How to Write a Professional Website Design RFP

Eric Kazda  |   March 7, 2018   |  Posted in Content Creation

A request-for-proposal (RFP) can be a daunting process. You have to create a detailed, yet concise overview of an important project to find the experts that can make that project a success within your budget. There’s often a substantial amount of money invested in the success of a website redesign. That’s why we created this guide to writing a quality website design RFP. We’ll cover what sections you must include, as well as tips on how to get the best responses to your RFP.

Plus – get access to a customizable RFP template at the end of the article!

What’s the Purpose of a Website Design RFP?

In a highly creative industry like website design and development, RFPs can often misfire. Companies may not understand what to ask for in an RFP. Vendors may not be given the opportunity to share what makes them stand apart from their competition. Many of these misfires can be avoided if both parties communicate effectively from the beginning. This starts with a company creating an RFP that is detailed and focuses on their core project goals. Your RFP should be clear, concise, and consistent!

When written correctly, RFPs will help a company narrow down website design agencies that will be a great fit for their upcoming project. It will identify outliers, like agencies that are out of your price range or agencies that are under-quoting what your project requirements will cost.

The best advice we can give to any company creating a website design RFP is to prioritize relationships over RFPs. Use an RFP to help you narrow the playing field or confirm that you and an agency are on the same page – not as the only deciding factor in such an important project. Both you and the agency you choose should be a good fit for each other on paper and real life.

That being said, if you want to receive quality responses to an RFP, make sure to include the following sections.

Include these Sections in Your Website Design RFP

Project Overview

This initial paragraph will provide a 10,000-foot view of your project. This information should include the type of project needed, your budget, and any relevant timelines. While you’ll go into greater detail about each of these items later on, this overview will be the first impression every vendor has when reading your RFP.

Company Overview

If someone had never heard of your business before, how would you describe yourself in 1-2 paragraphs? The goal of this section is to help vendors get to know you and your unique business. Don’t make this section too long. Vendors don’t need a detailed history in an RFP.

Tip from the experts:

Show your personality in this section and throughout! You are using your RFP to narrow down vendors, but vendors also use the RFP to narrow down clients. They will know pretty quickly whether you might be a good fit for their agency. Showing your personality will allow the right vendors to respond.

Target Audience

Who is visiting your website? Who do you want to be visiting and interacting with your website? This is the section where you can tell vendors who the site will be designed for. This will determine the targeted pathways through the website and the user experience (UX).

Tip from the experts:

If you’re unsure how to describe your target audience, start by creating buyer personas. Buyer personas give a detailed picture of what your current and ideal customer look like. Learn more about creating buyer personas here.

Website Objectives

These are the overall, high-level goals for your new website. Why do you want to invest the money into a new website? What are you hoping to achieve? Make sure the goals and objectives you list are measurable, realistic, and relevant to your core business model. Here are some general examples of website objectives.

  • Increase site traffic from 1,000 visits/month to 2,000 visits/month
  • Generate 50 sales-qualified leads per month
  • Improve customer satisfaction from 50% to 70%
  • Make the website secure
  • Reduce business costs by 10%
  • Recruit 3X more new talent

Current Website Analysis

There’s a reason you need a new website. Make your current website’s failings and limitations clear in this section. Be honest. Website vendors need this information so that they know what your biggest pain points currently are. They can cater their proposal around solving those major pain points.

Tip from the experts:

If your current website has reporting capabilities from a tool like Google Analytics, include those statistics in this section. Those reports will also help you identify and analyze where you most need improvement.

Functionality Requirements

This section is where you list any detailed requirements you have for the site from a functionality standpoint. Be as detailed as possible.  Vendors need details to give you an accurate estimate of the what the project will cost. Here are some examples of function requirements that could be included in this section.

  • Interfaces needed with existing software
  • eCommerce shopping features
  • Internal search
  • Integration with social media
  • Industry compliance standards
  • A blog to share visual and written content
  • Interactive store/branch locator
  • Content creation and/or editing of existing site content

Tip from the experts:

It’s okay if you don’t know enough about website development to ask for specific coding and/or software. Instead of asking for a CMS like WordPress, ask for a back-end management system that’s easy to use regardless of technical skill. A great website vendor will respond with the specific coding and/or software to meet that request. Let them show off their expertise!

Our business development executive, Lucas Stacey, says, “I would rather read an RFP using somebody’s own words than one that is overly technical but incorrect because they don’t understand the technical nature of their project.”

