I’m going to tell you a story. Stop me if it sounds familiar.
John is starting a new company and needs to build a website. He asks some of his tech savvy friends for help and is delighted to hear that building a website has never been easier. He can build it himself!
John gets right to work, diligently researching and taking notes. After a month of hard work, he has a shake-and-bake website that he hates. Frustrated, he wonders out loud, “I thought this was supposed to be easy!”
Luckily for John, he still has those tech savvy friends, and one of them offers, on a handshake, to build his website on the cheap. I know you are already pulling your hair out at what comes next, but I have to say it anyway.
After a few months and a few thousand dollars, John still doesn’t have a website he loves, except now he’s short one Facebook friend. He has learned a valuable lesson, however: as nice a guy as John is, he just isn’t a web designer or developer (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Truth be told, most people aren’t, which is why there are professionals who specialize in website design and development.
What John has learned through this ordeal is that hiring just anybody to do your website only leads to a lot of headache, frustration, and wasted money. This is why crafting a well-conceived request for proposal Web design document is paramount.
At Nuanced Media, we’ve learned a few tricks for writing your RFP for a website proposal that will save you some time and a lot of aggravation.
Tips for writing a rfp website proposal properly
1) Have You Done Your Homework?
Just like the question you dreaded before school in the second grade, writing an RFP website design document requires that you have done some homework ahead of time. You may have figured that you need to know what you’re looking for in a new website, but do you know the current design trends being utilized for website in your industry? Do you know how your competitors are integrating social media into their websites? What about the keywords they are targeting with their SEO and PPC strategies?
This kind of in-depth industry and competitive research is becoming increasingly important ahead of a website design project; many businesses rely on consultants to provide them with this kind of marketing strategy packet that they can then use to help define the scope and functionalities of their new website in the RFP that they send out to vendors.
Just like you had to do your homework before it was due in the second grade, doing a little research before your web design project goes a long way toward a successful RFP website design document.
2) Own Your Code
Websites are built by two equally important groups of people: the designers, who create what you see, and the developers, who create all the stuff you don’t see. If you think of it like a car, the design is the body of the car, and development is the engine.
Let’s talk about the engine of your website for a minute.
Just like engines need fuel, the fuel of your website is the code; its the stuff that makes your website go, and owning your code at the end of the project is vitally important. Make it clear in your RFP website design document (aka website proposal document) that you retain the rights to the code. By owning your code, you won’t have to start over if you aren’t happy with the end result and decide to switch developers. Additionally, you can have a third-party investigate it to make sure everything is secure.
If your company handles private and confidential client information, you already know why third-party security audits might be important.
Code ownership is a simple provision to include in your website proposal but it gives you the peace of mind and legal protection you need while weeding-out potential hacks.
3) Know The Time(line) and state it in your website proposal
Imagine you need a new coffee maker. Assuming you aren’t a purchasing manager charged with buying all the office coffee makers for a multinational corporation, this isn’t a particularly complicated project. You see a need (the coffee maker), and then alleviate the need (buy a new one).
Website design projects aren’t coffee makers. While they aren’t as complicated as, say, deciding on a coffee maker to purchase for every office across three continents and 27 countries (we see you, Multinational Corporate Purchasing Manager), it is slightly more complicated than buying a single coffee maker.
Don’t push your website design project onto a developer and hope for the best. Right from the start, your RFP needs to require benchmarks and timelines for completion, and whichever firm you choose must meet them.
If you aren’t sure what the benchmarks should be, ask for a detailed timeline to be provided in the responses to your RFP web design document. This will weed out the firms that aren’t able to meet your project deadline while giving you a measure of accountability from the firm that you hire.
4) Look Past the Obvious
Nobody spends money on a website that they don’t want people to see. It just isn’t done. No matter how you plan to use your website, you probably want people to be able to find it.
In order for people to find your website and use it, there are a few hidden technical measures that must be included for that to happen. Your RFP should allow for that.
Luckily, you don’t have to know those measures ahead of time when you are producing your RFP for a website proposal. You should, however, make sure to include a section for digital marketing. Good Web design and development firms understand the methods to both create a great looking website and bring it to potential users. Great firms will research what you need and outline their methods in their responses to your RFP web design document.
Look for these terms in their responses:
Responsive design. This means the website is optimized to look great on both computers and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Search and email are the two most common reasons people use the Internet. You want your website at the top of the search results, and SEO is how firms will do it.
Content Management System (CMS). This is a must. The CMS is how you manage, edit, and upload content to your website, and good firms will use a popular CMS in the development of your website (we use WordPress). Stay away from firms that use a completely custom CMS; you’ll be dependent on them, and their hourly rates, anytime you want to make changes to your site.
5) The Past Predicts The Future
There are thousands of Web design firms in the world, and your RFP web design request may be read by firms in dozens of countries. That means potentially hundreds of responses.
That may sound exciting now, but wait until the time comes to go through them all – I hope you have coffee.
There is one surefire way to pare down the number of responses to a more manageable number – ask for a portfolio that shows experience with projects similar to yours. You aren’t necessarily looking for content in their portfolios; if your website is about dog-grooming, you don’t need to ask for samples of dog websites. What you are looking for is experience with the kinds of functionality you’re interested in.
When writing your RFP web design document, you’ll want to outline the specific functionality that you want your website to have. You don’t have to learn a lot of computer jargon, either; just explain what you want. Maybe you specifically want the website to work on laptops and mobile devices. Maybe you want a blog. Maybe you want to be able to sell things on your website. Just write what you need into the RFP or website proposal and ask for examples of previous work.
If a firm can show their work, that’s a tell-tale sign of what you can expect from them on your web design project.
6) Looks Aren’t Everything – Have a Great Personality
As you probably know, the RFP process can involve a lot of cold, impersonal boilerplate text. Oddly enough, the responses tend to be cold and impersonal too.
If that’s what you’re looking for, by all means, go for it. Its been our experience, however, that adding a little personality into your RFP Web design document brings out a little personality in the responses as well.
By taking the process to a more personal level, the project becomes a partnership between you and the firm you hire. This provides a much better experience, as both parties tend to work on the same level. When your Web design firm has a personal stake in the project, you can rest assured that they are going to work as hard as possible to meet deadlines, make sure your needs are met, and, most importantly, fully understand you and what you’re looking for.
So when you’re creating your RFP web design document, be more conversational with your introduction. Breeze up the language when explaining your needs. Write your personality – or that of your company – into the document. You’ll find this resonates with respondents and will give you a better sense of how well they will work with you.