Hallelujah! You and your organization have received the green light to redesign the stale, outdated website that you and your colleagues have been pretending doesn’t exist for the last five years. You understand that step one is the hunt for the perfect website design and development partner. The only caveat: This is your first web redesign project and consequently, your first time writing an RFP. How do you not only ensure you share the necessary details, but also avoid revealing your n00b status to prospective vendors?

Worry not. I’ve been running a design agency for a decade and have received over 100 RFPs: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve got you covered.

First: Introduce yourself.

Even if you have an existing website that does a decent job of explaining who you are, a prospective partner won’t know what’s current and what’s out of date. A quick introduction to your organization or company is helpful in grounding the RFP. What is your organization’s mission? Why do you exist? And why should the prospective partner be excited to work with you?

Explain the “why.”

It’s easy to assume everyone needs a website, but it’s great to know more. If your website’s purpose is to market the organization, where does the website sit in your marketing funnel? Is it the first point of contact prospective customers have with your brand? Or does it serve as more of a brochureware-style validation tool?

Define success.

Closely related to the “why,” it’s super helpful to know specific goals that the redesign is aiming to achieve. Are you looking for an improved user experience? A more intuitive navigation? A more modern look and feel? An easier-to-use CMS? More donations? More time on site? Is it important that the website be optimized for search? (And if so, what types of keywords would you ideally want to rank for?)

Review the state of the brand.

Whether you have a robust visual language that’s fully codified in a 500-page brand book or you barely have a logo, it’s good to set expectations with your potential partners about where they’ll be starting from visually. Here at Studio Simpatico, we work with organizations whose visual identities are at all levels of fidelity, but we typically allot some more hours for the visual direction phase if the brand isn’t fully formed since more experimentation and rounds of feedback will be needed.

Who are the stakeholders?

Explaining who will be involved in the process on your end shows a potential partner that you’ve put thought into project management on the client side. At Simpatico, we love to see that our partners have considered:

  • Point Person – Who will be the day-to-day point person for scheduling meetings and consolidating feedback?
  • Design Stakeholders – Who should be involved in important design reviews and signoffs?
  • Content Creators – Who will be creating content for the site on a regular basis and/or who will be getting the site (from a content perspective) in tip top shape for launch?

What about content?

Do you expect content on the current site to be migrated? If so, how much content are we talking about? Even rough numbers around the number of content types, pieces of individual content, etc. is super helpful.

If you’re looking for the new site to contain a lot of new content (or reworked content), do you plan to create this or do you expect the website agency to take on this challenge? Being upfront about expectations around content migration and production can save everyone surprises when it comes to change orders and scope management down the line.

Outline any CMS (Content Management System) preferences.

Is your current website built on a CMS (content management system)? If so, how do you feel about it? Do you have preferences on what CMS should be used in the new world? Does your team have familiarity and experience working with your preferred CMS? These are all excellent things to share in your RFP.

List any additional needed functionality.

It’s great to be specific and explicit about any third-party software or systems that you know your website will need to integrate with, whether that’s sending forms to a CRM (customer relationship manager, such as Salesforce, Hubspot, Pardot) or pulling data from a proprietary API endpoint.

Some additional tips …

Is there anything you specifically want to know about the agencies you’re inviting to submit? Don’t be afraid to include a list! Not only does it ensure you get the information you need, you’ll also see how well they follow instructions, and whether or not you’re just receiving a boilerplate PDF.

Don’t forget timeline and budget.

If you don’t include them, they’ll be the first questions you receive back. The timeline should include a deadline date for proposals, as well as a schedule for follow-up interviews, final decision, desired kickoff timing, and the drop dead launch date.

Include evaluation criteria and submission instructions.

I always appreciate visibility into how decision makers plan to evaluate the submitted proposals/firms.

And of course, be sure to specify the recipient’s name, position and email address.

And lastly …

Now that you’ve got that RFP shiny and ready, don’t forget to send it on over to [email protected]. 😉