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Writing The Perfect Website RFP (Request For Proposal)

What is an website RFP?

In simple terms, a Request For Proposal or RFP, is your request for a detailed proposal from one or more project vendors. But more importantly, it’s an opportunity to put in writing your website needs, goals, vision and to tell potential vendors what specifically you need their help with.

An RFP allows you to describe what you need to change about your website, from specific tasks such as replacing static page updating with a content manager, to making the pages easier to navigate, to suggesting general design goals to make your site resonate with a specific audience or have your site more easily found by search engines.

Your RFP should have the following:

  • An overview of your business or organization
  • An overview of how the website is currently being utilized
  • An overview of what is lacking or not working well
  • Your vision of what the website should be
  • Your expectations for what a proposal should include

Sample RFPS

We offer two sample Request For Proposal documents which you can download and adapt for your project:

  • Basic Website RFP Sample – .doc file, 3 pages, best for very basic website projects
  • Complex Website RFP Sample – .doc file, 8 pages, best for more complex website projects

To download either of our two sample Request For Proposal documents please complete the form below and we will email you a link to the RFPs.

RFP Request

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Do your website homework first

Redesigning a website is more than giving the website a graphic “face lift.”

Overhauling or redesigning your website is an opportunity to include additional features and capabilities and to fix what isn’t working-including search engine optimization, poor navigation and a lackluster design that does not invite customers back.

Before drafting a simple RFP, meet with several staff members or fellow employees and make a list of what are the shortcomings of your current website.

Ask all stakeholders the following:

  •  What aspects of the website have customers and staff complained about?
  • Is the website difficult or time-consuming to update?
  • How does the website fit in with your current marketing plans?
  • Are there new capabilities you would like the website to have such as polls, knowledge base or surveys?

Next, prioritize the your list into two groups. Group one would be, “Must have-that which we can’t live without.” Group two would be, “It would be nice if-things that will make our jobs easier.” Having your website Requirements grouped will make it easier to decide what items you’re willing to budget for now, and what may need to wait for a later date.

In addition to talking to your staff, it is a good idea to ask your customers what they like or don’t like about your website. Many great suggestions for improvements will come from those who use your website frequently, and it’s a great way to show your customers you care enough about them to include them in your website redesign process.

The importance of content management

Most corporate websites tend to grow in size over the years a press release pages and customer service documents are added to the site, along with documentation, sub-pages and the like. If you have more than 50 pages in your website, keeping the site updated can be a real challenge, especially if you rely one person to make the changes for you or an IT department that doesn’t want to be bothered with the website.

Having a built-in content management system or CMS as it is called, can be a great way to tame a wild beast of a website. Content management systems are great because they separate the text or content of a page from the page design, and use a database to “marry” content with design templates. Changing the look of the entire web site can be as simple as changing one or two template pages, instead of changing every single page in a “static” web site.

A CMS will also allow you to easily add pages through an Administration login, usually accessible via the Internet, so you can make changes from just about anywhere. If you have several people contributing content to your site, you can approve content before it’s published, and without having to know anything about HTML or website design.

If you are redesigning your website anyway, and if a CMS makes sense, it may be worth adding this requirement to your RFP. Be sure to ask that all proposals included details regarding the application to be used for the CMS, as there are many different systems available including both commercial applications and open source applications.

Expectations for your website vendors

An RFP is also your opportunity to discuss what your expectations are for a vendor, in terms of reviews, status updates, references and working on similar types of projects. If you are in a time crunch and need a major redesign of your site in a couple of weeks, your project may be better suited for a larger vendor who has some excess capacity.

Some questions to ask yourself would include:

  • Are you expecting your website vendor to manage the project or will you provide some project management?
  • Who will determine the project’s time-frame for completion?
  • Who determines what progress has been made throughout the project?
  • What are the project milestones?

If you are expecting your website vendor to do all these things, make sure you state this in your RFP so potential vendors know what is expected of them when creating the budget for the project.

Honesty is the best policy

Leaving out vital or important project information and details from your RFP, to be purposely vague in describing a project in the hopes of getting more out of your project budget, will simply lead to a disaster.

This approach is really a waste of everyone’s time.

Proposals based on vague RFPs are usually padded by the vendor to cover for many unknowns or assumptions. Vendors who win the project may try to always second guess the client or assume the client is not telling them all they need to know throughout the project, undermining the working relationship.

And, when additional requirements are discovered after a project has begun, someone will have to pay whether it’s the client paying for additional hours or the vendor cutting corners in order to keep the project within a limited budget.

By providing as much detail as possible in your RFP, you are telling potential vendors that you take the project seriously, you value their time, and that you have a vested interest in the success of the project.

Vendor selection

  • Don’t be afraid to include in your RFP what your criteria will be for the selection of a vendor.
  • Will it be lowest price? Will it be quick turnaround? Will your selection be based on a vendor’s experience with organizations similar to yours? Or all of the above?
  • Consider a two-step process for selection. Often you will get several proposals with very different approaches in terms of website architecture and technical solutions.
  • After reviewing and choosing between a number of proposals, invite three of the strongest potential candidates in for an opportunity to meet with you and key people on your staff involved with the project.
  • Have your staff ask each vendor questions about their proposal, their methodology and how they will deal with problems that may arise.
  • While you want to work with someone who is technically competent and experienced, having good comunication skills and a good understanding of customer service will help your project to be successful.
  • Be sure to check your vendor’s references and that they have worked on comparable projects.

For RFP writing tips, take a look at Twelve Tips For A Better Request For Proposal (RFP).

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Design-First serves Columbus, La Grange, West Point, Duluth and the Metro Atlanta, Georgia area. Phone: 678-969-0448.