Thanks to continued advances in technology and increasing demand from computer literate consumers, Hong Kong's multimedia industry is poised to take off. Particularly in the area of web design, there has been steady expansion in recent years and individuals from a variety of academic backgrounds have found opportunities to put their diverse talents to good use.
Good web designers are essential nowadays for companies which want to use the latest multimedia technology to get their message across to the public, says Leo Tam, business development manager for Aves Asia Limited. "There is no strictly defined hierarchy for our industry. New joiners can be from any kind of background provided they have a passion for design-related work and are ready to learn on the job," he adds.
Aves is a Hong Kong-based company with 10 employees, which provides web applications development, e-services and digital media innovation. Mr Tam founded the business in 2000 and initially worked on projects in his spare time before deciding to give up other commitments and make it his full-time job in 2003.
"Web design is an ever-changing market which has come a long way since the first period of interest in dotcom companies," he explains. "The quality of work has improved and the industry is becoming better understood. Also, Internet users are becoming more attentive to web banners, so clients are willing to invest more in web design and the related services."
The real job satisfaction comes from the development process and providing services which buyers or consumers find useful
Since bandwidth capacity has increased, end-users have faster access to the information they need. This has also allowed more information to be stored and for a combination of data sources, including videos and animation, to be used in the design process. Such developments have led to much greater flexibility in creating products for delivery via multimedia channels and given a substantial boost to growth prospects for the sector.
"People keen to get into the industry should be inquisitive, self-motivated and able to offer fresh insights to clients," says Mr Tam. "We have business development and design departments. One team is responsible for finding new business opportunities and doing sales pitches, while the other collaborates closely with clients to meet their design needs." New hires usually start as junior web designers and, depending on performance, can expect to move up to more senior roles as project managers, sales managers or art directors.
Mr Tam adds that market competition is getting tougher in Hong Kong as more end-users see the benefits of having high-quality web-related products. This, though, will also give the chance to target new markets and provide scope for introducing new technologies.
Aves is now engaged in a project which will provide a platform for Hong Kong-based designers to post their own designs on a special website. "We aim to launch it by early 2006 and it will allow a channel for local people in Hong Kong to promote their work and ideas," says Mr Tam, adding that it would also be a source of motivation and inspiration. The company's aim is to expand their own web platform to clients in Europe and Australia in the near future.
According to Mr Tam, working in the web sector is not just about making money. "The real job satisfaction comes from the development process and providing services which buyers or consumers find useful," he says. He points out that the job can be tough because the hours are long, but that if someone is creative and prepared to put in the necessary time, their efforts will be rewarded. In addition, the sector needs people who are team players and able to deal with partners and freelancers. They should have good communication skills, be independent and know how to assume responsibility.
Aves plans to expand and increase its exposure on the Internet. "We want to strengthen our client base and make our services stand out more," Mr Tam says. "We are looking to put more emphasis on working with a wider cross-section of businesses, organising more events and understanding more about the fashion industry."
In considering the China market, Mr Tam said the requirements of mainland users remain different from those of local Hong Kong customers. "Their expectations are relatively lower, mainly because the technology and concepts are not as mature as in Hong Kong," he says. "For instance, most mainland companies have less bandwidth capacity and we have to take that into consideration and provide products which match their needs."
He adds that, even so, the company would focus on creating more flexible Internet platforms for mainland clients as a way of achieving a lead over industry competitors.