Sydney Writers Festival

Umbraco underpins a highly modular web application for Sydney Writers’ Festival

Sydney Writers Festival is an annual event celebrating all things literary. It features over 400 events and brings together some of the most celebrated authors and publishers in the world. With annual audiences of over 100,000, it is one of the largest arts and cultural festivals in Australia.

SWF had recently launched a new brand hierarchy and looked to expand the festival to bigger and better venues across Sydney. To better support the growing festival, they set about redeveloping their web application suite, incorporating the expanding programme, online ticketing, sponsorship and catering to a larger and more diverse audience.

Complimenting their existing festival planning workflow, Deepend set about developing a highly flexible and modular platform, using the open-source Umbraco CMS as its base.

"It was wonderful to see the Festival brand come to life in both a beautiful and technically sophisticated way. It’s a credit to the team at Deepend."

Jo Dyer - CEO


Below are some key creative highlights of the festival site:

Evolution of a Brand

The platform design took a new, static brand and extended this into a living, breathing digital presence. This included allowances for how the brand was used within animation and video, not to mention the careful use of the colour scheme, whilst also still maintaining high levels of accessibility.

Deepend Sydney Writers Festival

The Digital Style Guide

Much of the brand work was developed within the concept of a digital style guide. This constantly evolving digital document streamlined ongoing development by specifying common design parameters for all technical extensions.

Deepend Sydney Writers Festival

Flexible, Scalable, Modular Design

The design was highly modular and scalable.  For example, festival administrators could change the weighting and scale afforded to a content module within the Calendar

Deepend Sydney Writers Festival

This allows them to simply scale the order of importance for events in a very intuitive and natural manner.


Developed on a highly modular instance of Umbraco, the site has a number of technically sophisticated components, including:

Matching the Existing Workflow

The CMS platform allowed users an upload to an existing Filemaker database document for the key event and participant information. This matching of the existing Festival workflow reduced time to spend entering content, not to mention doubling up of effort that is typically required to publish site content.

Deepend Sydney Writers Festival

Cloud Based Ticketing Integration

The site integrated with the cloud-based Tessitura ticketing platform, T-New, allowing seamless ticket purchasing.


As an annual event that runs over several weeks, the site needed to be easily adaptable to times that fall outside of the key Festival timeframe. This was achieved by deploying both an “in/out” of Festival mode. Key modules, such as the daily event calendar, are given less prominence outside of key festival times, with a focus then placed on news and key opinion pieces.

Deepend Sydney Writers Festival

Custom Lucene Indexing

With a huge volume of traffic hitting the site at once upon the opening of the Festival, it was crucial to build the platform in a way that it could cope with such spikes of concurrent users. One specific means was the development of a custom Lucene index, which facilitates far more concurrent queries of database content than a standard search and helps improve performance under load.


Year on year increase in organic traffic and interaction

Year on year, the site drove over a 30% increase in organic traffic and interaction, ensuring the Festival had their highest volume of ticket Sales in the history of the event.

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