multiple payment providers, an add-on checkout extension, and much more.
It leverages Umbraco Content as Products, which means a rich product profile can be achieved including videos, images, and customer interaction.
We look forward to seeing what can be achieved with this package in coming months as we start to transition from Vendr to Umbraco Commerce.
Umbraco have been working towards carbon neutrality in recent years, and recently released their Impact Report for 2022. Aside from planting trees to offset their carbon footprint, a lot of work has been done on increasing the efficiency and performance of websites running on Umbraco, resulting in lower costs and hardware specifications required to run the sites. To this end, benchmarks report that modern Umbraco (i.e., Umbraco 10 vs. Umbraco 8) is at least 50% more efficient.
Umbraco has also introduced a Sustainable Websites community team to help guide and develop the initiatives around further improvements in this area.
Umbraco Cloud too is going green; with the new Carbon Emission Report feature due to launch soon.
Umbraco 12 is looming, with a release date of June 29th. Included in this pending release are support for Entity Frameworks Core, the DotNet standard for database access; and the new Content Delivery API out of the box.
The Content Delivery API is a welcome addition providing for a native Headless solution as part of the Core open-source solution, something that developers have been requesting for some time now.
Beyond Umbraco 12, on the roadmap are concepts like lazy loaded content, a modern login screen, and the new Umbraco Back-office built on the new uUI library.
Of these features, the most anticipated and talked about is the new back-office implemented on top of uUI, Umbraco's User Interface library built on web-components and typescript. This is a significant upgrade, requiring package developers to migrate across to the new platform.
Work has started in earnest on this, and a preview is already available for Package Developers.
On the surface, the new back-office won't look very different to what's currently available, making for a seamless transition for content editors and other users.
However dig a little deeper, and the changes become more obvious, supporting the ability to move forward without being kept back by older technology and legacy systems.
The new back-office has a target release date of May 30th 2024 with Umbraco 14.
There's been a lot to unpack this year and a lot of opportunities exist for not only new but existing Umbraco-powered websites as we look towards the next 12 months; there's something for everybody.
If you have a website built on an older version of Umbraco (Version 8 and below), then now is the time to consider an upgrade to the Modern Umbraco CMS (Version 10+) with benefits including but not limited to performance and stability, new editing capabilities with the Block List and Block Grid, and the rich Package ecosystem and DXP capabilities.
If you are considering a new website, there's never been a better time to take advantage of these same features.
If you would like to know more, reach out to us using the form below or call us on +61 (0)7 5612 5820 for a chat on how we can assist you - we'd love to hear from you.
Image Credits: Umbraco Codegarden 2023 Keynote
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