Kai Köpke is a Magento Frontend Developer with 8 years of experience. He was once a part of the German Air Force. We can consider him a regular Meet Magento attendee who anxiously waits for Meet Magento events and other Magento events.
In this interview, Kai talks about Magento 2 and Magento performance. He also discusses his personal interests beside Magento. He also shares his suggestions for newbies who want to become good frontend engineers. Kai’s advices: “Don’t build your websites for fixed viewports, fixed resolutions, and fixed hardware anymore.”
Cloudways: Kai, you are a Frontend Developer. How did you start your career? For how long have you been involved with Magento? Why did you choose to work within the Magento World?
Kai: Hello Wajid! After 6 years in the German Airforce, my old job of building ships didn’t really exist anymore here in Germany. So, I went back to school and started a few months training in administering servers, mostly Windows Servers and a bit of Linux. Damn, what a stupid mistake! 😉
Nearly by accident, I came into a 10-month webmaster training. After a few weeks, a few others and I were teaching the teacher more than he was teaching us! But hey, I finally found my destiny! I was really interested in web design and development. From the beginning, I was more into frontend development than backend development. I learned a lot by myself and never stopped doing so.
Directly after that course, I had a job and built my first online shop. Back then, I used xt:Commerce. I played around a bit with Magento for the first time, 2 years after that job was over. So, I decided that I don’t need a boss anymore. Now, I became a Freelancer and it has been like that since the last 7 years!
In the beginning, I still built a few simple websites. But not long after, I was specializing more and more in Magento and learned a lot from the great community. My first attempt with Magento (Version 1.2.x) was about 8 years ago.
For almost 6 years now, I’m working almost solely with Magento. It isn’t easy every time. Every job is a new challenge. I never stopped learning. There are always so many new developments to follow, to try, to learn from and to enhance yourself and your skills.
Cloudways: You have been a part of many projects. What were your main challenges during your work and how did you solve them? Share some project management tips with our readers to help them manage their new projects?
Kai: The most important thing I had to learn is that I can’t do everything alone. You have to specialize yourself and you have to work in your field of specialization. There are lots of people, who can do different things better than you! You are not a backend developer? So, let a backend developer do the backend development tasks! For sure, it’s the faster and better solution. Build a network of developers and you will have a lot of friends who will help each other as they may have the same interests as yours!
Another thing is communication. You need to communicate with the shop owners and the team members you are working with on the project. The time when you just started the project and saw what comes out are now long gone. It’s now really, really important to make a project plan together with the site owner and your team. While working on the project, you have to work continuously on your project plan as well and steadily optimize it. Make the site owners a part of your team as far as possible. Talk to them and make decisions together.
Cloudways: In your opinion, what functionality improvements in Magento are more competitive today: Frontend features for customers or Backend refinements?
Kai: For me as a frontend developer, frontend features are way easier to build and to improve than backend. But, ask a backend developer the same and he will say the opposite for sure.
Cloudways: Kai, you have vast experience in functional websites designs. Share some tips with our readers regarding responsive website designs. What’s your suggestion for people who want to become good front-end engineers?
Kai: I think the most important thing is to really start with mobile first. This has a lot of benefits in usability and performance.
Secondly, don’t build your websites for fixed viewports, fixed resolutions and fixed hardware anymore. Don’t build your websites for smartphones, for tablets and/or for desktops, each with a set viewport. We are in 2015! There is more and more hardware in development. There are no borders anymore. Now we have Smart Watches coming more and more to the market.
What’s next? Try to build sites that can perform on all screen resolutions and on every hardware. Getting a Magento Shop Frontend running on a Smartwatch would be a challenge for sure. 😉
The other thing is (if you don’t create layouts by yourself) to train your graphic designers to understand responsive web design and to build layouts with that knowledge. Train them to understand the interactions between different screen sizes, different input methods, and so on.
Depending on the project, it can be a benefit to work with frontend frameworks, like Foundation, and techniques and tools like SASS, Gulp, Modman, and Composer. The time has come to start working with CSS Flexbox techniques, at least for simple content purposes and with easy fallbacks for older IE versions. Learn to use SVG Images and Icon Fonts in your work instead of pixel graphics for better performance, readability, and usability independent of the output device.
Cloudways: Kai, you are vastly experienced in handling online shops powered by Magento. According to you, what is the best strategy for starting an ecommerce store?
