Writing an RFP for website design and development services? Is this a technology-focused project lead by the technology department?  Is it a communication or marketing-focused project lead by those respective departments? As the team member who has to identify vendors, gather input from the staff, and then write the document, you know how much work it can be. So much so that you might even be tempted to recycle one from another organization. New Target is asked to participate in many bidding processes with an RFP as a primary information source each year, and as a prospective vendor, we’d like to offer some advice: Spending time up front writing a Request for Proposals document with clearly defined issues, goals, and expectations that are aligned with your organization’s capacity means that you will greatly increase your chances of receiving proposals from capable companies proposing well-suited solutions with accurate price estimates.

Getting your web design and development RFP to a good place entails telling us about your CMS, brand, web properties, extent of the work, level of integration, and amount of personalization:

1. Content Management System (CMS): Giving us information on your current CMS is helpful as is knowing that the web application for which you need will be built in a CMS framework. And, it will be built to be responsive (or mobile friendly). This is the foundation for a well-functioning website that you will be able to update easily. Quantifying nodes, documents, and other similarly relevant information within the CMS help us understand design, development, migration, and integration expected efforts as well.

2. State of Your Brand: Tell us about the state of your brand: Is your organization going through a rebrand or, for other reasons, will the logo and other brand elements be changing soon? Will there be a major shift in messaging and content? Answers to these questions help us understand the scope of the design work and to what extent our design team will be involved in crafting new messaging, imagery, and to what level of original design down to the last photograph is needed.

3. Number of Web Properties: How many websites will need a re/design? This may seem like a simple question, but it’s not unusual for us to hear, “We’re not sure.” There very well may be URLs that you don’t know about. Before you write the RFP, talk with colleagues who have been involved with the website, either directly or tangentially over the years and ask them about the URLs. If you can’t find the answer, don’t avoid the question. Just state this fact early in the RFP so we know that some detective work is in order on our part to help you assess scope.

4. Extent of the Project: Get together with all of the stakeholders in your organization and determine how big of a project this is going to be. Do you want a website that is completely re-imagined with more functionality, new messaging, and a new information architecture driven by persona-driven journeys? Or, are you just looking for a tweak in the design with a few functionality updates? If your organization wants a major redesign, be clear about that up front. Holding back on design or functionality requirements until later in the project may bring you out of scope, and you may not be able to take advantage of efficiencies that are realized during the project planning stages.

5. Level of Integration: The more you know about integration, the more accurate your price will be. Here’s a primer: Integration is the passing of data back and forth between applications with the end-user experience being conducted within one application usually. For example, your CMS (Drupal or WordPress, for example) might be integrated with your association management system (Salesforce or NetFORUM, for example). Users probably only sign on once (single sign-on), but are able to access information from both the CMS and AMS. Your CMS might also be integrated with business applications such as a payment processing system, an email marketing solution, or an inventory management or accounting application. So be sure to identify each of those applications and how much you want each system to talk with the other(s).

6. Level of Personalization and Self-Service: Think about how much autonomy you want users to have when they visit your website. Do you want your users to be able to manage their conference schedules or administer committees? Will they be able to set up a dashboard of events that they’ve registered for, or will you be serving targeted content to them based on past purchases on the site? It’s important to determine what the user experience is going to look like before you embark on a redesign project as it will figure into each major task and given the prospective vendor insight into your expectations.

The takeaway from all of this is: Customizing your RFP is important, but a good RFP doesn’t have to contain a lot of information, it just has to include the right information. The time you spend writing a solid RFP will yield a much higher return than if you recycle one, or include incomplete information. If you have questions about what to include, don’t hesitate to contact us.

A global team of digerati with offices in Washington, D.C. and Southern California, we provide digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, and creative for brands you know and nonprofits you love.

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