Open-source content management system pioneer, Umbraco, is preparing for the third annual innovation conference in the heart of Bristol, where .NET developers and web designers meet with their peers and learn about the latest technology to support their digital projects.

The Umbraco Spark conference, organised and hosted by digital agency GIBE Digital, will take place at Bristol’s M Shed on Friday 10 March. The conference offers two presentation tracks, where attendees can hear from Umbraco’s technical team and learn from their peers, with plenty of time for networking during the day, followed by an after-party.

This year’s programme of talks covers sustainable and ethical web design practices; tips on technology integration and upgrades; using AI for content creation; and the impact of compassion on developer confidence and the quality of code.

“We’re reducing barriers for people, so you don’t have to be a techie to operate a successful website”

The event provides Umbraco website developers and software contributors with an opportunity to catch up on the latest technical updates and share their own Umbraco project successes.

Web developer, Lee Kelleher, and Luke Hook, senior backend developer at GIBE Digital, will be presenting Playmaker: Dances with Wolves, where they will share GIBE’s development of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ website, with simplified integrations to third-party technologies that enable single sign on, e-commerce, livestreaming and game statistics.

Lee comments, “Developers want to do their best to help content authors and editors to publish their web pages and that became a focus for me. Openness and inclusion are part of the spirit of Umbraco. We’re reducing barriers for people, so you don’t have to be a techie to operate a successful website.”

As a freelance web developer, Lee Kelleher also values the supportive nature of the Umbraco community, saying, “The Umbraco community is open, friendly and collaborative. People genuinely want to help each other to create the best platform for everyone.”

“That’s the great thing about open-source software, if you have an idea, you’ll get support to try it out”

Emma Garland, senior software engineer at Bristol software house, Rock Solid Knowledge, will be presenting Painting: Using AI to decorate your Umbraco content, examining the line between creativity, ownership and ethics when developers apply AI to generate images for their sites.

Explaining why she supports the event, Emma Garland draws parallels with Bristol’s creative spirit and the open-source CMS community, who contribute new code to help each other to bring ideas to digital life: “I always come away from Umbraco Spark full of ideas and inspired to try different technologies in my work.

“It’s a tremendously supportive community. If you ever hit a problem, there’s always a forum and someone who’s willing to help. That’s the great thing about open-source software, if you have an idea, you’ll get support to try it out. It really fits with the whole Bristol ethos of a community working together to make life better for everyone. Bristol has a really independent spirit, new ideas are readily embraced and people will pitch in to bring an idea to fruition. That’s the Umbraco ethos too,” she says.

Bristol is home to a cluster of digital agencies that create websites and digital experiences for leading brands. Emma Garland and Lee Kelleher point to a number of examples of Bristol nurturing creativity in all its forms, citing the engineering works of Brunel, the Bristol pound, the BBC Studios Natural History Unit, Aardman’s award-winning stop motion films, musical innovators including Portishead, Tricky and Massive Attack, the Bristol Balloon festival, and Banksy’s graffiti artworks adorning the city walls.

Emma Burstow, director of Developer Relations at Umbraco, adds, “The brilliant thing about Umbraco is that anyone can take an idea and turn it into an online experience using our open-source software. We’re blessed with an amazing community of creative, clever developers, who contribute packages that extend the Umbraco CMS and help bring ideas to life.

“Umbraco Spark provides us with an opportunity to give back and provide these wonderful people with a long overdue reason to meet face to face, learn from each other and let their hair down afterwards.”