Kai: As Developer? I mostly answered this in point 3. Talk, talk, talk! Make a steady project development plan. As Shop ower? Talk, talk, talk! Make (or better let the team leader make) a steady project development plan. Learn from your developers. And, please! Don’t think in 2015 a working and profitable shop is made from a few hundred bucks. If your shop is online, don’t sit back and think it’s working for you now. Never stop optimizing your shop and always try to be state-of-the-art. The competition in your business is big and will become even bigger with time.
Cloudways: With the release of Magento 2.0 in beta, there are a lot of debates going on about the compatibility of web shops with the new version. What would be your recommendations for those e-merchants looking to upgrade from 1.x to the new version?
Kai: I didn’t have a lot time for bigger experiments with Magento 2.0, but it will be a great shop creation system—and a lot of fun to work with. I see a lot of great developments, and finally the community is a part of those developments. As far as I can say, there should not be big problems to set up a clean Magento 2 Shop and migrate your existing customer and product data with the data migration tool from a standard Magento 1.x Shop. For sure, it will be way harder with data from existing extensions or bigger changes in the database structure of Magento 1 shops.
Cloudways: Do you think developers using Magento 1 would be able to use the same designs in Magento 2? What are your thoughts about the frontend of Magento 2? How do you see Magento growing in the next 5 years after release of Magento 2?
Kai: You can build your Magento 2 shop with some changes based on the Magento 1 layout, but the theme has to be built completely new. Magento 1 themes are not compatible with Magento 2. Magento is the most used ecommerce development system in the world. There are a lot of new and old competitors, but in 5 years Magento still has a big role in the market for sure. There are so many great developments today in the new Magento 2 code base. I can’t wait to start my first real shop project with Magento 2.
Cloudways: Let’s step aside from work and talk about your personal interests. How do you spend your spare time? Do you love music or sports? Which type of music do you love?
Kai: In the beginning of my freelance living, I had to learn the art of creating work-life balance. I love my family and I spend a lot of time with my lovely dog Ayla (a Dachshund). I like good movies and books if I find time for them. And, I love healthy cooking and living. I am a Vegan. This year, I started doing something for my body again by following fitness regimens regularly. I’m working with pure bodyweight exercises without any equipment. There is so much you can do with push-ups, pull-ups, dips, and many more exercises.
Cloudways: The Magento community is very huge and there are many events that help us connect ourselves to the Community. How do you connect yourself in the Magento community? Do you think Twitter is best tool for connecting ourselves in Community? Or, is there any other tool which you would recommend using?
Kai: Yeah, Twitter is a great tool to be a part of the community. Besides that, there is a great German IRC Channel #magento-de, where you can get help with problems and for sure help other people too. Great for finding (and giving) help with problems is Magento StackExchange. But, the most important thing for networking—to meet old friends, get new ones, and have a lot fun—are events, like the Meet Magento or the Mage Unconference.
Cloudways: You are a regular attendee at Meet Magento Germany. How was your experience of attending this event? What are the advantages of these type of events?
Kai: Yes, I can’t wait for the next Meet Magento and other events like the Mage Unconference. You see and learn a lot of new developments in Magento, but the most important thing there is the networking – to be a part of this great community. Every time after such an event, I feel a lot of new elan and the work is a lot more fun than before.
Cloudways: Everyone has some inspiration behind their success. Name some people from the Magento community who have inspired you the most with their work?
Kai: In no particular order:
- Vinai Kopp
- Fabricio Branca
- Fabian Blechschmidt
- Alan Storm
- Ben Marks
- Allan MacGregor
- Rouven Rieker
- Alexander Steireif
And not to forget: All the other great guys and girls I didn’t name here from FireGento and many, many more other members of the Magento community.
Cloudways: Cloudways provides 1-click Magento installation with fabulous speed of your cloud server on our platform. I would highly appreciate if you can provide some suggestions or feedback about the platform. Don’t hesitate to share your opinions of Cloudways for Magento hosting!
Kai: Sorry Wajid, I can’t say a lot about that, because I didn’t work with Cloudways yet. But one thing: Self-Scaling and high-performance Cloud Servers will be an even bigger part of future shop hosting for sure. It’s more and more important to have enough power and performance available if you just need them for special offers, prime times, etc.
Abdur Rahman is the Magento whizz at Cloudways. He is growth ambitious, and aims to learn & share information about Ecommerce & Magento Development through practice and experimentation. He loves to travel and explore new ideas whenever he finds time. Get in touch with him at [email protected]