8 Tips for Writing a Website RFP

A marketing professional from an AEC firm recently asked us if we had a good example of an RFP that we received from one of our clients. They are planning a Website redesign and weren't sure where to start. We looked back through our files and realized something surprising. Most of the clients that we've worked with didn't have an RFP! They knew they needed to build or redesign their site, but didn't have clear specs for doing so. Part of the project became defining those deliverables through several strategy sessions.

After reviewing our most succesful projects, we came up with 8 tips that can help guide you if you do decide to write a formal request for proposal:

1. Always include time for strategy. Even if you have written a solid RFP, make sure to plan for a strategy phase that is around 20% to 30% of the budget. The strategy work that you completed so far most likely consisted of your C-level staff, IT and marketing folks. The strategy phase that becomes part of the project needs to be outside-in, not an internal firm strategy. Indicate what questions you want the Web firm to research and answer for you as part of a strategy phase for the project. Of course, the Web firm you select should come to the table with their own questions and research as well. Without strategy, the site won't last. This is how you create the scope of work, also known as the deliverables list

2. Know your firm. Within the RFP, explain what your firm does and doesn't do. Communicate more about your brand, history, services, clients, leadership, etc.  This helps you to get less generic proposals.

3. Focus on the overall goal more than specific ways to implement the site. For example, ease of navigation for visitors who aren't as Web savvy (good) vs. we want this color and these types of dropdown menus (bad). You can have an internal list of specs and then they get refined as a result of the strategy phase with the Web firm.

4. Don't ask for mockups as part of the proposal. Asking the Web firm to create a mockup for your site as part of their proposal is unfair. First, the Web firm doesn't even know your firm. It's not fair to ask them to shoot from the hip and create a design for you. It might look like a creating a mockup only involves starting with a template, deciding on some menus, and slapping on some colors with a logo. While some might take this route, a designer worth their salt will take substantial time to research the firm and its competitors. This shouldn't be pro bono. Instead, rely on the Web firm's past work and the explanation of their approach as an indication of what they can do for you.

5. Have a features wishlist. Indicate what features and functionality you want to have on the site in the form of a wishlist. Make sure to mention that you are open to the Web firm's suggestions. They will love you for it!

6. Mention any technological restraints. For example, maybe for budget purposes, you want to host the Website in-house. Make sure to share the system requirements so that the Web firm will know whether they can work within this realm. Also, indicate whether you would be open to hearing other ideas for technology.

7. Be realistic about your resources. List what you will be able to provide for the project. This includes tangible and human resources - content, images, staff, etc. Also, consider what you will have available once the site launches. Let the Web firm know if you want to be trained on the system once it's completed. Always ask yourself, "Do we have enough time to maintain that cool feature we're hoping to include in the site?"

8. Plan for post-launch.You've heard it many times - a Website is a living entity. After you launch and get trained, you may need occasional help to keep the site looking beautiful and functional. Plan for some post-launch help in the form of additional training, strategy sessions, and general maintenance.

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VelaMira, Inc. dba Data-Scribe offers mission-critical project and program support services for businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. Our nationwide team of degreed and credentialed professionals specializes in business analysis, project management, technical communication, training, and websites.

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