Have you been assigned the task to create a website RFP, but you have no clue what that is? RFP or Request for Proposal is a document designed to send to various vendors so they can prepare a proposal in exchange.
Simply put, this file covers your company's need or request for a service that you send to various vendors, and they send it back with their rates and proposed solutions. Since we are talking about website RFP, this document is sent to website vendors, and when received back, it helps create a comparison between various service providers. While it covers some essential questions for suppliers, this file also contains some technical information, scope and background of your organization.
Creating a website RFP may sound simple, but it isn't. There are many misconceptions and confusions surrounding it, including what to include and what not.
We have curated this guide for you to help you sort out this problem. So, dig in to explore all the nitty-gritty details on a website RFP and create a perfect one today.
What Is a Website RFP?
Suppose you want a service for your company, but you don't know which vendor to choose and get the job done. In that case, you will prepare an RFP or a request for proposal and send it out to different vendors in your list.
This document should contain all the essential information on the project, including the scope, pricing and a request to the vendors to come up with a suitable bid. Once you receive the replies from different service providers, you can compare their offers before choosing the package that suits you the best.
An RFP is a beneficial document, especially when dealing with new and large projects. For instance, it helps you evaluate various vendors' good and bad points and saves you a lot of possible time that you might spend while searching for a supplier.
Additionally, RFPs can help you explore different strategies for your project that you might have never considered before. Since each vendor might come with their individual plans, you can have enough strategies on the table before selecting the final one.
When discussing a website RFP specifically, there are many things to consider. Website development or improvement is a massive project and investment. A website helps create brand awareness and simultaneously drives sales and growth. So, you can't take this project lightly, and thankfully, a website RFP can help you connect with the perfect vendors that excel at website building.
Brief Introduction to a Website RFP
Like any other RFP, a website RFP is not different except that it helps your business evaluate different website service providers. The document contains questionnaires that help vendors explore your project's objective and, at the same time, allow them to curate their bidding plan as well.
Additionally, a website RFP enables your company or organization to make a decision on various data selected. Also, interestingly, it gives both new and experienced website vendors a chance to earn a new potential client. To put it simply, this document can not only help you tackle your project with discipline, but also raises opportunities for vendors who might be ready to offer you their services.
The Decision to Issue a Website RFP
To issue a website RFP or not, that's the question. Here are two scenarios for you to clear this confusion.
If your business has enough labour, time and other resources, do the search and find a vendor on your own.
But if that isn't possible, curate a powerful website RFP and let the vendors connect to you without you looking for them.
If you go for the first option, know that you will have to do lots of searches and probably use Google to find a vendor that can offer your required services. Additionally, you will have to shortlist a few and then ask them to create a strategy according to your requirements.
However, you don't have to waste your time on any of that with an RFP. Instead, simply prepare a document covering all the essentials, and wait for the vendors to reply. And since you will have a data-driven record in your hand, it won't take time to evaluate different vendors.
The choice is yours, but you can already see how an RFP is quite convenient. That said, you might not find the need to issue a website RFP every time.
For instance, if you want a particular improvement in your website or an addition, you may find it unnecessary to design an RFP. However, if you're going to get a website from scratch with all its specifications and want it to be the best and according to certain specifications, an RFP can help you pick a vendor that meets your budget and design requirements.
Keep reading to explore some amazing benefits of a website RFP, so you know how important it is to create a perfect one.
Benefits of Issuing a Website RFP
If your non-profit organization or agency doesn't have a particular policy on creating a website RFP, you might struggle with analyzing whether you need to create one or not. In that case, weigh the benefits below against your resources and time limits to determine whether designing an RFP is a worthy decision.
This Document Helps Your Company Connect With a Vendor
We have already discussed how a website RFP can help your organization meet a vendor that meets all your needs. An RFP covers a broad exposure to your goals and the type of vendor you demand, and that helps to connect you with a service provider with the expertise and resources to meet your requirements.
An RFP Encourages Competitive Pricing
Website building is an expensive project. And so, you just can't always afford to partner with a vendor that offers you a high rate or a price that exceeds your budget. That won't benefit your company in any way.
One of the best things about a well-designed website RFP is that it is a genuinely competitive document. It encourages various service providers to communicate their best rates to win a client like you. Besides, even if you already know a few service providers, it is wise to issue this document to familiarize yourself with vendors offering better services at low costs.
An RFP Is a Transparent and Accountable Document
A website RFP is a transparent document, and that's why many companies prefer issuing one. It discourages favouritism and nepotism and gives every vendor a chance to provide their best offer. Besides, an RFP selects a vendor according to specific criteria, which many companies document in this file.
Simply put, an RFP ensures an unbiased and fair process, which builds a good image for your organization and encourages more vendors to participate.
