Web developer Spike's recent announcement to make seven Australian staff redundant and shift its multimedia energies to the US is indicative of a growing trend among the new breed of IT integrators to constantly search for the next Internet nirvana.
Chris O'Hanlon, Spike's CEO, explained that "we will be moving a lot of our multimedia development to the States because as we become more content driven we have to raise our skill levels.
"The seven employees simply didn't have the skill set necessary to carry them in the new direction. Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world so there are a lot of high-level animators there and basically it's just a bigger business environment."
However John O'Meara, managing director of facilitator IT Online Shopping, is sceptical of the expansion intentions of many local Web developers before they address the problems inherent in the basic development and design element of their businesses.
"Eight out of 10 Australian Web developers are bad," O'Meara claimed, after recently taking the development of his organisation's Web site in-house because of a disastrous experience.
"Web developers need to understand that the average reseller doesn't want anything more than a flat page. They definitely don't want television type screens and animated logos that cost a fortune," he added.
"Already you are looking at about $100,000 to design a site that allows you to do the things the average reseller already does every week including inventory, delivery and troubleshooting."
O'Meara said he understood that a shift to a business focus, as opposed to a technical approach, is necessary to counter the growing scepticism of many would be e-commerce supporters.
"The Web isn't just a sales and advertising tool. It allows people to look into your business instead of you looking out. It shouldn't be up to the reseller to say what they want and how to achieve this.
"Web developers need to know a business and most of them don't," O'Meara claimed.
Robert Beerworth, founder and managing director of Wiliam Design, is adamant the Internet shouldn't be used as a glossy brochure, but he is having trouble educating clients. To this end, Wiliam Design is attempting over the next year and a half to mould itself into a one stop Internet shop.
"We need to educate people that the Web is not just about marketing. For the next year or so we will still focus on Web interfaces and solutions, but we are working on moving into e-commerce applications, content provision and multimedia," Beerworth revealed.
O'Hanlon perceived this shift in priorities as a response to the commoditisation of Web development skills, suggesting that to differentiate itself Spike needs to evolve.
"We are going to become more involved in streaming media, partnerships with e-commerce companies and basically rely on an enterprise base and entrepreneurial relationships," O'Hanlon said.
In contrast, O'Meara rebuffed the assumption that Web development has been commoditised. "There is a lot of talk about the Internet and e-commerce but not much action because of the high set-up and maintenance costs involved.
O'Meara suggested that Web developers need to start being honest about costs, create sites relevant to specific business needs and budgets, explain ongoing expenses and most importantly educate the reseller on the potential of a Web site.
"Good Web developers are not moving into multimedia, they are transforming into business consultants," he said.
Beerworth reiterated this point, saying: "Our clients now expect a Web developer to design a site, act as an ISP and an integrator and educate them on how to use it.
"Woolworths now sells petrol, for example, and we need to diversify as well."