How to write a website design RFP that saves time and gets better results

web design team meeting
If you’re considering a web design project, you may have heard that you need a Request for Proposals (RFP). Or, you may have heard that RFPs are painfully inefficient and to be avoided at all costs. As is so often the case, we think the wise answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Take a strategic approach to website design RFPs

Whether or not your organization requires you to use RFPs for vendor selection, a strategic approach saves time and delivers better results.

Here’s how to write a website RFP that fits the old model ...

Instead of clarifying needs and requirements, traditional website RFPs tend to devolve into a frustrating mess.
  • Project managers may not know what to ask for, or how to define the best solution to their problem.
  • Responding agencies may make incorrect assumptions about your needs.
  • Unless you’re a digital and design expert yourself, you just don’t know what you don’t know.
  • Multiple rounds of discovery calls, questions, interviews, project scoping, and estimating mount up. 
Traditional RFPs often get in the way of successful project completion. In the end, you wind up comparing apples to oranges and taking a shot in the dark.

... and, how to write a strategic website project outline that actually gets the job done.

You don’t have to do this the hard way. In 2019, savvy companies will increasingly phase out traditional website design RFPs in favor of cleaner, more effective up-front strategic plans. Wondering how to write a website RFP for today’s technology environment? Our easy-yet-effective approach helps you save time, connect to the right vendor sooner, and get better results than you dreamed possible.

1. Define your website goals

First, take the time to audit your current approach. If you have a website, or are looking to replace or combine existing sites, a quick big picture audit can save you countless hours in the long run, and will also make your website design RFP far more effective.

In your audit, be sure to consider:
  • What works? What doesn’t?
  • What problems do you see with your current website and online tools?
  • What business goals would you like for your website to meet?
  • Is your existing website content correct? 
  • Is your website communicating effectively with your target audiences?
  • Do you have SEO in place?
  • What would success look like?

2. Define your scope

Unlike traditional website design RFPs, strategic website project outlines define problems and ask for solutions. Think of the process like going to the doctor. You wouldn’t make an appointment and show up with a surgical plan—you’d tell the expert what hurts and ask for the best treatment. When it comes to your website design RFP, you’ll get better results if you explain your problems and goals, and then ask for their expert advice.

Give vendors as much information as you can to help them define appropriate estimates. In addition to your audit results, be sure to include answers to commonly asked questions such as:
  • Are you looking for a complete design/redesign, or only targeting part of your website in this project?
  • How much strategic direction do you need? That is, do you already have branding, a marketing strategy, and a content strategy in place? Have you built marketing or website personas? 
  • What is your budget range? How will a budget be approved?
  • What is your timeline range? Is the deadline set in stone, or flexible?
  • How would you prioritize needs and goals? Which design problems or functionality issues MUST be solved, and which would be nice to have if time and budget allow?
“TBH Creative showed an honesty and a willingness to challenge our thinking. They made sure we were focused on delivering relevancy and value to our patients while working through the business and stakeholder sensitivities that impact any web project. They knew the right questions to ask before they even started.”

Bill Citro, OrthoNebraska

3. Test for expertise

Before you select a vendor to redesign your website, be sure that the agency’s capabilities translate well to the size, style, type, and functionality of what you envision for your website.
  • Collect examples of websites you like and why, and compare that list to vendor samples of work.
  • Assess each vendor’s portfolio; get examples of the work they do and how that might be in line with what you need. 
  • Consider the agency’s experience—not only with website projects in your industry, but, more importantly, with websites that have similar styles and complexity to your goal site.
  • Does the agency have the expertise to deliver any custom design elements, functionality, and tools you’re considering?

4. Assess compatibility

When you think about how to write a website RFP that leads you to the right vendor, do process and personality come to mind? They should. Choosing the right web design or digital marketing agency isn’t only about price and capability—it’s also about compatibility.

How can you encourage the right companies to respond to your website design RFP? Ask for insight into their processes, and give them a sense of your organizational culture.
  • Ask for bios of the team the vendor will assign to your project.
  • Talk about your team, how you work, and your approval process.
  • Ask for details about the vendor’s project management and processes.
  • Get testimonials. Be sure to review what past clients and others have said about any vendor you consider. Check their website, but also do a reputation search online.
“TBH Creative is incredibly organized and strategic minded. I truly enjoyed the entire process from start to finish. Everyone we worked with at TBH was friendly, organized and resourceful. I have worked with a lot of web vendors over the years and no one compares to TBH.”
Kasey Prickel, OrthoIndy

5. Ask for a strategy

When you’re taking a strategic approach, it’s reasonable to expect responding vendors to do the same. Given your detailed description of your project and goals, open the floor for agency teams to make suggestions.
  • How would this agency approach your project?
  • What solutions would the vendor suggest? 
  • Do their capabilities match your needs? 
  • Can their work fit within your desired budget and time parameters?

6. Trust your instincts

After you’ve created your strategic website project outline and heard from qualified vendors, how do you make the right selection? In web design as in life, what works on paper doesn’t always turn out to be the best fit. Of course you need to see positive references and good examples of work. But a guide describing how to write a website RFP can only take you so far. In the end you have to trust your instincts.
  • Which agency impressed you with thoughtful answers to tough questions?
  • Which team felt like the best fit with your style and business personality?
  • Who do you think can do the job best?
  • Can you envision this agency as a long-term strategic partner?
  • Does this vendor seem to get your company’s needs and goals?
  • When you think about working with this agency, do you feel excited about the possibilities and positive about future outcomes?
Once you define your strategic project outline and find the best fit, trust your agency. You’ve worked hard to earn the right to relax and let your website project team bring their expertise to your well-defined plan. You’ve hired the experts, and you’re on your way to a successful website.

If you’re wondering how to write a website RFP that gets results, you’ll find that a strategic approach shortens your selection timeframe and helps position your project for success. TBH Creative specializes in sophisticated custom solutions that integrate enterprise-level websites with high-impact digital marketing.

Wondering if TBH Creative might be a good answer to your website design RFP?
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Tatum

About the author | Tatum Hindman

Tatum is the president of TBH Creative and is responsible for building long-term client relationships. She enjoys the strategy behind web design and collaborating with clients to define and execute online marketing goals. She likes to blog about hot topics in web design and digital marketing, as well as share tips for strengthening your online presence.

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