How To Write An RFP For A Web Design Project

Follow This Website Design RFP Template to Get the Best Proposal From Potential Vendors

If you’re just starting out with a new business or have plans to redesign your existing website, you will have to know how to write a request for proposal (RFP). This document will be sent out to your shortlisted web design agencies to help them understand the goals and requirements of your project and determine if they would be a good fit to help your business grow.

Although a quick Google search may save a little time and yield a few basic RFP templates, you will ultimately need to create an RFP that is specific to your goals as a company. The only way to do so is to put in the work yourself. The make the best decision for your business, you will want to receive a clear and accurate proposal from web design agencies. To ensure you get the full attention of your top-ranked web designers, your RFP has to clearly articulate your needs and objectives. If your RFP is not clear enough or missing important information many agencies will not spend time responding.

The process of writing up an RFP does not have to be overwhelming or invoke stress. If you follow these simple steps and RFP best practices for structuring your document you will increase your chances are finding the partner to help create your new website.

What Is An RFP?

Before learning how to write an RFP and what content to include it’s best to understand what an RFP is exactly. A website RFP is a document that your company provides to prospective creative web partners. RFPs are a formal invitation to bid on your project and also outline your website requirements, existing challenges, and business objectives.

In short, an RFP notifies the potential creative partner of project availability, describes the project parameters, and informs vendors to what information they need to respond with.

When writing an RFP, you should also keep in mind what it is not intended to do. You should not use an RFP as a way to see how much a website will cost. Costing can be obtained by emailing an agency with a request for quotation (RFQ). Although receiving a quote is essential to the selection process, an RFP is an effective way for the web design agency and client to understand their capabilities and see if they are compatible.

There are three primary stages to the RFP process: learn, plan and create. You first need to understand your company’s online needs and current digital infrastructure. What exactly do you want on your new website? Focus on key functionality and ask yourself fundamental questions like will you require a content management system, user portal or eCommerce? Next, think about how the website design process will flow on your end. What resources or team members need to be available to make decisions throughout the project? Lastly, write a formal request and proposal letter.

You should keep in mind that with your RFP, you are not only asking potential vendors questions that will help you pick the best partner, you are also selling yourself and creating an impression on the web design agencies. It’s not just you choosing the vendor — you’re hoping that they’ll choose you as well.

Why Is The RFP Process Important?

An RFP formalizes the agency selection process and makes it easier than having to contact each agency directly to ask about how they partner with clients on a web design project. Writing an RFP allows you to define project objectives, explain criteria for vendor selection, and articulate essential details such as functionality and wishlist items.

When a vendor understands the full scope of the project, they can produce a more accurate quote, timeline and project plan to help you make the most informed decision in choosing a web design partner. The RFP process also allows each vendor an equal playing field to pitch their services to you.

A request for proposal helps you to define your requirements for your new website and allows you to set reasonable expectations and clarify precisely what you want out of your new website.

There are three main reasons for which you should write a formal request for proposal:

  1. Clarify: The RFP process facilitates the website design and defines your business objectives. In writing a request for proposal, you collect your thoughts, outline your needs, and provide detailed information on all aspects of the project to provide adequate detail to vendors so that they may in return, provide you with an accurate RFP.
  2. Communicate: The RFP communicates business goals, objectives and functional or design requirements. This creates a paper trail and helps to avoid any misunderstandings between you and your chosen partner.
  3. Compare: An RFP enables you to compare and contrast proposals. By providing all vendors with the same RFP, you can easily make comparisons to find the right fit.

Creating an RFP streamlines the process of selecting the right vendor. It’s important to work with your team members to gather thoughts, ideas and identify challenges before you write an RFP. Using these web design RFP best practices you will effectively communicate your needs for a new website and what you hope to achieve with it.

In summary, writing an RFP is an essential part of the decision-making process in procuring professional web design services.

What Makes A Good RFP?

