Request for proposal for a website

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A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document prepared by a company to select a partner for the realisation of a project. An RFP describes their requirements and wishes, it communicates in clear language to potential suppliers and enables them to compare and evaluate offers.

The problem is that many web design companies are loathe to respond to RFPs. So, you don't just pick a vendor. You also hope they choose you.

Find out how to draw up a good specification here.

Purpose of an RFP

A Request for Proposal (RFP) (or specification) is a document prepared by a company (the client) to select a partner for the realisation of your project. An RFP describes your requirements and wishes. It communicates in clear language to potential suppliers, and it enables you to compare and assess their offers. So: it lays down the process by which a company chooses a supplier. 

Do realise that many web design companies hate to respond to RFPs and will refuse to participate after reading your specifications. So, you don't only choose a supplier - you also hope that they choose you. The RFP is also a means of convincing potential suppliers of your project so that they will make the effort to respond. 

Success factors for a website project

The success of a website depends on three factors: 

  • Content: excel in your message: 
    • What are you going to publish online? What is your promotional message? And your Online Value Proposition? Is the information qualitative? Is it possible to personalise information for the visitor? 
    • Are the necessary functionalities present (information, customer service, e-commerce, integration with other systems, etc.)? 
    • Is your off-page and on-page SEO good? 
  • User experience
    • Is the information architecture optimal so that visitors can find everything quickly and the structure is logical? 
    • Does the graphic design reflect your brand? And does the look and feel appeal to your target audience? Is your website accessible on all platforms (mobile ready)?
    • Hosting: how fast is the website? And what about availability? 
  • Promotion (=digital marketing): a perfect text with a beautiful user interface is nice, but what use is it if your target audience cannot find you? Digital marketing therefore deserves the necessary attention.
    • What channels will you use to market your website: social media, SEO, email marketing...
    • Measuring results: how will you measure visitors, transactions (e-commerce) and user satisfaction?

Selection criteria for a website project

The success of an ICT project always depends on the customer, the implementation partner and the technology used. 

  • Supplier
    • Culture: is there a fit with you as a customer? 
    • Sector knowledge (if necessary): is previous knowledge of your sector important? If yes, does the supplier have the necessary knowledge? 
    • What is their ideal customer: size of company, sector, budget? Are you important enough as a potential client? Or is the project a size too big? 
    • Quality of the project team
    • Project tools for communication
    • Quality manual, process for implementation 
  • Customer
    • Culture
    • Project team
    • Domain knowledge (ICT, websites, digital marketing)
  • Platform (technology):
    • Maintainability
    • Forward-looking
    • Modularity

Structure of an RFP for a website

Intro / Project Overview

In this section, you should include all the essential information that suppliers receiving the RFP will look for to make an initial decision on whether the project is worth their time. If you get this section right, more suppliers are likely to actually read the rest of the RFP for your site.

Business Overview

In this section, you should introduce your business in one or two paragraphs. You do not want to overwhelm readers with unnecessary details, but include enough information so that those who have never heard of you can get an idea of your business: 

  • Company name, address, branches
  • Key figures: employees, turnover
  • Activity
  • Target market(s)

Current website

Overview

  • <website url> 
  • Launch: <when it was launched> 
  • Platform: <name of the platform>
  • Integrations: <any current integrations>
  • Host: <host company>
  • Code repository: <platform used>

Current points for improvement

Make an inventory of what does and does not work for your current website. The more specific you are, the better. Indicate which objectives your website is currently failing to achieve. Is the website not generating enough leads? Can't users find what they are looking for? Do simple updates require a lot of development time? 

Target audience(s) of your website

Who are your customers? Which customer groups do you want to serve? What are the needs of these customers (groups)? Where will your customers come from? How will you increase your customer loyalty? How will you measure customer satisfaction? 

This is crucial information for website designers, developers, strategists and copywriters - the type of audience will determine everything from functionality to UX and design.

Website objectives

Identify the primary objective of your website and note any secondary or tertiary objectives in this section. A website with the objective of increasing sales leads will look and act very differently from a website with the primary objective of educating investors.

Make sure the objectives are measurable (SMART). Define your KPIs and clearly state in your RFP what you expect from your implementation partner in order to achieve these objectives. 

Top tasks of your website

A good website is set up with top tasks in mind. Top tasks are those things for which most visitors come to your website. The aim of your website should be to help your visitors reach their goal as quickly as possible. Someone who lands on your website almost always has a "problem" and they are looking for a solution to that problem. Your website should therefore be built in such a way that your visitors can reach their goal as quickly as possible. The things that support them in this, we call top tasks. 

Possible top tasks are, for example, contact details, opening times, prices and quotation requests, reservations and orders. So a list of the necessary functionalities also belongs here. 

Your expectations

Be clear what you expect. The more specific you are regarding these requirements, the more accurate the estimate your suppliers can give you. This is different from the objectives of your new website, which are about goals; this section is about specific things you want to see done by your implementation partner: 

  • Usability study
  • Information Architecture
  • Wireframes
  • Graphic design
  • Functionalities: supported languages, static pages, webshop, member portal, integrations with external systems, ...
  • Technology used
  • Copywriting, SEO optimisation
  • Illustrations, photos, infographics, ...
  • Content migration

Planning

Explain to the suppliers when the next steps will be taken: 

  • Expected receipt of proposals
  • Shortlist
  • Offer discussion, possible presentations and demo
  • Final choice
  • Project kick-off
  • Scheduled go live date

Don't be too enthusiastic: opt for a realistic planning.

Expected tender structure

Each web agency has its own sales process. By giving a clear overview of what you expect in the RFP for your website, you can standardise the responses so that you can compare the proposals in your decision-making process.

  • Brief overview of your company
  • Management summary: how will you achieve our digital objectives? 
  • Budget and description of the project tasks (according to your expectations)
  • Proposed platform/CMS (technology stack)
  • Project planning from kick off to go live
  • Description of the project team
  • Similar references
  • Distinguishing factors
  • Pricing with any optional elements
  • General Terms and Conditions

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