Wish List

Whereas the above section is filled with needs, this section can be filled with wants. Identifying must-haves versus nice-to-haves will be one of the most important parts of the process. Every feature will cost money, so you need to decide where your priorities lie. Ideally, the must-haves will be the functions that are vital to meeting your new website objectives.

Tip from the experts:

Feel free to share links and images of these wish list items from the websites you found them on. Seeing what sites inspired you can help the website vendor customize their proposal to best fit your vision.

Additional Services

Are you open to proposals that offer more than you asked for? Speaking from experience, our agency has lost out on contracts due to other agencies offering services that were not specifically requested in the RFP. Use this section to clarify what should and should not be offered in a proposal. Or at least keep it open-ended enough to imply that you are open to additional services if relevant to the overall objectives.

Budget Details

This is one of the most important sections. While you should have already touched on budget in the project overview, this section can be more detailed. You can include a price range and any payment details a vendor would need to know. For example, your company may need to bill before the end of the fiscal year. Or maybe you have a set budget, but want to know how a vendor thinks you can break down the spending to include other services like content marketing.

Sharing your budget may also reveal that it is wildly unrealistic compared to your functionality requirements. A great website vendor can propose how to meet your core objectives within your budget – and share if it’s not possible.

Desired Project Timeline

Write your desired deadlines here. When is your deadline to pick a vendor? What is your goal launch date for the new website? This timeline will help vendors know if they would be a good fit for your needs. Keep in mind that a high-quality, detailed website will usually take at least a few months.

Asking for a miracle within a short time frame will limit the proposal responses you receive. Incredible vendors know they can’t deliver a quality product in that time frame, and mediocre vendors who do respond will either deliver a disappointing product or delay your launch date.

Vendor Proposal Requirements

Describe how to submit responses to your RFP in this section, and give the vendors a proposed timeline for the review process. Include the response deadline, when vendors should expect to hear back from you, how vendors can ask questions, and any information they must include in their proposal. This type of information might be:

  • Web development experience
  • Existing client references
  • Estimated project budget
  • Project management details

You can ask for as much or as little information as you want, but the information you ask for will affect the quality and quantities of the responses. If you ask for too much irrelevant information, a vendor may decide not to respond at all.

Make sure your RFP outlines the process to ask questions about the RFP. You may have a deadline to submit questions, or keep the Q&A period more open-ended. Providing a vendor with clarity will ensure more accurate responses. The primary contact for vendor questions should be someone close to the project.

Tip from the experts:

Allow for enough freedom in the proposals to let an agency’s creativity shine through. If the proposal responses are too similar, it will be difficult for you to narrow down your choices based on the qualities that matter the most.

How to Distribute Your Finished Website Design RFP

How you distribute your final RFP will determine the quality and quantity of your responses. Here are the most popular distribution options.

1) Open distribution – sharing your RFP on a public syndication site

Good for: A company with a dedicated procurement team that can sort through hundreds of responses

2) Closed distribution – sharing with a small number of pre-selected agencies

Good for: A company that has already narrowed down their vendor list in advance

3) Hybrid distribution – publicly announcing you’re accepting proposals on your website and also sharing directly with your top choices of agencies

Good for: A company that can handle a larger number of responses, but also wants to ensure a response from their top choice agencies

Tips for finding agencies:

Create a Custom Website RFP with this Template

Now you know to include the following sections in your detailed website design RFP.

  • Project overview
  • Company overview
  • Target audience
  • Website objectives
  • Current website analysis
  • Functionality requirements
  • Wish list
  • Additional services
  • Budget details
  • Desired project timeline
  • Vendor proposal requirements

To make the process even simpler, we created a FREE website design RFP template you can download. This template covers all of the vital sections, and is customizable to your company brand and project goals. Get the FREE website RFP template now!

Designer's desk with responsive web design concept.
To make the process even simpler, we created a FREE website design RFP template you can download.

This template covers all of the vital sections, and is customizable to your company brand and project goals. Get the FREE website RFP template now!

Download RFP Template

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Eric Kazda

Eric Kazda is a leading expert in the interactive development industry with over fifteen years of experience. With a mastery of critical development technologies, Eric has crafted innovative award-winning work for clients both large and small. Coupling this knowledge with a real world understanding of usability and technological feasibility, his work is developed to be accessible by every user.

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