An excellent way to approach writing an RFP is to see it as your first impression to potential agency partners. An excellent RFP sets up the possibility of success for both you and your web designer, which sets the foundation for a good partnership. It is clear, concise and straight to the point — no fluff and no overly professional language.

You don’t need to have expert-level knowledge of the technical aspects of web design. Some of the most effective RFPs actually have little to no mention of code or other technical terms for an example. It’s easiest for everyone to outline your specifications and questions in basic terms that everyone will understand. A good RFP is well-structured and clear — avoiding overly technical language for clarity. But, web design RFPs don’t have to be boring — they can be fun. It’s a good idea to let your company personality shine through when you create your request for proposal and show prospective vendors who you are and why it would be exciting to work with you.

The RFP Template Structure

It’s a good idea to make sure that your RFP is well-structured so that the web agency can follow it. It should have a logical progression but RFPs don’t have to follow this structure exactly. If a section fits better somewhere else, tweak it a little. Remember to keep it simple and make each section enjoyable and easy to understand. Include an example where necessary and refer to the vendor’s previous work if applicable to articulate concepts or requirements.

Follow this guide to write an RFP that will impress vendors and make clear the products and services you wish to procure to grow your business.

1. Project Overview

This section should include the vital information that vendors will be looking for to make their initial decision of whether they want to take on the project or not. Getting this elevator pitch right means that vendors are more likely to read through the rest of the proposal content.

This portion of the RFP is straightforward and gets to the point. It gives vital information like who you are and why you are submitting a request for proposal. It sets the tone for what is to come in the rest of the proposal.

2. Company Overview

The Company Overview introduces your business in one or two paragraphs. Include enough information for potential vendors to get to know you and have a thorough understanding of your business, but keep in mind this is an overview, not a full history.

Your company background tells potential vendors about who you are and what you represent as a corporation. The overview provides an early indication of whether you’re a good fit for the agency.

3. Website Audience

This section is where you describe the audience the website will be designed for and discuss potential customers. In order to design a website, it’s important to understand who you are creating the website for. This information is crucial for website designers, web developers and copywriters as the target audience may determine things like functionality, user experience and aesthetics, to name a few.

You should be clear about who you want to use your website. Who are your intended customers? What are you looking for in potential customers? Doing your homework at this stage shows potential partners that you’re committed to the project and willing to put the effort in to make it a success.

4. Website Objectives

You need to identify the main objective of your website, along with any secondary or tertiary objectives. For example, a website to increase sales or drive lead generation will have different objectives to a website that aims to educate the viewer.

It is essential to prioritize the most vital objectives of your website so that each vendor knows precisely what you want to get out of it. When you establish your goals, in the beginning, you increase your chances of success with your new website design.

5. Current Website

Here you will take an inventory of everything that falls short within the current website and exactly what is not working. Don’t be afraid to get extremely specific with the problems you are experiencing as this helps your vendor understand the current site better and what you need to get out of your new website. Prospective vendors will likely have questions are this stage to help identify current pain points and may propose alternative solutions for you to consider in the new website.

You should be as detailed as possible when writing this section of the request, so your vendor and their team can gain a better understanding of your vision for your new website design.

6. New Website Functional Requirements

Now it’s time to list all the functional requirements that are vital for the new website. Again, specificity is critical as this will help vendors determine an accurate timeline and cost estimate. Remember, this section is about functionality and is different from your new website’s objectives.

This is often the most detailed section of RFPs. Make sure when writing to list all the technical requirements for your website. For example, include your preference for a content management system, user logins or payment processing services. This is one of the most important sections as it is where your vendor will assess the scope of work and ultimately determine the price and time required to complete the project. Some solutions may require fewer hours, whereas others might require significant resources.

The more information you provide, the better the chances of getting a clear and accurate proposal for your new website design.

