How to Write a Successful Website Design RFP

  • Best Practices
  • Design
  • Working With Plank

The prospect of creating a request for proposal (RFP) for your web design project can be pretty daunting. But it doesn’t have to be! As a web design agency, we have been exposed to hundreds if not thousands of RFPs in our day. As a result, we have developed a good sense of what makes a good RFP and what could use some improvement when it comes to effectively communicating your project and goals to a potential bidder.

What to Consider Before Writing an RFP

The more straightforward and clear your RFP is, the more likely you are to find a web design agency that can bring your vision to life in a way that resonates with your audience and drives your desired outcomes.

Having seen countless RFPs over the years, we’ve come across one-pagers and 60-pagers. This is dependent on the extent of your project, how much project discovery you have completely internally, and how much you’d like to disclose to potential web partners.

While it may seem beneficial to lay out all the information up front, this can be counterproductive! The key is to leave room for solution-oriented discussion and collaboration during the preliminary discovery phase with your selected partner, while providing enough information in the RFP for those bidding on your project to:

  • Provide an accurate budget and timeline
  • Define the scope of work
  • Provide work examples and experience that are relevant to your project
  • Provide a high-level project plan and approach
  • Identify core team members with the expertise to carry out your project
  • Provide preliminary solutions and ideas based on identified needs and goals

How to Layout Your RFP

While this layout may not work for everyone, this is a common layout that we see from arts & culture organizations. Additionally, it is one that works really well for agencies like ours to prepare a proposal that is fully tailored to your project.

It gives a good overview of your organization, your project goals, objectives, and expectations, and the end user who will benefit from the new website. It also provides enough information for agencies to identify if they have the expertise and resources to carry out your project from the get-go.

Here are the main things to include in your RFP layout:

  • Introduction/Executive Summary
  • Table of Contents
  • Organizational Overview
  • Current Site Overview
  • Primary Objective & KPIs
  • Features & Functional Requirements
  • Website Examples & Inspiration
  • Additional Considerations (if applicable)
  • Scope of Work & Deliverables
  • Proposal Submission

Introduction/Executive Summary

While not always necessary, this section is a great way to filter out agencies that aren’t the right fit for your organization or project. By summarizing the information outlined throughout your RFP in up to two pages at the beginning, an agency will typically be able to identify if they have the necessary expertise, resources, and capabilities to carry out your project. If so, they will dive deeper into each section of the RFP, saving time and resources for both your team and potential web partners.

This section typically includes any or all of the following:

  • Short description of your organization
  • Purpose of the RFP and the project’s strategic importance
  • Short overview of what you’re looking for in a web partner
  • Short description of any research or internal work that will help guide the project
  • High-level summary of the project’s goals, how it fits into the broader strategy and goals, and how it aligns with goals to further the organization’s mission
  • Overview of the budget, timeline, and scope

Table of Contents

When preparing a proposal or determining if a team is a good fit for your project, there are a number of people from different disciplines who will look at the information you’ve provided. For instance, developers might want to dive deeper into the more technical features and functionality requirements, designers may want to spend extra time exploring the website examples, and project managers and business strategists will review everything more rigorously. For longer RFPs, a table of contents will allow different readers to navigate through the RFP more efficiently and effectively.

Organizational Overview

It is always recommended to provide an overview of your organization. Make sure to include its history, mission, vision, identity, programs and services, and position within the local and broader community. You want to connect with web partners who have experience within your industry and this background information certainly helps.

An overview also paints a clearer picture of your organization’s needs, both in the present and future tense. When reading proposals from potential partners, you want to see that the teams really understand your organization, audience, and goals, as well as the needs and ideal web journeys of your users.

What you include in this section is completely up to you. It depends most on what you think is most important to share at this stage of the process. Some organizations may provide more detail about their audience, programs and services, or brand, while others may choose to explore this during Discovery.

