Learn From A Pro!
I’m really excited to be able to share an interview that I had with Hong Kong veteran Ian Callaghan.
Ian is a software developer and owner of a Hong Kong-based Web Design and Website Development company: Cascade.
If you’re looking to get online and start growing your business then don’t hesitate to contact Ian and his team and you’ll have a premium high-converting website in no time at all.
If you’re interested in a career in web design, SEO, or digital marketing in general, then learning from veterans like Ian can really help with your understanding of the industry.
Again, a bit thank you to Ian!
How long have you been in Hong Kong and where are you from?
Hi Henry, and a huge thanks for taking the time to interview me. I have been here for close to 20 years so it is definitely my home now. Hong Kong really has the best food, the best people, and some amazing hiking trails. It is such a wonderful place to be and I feel really lucky to have the chance to live here.
Can you share a little bit about yourself and Cascade?
Sure, I am a software developer by profession and was involved in iOS applications and games before getting serious with web design and development about six years ago.
Cascade came about because I wanted to try and make a productized service business around something I really enjoy doing which is web design and building websites. I really like the productized business model rather than the typical agency model and feel it works well for solopreneurs and small teams. I am lucky to have friends who have tried this type of productized model in the digital marketing space so I am learning a lot from them and also getting feedback from customers has been really valuable.
It is still a fresh company so right now I am just working on outreach and paid ads to attract new leads but plan to write regular content for the site based around the small business and WordPress niche.
What’s the future of web development? Is WordPress & Gutenberg the way to go?
For content management, I think WordPress and Gutenberg are definitely the directions things are heading and there are already some amazing 3rd party Gutenberg block plugins out there in the market that make building websites more enjoyable. Theme developers now seem to be putting a lot more emphasis on blocks and prebuilt UI kits for building out sites rather than making a specific theme for a specific market.
Some Gutenberg blocks that we are already using are Stackable, GenerateBlocks, and Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg. I have built client websites using these and have gotten amazing results. Personally, I like the native feel to it and it will be difficult for me to go back to using classic page builders like Brizy and Beaver builder.
Using a lightweight theme and Gutenberg blocks really helps to achieve those 90+ page speed scores so there is a positive SEO benefit to going in this direction too.
Is the core web vitals giving you headaches or not really?
When working on new websites it is much easier now as you have some really fast themes which support Gutenberg blocks natively. Combined with a good host with decent caching you can pretty much tackle most page speed issues. We try to look for hosts now with http/2 as well as Redis object caching but for sites on cheaper hosts, we use the WP Rocket plugin which fixes a lot of the Core Web Vitals issues such as minifying CSS, caching, etc.
With Cascade, I am trying to educate people more on page speed and giving advice and support for this. I have just published my first blog post which is on how to speed up your WordPress website and hope people will find this kind of content useful.
What’s your favourite theme (if you have one) in WordPress?
I really love the Blocksy theme from Creative Themes at the moment and have been using this on all new sites. I feel the developers really care about great performance and the theme seems highly customizable. The built-in drag and drop header and footer builder is a really nice touch too. I think GeneratePress is really worth a mention though as this is probably the fastest theme on the market right now.
What’s your pet peeve about web design?
I think it has to be websites that have a company video auto-playing in the header. I feel it doesn’t give much value to the visitor as well as making you wait a really long time for the page to load. I am also not a huge fan of CSS animations but it might start growing on me one day.
There are tons of amazing web designers out there though, I love checking out dribble to see what people are putting out. It’s pretty mind-blowing.
What’s the number one bit of advice you’d give to a younger Ian Callaghan?
Stick things out! I was jumping around creating mobile apps, mobile games, then Shopify apps and I think the reason these opportunities didn’t work out so well is that I didn’t take the time to stick things out and learn what people’s problems were.
Talking to customers first before launching or doing anything would also be a thing to tell me. You learn so much by just talking to people and finding out their needs and pain points.