7. New Website Wishlist

Many business owners are unsure of what a new website will cost or how to budget for a new site. We encourage our clients to separate their “must-have” project requirements from items they could live without for the first launch. This is what we call a “wishlist” within the RFP. This allows our team to ask questions and price out individual wishlist items or services that can be easily added to or removed from the primary scope as budget allows.

Making this list separate from the requirements allows you to see line-item costs and lets you decide on functionalities depending on budget and timeframe.

8. eCommerce Details

If your website has an eCommerce aspect, then this section is where you should include your product details, preferred payment processor, online sales features like promotions and shipping as well as SKU quantities. You should also include short-term and long-term plans here. These details will help when designing an eCommerce platform that makes sense for your immediate needs and allow for easier and more budget-friendly expansion down the line.

9. Website Budget

Many business owners neglect to include their budget in RFPs, presumably to see which vendor comes back with the best price. Our view has always been that knowing and understanding the budget allows us to gauge our fit with prospective clients. In cases where we are not too far apart on budget, this also allows us to fine-tune or tailor a proposal to meet a specific budget.

Indicating your budget is important and shows that you respect the prospective vendor’s time as well. You don’t want to waste your time speaking with vendors out of your budget range so honesty and transparency with your budget allow you to talk to vendors who can make you their priority. Remember, to always be transparent as it goes a long way in the relationship you are aiming to form.

10. Proposal Requirements

In this section of the proposal template, you should provide an outline of how you expect vendors to respond to your proposal. Every web design agency has a different way of responding to RFPs. If you provide a clear outline, it will help standardize their response and help you compare proposals during the decision-making process. Be careful however to not be too rigid or ask for formats or details that are not inline with a standard RFP template structure as this will turn many prospective vendors off and you could miss out on a great partnership.

11. Response and Project Timelines

It’s important that you clearly state the RFP response deadline and let vendors know when you will get back to them via phone or email, either as a finalist or if they have won the business.

If applicable, include your preferred project completion timeline as it may help to establish which creative team will be the best fit. Your vendor can ask questions and assess whether or not they can meet your expectations within the given timeframe. In some cases, vendors can complete a rushed project, but this will most likely come at an additional cost.

How To Write An RFP — Website Design RFP Best Practices

Now that you know how to structure your RFP, it’s important to understand how to build on it and make it your own. You want your RFP to stand out through focus and self-awareness to encourage the best responses. Web design companies receive multiple RFPs every day, so you need to write an RFP that stands out from all the rest.

Follow these website design RFP tips and best practices to write an RFP that is sure to impress vendors and provide your company with an accurate proposal.

Establish Goals

Before you begin writing your RFP, you need to establish the project goals that you want to achieve with your new website. You have to ask yourself what you want your website to do. Do you want to educate and inform? Sell products or services?

You likely want your website to achieve multiple goals, but it’s best to prioritize them. Ensure that you have one top priority benchmark to aim for. If you want, you can add secondary objectives as well, but make sure to emphasize your primary goal.

Honesty Is The Best Policy

When writing an RFP, one of the most important things to keep in mind is, to be honest about your needs, budget and current site and its problems.

Evaluate it honestly and concisely. Be specific about what you don’t like or what isn’t working. Just saying it’s not working isn’t very helpful and doesn’t provide any direction to your agency. Are people unable to find particular resources on your website? Are you not getting enough traffic? Be as thorough as you can about the complaints you’ve received about your current website.

Define Core Functionality And List Optional Features

Defining core functionality is an extremely important aspect of your RFP. These elements are what the designers and developers look for to make an accurate assessment of your website design project. Don’t ask vendors to analyze your current website and put forth their own ideas. Put the time in to show you’ve done your work before you request a proposal.

Be as specific as possible by listing which functions are mandatory and which are dependent on budget. Listing these elements in your “wishlist” will help vendors to create itemized optional features and allow you to make an informed decision.