If you’re unsure of what to add, here is some content you might choose to include in an organizational overview:

  • A detailed explanation of the organization’s mission and vision, emphasizing the impact of its work and its importance within the community or sector
  • A history of the organization, key achievements, and milestones to give potential vendors context about its evolution and current standing
  • An explanation of the programs, services, and work you do
  • Current challenges faced by the organization that should be addressed by the new website, as well as opportunities the project could unlock
  • Any information about brand identity and/or guidelines
  • Description of the organization’s target audience and the community it serves
  • User personas (if applicable)
    • Detailed profiles of the primary user personas, including demographic information, interests, and behaviours
    • User scenarios that describe how different personas interact with the site
    • Challenges and pain points each persona faces with the current site
  • An introduction to the internal stakeholders for this project
  • Any additional information about your organization or team that will help guide the project and proposal responses

Current Site Overview

This section is where you describe the current website’s structure, its limitations, and the desired improvements. This insight helps project managers and developers reading through the RFP to understand your current technical setup and scope out the project more accurately.

  • An assessment of the current website, including its strength and weaknesses
  • Technical specifications of the current site, such as the CMS, hosting details, and integrations with third-party services (Tessitura, Spektrix, Salesforce, etc.)
  • Specific limitations that hinder the organization’s digital objectives

Primary Objectives & KPIs

In order to choose the right web partner for your team, it is important to select one that can carry out your project within your budget and timeline, and that has the expertise to do so. However, you should also consider one that clearly understands the goals and objectives that will guide and simplify decision-making during the course of your project.

By taking the time to think about these upfront with your stakeholders and sharing them in your RFP, you can expect more thorough proposal submissions and a smooth kickoff to the Project Discovery phase with your selected partner. This typically includes:

  • Clear objectives for the new website, aligned with the organization’s overall goals
  • Specific key results or performance indicators that will measure the success of the project
  • Prioritization of objectives to guide the proposal responses
  • Distinguishing any secondary objectives or “nice-to-haves”

Here are some examples of how you may present these in your RFP:

  • Generate increased revenue from ticket sales and donations
    • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
      • Increase single ticket conversions (i.e. Tessitura transactions)
      • Decrease cart abandonment
      • Increase online donations among existing donor pool
      • Acquire new donors through easier and more visible online contribution
      • Increase number of tickets per order
      • Increase conversion rates among buyers outside the local community
      • Decrease steps to purchase
      • Decrease staff time for web-related customer service calls
  • Make it easier to find and register for classes
    • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
      • Increase class registration conversions
      • Decrease bounce rate for top landing pages
      • Decrease steps to purchase
      • Decrease staff time for web-related customer service calls
  • Increase engagement with site content
    • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
      • Increase video views
      • Increase downloads of content hosted on the site
      • Increase clicks and scrolls on media galleries or photos
      • Increase scroll-depth on long-scroll pages
      • Increase views of program content
      • Decrease steps to access content
  • Make it easier to maintain the site and update content efficiently
    • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
      • Decrease staff time spent on adding new programming and making updates to the site
      • Increase the number of content managers with access to relevant parts of the site, while maintaining a system of visual and content standards

Features & Functional Requirements

This section is crucial to the RFP, as it details the specific features and functionalities you require for the new website. It should cover everything from core integrations with systems like ticketing platforms, to requirements for various page templates.

When presented and explained thoroughly, a web design agency or team will be able to scope out your project with more accuracy and develop a thorough project plan within the allotted time and resources. While a lot of these elements will be discussed in Discovery to determine the best strategies and solution, it will help you feel more confident when selecting your web partner. This section should include:

  • A comprehensive list of required features, categorized by importance or phase
  • Technical requirements, including preferred or required technologies and integrations
  • Specific design and usability considerations to enhance the user experience, including brand guidelines, accessibility standards and any particular user experience principles to follow

Website Examples & Inspiration

While we don’t always see this section in the RFPs we receive, it can provide a lot of valuable information to help guide the project and the proposal itself. This can be a great opportunity to share examples of websites that inspire you, both within and outside your sector. You can also explain what aspects should be emulated or avoided, whether it be the design, layout, or even functionality. The more information you can provide about the examples you share, the better. This typically includes:

  • Website examples that embody the desired design and functionality
  • Key elements of inspiration from each example, such as layout, navigation, or specific features
  • Any elements that you don’t particularly feel are relevant to the goals and priorities of your new website
  • Aspirational goals for the project inspired by these examples, including any innovative features or approaches to consider

Proposal Submission

This part of the RFP helps guide bidding teams in preparing their proposals to ensure that you are getting the information you need to evaluate and select the right partner. Because each and every organization has different priorities when selecting a web partner, it’s important to share what you’re expecting to see in their proposal and how they will be evaluated in order to really get a sense of what working together might look like. You should also be providing any dates, information, and guidelines about the RFP process.

Being upfront about this ensures that you receive the tailored responses that you want to see, making it easier to compare potential partners based on your selection criteria. This is typically broken down into the following sections, but can be presented in any way that best suits your needs.

Scope of Work & Deliverables

This is where you define the specific tasks, objectives, and outcomes expected from the project. This clarity ensures potential vendors understand exactly what is required, helping them to accurately propose solutions, timelines, and budgets that align with your needs and expectations. This will facilitate a smooth project execution by setting clear guidelines and benchmarks for both parties. Here’s what you might consider including in this section:

  • Detailed description of the project scope, including specific tasks like redesigning key pages, integrating systems (e.g., ticketing, CRM), and any post-launch support
  • Clarifying the expected deliverables at each stage of the project and any critical review points
  • Identifying any items that are outside of scope of this project, being handled by another party, or that should be considered for future phases

Budget & Timeline

By providing detailed and clear information regarding the allocated budget and desired timeline, you will naturally facilitate a more efficient RFP process, attracting proposals that are closely aligned with your needs and constraints. Here’s what to include in this section to make it comprehensive:

  • Clearly state the total budget or budget range allocated for the project
  • Indicate if there is any flexibility in the budget or if specific portions of the project can be adjusted based on cost
  • Project milestones and deadlines including proposal submission deadline, project dates, and any other relevant dates for proposal selection process
  • Known factors or dates that could impact project timeline (e.g., organizational events, availability of key personnel for reviews)

Submission Guidelines

At this point, it’s imperative to detail what you expect in the proposals, such as detailed cost breakdowns, team bios, previous project examples, and how they plan to approach your project. This ensures you receive tailored responses that are easy to compare. This includes:

  • Instructions for submitting proposals, including format, length, and content requirements
  • Information vendors should include about their team, experience, and past projects
  • Expectations for project timelines, budget estimates, and workflow/approach
  • Any additional information that bidders should emphasize in the proposal or elaborate on in more detail

Selection Process & Criteria

Describe the process and criteria for evaluating proposals. This helps ensure that vendors understand how best to meet your needs and what factors will influence your decision-making.

  • The selection process timeline, including dates for interviews, presentations, and final selection
  • Any requirements for post-selection, such as contract negotiations or kickoff meetings
  • Proposal evaluation criteria such as technical capabilities, creative approach, and budget considerations (can be a grading rubric or bullet-point list)

Contact Information

End your RFP with an invitation for questions and be sure to provide clear contact information. This open line of communication is vital for clarifying any uncertainties and fostering a collaborative relationship from the start.

  • Contact details for the primary point of contact for the RFP process
  • Information on how and when to submit questions or requests for clarification
  • Any guidelines for communication during the RFP process

Final Notes

Incorporating these considerations into each section of the RFP will provide potential vendors with a clear understanding of the project, the organization’s needs, and expectations. This approach helps attract proposals that are closely aligned with the organization’s goals and facilitates a smoother selection process.

Of course, just like every project is unique, no two RFPs will look the same. You may have additional insight to share in yours and you may not have all of the information or resources to address each section that we’ve listed. This is simply a starting point for those thinking about embarking on a website redesign project and who may not know where to start.