An easy way to map your goals and needs is by means of a request for proposal (RFP) for a website. A Request for Proposal is a document prepared by a company to select a partner for the realisation of a project, in this case the development of a website. An RFP describes the requirements and wishes, it communicates clearly to potential suppliers what is expected of them and enables them to compare and evaluate offers.
The problem is that many web design companies don’t like to respond to RFPs. The RFP is thus also a means of convincing potential suppliers of your project so that they will make the effort to respond. This is why it’s very important to draw up a good RFP: you don’t just pick a partner, you also hope they choose you. Don’t worry, we’ll guide you through the process.
The purpose of your RFP
A Request for Proposal is a document prepared by a company (the client) to select a partner for the realisation of their project. An RFP describes the requirements and wishes of, in this case, a website. It communicates clearly what is expected of potential suppliers, and it enables you to compare and assess offers. In short: it lays down the process by which a company chooses a supplier.
Success factors for a website project
Before drawing up a RFP, you have to know that the success of a website depends on three factors:
- Content: make sure your message stands out
- What will you publish online? What is your recruiting message? And your value proposition? Is the information qualitative? Is it possible to personalize information to the visitor?
- Are the necessary functionalities present (information, customer service, e-commerce, integration with other systems, …)?
- Are your off-page and on-page SEO on point?
- User experience and perception:
- Is the information architecture optimal so that visitors can easily navigate through your website and is there a logical structure allowing them to find what they are looking for?
- Do the graphics reflect your brand? And does the look and feel appeal to the target audience you have in mind? Is your website accessible on all platforms (mobile first)?
- Hosting: how fast is the website? And what about (24/7) availability?
- Promotion (marketing)
- A perfect text with a beautiful user interface is nice. But what good is it if your target audience cannot find you? The marketing part of your story also deserves attention.
- Which channels are you going to use to market your website: social media (which ones?), SEO, e-mail marketing, Google advertising, …
- Measuring results: how are you going to measure visitors, transactions (e-commerce) and user satisfaction?
Selection criteria for a website project
The success of an ICT project always depends on the supplier (the implementation partner), the client and the technology used.
- Culture: is there a fit with you as a client?
- Sector knowledge: is prior knowledge of your sector important? If yes, does the supplier have the necessary knowledge?
- Ideal customer: consider the size of company, sector, budget. Are you important enough as a potential customer or are you just one of many? Is a personal approach to your project possible with this supplier?
- Quality of the project team
- Project tools for communication
- Quality manual, process for implementation
- Culture: is there a fit with the supplier?
- The team working on the project
- Domain expertise (ICT, websites, marketing)
- Platform (technology)
- Can you or the supplier easily maintain the platform?
- Is the technology future-proof?
- Modularity: is it possible to expand with this technology?
The structure of your RFP
Intro / Project overview
The first section of your RFP should be the introduction, in which you 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. It’s important to get this section right, as this will be the point where most suppliers decide whether or not they continue reading the rest of your RFP.
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 get an idea of your business. Make sure you include the following:
- the company name, address, branches;
- key figures such as employees and turnover;
- your core activity;
- target market(s).
It speaks for itself that the supplier needs an idea of the basics of your current website. First of all, you’ll need to set up an overview of the current situation of your website:
- Domain: <website url>
- Launch: <when it was launched>
- Platform: <name of the platform>
- Integrations: <any current integrations>
- Host: <host company>
- Code repository: <platform used>
Second, you need to 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? Make a clear list using bullet points:
- Issue 1: explanation
- Issue 2: explanation
Target audience(s) of your website
Who are your customers? Which customer groups do you want to serve (buyer persona)? 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? Make sure you have defined a clear target audience. This is crucial information for website designers, developers, strategists and copywriters – the type of audience you want to serve will determine everything from functionality to UX and design.
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 SMART. This means that your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. 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 based on the top tasks of visitors. 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 are called top tasks.
Possible top tasks are, for example, contact details, opening times, prices and quotation requests, reservations and orders. The list of the necessary functionalities for your website also belongs here.
Be clear what you expect. The more specific you are regarding these requirements, the more accurate the estimate is that 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
- Graphic design
- Functionalities: supported languages, static pages, webshop, member portal, integrations with external systems, …
- Technology used
- Copywriting, SEO optimisation
- Illustrations, photos, infographics, …
- Content migration
Explain to the suppliers when the next steps will be taken:
- Expected receipt of proposals
- Offer discussion, possible presentations and demo
- Final choice
- Project kick-off
- Scheduled go live date
Don’t be too enthusiastic: the most important thing about planning is that you remain realistic.
Expected tender structure
Each web agency has its own sales process, meaning each agency will send back a different document. By giving a clear overview of what you expect in the proposal for your website, you can standardise the responses so that you can easily compare the proposals in your decision-making process. An example of the different components you wish to see can be:
- 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