Jamstack, a11y, Cookies and Coronavirus — a look back at Fast Forward 2021 Day 2

On Day 2 of Fast Forward 2021 we brought you a veritable smorgasbord of delicious content from the developer community. From accessibility to blockchain, content preview time machines to cookie consent, from jQuery to the evolution of the Jamstack — sit back, relax and enjoy some fantastic technical talks from the wonderful Contentful community.

I had the absolute honor and privilege to deliver the Opening Keynote and MC Day 2 of Fast Forward 2021 — LIVE from an industrial warehouse in Berlin — with my incredible colleague, Stefan Judis. If you missed it, or if you’d like to catch up on-demand, here’s a round-up of the stellar content we featured from the developer community at Fast Forward 2021.

Apart from getting stranded in Zurich on my way home and almost missing my son’s fourth birthday party 😯 , Fast Forward 2021 Day 2 was a resounding success! But before we get started with the round-up of the day, I’d like to extend a huge thanks to the incredible production crew in Berlin and California — I really enjoyed having you in my ear all day! — and the Field Marketing team at Contentful who made this all possible. Last but not least — a huge thank you and “Go team!” to all the developers from the community who recorded some fantastic talks on a diverse set of topics, to help us bring you a day packed full of technical content on web development, accessibility, the Jamstack and getting the most out of Contentful.

Are you ready? Let’s relive the day!

Opening Keynote

Stefan and I opened Day 2 of Fast Forward by taking you on a journey through time where we explored how content management and software development evolved over the last ten years. The need for flexible content started with native mobile apps in 2011 — when I was attempting to solve the problem of content management with iframes and text files uploaded over FTP! But the solution to this problem became so much more and helped shape the developer experience we know and love today. Watch the Opening Keynote to find out how Contentful's idea of API-first JSON-based content unlocked speed, flexibility, developer satisfaction and most importantly — innovation on the web.

Building and Running Websites at Speed and Scale with Contentful

Next up we heard from Klaus Unterkircher and Michał Kaczergis from Bright IT. Quickly launching and working with large scale websites can be challenging. As experienced Contentful builders, they created BrightSite — an app tailored specifically to Contentful that helps developers and editors alike with launching and working with websites. In this talk Klaus and  Michał show you how you can create faster and better websites at speed and scale with Contentful.

From Microsoft Word to Contentful: What I Learned in My First 365 Days

Dr. Kelvin Wong, senior product manager at RMS, shared with us his journey in learning how to optimize Contentful for industry-specific workflows and internal processes. Moving away from a traditional CMS to a headless platform such as Contentful can be a daunting experience. While the benefits are clear, it’s not always obvious how to get started with this new technology and the pitfalls to avoid. Alongside implementing the new technology, internal processes and workflows need to be reimagined and redefined. Most importantly, Kelvin reminds us that no one should be left behind as technology changes the way we work. In this talk, learn about the lessons Kelvin learned in his first year working with the Contentful platform, including how the team redefined and transformed their editorial workflow, their hands-on experiences of content modeling, and most importantly, and how to create a foundation that can scale and enable future growth.

What’s New at Contentful

Next up, my colleague Brittany Walker, developer advocate at Contentful, gives us the low-down on some brand new Contentful features we released at Fast Forward 2021.

First up is app sharing and custom app icons. The Contentful App Framework lets you use your favorite tools and frameworks and easily connect them to Contentful to customize the editor experience in the web UI and streamline your workflows. We’ve got a huge collection of curated apps in the app marketplace ranging from Cloudinary, Google Analytics, Gatsby Cloud, Netlify, Shopify — and more — and you can also build your own custom integrations using our open-source tools. But what if you’ve built a custom app that you’d like to share with the world? Here’s where app sharing comes in! You can now share your Contentful apps across organizations using a link, or an embeddable share button. You can also add custom icons to your apps, making it easy for people to find what they’re looking for when browsing their list of apps.

And finally, the Contentful Images API now supports AVIF! This means you can return your images stored in Contentful in the new AVIF format via the REST API or GraphQL API. But what is AVIF — and should you be using it right now? Brittany gives us a round-up of browser support for AVIF and how you can load responsive images using the HTML <picture> element.

Building a Content Time Machine: The Ultimate Editor Preview Tool

Keeping on top of a multi-channel content schedule is one of the biggest challenges content editors face, and digital agency DEPT was tasked with solving this problem for one of the UK’s leading TV broadcasters. In this talk, Jonathan Whiteside, global SVP for technology and engineering at DEPT demonstrates how they leveraged Contentful APIs to power a bespoke content time machine that enables editors to plan and preview content across numerous channels at different points in the future. You’ll learn the optimum API combination to build your own time machine, as well as the content model to power it.

