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How to Write a Website RFP to Attract the Best Design Talent in 2020


What is an RFP?

A website RFP is a Request for Proposal. It’s also known as a website brief or creative brief.

The RFP can be created on a simple project brief template. It will help with the initial planning and further development stages of your website design.

The completed brief can be used to help explain creative visions and expectations to prospective website designers and developers. Responses from digital agencies then act as proposals to deliver your brief.

Everyone has different opinions on what makes a good website: if you want some tried and tested advice on the important factors to consider, you can download our RFP template.

Our template covers all the steps and sometimes forgotten details of preparing a creative brief. When completed, it will help you tick all the right boxes and increase the efficiency of the process.

The RFP Process

So how do you go about writing an effective proposal?

It’s important to remember that the working relationship you create early on can make or break your website design and build process. Your RFP should be as much about creating a good impression on a potential partner as it is about getting a proposal in return.

A potential web design agency partner should already be comfortable with the technical aspects of the project, so make sure they connect with your business character and personality too.

Mutual respect and trust will help the creative process enormously and can be compared to dating – if you get a ‘proposal’ on the first date, run for the hills!

What to Include in your Request for Proposal?

Your ‘dating profile’ (project creative brief) needs to include a number of important pieces of information and should provide as much detail as possible for each section:

1. Company Overview:

Introduce your company, the business sector and your main aims and objectives. If you are a new company, you could mention your expectations for the next few years.

2. New Website Project:
Answer the question: ‘What do I want from my website’? Is it to attract users to a physical shop, sell virtual products, enquire about your service or convince visitors to sign up to your contact list for email marketing? What advantages and results will your new website deliver? Do you have a target revenue to hit from your website or a target number of monthly clients?

Is the website for information only, a hub for your content?

A lot of smaller businesses underestimate the value a well thought out and designed website can bring. Over 76% of businesses visit your website before making contact, so the website is your shop front. The primary aim should be to strengthen your brand image and reinforce the professional approach of your company.

3. Target Market & Existing Audience:

Your initial market research into proof of need should have already identified your target market. This will include who they are and where they are. This customer persona insight helps a design team to focus on design and user experience.

If your target market is in a certain city, this may show your need for local SEO services and this can be worked into the design and content.

You could also include companies you have identified as competitors in your space and how you would like to differentiate yourself from them.

How much will a new customer be worth? Try to assign an average value of a customer if they were to become a lifelong user and advocate of your website.

4. Analysis of your Current Website:

If you already own a website, be honest about why you think it’s not working. The more transparent you are, the easier it will be for a design and development agency to identify and suggest solutions.

On the positive side, you should be honest about the features and content that you think work well on your existing site. Make a list of the things you’d like to retain.

For example, you might think it loads too slowly and the images used are not ideal.

The content and messaging may benefit from improvements and you don’t clearly state what you do. If you think the user experience needs improving, then this is the perfect time to highlight changes and fresh ideas.

5. Analysis of your Competitors Website:

Look at competitors website and seeing which features and designs you like and don’t like. This will help the website design agency understand your style ideas and preferences.

You can also highlight some examples here of general web designs and functions that you think will work well on your site. Not necessarily from a competitors site.

6. Functionality and Technical Specifications:

This is different to your visual design and overall website objectives. Details can include number and types of pages, the need for certain payment processors or the ability to integrate existing software.

Asking about the viability of features you would like to include is also ok here.

Mention if you’d like the capability to make updates and changes ‘in-house’ when the site goes live. If not, you could request that the proposal includes information about maintenance and support packages and charges.

If you need help with content creation such as the wording and images to be used then it’s good to mention this at this point. The content should always be SEO friendly as standard.

If it’s a simple brochure website, then list the pages and functions on each, for example Home, About, Services, Portfolio, Blog, Contact details etc.

Specific functions you’d like should be brought up at this time. The complexity of these functions will affect the costings.

You could include examples such as a Portfolio section, automatic appointment functions, directory listing features, the ability to add user accounts etc.

7. Future Developments:

If you have plans for expanding your website in the future, it’s important to include this information. The ability of a website to be able to expand and incorporate new features is an important design and development consideration.

Additional or ongoing help, such as SEO, photography, promotional video production or content writing services can be mentioned at this point. A digital agency will tend to separate the quote appropriately so that you can choose whether to include this within your future marketing budget.

A website is not just a one off purchase. To deliver consistent, long-term results it’s an ongoing process and you should consider how much ongoing support you will be investing in going forwards.

8. Your Budget:

You may feel uncomfortable revealing what you have budgeted to spend on your new website project. However, as we have already mentioned, transparency will help towards a mutually beneficial working relationship.

Any digital agency will have their own pricing frameworks and need to be able to ensure that they are working to achieve a profit as a service provider. If you have a particular requirement for payment dates and deadlines make sure you enter them here too.

For example, if your budget for the website is £12k. The development company fee to build might only be £8k, they could then split the remaining amounts into monthly payments for the next 12 months and offer support for ongoing improvements and developments.

It also helps the website design company as they will be able to be more realistic in what solutions to offer. For example, if your budget was under £1k for a website, most agencies would not be able to assist effectively for that fee.

9. The Right Answers:

Outline what you expect to receive back in a reply to your RFP. Try to ask for standard and consistent responses that will help make it easier for you to rank and judge responses and ultimately make a decision.

Always give a closing date with a reasonable amount of time for a company to prepare a reply.

Costings for design, development and ongoing fees should be clearly stated.

10. The Timeline:

You should use this part of the website RFP process to lay out your timeframe expectations for when the website needs to be live.

This should be a comprehensive account that begins with the proposal process, design and development, and the ultimate launch date. It’s important to be realistic at this point and have a level of flexibility built in.

More concrete timeframes and deadlines can be built into a more comprehensive plan when you have chosen a project partner.

11. Contact Details:

If not already covered in point 9, this is especially important for larger projects to help ensure a fluid communication process.

For example, if there will be numerous people involved at different points of development, supplying their contact information will help avoid delays and frustrations at vital stages.

Is a Website RFP Really Necessary?

The way businesses and clients communicate is constantly changing and evolving.

A website RFP won’t always be a requirement. If you are happy to communicate over the phone or in a face-to-face meeting, then producing an RFP and sending one out is perhaps a waste of your time and resources.

For Pagio Digital, we will always try to gather as much information as possible up front from a potential or current client. It always helps us understand their aims and how we can help them achieve their goals.

However, it can help you to plan, visualise and clarify your website and project goals. Just save it as a website design brief instead!

Even if you use the website RFP as a reference for a phone call or an introductory email contact, it’s a useful record to be able to reference back to during the ongoing design process.