RFPs Are Crucial for the Success of Your Business or a Specific Project
Interestingly, a website RFP can help you understand your own website goals in a better way. For instance, while drafting an RFP, you come across your own objects that you might not be very clear about. And so, when you know and understand these objectives, you are in a better position to find a vendor that can meet them.
Now that you know how beneficial a website RFP is, it is about time to explore the entire RFP process to create one successfully. The following parts of this guide will help you dig into the world of an RFP, and that too with all the tiny details.
The Website RFP Process
This document is a chance for you to explain your website project to vendors on behalf of your team. However, for it to be executed properly, make sure it is written by the head of the department, which is directly linked with the development and improvement of your website.
For instance, you won't ask your finance head to write an RFP. In fact, the best people to curate one are the content writers or site administrators in your organization. The person who handles RFP must be familiar with the entire project and should have a strong power of decision making.
What's more, a CEO might be requested to review this document but may not be the suitable individual to create one. So, whoever you ask to write an RFP, make sure that person is directly associated with the entire project. In this guide, let's suppose it is you who is in charge of this document.
Once the above issue is sorted, the fundamental steps taken during the RFP process are handled. This is a multi-step procedure, and each stage demands full attention.
There are four steps in an RFP process. However, you are free to implement some additional ones if that suits your organization.
Discovery and Planning
Creating an RFP starts with the input of various stakeholders; for instance, in the case of a website RFP, the involvement of sales, marketing, and IT specialists might be necessary. So, it is imperative to bring all these people together and allow them to discuss the scope of the project.
Here are a few things that you can discuss:
Benefits of a website
Timeframe of the project
These questions are essential because they can help establish priorities and scoring criteria when selecting a vendor. When in the planning meeting with the stakeholders, you can discuss some other queries as well. These may include:
Drafting and Issuing RFP
Once the above queries have been successfully tackled, it is time to create an RFP. It is one of the essential steps because a failure to draft a thorough and detailed RFP will fail your objective to get a professional and suitable website vendor.
While we will discuss the main things to include in your website RFP later in this guide, here is a summary of some significant components that your RFP must-have. These include:
Scope of the website
RFPs are questionnaires containing questions and requests for answers from vendors. These questions usually address topics such as customer success, IT requirements and data security. Here are a few questions that you can include in your RFP.
What approach do you use for project management?
Do you provide status updates, and how often?
What processes do you use to test and review a website?
Do you offer any website operational training to your clients?
Is there a list of your previous customers that we can connect with?
Do you provide any after-service support, and for how long?
Once you have created a detailed RFP, it is time to issue it. But to whom?
There are hundreds of website vendors that can provide you with their services, but you just can't issue an RFP to all of them. Therefore, it is crucial to narrow down your selection and choose vendors that meet the most points in your criteria.
Here is a helpful tip. Issue your RFP to a maximum of six to seven vendors only, and save yourself lots of time and energy while scoring and selecting the final vendor.
There are many factors that can help you shortlist these vendors. For instance, evaluate their location, industry, size and previous customer experiences to select the final six to seven vendors.
Once your final list of vendors is ready and shortlisted, email your RFP to them. Alternatively, if you use RFP software, you can invite these vendors to place a response to eRFP.
Score the Proposals Using Evaluation Criteria
Within a week of sending out your website RFP, you will start receiving proposals. Eliminate the responses that don't meet your criteria and use your scoring measures to evaluate those who do. It is best to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of vendors that look promising and then shortlist those that achieve high scores.
Your vendors may ask you a few questions mentioned in their responses. Make sure to answer them on a timely basis and receive a response again before the submission window closes.
Select and Start Working
Make sure you spend enough time during the selection process to avoid future regrets. For instance, reach out to any contacts or customers that these vendors might have worked with and evaluate the consistency of the responses with their clients' experiences. Additionally, if you are confused between two or three vendors, arrange a meeting with them to clear any doubts.
Once you have selected the final bidders, make sure to negotiate and lock the price with one website service provider. Then, send the winner your final contract, and simultaneously, communicate to the non-winners the reasons behind not choosing them.
What to Include In Your Website RFP-14 Essential Items
The above process may sound simple, but in reality, it can easily go against you if your RFP isn't well-curated. There are some essential items that your website RFP must-have, as, without them, you might not find suitable vendors, nor can you get the perfect responses.
So, if you don't want your drafting stage of the RFP process to go to waste, make sure to include all the items below in your final document.
This is the first component of your RFP, so make sure it is simple, easy-to-understand and pretty straightforward. There are different types of website RFP, each catering to a unique aspect of a website. For instance, there is an RFP for web development, web designing, and website support and maintenance.
Your RFP's purpose should reflect the services you require. So, for example, if you demand vendors for website development, make sure to mention this objective clearly in your document, ensuring that only the most suitable vendors bid for your project.
