How to Write an RFP (Request for Proposal) for Web Design?

 19 Apr, 2019

Request for Proposal or an RFP is a document which is used by agencies to assess your project and give you a proposal. A proper RFP is able to state your needs and responses with clarity. An RFP is the face of your business which you will present to your future collaborators. Thus, it is essential that it is well composed. There is no doubt about the fact that good RFPs lead to good proposals. Latter, in turn, is the key to healthy business relationships which are essential for growth in terms of quality and quantity of projects.

Elements of a Good Request for Proposal

When you plan a website, an RFP is the first thing on your priority list as you put together a web redesign request for proposal. It is a common practice to submit your RFP to more than one agency. It is, in fact, a good idea as well as you get a fair idea of the fact that what it actually takes to bring your project to life. Once your request is submitted, you will get responses from the agencies which will possibly contain a proposed solution which will define the scope of your work, timeline and even cost of your website. This is generally followed by a short telephonic discussion followed by a question and answer session. Thus, your RFP is the first touchpoint with your potential partner agencies and it will leave a lasting impression in their minds. Thus, a great RFP will set the right tone for a great partnership ahead. Here are some of the essential ingredients of a good RFP:

  • It should be concise, clear and precise i.e. it should not carry any vague or irrelevant information.
  • It is not supposed to be loaded with technical jargon or any codes.
  • You may mention the integrations which you want to use i.e. if you are aware of the above, else you may just ignore this for the moment as your agency will handle this work for you.
  • It has to be interesting and not monotonous. Remember, it is a reflection of your business and you will not want to give a laid-back or lack-luster image.

Great Outline of Request for Proposal

1). Summary:

The foremost thing that should go into your RFP is the summary of your project. The summary usually comprises an introduction of your business and the underlying reason for your RFP. You should be clear with your expectations from the vendor and the RFP should explicitly state what do you expect your vendor to accomplish for you and also define any problem which you or your users might have to face with your current site i.e. what are the points where you want improvements. It is advisable that you articulate the problems in the best possible manner instead of defining the solutions. 

There may be many more solutions than you can possibly think of and the ones which can better meet your requirements. The professionals who will be partnering with can come up with out of the box ideas and solutions which you might have not thought of yet. Thus, your focus should remain on the job to be done and not the solutions. The summary will set the tone for the rest of the proposal.

2). Background of your Business:

Going forward the next most important part is to provide a description of your business which should include a brief history, your industry, product and typical audience. It is also advisable to mention your core values and vision. There is a possibility that the vendor to which you are submitting your RFP has not heard about your concern or has only limited knowledge about it. Thus, it is your onus that you explain your business and how is it unique and what matters to you and why. It is by describing the values, that you will be able to find the appropriate organization which fits well with your goals and processes. The vendor firms usually specialize in a certain area of web design and if they are able to resonate with one of your values, they can make better recommendations for your business. E.g. a non-profit business will have completely different recommendations for succeeding online than a B2B business.

3). Goals and Audience:

Herein you must explain what is it that you want to accomplish ultimately and what is the final outcome that you are looking at. You may also mention your expectations in the form of the three most important things which if handled well will make the redesign a success in your eyes. It may also be helpful for the vendor if you are able to explain your preferred outcomes in terms of specific quantitative metrics like an increase in sales, return on investment, number of subscribers to your email newsletters.

Thus, it should be quite clear who you ultimately want to serve on your online business i.e. your wider market will be different than your intended audience. E.g. if you are a non-profit concern, you may want to demonstrate the efficacy of your programs to both your donors and supporters while the same may not be necessarily shown to your beneficiaries. The importance of the above cannot be undermined as the clarity of your thought will fetch you your desired results. The job of the development team becomes much easier when they exactly know your goals and also the job of your development team. It will also mean that when you reach a decision point you will be able to make more informed decisions which will not be merely guided by your emotions.

4). Sitemap:

Businesses usually go for redesigning over a dated visual aesthetic is because their content is not properly organized and is hard to locate on the site. It is needless to say that both the visual design and the information design impact the perception of the visitors. This is also a reflection of how well you have actually worked through the location of major sections of your site along with its navigation schema. It is the sitemap which ultimately decides what new content will be needed and what can be migrated from the previous one. It is possible that much of your content is outdated and will need to be updated.

The one which actually will be migrated will have to be imported via the content management system. You also have to inform the vendor if the content will be handled by you or by the vendor. Vendors usually are able to decide the type of content which is best for a website like blogs, articles, news, case studies, etc.

5). Work and Deliverables:

You will also have to furnish exact details about the entire project. You will also have to provide details of all the services which you will want your web team to handle for your site. It is quite possible that you will pay for the following services for your web redesign project:

  • Project Management
  • Content Design and Strategy
  • Illustration
  • Information Design
  • Visual Design
  • SEO
  • Front and Back end coding
  • App Development
  • Testing and Quality Assurance
  • Software Training

The deliverables will vary with the task e.g. in case of Information Design the deliverables are sitemap and even wireframe while in case of Visual Design the deliverables are source files in Photoshop or even Sketch format. All this is important because many creative firms estimate the completion time by looking at the tasks. This helps them arrive at hourly costs.