Keep It Simple

Throw away the overly professional language and go for cold-hard truth. This will allow your vendors to respond with a concrete proposal, that has strategic positioning and recommendations. A clear, simple website design RFP allows both teams to save time when it comes to kicking off the project.

Ask The Right Questions

During the writing process of your RFP, you will generate questions relating to specific functionalities, platforms or even tools. This is natural, but you don’t want your potential vendor to think you are tied to particular tools or functionalities. Ensure you have open-ended questions and ask for recommendations where appropriate.

You don’t have to be an expert or come across as one. Don’t pretend to by adding specifications that might sound good but that you don’t understand. It’s better to articulate your desired outcome, describe your goals and ask for recommendations.

Include A Budget

Your budget is one of the most crucial aspects of your RFP. You need to include one. This will help vendors determine if they are out of range or whether they’d be an ideal fit. This transparency goes a long way and allows the agency to work at refining their proposal to recommend options that are within your budget.

If you are clear about the approximate budget, vendors won’t propose a plan that isn’t feasible. Although, if they know your budget, they might be able to find ways to lower their costs.

For example, a good website design firm will also be able to let you know if your budget is unrealistic for your objectives and help you set expectations.

Sell Yourself

When it comes to writing an effective RFP remember to showcase your personality. For example, you may have a character that is credible, trustworthy and reliable, or maybe your personality is more jovial and unconventional. Whatever your brand’s personality is, it should shine through in your RFP content.

Showcasing your personality all comes back to setting up your expectations. The company reading your RFP should be able to get an idea of the type of relationship they can expect with you. It will also help determine how your website will look and feel for your audience.

Include Essential Information

There are several essential pieces of information that you need to include in your RFP. The first thing you need to have the procurement timeline. Include the date you sent it out, a deadline for proposal responses, and a date respondents should expect to hear back from you.

Next, you need to include your website development timeline. Include the date when you would like to start the project and when you’d prefer the website to launch. A typical website takes 12–14 weeks to complete, and add an extra 2–4 weeks for custom eCommerce sites.

You also need to include the name, email address and key contact information of the team member managing procurement and as well as who to contact if vendors have any questions.

Send It To The Right Vendors

Now that you know how to write an RFP for your website design project, you need to send it to some agencies. If you don’t have any particular website developers in mind, there are some easy ways to find the right vendors for you.

You can use Google and do a quick search for the type of vendor you’re looking for. If they are up on their SEO best practices, the better options will be in the top 10–15 search results.

Another research method you can use is the credits on websites that you love. Sometimes a web developer will have a credit link on the footer of the webpage, so you know who to contact. Clutch is also a great resource to use and find the top website design agencies and read client reviews of their work.

It’s a good idea to be selective in which vendors you send your RFP to. Asking too many agencies may result in information overload, and you may overlook some good agencies because of the amount of information you have to sift through. Sending RFPs to more than 5 or 6 companies is usually too much.

Before you send out an RFP, have a Q&A period with all the agencies you’re interested in sending your RFP to. During this period, explain why you are sending an RFP to their company and why you’d like to work with their team. It is also good to clarify your expectations of the completed RFP.

Final Thoughts On How To Write An RFP For A Website Design Project

Learning how to write an RFP isn’t as daunting as it seems. Remember that clarity and honesty are key to writing a great RFP. Make the process of writing fun and enjoyable and let your personality shine through from the first step. Vendors respond more positively to RFPs that sound and feel more human.

Remember RFPs are not a request for pricing and are not a useful way to price shop. Responding to an RFP requires a lot of time and work to scope out a project plan to meet your company’s specific needs.

This will have hopefully provided you with a thorough understanding of how to write an RFP that makes prospective website design companies want to respond. Just be sure to include us in your RFP process! Contact us to learn more about how we can use our 20 years of web design experience to help you take your website design to the next level.

Originally published at https://parachutedesign.ca.

Parachute Design Group Inc. is a boutique Toronto web design agency specializing in beautiful hand-made website design, custom logo design and branding.

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