You’re here because you need to know how to write a request for proposal (RFP) for website design or redesign. An RFP is what agencies use to assess your project and then provide you with a proposal. At Big Drop, we receive tons of RFPs, ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies–some are good, some are bad and some we no longer speak of. What we’ve laid out, is how to prepare an RFP for your website and how to create a great one. After all, the more thorough you can be with your RFP, the more accurate your proposal will be.
What makes a good RFP?
When you need a website, the first thing you do is put together a web redesign request for proposal. Submitting your RFP to multiple agencies is common and always a good idea — it’s how you get an idea of what it will really take to bring your project and vision to life. After you’ve submitted your request, agencies will respond with a proposed solution that outlines the scope of work, timeline, and cost for your website. Typically, this exchange is followed up by a brief phone call and a question and answer session.
Think of your RFP as a first impression to potential agency partners. A great RFP sets the stage for a great partnership. A great RFP is clear, concise and gets straight to the point. You don’t have to have the technical know-how to create an RFP. In fact, most of the best RFPs we receive have no mention of code or technical jargon (we hear enough developer talk on a daily basis). If you know what integrations you want to use (MailChimp, HubSpot, Marketo) then list them in your RFP email to vendors. If not, forget it. You don’t have to have all of the answers. After all, that’s why you’re hiring an agency in the first place, so leave it to the pros to figure it out.
Let’s set the record straight: RFPs don’t have to be boring. It is your business we’re talking about here, so feel free to make it fun. At Big Drop, we know a thing or two about RFPs, so use our guidelines we’ve put together as a starting point, rather than rules (we’ve never been big on those). Keep it simple, think about each section and make it enjoyable. At the end of the day we’re building something new for the future of your business, so get excited!
Here’s what an RFP outline should include:
- Company Background
- Core Objectives
- Project Scope and Delivery
- Timeline & Milestones
- Functional/Technical Requirements
- Criteria for Selection
If you’re unsure of what to write, the first thing you should start with is your project summary. It should give an introduction to your company and the reason for submitting your RFP. Tell your potential vendor what it is you hope for them to accomplish and lay out any problems you or your users face with your current site. Here’s a short RFP summary example:
Example: Our company’s name is Initech. We update software for large companies and organizations. We are looking for a website revamp. Our users report that they can’t find what they’re looking for on our site and the design is dated.
Why this matters: The portion of the request for proposal gets to the point. It tells the reader of your proposal who you are and why you’re submitting an RFP to them. This sets the tone for the rest of the proposal.
2. Company background
Provide a brief history on your organization. (Special emphasis on brief). Tell your vendor who you are, what industry you operate in and describe your typical audience or customer. It also helps to let your potential agency know who you are. Are you a marketing coordinator or a key decision maker at your organization? Knowing who’s speaking, matters. Whether you’re an older, more established company or an emerging startup, the key here is to let potential vendors know who you are and what you’re all about.
Example: At Initech, our customers choose us because we deliver quality service. What differentiates us from our competitors is that we are the most experienced in our industry and have been in business for 30 years.
Why this matters: Your company or organization’s background tells your potential vendor know what you represent and can provide an early indication towards confirming whether or not the project will be an appropriate fit.
3. Core Objectives
Great RFPs are authentic. Be concise and clear about the problems you and your users face. Focus on what you hope to accomplish with your new website. If you can, try to narrow it down to one or two sentences, then expand from there. A good place to start is problem recognition.
Pro Tip: “Think of your new website as a catalyst for your business objectives, be up front about what it must accomplish and why your old one isn’t cutting it.”
Example: Our core objective for our website is to increase user acquisition and engagement through design. Unlike our current website, our new website must provide users with a way to purchase our products easily and efficiently and should also be mobile-responsive.
Why this matters: It’s important to prioritize the most important objectives you’d like to accomplish in your project so that your vendor knows exactly what you’re looking to get out of this engagement. Establishing your objectives in the beginning is a great way to increase your chances of success with your new website.
4. Project Scope and Deliverables
At this point in writing your RFP, you should be thinking about what specific services you’re looking for. At Big Drop, our projects range in scope. Some companies only need a website, while others need video production and branding. As projects vary in scope, deliverables will vary accordingly. Below are just a few examples of what you can expect to see when engaging with your vendor:
- Project Management
- UX/UI Planning
- Graphic Design
- Frontend development
- Backend development
- On-site SEO
- Content strategy
- Quality Assurance and Testing
- Content Migration
- PPC Campaigns
- Content Management System Training
- Visual Identity
- Brand Positioning
- Video Production
If you’re requesting a proposal for a website, expect the deliverables to include things like designs and wireframes. If your project includes a visual identity, expect your deliverables to come in the form of PSDs or AI files. Other deliverable are more intangible, so know the differences and what to expect from your vendor.
Pro Tip: “Know what you’re getting, be wary of vendors who don’t provide an hourly breakdown for their services”
Example: We are looking for a 60 second explainer video to be displayed on our website. We would also like a visual identity (logo) to be used for business cards and letterheads.