6). Time:

It is not possible for you to know exactly how long it takes to complete the task of website redesigning. You may have some pre-assigned deadlines which you need to meet at all costs e.g. you may have the launch of a new product or launch of an ad campaign or a trade show to attend, etc. All these are important before you make the site live. Thus, you need to mention some confirmed dates so that the vendor can estimate the correct time which will be needed to complete the tasks.

7). Technical Requirements:

Any website is a technical software product and thus there are specific limitations and requirements which you should know about as they are bound to impact the schedule. Some of these technical requirements include:

  • E-Commerce: You need to make sure if you have to sell products or take payments from credit cards. A typical e-commerce site will need to have shopping carts, user accounts, control of inventory, etc. They will need encryption of transmission by SSL which involves extra annual fee etc.
  • Content Management: Here you need to decide if you require anything specific like Drupal or WordPress. You also need to know if you are open to alternatives which you may not be familiar with. It is possible the vendor also has an in-house solution which will also satisfy your needs.
  • Back-End Programming Language: You also need to know that for web software development is your system compatible. You also have to inform the vendor if there is any particular infrastructure on your system.
  • User Accounts: You might require people to sign up for a specific membership to your site. This may mean that you will let people access content on your site after submission of an email address or visiting a whitepaper.
  • Mobile-Responsive Design: You also have to decide if you need a separate mobile-optimized version of your site or not. A special layout optimized for small screens and even tablets can make a significant difference to the user experience.

8). Principal Point of Contact:

It is generally seen that the ones who write the RFPs are the ones who ultimately lead the project. If this is not the case, you should specify to the vendor team in the proposal who will remain as the main point of contact. You should also mention if that person has any previous work experience in the same capacity. Another important point is to tell if the final authority to make decisions rests with you or there is a designated committee that will consider the various designs submitted by the vendor. The clarity of expectations from the beginning is very important as the service team knows in advance who the project needs to be finally submitted to for the buy-in.

9). Budget:

This is a vital component of your RFP as it is important to mention a range under which you will want to operate. Your budget will decide the type of agency and work which you will be getting. In case you have no idea about your budget, you have to at least tell the vendor what is the level you are looking at i.e. what kind of sites you want to emulate which will suit your pocket and needs. In case you are dealing with a professional agency then you should be explicit in discussing money. If you have specific budget earmarked for additional assets like photographs, illustrations, licenses, etc. you should mention the same. They may not make much difference to the overall cost but definitely eat into the final calculation. This is important because you will not want your vendor to prepare a project which is completely out of your reach. This way there will be no wastage of time, money and resources as the vendors only will assist you in recognizing the primary things and exclude the non-essential parts.

10). Support:

Once your project is launched, an ongoing retainer agreement with the vendor is necessary for training, support, development, etc. The launch of the website is only the beginning of a long process during which you may encounter issues like fixation of bugs, the addition of more features, etc. You will also have to stay updated and constantly adapt to newer technologies. Most professional web partners seek long-term relationships. You should also look for those firms which have multi-year client partnerships. 

11). Analytics:

You will also have to keep a proper track of the number of inbound visits and even the bounce rate for your content. Thus, it is important to ask your vendor about the ways in which it will manage this data after launching the product. Many people go in for Analytics as it is free and is also easy to work with. This is important because you do not want only to launch your website and then leave it to finally transform it into a static brochure of stale information. Contrarily successful websites are regular and involved businesses as it is a dynamic publication. Analytics help you to substantiate your hunches with real-time data so that you can make desired changes in time.

12). Web Hosting:

Vendors usually have clear options available at different prices. This ensures who will be handling site backups, automated process for files and even the database. You should also ask your vendor about caching and even content delivery networks. All hosts have unique abilities in terms of speed, security, and reliability. It is better if you allow the vendor to use its own preferred hosting provider as it will be familiar with its functioning and thus the whole journey will be smoother.

13). Format:

There are many questions which you may ask yourself about a typical proposal as to what format is better between MS Word or PDF are hard copies needed which are even attested by a notary, the format for writing, etc. Most RFPs are written in a standard manner which varies from project to project.  For any particular information which you wish to seek from your vendor should be mentioned in a separate paragraph so that you may only get relevant and qualified proposals.

Conclusion

Thus, we have seen that there are many essential elements which have to be a part of a typical proposal. It may sound over-whelming looking at the amount of information you need to know and write, but as a matter of fact, most of the above information is the one which you already have or will discuss with your colleagues, friends, etc. An elaborate RFP which entails all the above points tell the vendor about your seriousness about the project and how much time and efforts are you really putting in and are ready to put in. It also defines your craving for success and what kind of zeal you have in you to achieve your aim.

Not to forget, a great RFP will lead to a similar response. Before submitting your RFP, it is a wise idea to find out about the vendor or agency in terms of its expertise, experience, capabilities, portfolio, achievements, etc. You should generally ask for a vendor who has relevant experience in the industry you operate.

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