SIDEBAR: 10 questions to ask your agency about Web work

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Does your ad agency -- or interactive shop -- have what it takes to bring your business to the Web? Here are some questions to ask to find out:

1. What core competencies do they have in-house? If interactive design and development aren't among them, move on.

2. How much, if any, of the work will be outsourced to contractors or other Web developers? "We've been in several situations where the agency tries to hide us," says Dominic Tassone, general manager, Streams Interactive, a Chicago-based Web boutique. "They either couldn't get the work done internally or in the time frame required, or they just didn't have the expertise."

3. What are the credentials of the team that's assigned to your account? If the agency uses contractors, check previous projects and references.

4. How many team members are on staff? Are they part-time or full-time?

5. Will the agency be responsible for the creative and strategic process before handing it off to the developer for execution?

6. If your agency is working with a Web developer, how committed is it to doing business together? Make sure to talk this over with the principals from each operation in advance.

7. Does the agency have strategic vision? The best will offer an integrated approach that combines branding, design and development with return on investment.

8. How many Web sites has the agency created? Don't pick one that's developed fewer than 12 sites, advises Janet Asteroff, analyst, the Gartner Group. Look at works in progress as well.

9. Are they leveraging their track record in areas other than the Web? Don't be tempted. Success in one area doesn't guarantee success in another.

10. Can they show you examples of more complex Web work? "It's easy to assess the creative capabilities," says Joe McCambley, president of ThunderHouse On-line Marketing & Communications. "You have to dig a lot deeper to assess the back-end capabilities."

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