Why this matters: In determining your project’s scope of work, your vendor will take into consideration what tasks will need to be completed and will apply an hourly rate based on their best estimates related to previous projects. Having this information will ensure your vendor says you the best website proposal.
The way your website is organized will influence how your users find what it is they’re looking for. Your sitemap is basically a table of contents for your website. List out what pages you’d like to have on your navigation menu and think about how the user will navigate through the site. Your users should be able to quickly and easily find the information they need. If they can’t, they will leave. User Experience (UX) is a key factor in your website’s effectiveness.
Pro Tip: “Without a sound UX strategy, digital products are likely to fail. It’s really that simple.”
Estimating how many pages you think your website will need can be a good starting point, i.e: About, Services, Contact. If you’re not sure what pages you need, don’t worry about it, and let your vendor figure it out for you.
- About Us
Why this matters: User experience is one of the most important components of any digital project. Your vendor will use this information to determine how many custom page layouts your website will need.
6. Timeline & Milestones
The timeline section of your RFP should answer the question of when you would like your project to go live. If there is a specific date as to when your website or branding project must be completed by, this is the place to list it. Any important milestones in your project should be listed here as well, such as a new product launch or ad campaign.
Pro Tip: “Be realistic in terms of your deadline, custom website design and development takes time.”
Example: The deadline for the website is January 30. However, we have our annual conference on January 1 and would like to have the homepage completed by then if possible.
Why this matters: Being up-front about when your website must go live is an important first step in establishing fit. Your potential vendor can assess whether or not they can realistically meet your expectations. In some cases, vendors are willing to complete a rush project, but that of course, will come at an additional price.
7. Functional Requirements
This will likely be the most detailed portion of your website’s RFP. List any technical requirements your website must have such as: payment processing, career integrations, or user logins.
Pro Tip: “You don’t have to have all of the answers, but be sure to include the ones you do.”
Are you selling products? If so, what e-commerce solution are you looking to use, or are you looking for recommendations? Do you have a content management system in mind, such as Drupal or WordPress? If you want to incorporate a CRM such as HubSpot or an email marketing service such as MailChimp, be sure to include that here. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry, your vendor has you covered.
For the more technical crowd, try to provide as much detail as possible in terms of functionality. If there are third party integrations pulling data from external sources, be sure to include how this transfer takes place and where this data is coming from. If there is an API involved, is there documentation? Answer these questions and you will eliminate the back and forth between you and your vendor.
Example: Our website needs to be able to sell products and map our store locations via google maps. Our current site’s career sections is hosted on bluehouse.
Why this matters: This will be one of the most important factors in assessing scope and price from your vendor’s perspective. Some solutions require fewer hours dedicated to integration where other solutions require vast resources which are spent in developing custom APIs in order to create software applications. Again, the more information you provide in a clear and concise RFP, the more accurate your vendor’s project proposal outline will be.
Yes, your request letter should include a budget. Withholding your budget for a project is bit like trying to buy a home without providing your broker an idea of what you’re willing to pay. If you’d like to buy a house and your budget is $150k, your broker can then locate several homes that provide you the most value within your budget.
“This is business, if you’re not talking about money, you’re likely not serious.”
Decide what is important to you: the option that is the least-expensive, or the one that provides the most value within your budget. Providing your vendor with your budget allows them to return with the most appropriate solution, based on your scope, objectives, etc.. To expand on our home-buying analogy, you can purchase a home for $5,000 or $500k, but what you get in return for these prices will vary.
If you must, simply provide a range. If you’re looking for additional services such as ongoing maintenance and support or SEO, include the budget for those services as separate.
Pro Tip: “Getting real about what you’re looking to pay gives you the advantage of seeing how much vendors are willing to give for your proposed budget”
Think of your website as an investment. Any reputable agency will advise and consult you on how to get the most of of your budget and will maximize your potential for a return on that investment.
Example: The budget for our new website is between $80,000 – $100,000. Our annual recurring budget for support and maintenance $60,000
Why this matters: You don’t want to waste your time meeting with and speaking to vendors who are not within your price range. Being honest about your budget also allows you to speak with vendors that will make you their priority. Transparency goes a long way.
9. Criteria for Selection
Here, you simply decide the criteria you’ll use when choosing your vendor. Things to consider here are: agency expertise, capabilities, portfolio, relevant projects, in house services, etc.
Example: We will be making our selection based on agency experience, relevant projects, and on the basis of design.
Why this matters: One vendor may have greater expertise in one industry over another. Others may have greater experience with informational websites over e-commerce. Be up front in regards to what you’ll be basing your decision on so that the recipient can be up front about whether or not they are the right agency for you.
That’s it. We’ve equipped you with what you need to write a stellar RFP. It’s not as hard as it sounds, once you know what you’re doing. Remember:
- Keep it brief.
- Keep it honest.
- Keep it fun