Writing a Request For Proposal For Web Site Design and Development

A company that is looking to get bids from several qualified vendors for a Web site design or development project will typically write a Request for Proposal (RFP) and either post it online or send it directly to potential vendors it has identified.

As with any complex project, a Web site design project requires clear communication between the client and web developer in order for the client to receive accurate bids. The RFP serves as a baseline of project requirements on which competing vendors may price their services. I have outlined a few items below that should typically be in a Website Design and Development Request for Proposal, though some times more information is necessary.

Writing your Request for Proposal

The Request for Proposal (RFP) process allows potential vendors to get an idea of your goals, existing challenges and possible limitations without lengthy phone discussions or in-person meetings that can severely impact the amount of time it takes for you to get started with your Web Design and Development project. It allows you to succinctly describe exactly what you are looking for and what a potential vendor should expect in the project.

An ideal RFP would clearly specify all the requirements pertaining to your website. It would allow the developer to present you with a proposal based your particular needs and, needless to say, the more details your RFP contains, the more accurate a proposal the developer is able to present.

Components of a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a Web site Design and Development Project:

Project Background Information

  • Brief overview of your organization, including some history and your primary business objectives.
  • Detailed description of the project you would like to receive the proposal for.
  • If your budget requirements are strict, it might help to include a ‘Ballpark’ Budget – which developers can use to scope and scale your solution and save you time.
  • Target launch date and required deliverable dates – include any dates that you need the project to meet. Are there crucial meetings and cut-off dates that the developer should be aware of? If you are not sure what the time frame should be, it’s okay to see what the proposals you receive recommend and renegotiate. It’s also good to anticipate and state how flexible you are with the project’s completion date.

Marketing Requirements and Data

  • Audience demographics – who will be the main users of your site? Are there several different audiences that need to be addressed?
  • User comfort level with technology –  how technically savvy is your audience? Will they know how to deal with plug-ins, for example?
  • Will users have high-speed connections, or will many be on modems?
  • Audience base –  how large do you expect your user base to be?

Design and Corporate Branding Requirements

  • Do you have corporate identity guidelines that must be followed, including fonts and colors and graphic treatments?
  • What look and feel to you envision for the Web site? Include some adjectives to describe what your site should communicate.
  • Provide examples of Web sites that relate to the RFP either because they have a similar feel to the one your are looking for, or even examples of what you do NOT want.
  • Will there be any animated elements (i.e. Flash animations)? How many? How are they going to be used?

Technical and Infrastructure Requirements

  • Web hosting considerations. Do you currently have a Web host or are you looking for a new one to handle this project?
  • Browser/platform considerations. Generally speaking, a Web site for consumers or the general public should work similarly across all modern browsers and Operating Systems. If you are targeting a very specific audience it is possible your needs are different.
  • Development platform requirements. Do you require an Open Source solution, are you open to a proprietary solution that is more tailored to your exact needs, etc.
  • Coding language requirements (e.g. ASP.NET, PHP, Java). Many times this depends on the type of Web hosting platform or any pre-existing software you may have.
  • Are there third party applications you’d like to incorporate?

Functionality/programming Requirements

  • Will there be forms on the site? If so, how many? How should they be handled? (e.g. e-mailed to recipients, stored in a database, etc.)
  • Will the site require tools to manage content/information (e.g. ability for staff to add content such as press releases or quarterly reports)?
  • Will there be any e-commerce on the site? If so, who will be entering data on products offered? How will transactions be managed?
  • Are there any other interactive features the site should have? What are they, and how do you envision them to work?

Search Engine Optimization

  • Describe any currently defined search engine friendly production requirements and expectations
  • Indicate if you are seeking SEO/SEM consultation services

Ongoing Site Maintenance Plans

  • How often will the site be updated? Are you looking for a retainer situation, or ‘on-demand’ hourly work?
  • Will you be self-maintaining or will you be outsourcing maintenance services?

Project Management

  • Who will be the main point of contact on your staff? Keep in mind that in most cases it is easiest to have a single point of contact at both your organization and the company designing and developing your Web site.
  • How will the tasks be divided between you and the developer in order to complete the project?
  • Are there any third parties (subcontractors, etc.) that will also be involved in the project?

RFP Response Deadline and Contact Information

  • When is the response to the RFP due?
  • To whom should the response be sent?
  • Do you prefer E-mail or hard copies, and if so, how many hard copies?
  • Is there a specific solicitation number that needs to be referenced in the Proposal Document?
  • What is the RFP review process? How long do you anticipate to take to make your decision before the project can begin?

Some Additional Thoughts Before You Begin:

  • For all items listed above, be sure to clearly indicate if you must have any item(s) bid as an optional aspect of the project. Keep in mind possible dependencies between project aspect/components that may make this impractical.
  • Before writing your Request For Proposal, determine your budget for the project and, beyond that, your priorities for selecting a Developer who can meet your budgetary requirements.

Writing an RFP is a good exercise for anyone thinking about a site design or redesign as it takes thoughtful planning to specify and construct a website. A well thought out, quality RFP is essential to a successful endeavor because it helps you to focus on your goals and exactly how to achieve them.

Best of luck with your Web site Design and Development Project.

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