While mentioning the purpose, don't forget to highlight the reason behind creating this RFP briefly. Then, in a few lines, note why you require a website and how it can help you achieve your organization's goals.
Instead of writing paragraphs on the history of your company and its activities, simply summarize this section in a few lines, defining your organization's fundamental goals and objectives. However, don't take it lightly.
The vendors should have a clear idea of what your company does, so if they can't meet your requirements, they can refuse right away and save your time. Additionally, this information can help vendors plan a strategy that matches your values so they don't waste your time asking further irrelevant or unnecessary questions.
The Goals of the Project
Next, move on to explaining what you want to accomplish through this project. For instance, what are the few things you wish your vendor to provide; for instance, do you want to give your website a nice upgrade and an ability to achieve your goals?
While defining the goals, make sure to also highlight your audience. For example, who does this website serve, and what do you expect your vendor to do to make its operations smooth and reliable?
Make sure that all the above information is mentioned in clear words. It is imperative that both you and your vendors are on the same page.
The Scope of the Project
This section will cover more details of your entire project. Make sure you spend time on this section to avoid regrets later. In addition, avoid using vague language so that every vendor is clear about your objectives.
The scope of the work should contain all the services you demand from your service provider. For instance, if this RFP is for web redesigning, make sure you highlight the following services under this section.
Don't hesitate to write everything in detail. Because if you will not, your vendor may fail to provide you with that service, creating problems for you in the final stages of the project. If possible, highlight all the services needed in bold and bullet points for a good understanding.
Deliverables and Timeline
You might not be aware of how long this project might take, but make sure to mention a reasonable timeline on your RFP. You might have an ad campaign or another project coming up, so ensure that the deadline for this project is realistic yet perfect for you to manage everything together.
Since this is a website RFP, you should mention a timeline that meets your requirements and the general standards. For example, website development can take as long as eight weeks sometimes; however, in some cases, the vendor might complete the project in a month only. Please ensure that your schedule is entirely upfront so that the vendors can evaluate their resources before showing their interest in your project.
Any Technical Requirements
You might have some technical requirements for your website that may also affect the overall timelines of the project. For instance, a few e-commerce requirements include charging credit cards, shipping carts, and other retail conditions.
Moreover, there are often some rules on gift cards and discounts that you might want to incorporate on your website. Other technical requirements may include things such as mobile responsive design, accessibility, this-party software integrations, backend programming support and many other things.
If you have all these requirements for your project, make sure to communicate them clearly to the vendors to suggest the tools they might need. Of course, your vendor might disagree with you at the final rate because some technical requirements often cost more than expected. However, if the vendor is professional, do your negotiations and choose a price that suits both of you.
Point of Contact
If you are the one leading the entire project, make sure to share your details with the vendors. Similarly, if there are other team members involved, ensure to highlight their contact details as well, so the vendors can communicate when required.
You should also clarify how you expect this project to be managed. For instance, do you expect your web vendor to use specific tools like Basecamp to manage digital tasks? If yes, mention that clearly, so that the vendors who are not familiar can move away.
In addition, also emphasize the number of updates you might require from your vendor. For instance, you may want to have weekly meetings with the service provider and arrange an appointment after two weeks for feedback. Moreover, you may also want to work with your vendor in a collaborative approach rather than simply a hands-on one.
This information is vital in setting a perfect tone from the start of the day. This way, your vendors would know what working approach you expect from them and whether they can offer you that or not.
You don't have to quote the exact price of the project; even a guess would do. However, make sure that the estimate you mention should reflect a realistic cost and covers all the requirements above.
Another important thing, make sure to mention the budget for additional assets such as illustrations, photography, and software licenses separately. While these costs are not very substantial, they add up to the final estimation.
This section is quite important, and here's why. If you are not clear about your estimations, you might receive proposals that might be way out of your budget, and this would waste your time. You may have to reject many suitable vendors only on this basis.
So, it is essential to mention a price so that the vendors can use their resources in the best possible way to compete with others and provide you with services you require within your price limitations. Moreover, most agencies will help you prioritize essential tasks that easily fall within your budget and exclude those features that don't need much attention.
If this is your first time leading and managing a website project, you might require the ongoing support of the vendor for some time. And so, it is imperative to make them clear in your RFP.
A website is an ongoing project that requires systematic development and maintenance. Launching a website is just the first step, and there are so many things, such as fixing bugs and incorporating additional features that you might not know how to handle. So, for that purpose, ensure to sign a retainer agreement with your vendor to offer you support for continuous development, training and SEO.
If a vendor disagrees with offering you these after-services, know that they might not prove helpful for you. Instead, you need to have a web vendor on board that promises to work as a long-term partner, fixing all the issues that the final product may face.
