How to Write a Request for Proposal (RFP)
A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document commonly written by a company seeking bids from potential vendors for a project. As with any complex project, a website 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.
If you present a clear RFP to your vendors, you will be more likely to be comparing “apples to apples.”
This article outlines the typical components of an RFP for a web design project. Although more information can be added to the document, the components below represent a basic set of information that the developer will need in order to make an appropriate proposal for the project.
Not all the topics below may apply to your project, but try to be as thorough as possible.
The RFP Writing Process
If you were going to build a house, you wouldn’t go to a construction company and demand, “Build me a house, and tell me what that’s going to cost,” would you? Of course not! You would first have to tell the construction company how much you were willing to spend, where you are going to put the building, how big your plot is, what style of building you want, how you envision expansion in the future, and so on. You would need to start with a blueprint before any building begins.
Approaching a web development project is a similar process. In order to build a successful site, both client and developer must first start with a solid understanding of the client’s goals for the site. In other words, a blueprint — the RFP — must first be developed.
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.
The Following Components Should Be Included in an RFP
- A brief background of your company.
- A brief description of the project.
- Budget — what is the anticipated budget for the project. It’s helpful to include a detailed budget which developers can use to scope and scale your solution and save you time.
- Time frame — include any project deadlines you may have. Are there crucial meetings, milestones, cut-off dates, etc. that the developer should be aware of? Be realistic with a time frame. It’s also good to anticipate and state how flexible you are with the project’s completion date.
- User demographics — who will be the main users of your site?
- User comfort level with technology — how technically savvy is your audience?
- Will users have high-speed connections, or will many be on modems?
- Do you have an idea of how “up to date” your audience would be as far as operating system (XP or Windows 8?) and browsers (Internet Explorer 6 still being used?)?
- Audience base — how large do you expect your user base to be?
- Are there any color palette and font preferences?
- Do you have corporate identity guidelines that must be followed? If so, how will the developer be able to access these?
- How should the site “feel”? Include some adjectives to describe what your site should communicate.
- Provide examples of sites you liked or disliked, and why. This is VERY IMPORTANT and a good exercise to do for you and valuable for your designer.
- 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?
- How many products are there?
- How do you handle your shipping?
- Do you currently have a merchant account (ability to take credit cards)?
- How do you currently handle sales payments?
- Are there any other interactive features the site should have? What are they, and how do you envision them to work?
- Anticipated number of pages (it’s useful to create an outline of the different topics you want covered on the site – that’s always helpful in determining number of pages).
- Do you have images you want to use? How many? Do you want a gallery or slideshow?
Ongoing Site Maintenance Plans
- How often will the site be updated?
- Will you be self-maintaining or will you be outsourcing maintenance services?
RFP Response Deadline and Contact Information
- When is the response to the RFP due?
- To whom should the response be sent?
- What is your budget for the project? Determine your budget for the project and your priorities for selecting a Developer who can meet your budgetary requirements.
- 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. It’s a good idea to get your entire “wish list” on paper and give to the developer. A good web develeper can help you determine what parts of your project are feasible in the initial stages or what could and should wait for a later time. In any case, it’s handy for the developer to know what you’re thinking about for the future.
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.