Increasing Access to Your Website with “prefers-reduced-data”

You’ll often hear me shouting from the rooftops about accessibility, and this talk from Kilian Valkhof, founder at Polypane, gives us an exciting new insight in how the web is moving forward and allowing developers to make the web even more accessible. The upcoming prefers-reduced-data media query will improve accessibility in the "more people can now enter the building" meaning of accessibility. In this talk, Killian teaches us how to start implementing this experimental feature now to make your website available to even more people when the feature finally lands. I can’t wait to use it!

Blog Final Final Final — My Journey from Medium to Contentful

Blogging is a popular way for developers to document their learning journeys and publish their portfolios. But if you’re just starting out — the technology options for blogging can seem overwhelming! Join Luce Carter, developer advocate at MongoDB, who shares her journey in finding the ideal technology solution for her blog — which ultimately ended at Contentful. Discover the pros and cons of hosting providers, front-end framework choices and content management, and feel empowered to start blogging! 

Building Blockchain with JavaScript

Over the past few years, blockchain has gained popularity in the tech ecosystem, the financial world, and the content creation space. As software engineers specializing in the web, we may not understand its relevance. Should we learn blockchain? How does it work? Why do people use it? Why is it gaining such traction? In this futuristic talk, Rizel Scarlett, developer advocate at GitHub, explores these questions and shows us how to build a blockchain simulation of our own!

How to be Truly Accessible

Why is accessibility important? Who do I need to be accessible to? What are some really simple, quick and cheap ways I can improve accessibility? Here’s another important talk on accessibility from Rachel Morgan-Trimmer. In this session, Rachel answers these questions and gives us a valuable collection of accessibility tips and insights into inclusion you can start using straight away — both in web development and in the wider world.

jQuery is Not Dead, and That’s Fine

If you’re working on a large enterprise application on the web — you might still be using jQuery — and that’s fine! At conferences, we usually show the latest and greatest tech and often downplay older technologies in the developer ecosystem. But people still use these tools and frameworks, and shaming them is harmful to the developer community. In this talk, Jayne Mast, engineering manager at Confrere shares her own personal story of how she got confronted with gatekeeping and elitism, how it affected her confidence, and what we can all do to avoid this and promote inclusion in the technology space.

Consent Management: That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles

How many cookie banners have you dismissed today? A clean user experience is crucial in enabling visitors to your websites to find their way around, but websites in 2021 are cluttered with distracting, annoying pop-ups in order to comply with tracking consent regulations. In this talk, Ben Brook, CEO and co-founder of Transcend explains how their engineering team discovered a way to eliminate those annoying pop-ups while maintaining regulatory compliance. Learn about the technical challenges of providing a compliant and positive user experience for website tracking consent, new ways to think about consent without popups and how to implement a technical roadmap for deploying this capability on your own websites. I can’t wait until this is the new standard on the web!

The Modern DXP — How Jamstack will Change the World

Circling back to the theme of our Opening Keynote, Tim Bennicks, principal developer advocate at Uniform showcases the Digital Experience Platform of the future — the Jamstack. In this talk, Tim outlines the old way of building digital experiences and how they’ve been modernized with new technology. We can now build global platforms and ecommerce sites at scale with the tools we love: Contentful, Vue, React, CDNs at the edge, serverless and more. The old-school enterprise software that has historically been used to shape your online shopping experience is no more and the Jamstack is ready to take on — and out-perform — the status quo in enterprise software. The time is now for Jamstack!

Productivity in a Time of Coronavirus

And finally, we wrapped up the day with Scott Hanselman, partner program manager at Microsoft and thought leader on the culture of working. Many of us have transitioned to working remotely since 2020, and it can be hard to switch off and get away from our screens, leaving us feeling drained, fatigued and unproductive. In this closing keynote, Scott decries the dangers of “hustle culture” and shares unique, actionable tips for Productivity in a Time of Coronavirus that will leave you feeling renewed. I definitely needed this!

That’s a wrap!

I can honestly say that Fast Forward 2021 was the highlight of my year. From everyone here at Contentful, we hope you enjoyed the day whether you experienced it live or on demand. And if you want to experience the day in full as it happened — including latte art, AMAs from our engineers, and all the silly bits Stefan and I had fun with, you can watch the full conference here. See you around, party people!

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