As an agency, we receive and place bids on many RFPs (requests for proposals) for website redesigns. Some of those requests are really stellar. Others are exceptionally confusing and, unfortunately, very unhelpful to both us and their authors.
Because it’s in our best interest to place a spot-on bid (and in your best interest to receive some realistic responses!), we drew up a few tips for anyone crafting an RFP. These tips are designed to help you get the best possible bids from the web agencies you contact.
Note: For this article, I’m assuming you know the basic structure of a RFP and just need extra tips on how to get the most out of what you’re putting together. If you need some structural guidance first, you might want to research a few examples (or make an outline) then come back here.
Tip #1 – Specify what website you want us to work on
This one might seem obvious, but it’s so obvious some authors forget to include it. This is especially important if you (or the company you work for) owns multiple domains and/or are looking to combine a few satellite sites into one cohesive site.
Where to put this: Right up front in the introduction. Maybe even in the title.
Why this matters: A bid on on the wrong site is worthless to you.
Tip #2 – Call out your highest priorities
Is having a calendar a non-negotiable for your crew? Is an integration with QuickBooks nice to have, but only if budget allows? Let us know! Many RFPs get this right. But many more don’t. If you have no idea what features could help you meet your goals, that’s okay too – tell us you need some consulting. We’d be glad to provide some recommendations. We may even suggest a paid discovery session where we can work through that kind of thing together.
Where to put this: In the introduction or alongside the deliverables you suggest. For an example of the latter: in the description of “community forum” you might specify that this is an essential feature or something that would be nice to have, but isn’t crucial to your goals for the new site.
Why this matters: Due to price and time constraints, most agencies won’t commit to delivering your entire wish list. If you identify your “most importants”, you set yourself up to receive more bids that accomplish your most primary goals.
Tip #3 – Go into detail about why you want to redesign
I know this can be tricky, but we need some details beyond “it’s time” or “we want a new look”. What’s missing in both those reasons? The because. For example “it’s time to redesign because we were acquired and need to reflect new brand standards.” Or “we want a new look because, as our product matured, our audiences expanded to include a younger generation.” You don’t have to give away all your business secrets here, but it’s immensely helpful for us to know what you’re trying to accomplish and why you’re scrapping the current setup. This will take some work on your end, but the outcome is worth your effort.
Where to put this: Right up front in the introduction or project background. We need this context for the rest of what we’ll read.
Why this matters: Assuming you do need a redesign, identifying why you need one helps you establish goals and prioritize features.
Tip #4 – Outline your budget (using numbers, not vague phrases)
We don’t have to know an exact dollar amount here, and we get that this information can be sensitive, but some kind of range is immensely helpful. One of your biggest deciding factors is how much this costs, right? Well, we want to give you as much bang for your buck as possible within that cost range (if it’s reasonable). However, it’s exceptionally hard for us to make an informed recommendation if you don’t provide any cost range, ceiling, or expectation at all. Are you looking for a one bedroom cabin in the country or an industrial flat downtown? How about a used car versus a new Tesla? Similar to most other purchases you make, your budget determines your options. Give us an idea of your budget (in numerical language) so we don’t waste your time.
Where to put this: Either the beginning or end of your request in a separate section titled “Budget”.
Why this matters: Bids way outside your budget waste your time.
Tip #5 – Tell us about your timeline, specifically why that’s your timeline
We’d love to help you meet your budget and we’d also love to help you meet your timeline. Knowing why you chose the date you did (because the internet says websites take three weeks? Because your campaign launches in two months?) really helps us plan out what features and development strategy makes sense. On a related note, it’s very helpful to know whether you’re open to a phased approach. This can be a very efficient way to develop some sites, and it might just make the most sense for yours.
Where to put this: The beginning or end of your request in a separate section titled “Timeline.” It’s ideal if you supply a suggested timeline including when you need a response, when you plan to make a decision and when you’d like the site to be live.
Why this matters: Your timeline influences two very important things: price and whether the web agency can commit to the project.
Tip #6 – Explain why your project is exciting
I bet there’s something cool about what your company does. Maybe there’s even something really neat about what you want your website to do. Don’t hold back on information about either of these! We want to be passionate about your project and it’s much easier for us to be excited if you tell us why we should be.
Where to include this: Right up front in the background, history or context.
Why this matters: A team that’s passionate about your project will put more effort into their bid and ultimately into your project.
Have you checked all these items off? Great! You’re well on your way to crafting an excellent RFP. If you’d like to send it our way once you’re finished, make sure you send us a note on the Contact page. We can’t wait to read your ideas!