How to Write a Web Design Request for Proposal (RFP)

rfpWe receive a Request for Proposal (RFP) in some form or another nearly every day. Some projects are simple, but none offer as much potential for miscommunication as the Web Design RFP. Often, first contact is in the form of the impossibly vague question, “We need a website; how much do you charge?

It is important to note that web design projects can range from the very basic (e.g., PSD deliverables for under a grand) to the mind-twistingly complex (some website budgets can reach seven digits). If you don’t provide a clear picture of what you need, there’s no way a design company can quote on it.

Perhaps just as frustrating are the manuscript-sized RFPs that land in our inbox, obviously the product of committee-think run amok. If your designer needs a lawyer to decipher your RFP, and twenty working hours to compile a response to your specs, you’re doing it wrong. In general, we don’t even respond to these. Not because we’re afraid of work, but rather because the RFP sets the tone for the entire project – if you can’t be concise and respectful of our time now, it’s not likely going to happen in the thick of the project either.

In order for a designer and client to determine whether and how they’re going to be able to work together, a clear definition of the project requirements and expectations is needed.

A good web design RFP neatly and clearly lays out what you are looking to accomplish with your site, and helps to align your designer with your goals and objectives. Writing an RFP may seem a bit daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be – taking a moment now will save countless hours down the road, and will ensure that your designer can develop an accurate proposal for your project.

So, before you even get to the point of contacting a designer, you’ll want to take a moment to write up a proper Request for Proposal. To help you in this task, we’ve put together a simple guide to walk you through the process.

The 10 Essential Components in a Web Design RFP

1. Company Overview
This section introduces us to your company. As such, the content should be fitting for an introduction (not a thesis). Briefly tell us who you are, what you do, size of company, current url, and what your overarching corporate vision or mission statement is.

2. Project Overview
Describe in plain English your current web site situation, and give us an overview of what the project is going to entail. Don’t try to be too formal or politically correct here… oftentimes corporate semantics can muddle the message. Write in precisely the manner you’d describe the project to a friend.

3. Project Goals and Objectives
This section is the spot to list your short term and long term objectives for the project, as well as your motivation for investing in your web site. It aims to answer the question, “why are you here?” Is your website outdated? Have you expanded your services/product line? Are you marketing to a different target audience? Are you trying to attract job candidates? Or are you finding your existing site isn’t converting to enough sales? Tell us what you want to achieve.

4. Technical Parameters
Here’s where the client’s eyes begin to glaze over. If you know what the technical requirements for the project entail, this is where you tell us. These parameters range from the basics (how many pages and unique layouts do you need; do you need hosting; do you need a domain name) to more advanced questions (do you require programming in one specific language over another; is your current site in php, .net, asp, cold fusion etc; do you need databases; do you have license or preference for a given e-commerce platform). If it doesn’t matter, tell us that too – giving your designer the option to work in their preferred language will save you money and time.

5. Usability Requirements
Usability testing is a frequently overlooked step in web site design and development. Just as companies will put new products through focus groups as part of the R&D process, a web site should be put through at least a basic round of usability testing to determine how well the design and build works in practice. If you’re interested in developing a persona or having us perform user research as part of the development process, tell us here. If not, you will still need to tell us about your audience. If you have relevant statistics about the demographics of your current web site visitors, refer to them here. If you have a specific flow you would like your visitors to follow, run through it with us.

6. Functional Parameters
In layman’s terms, this section asks the question, “What do you want your website to DO?” We need you outline the features and functionality you’ll be wanting to see on your site (this could be things like a secure members area, contact forms, file upload functions, database development to store lead info, content management system to edit your own content, custom admin area, newsletter opt-in form, blogs, news sections, discussion forums, faq or knowledgebase, or e-commerce to sell products).

7. Proposal Directions
This is where you ask questions of us, and tell us how you want your proposal laid out. For example, many RFPs will ask designers to describe their experience, show sample work, outline a process plan for the project, provide bios of key personnel, or provide a list of references. A lot of this is basic stuff that should be available on your designer’s website to begin with, and similarly is probably already a part of their proposal boilerplate. But if you have special questions for us, throw these in here too. We recently responded to an RFP asking us to list our top ten favourite music artists – the project was run of the mill, but the question was so entertaining we just had to respond.

8. Contact Information
Here you should include the name, email, billing address and phone number of the project leader. Indicate how you’d like the proposal submitted (email, fax, post, courier) and give a timeline.

9. Budget
This is another item that a lot of clients skip over. We understand that you want to get as much as you can for as little as possible (it’s human nature), and we also understand that a small proportion of unscrupulous designers will pad their quotes to max out your budget. We’re not in that group, and we don’t play that game. Be honest about what you can afford, and we’ll be honest and respectful about what we can give you within those parameters. Even if your budget is a little lacking, there are usually compromises that can be made here and there to accommodate you. If you don’t have a budget set at all, then you’re not ready to be undergoing this step – your business plan should already include budgets for marketing and corporate identity development.

10. Timeframe
This is an easy one – if you have a rough date by which you’d like the project done, let us know here. Similarly, if you have specific deadlines, we’ll need to know those as well. Remember, most designers will charge a premium for rush jobs – you’re bumping other paying clients out of queue when you request priority status.

At the end of the day, every RFP is going to be different. This list is simply meant to be a guideline to help you get the most accurate, thorough and honest project estimate from your designer. You may want to adjust your RFP to suit the scope of your website, but you shouldn’t need much more than what’s outlined here.

Whether or not you ultimately choose to go with us, we’re always happy to help should you need help assembling your RFP.

Already have an RFP? Send it our way.

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