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What's the biggest lesson Pat Connolly learned in building Williams-Sonoma's first Web site? Don't hire two competing companies and ask them to work on the project together.

"You're better off choosing a firm to be involved in all aspects of [the site] than to have two firms that are basically competitive" working together, says Mr. Connolly, exec VP-general manager of Williams-Sonoma's catalog business. Last fall, he hired USWeb/CKS to handle the back end and transactional engine for the site, Later on, he brought on Adjacency, San Francisco, to design the front end.

But Adjacency was bought by consultancy Sapient in March.

Suddenly, Williams-Sonoma's creative resource was part of a company that was competing head-to-head with USWeb/CKS.

The two firms ended up bickering over how to integrate the site's design with its functionality. As a result, Mr. Connolly awarded Williams-Sonoma's next site, an online store due out in time for the holiday season, to USWeb/CKS.

Andrew Sather, former CEO of Adjacency and now a Sapient senior VP, says he agrees with Mr. Connolly's assessment of the situation.

"The ideal situation for any client is to identify a partner who can handle everything" on a project, he says. "This entire medium is a mass of convergence of strategy, design and technology. Trying to compartmentalize those different pieces of the project is nearly impossible."

If Mr. Sather sounds like he's singing in awfully close harmony with a client, there's a reason for that.

Williams-Sonoma is currently in discussions with developers for its Pottery Barn Web site, which will consist of three projects: a core site, a bridal site and a kids' site.

Says Mr. Connolly: "I'd like [to work with] two firms who each know who their competition is."

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