This year Sitecore hosted SUGCON in the beautiful city of Amsterdam and fortunately for me I was attending with some of my fellow Kagool co-workers; Martin Davies (MVP), Ian Graham (MVP) and David Moore.

I wanted to blog about my first SUGCON experience as a Front-End Developer.

SUGCON what’s it about?

Every year Sitecore host a Sitecore User Group Conference (SUGCON) and this year it was hosted in the Postillion Hotel Amsterdam. SUGCON is a Sitecore and community driven event, packed with the latest insights and advice from experts of the Sitecore world.

It provides all Sitecore developers and partners the chance to network and get to know each other over a few beers, to talk about the things they love about Sitecore and share knowledge of their Sitecore experiences.

This was not my first time attending a Sitecore event. My first event was back in 2012 for the Sitecore Symposium in Amsterdam which was hosted in Hotel Okura. This year however was my first ever SUGCON and I was looking forward to everything it provides.

Day One Highlights

The first day at SUGCON was a midday start with welcoming introduction by Pieter Brinkman which lead into Lars Fløe Nielsen opening keynotes and flowed nicely into Bas Lijten and Rob Habrakens talk “A Futuristic showcase of the omni-channel capabilities of Sitecore XP”.

This talked showed off some amazing things people had done with Sitecore, everything from virtual reality to Amazon’s Alexa integration and leveraging the power of Microsoft face recognition API.

Lars talked about how Sitecore is changing its direction and will become a headless application with microservices and upgradable components allowing upgrading Sitecore version easier with minimal risk.

After the opening talks I headed into Morten Lyhr’s “Sitecore Helix Practically”. This was an interesting talk and focused on the core principles of HELIX and how you should use HELIX principles in your code when developing for Sitecore project, if you want to find out more, check out the HELIX documentation.

The next big thing to come from Sitecore is the Sitecore Experience Accelerator know as SXA which Jason Wilkerson talked about. This was an interesting talk for me as a lot of what SXA delivers is something close to my heart in Front-End Development; I even created an SXA module for the Sitecore Hackathon.

SXA shows some promising features, allowing content editor to start adding pages and content from day one of their Sitecore build. UX guys can start building working wireframes in Sitecore and Front-End Developers can start theming and building components with little effort from Back-End Developers.

Unfortunately the demo-gods were present in the talk, so I didn’t get to see all of the features of SXA, however SXA does allow UX and Front-End guys to collaborate and work more efficiently.

Day Two Highlights

The second day was an early start and opened with Stephen Pope talking about Sitecore publishing service and how fast this service is compared with the existing publishing method in Sitecore, and it was fast!

Next on the list was “Glass Mapper – Things that I Really Should have Documented” presented by Mike Edwards the creator of Sitecore Glass Mapper framework. This was followed by a more in-depth high level presentation of how to “Extend SXA with Custom Components” presented by Adam Najmanowicz and Mark Van Aalst.

This presentation gave a brief insight to some of the key features of SXA including:

  • Built in website scaffolding
  • Wireframe mode
  • Drag and drop components
  • Rendering variants (This looked a little similar to compatible renderings)

There was also mention of some of the new features that will be coming in SXA 1.3 such as additional CSS grid system supporting allowing you to use 960 Grid, Bootstrap or Foundation. This is a is a nice little feature, though I would like to be able to build or add my own custom grid to SXA which I’m not sure is possible yet (it is still early days).

The new grid system feature also allows content editors to switch grid system depending on the device type using the power of Sitecore device detection. Semantic HTML support allows component HTML tags to be switched out depending on its use case.

With SXA wrapped up I headed over to Richard Seal’s presentation on “Sitecore and ReactJS”. This presentation was a bit more in depth and code examples shown (win!).

Richard showed the ReactJS module he’s created on the Sitecore Marketplace, this is a module I’ve not used before and my knowledge of ReactJS is not that great (I’ve used Angular 1.* mostly) this has now tickled my fancy for having a play about with this module and ReactJS.

Sitecore Showed Some Love For Front-End Developers

This has to be one of the best moments of SUGCON for me.

Sitecore are actively trying to bridge the gap between Back-End and Front-End Developers. Sitecore are doing this by introducing Sitecore JavaScript Services (JSS) which is an API that will allow any JavaScript framework (currently ReactJS only) to be used with Sitecore with the added bonus of Experience Editor will still work without any crazy workarounds woot!

Alex Shyba and Adam Weber were simply amazing! The presentation was insightful, and fun. The slide deck data was in Sitecore and rendered with ReactJS and was fully editable in Experience Editor. This could have been a mic drop moment for me as this was complete music to me ears… The presentation had an added bonus of T-Shirts being shot into the crowd with an air gun for those that asked questions!

I’ve recently messaged Alex Shyba to see if I can get an invite to the beta to try and blog about my experiences with using Sitecore JavaScript Services API (Fingers crossed!)

Thanks for reading and happy coding.

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