This is another crucial thing you might want to mention in your RFP. Of course, the success of your website depends on the acceptance of its content and the number of visitors, but how will you measure these analytics?
If you have a solid technical team, you might manage it independently. However, if that's not the case, the intervention of your web developer is imperative. Highlight this requirement in your RFP, explaining the involvement of the web partner in managing and reporting the website progress for a certain period.
Examples of Websites
There might be many websites that you admire and want your organization's one to be similar. If yes, include the list in your RFP, so the vendors know what exactly you want. On the other hand, you might adore the entire website or specific features; in either case, communicate your preferences from your industry and make the process easy for you and your potential website partners.
These examples are readily available on Google and other search engines, so you won't struggle to find them. Make sure to write a description below each example and clarify what things you like and what you don't.
Any Possible Roadblocks
It is always wise to highlight the accurate picture of your company so that the vendors have a clear idea about what they are getting into. For instance, if you have limited team members or an outdated platform, make sure to mention all your weaknesses in the RFP, and don't hide them under the rug.
These problems will help you eliminate the vendors who might not be able to handle the project, making it convenient for you to shortlist. Alternatively, this information will help you connect with agencies capable enough to address these problems. Finally, being clear about your limitations will save you from any roadblocks or hindrances in the latter parts of the project.
Your Criteria for Vendor Selection
What qualities are you looking for in a vendor? For instance, is it low-cost services, good quality, timely updates or proper after-service support? Highlighting your expectations from the vendor in your RFP can help you eliminate unsuitable contractors quite easily.
For instance, if you expect a vendor to deliver your project within a specific time frame, and if a contractor can't, they will eventually not waste their time curating a proposal for you. On the other hand, you can also spare yourself from the task of reviewing a response that might not work out in the end.
Under this section, highlight all the qualities that you expect your vendor to possess. Again, mention everything in bold, so anyone who doesn't fall under the criteria doesn't bother to bid.
Format of the Proposal
Do you expect to receive the proposal in a specific format, PDF or MS Word? Plus, should it be signed or be available in a hard copy? Make sure to mention the structure of the proposal in detail so that every vendor follows it properly.
While highlighting the above-required information, don't forget to mention the final submission date for the proposal. Additionally, request the contact data you require from the vendor, such as the name, address, title, and brief bios of the team members working in the agency.
You need these 14 essential items in your RFP to make it a perfect one. Please note that this list isn't exhaustive, and you can add many things on your own. However, make sure that all components are relevant to your project.
What Not to Include In Your RFP
Here are a few things that are pretty unnecessary for your RFP. Moreover, they might not be useful to help you choose a suitable vendor.
Statements that Demand Responses
Many people prefer writing statements instead of questions and accepting responses from the vendor. Unfortunately, a statement will probably attract a yes or no answer only, which isn't enough for your evaluation.
Here is an example.
"We require a vendor to create our website from scratch and implement all advanced features according to our company's objectives."
For the above request, the reply will probably be:
"Yes, we can do that."
However, that's not a strong reply. To avoid that, make sure to ask your vendors questions instead, so they can come up with a detailed response. For example,
"How will you create our website from scratch, ensuring that all the features are implemented according to our company's objectives?"
The reply to this question will be detailed and helpful for your selection process. The vendor will share the entire process, which you can agree or disagree with.
Listing Several Questions Together
Most RFPs cover several questions together, creating confusion for the vendors. Here is an example.
"How will you ensure the smooth performance of our website, and will you offer any after-work services? Besides, how many team members will you recruit for our project?"
Such a format can easily lead to losing track of answers, and the questions that require a quick reply may not get answered. So instead of saving time, make sure to present each query separately. Besides, don't use rushed language for your questions; otherwise, you will get a reply in a similar tone, which might not be very helpful.
Spreading RFP Sections Across Different Documents
If you want your RFP document to be precise and easy to read, avoid spreading different sections and questions across varying records.
Here is an example that you should avoid :
Provide a Response to
Questions 1 – 8 in Appendix G – Website Quality Assurance
Questions 9-13 in Attachment B
Questions 13-20 in PDF
If you want to make your review convenient and, at the same time, offer the supplier an easy way to answer all questions, make sure to use a single document for your RFP. Don't attach any attachments or PDFs with additional sections. This approach will be pretty helpful while dealing with a long website RFP.
We have finally come to the end of this guide, and here's hoping that you are now ready and confident enough to create your first website RFP. Remember that this document holds a lot of importance, especially if you are dealing with a new or complicated project. So, instead of taking it lightly, put in all the efforts and time required to make it perfect.
Moreover, include the 14 essential items mentioned above, and ensure that each section covers all the necessary details. A well-curated RFP can connect you with a suitable website vendor in a short time, provided it highlights your project's and your company's objectives quite clearly.