As a business owner, you know that your time is too precious to spend it searching for potential contractors or evaluating hundreds of portfolios. Why not let the vendors do at least part of the work by inviting them to bid for your project? In order to do so, you will need to prepare a comprehensive request for proposal (RFP). But how do you do that?
We would like to shed some light on the basic requirements for a successful RFP and share some pro tips on how to create one for your website.
Why do you need an RFP?
Business relationships with your web development provider usually start long before you sign the contract. Negotiations, pre-planning, and analyses will not only help you choose the right provider, it will provide you with a higher level of assurance that the project will be successful in the long run. A request for proposal is a key document many companies use to source offers from potential vendors and evaluate potential partnerships before making a final decision.
Simply put, a website RFP is a document that you can send to multiple development companies, inviting them to bid for a chance to develop your website. Ranging from 1 to 10 or even 100 pages, such documents are typically used for large-scale projects. The time and effort required to create a solid RFP is too valuable to spend on simple one-page websites.
Being more of a formal instrument, RFPs are still widely used by large companies or enterprise organizations as a part of the tendering process. However, if done right, a website development RFP might be a useful tool for choosing the right vendor and a solid foundation for a successful project.
A Website Request for Proposal Template: Basic Outline
A website design RFP usually consists of two major sections – the first part will be written by the company looking for bids, the second one – by the candidates.
Part I – The company and project overview
This part of the RFP should contain exhausting information about your business and the project purpose. It is important to make clear why you need the website perfectly clear and what exactly you expect from it.
Who are you? What does your company do? List all relevant background information regarding your project and include links to the existing website (in case of RFP for website redesign) or any resources that might provide additional information.
What & Why?
What kind of a website are you looking for? Specify the purpose of the project and the requirements (both functional and non-functional). Make sure to explain the motivation behind the project. Provide references and examples of the designs you like.
Are there any deadlines for submitting the proposals? What is the expected timeframe for the tender as well as for the project? Also, is there an anticipated launch deadline? Here you can also specify your budget expectations or limitations (if any).
Part II – The Vendor & Solution (completed by the bidders)
Just like for the company seeking a solution, a vendor needs to provide a detailed company overview, background information, portfolio, references, and information about additional services (besides web development and design).
What & How?
This part includes the proposal itself. What can the company do to solve the described problem and how will the solution be implemented? The bidding companies should provide their proposed solutions to the given problem, and describe the deliverables and technical means that will be used to solve the problem in an optimum manner.
The bidding companies should suggest a roadmap for the project, including timeframes and estimates (if possible).
The provided template is a brief outline of the major aspects that need to be included into any website development RFP. However, it is easy to get confused with such large amounts of information. To make sure your website RFPs are always on point, here are some pro tips to consider.
7 Tips for Writing a Good Web Design RFP
- Define your goals, not solutions. It’s great if you already know what you need. However, advice from an expert might open your eyes to some tech specific issues you hadn’t taken into account. Thus, don’t get too specific about the tech aspects (unless you have some restrictions or specific requirements that the vendor should know about).
- Focus on the context. This point is especially important for domain-specific projects. First of all, help your potential provider understand why you need this-or-that and how to better implement it. If you are worried about sharing sensitive information, ask the bidders to sign an NDA prior to sending the website design RFP.
- Specify the experience or skills you expect from the vendor (and be ready to justify the requirements). If you are looking for a custom web solution, sending your website request for proposal to an agency that specializes in WordPress is a waste of time for the both of you.
- Prioritize your requirements. By differentiating the high priority requirements from the low priority, you encourage providers to show their initiative. Yet, if there are any business-crucial integrations or system requirements that should be taken into account, make sure to point them out.
- Leave room for creativity. By pigeonholing all of the vendors into the frames of deliverables and deadlines, you might not be able to make the right decision. If you get 10+ identical proposals (more or less, in terms of cost and timelines), how can you tell which one is really worth your attention?
- Stay realistic. Even if you have some understanding of the duration and cost, leave the final word with the providers. If you see that the estimate is far off from what you expected, give them the opportunity to explain why. The same applies to the estimates that are lower than most of the provided bids.
- Learn to tell a generic template from a custom offering. A good proposal is always tailored to your specific project. Even the company description can be tailored to highlight any relevant experience and skills, so try to identify and flag those who use generic text and standard sets of references.
Website RFP is a great way to test the waters before committing to any business relationship. However, by simply writing and sending out the document, you might not be able to understand which provider will most appropriately suit your specific project. The way a vendor responds and engages with you as soon as the RFP for website design is received might give you a good idea as to how your future cooperation will unfold.