What is an RFP?

A Request For Proposals or RFP, is written by a company looking to engage the services of an agency to produce a specific product, in this case, a website. Whether it’s a redesign of your current site, or a brand new digital space, the goal remains the same: to provide a formal structure with which to choose a service provider.

A good RFP clearly communicates the needs of the company and its functional requirements. It also calls for essential information to aid in the decision making process.

You want more than just a quote. Replies to a well-written RFP should help you determine if the responding agencies:

  • Will work within your budget and timeframe
  • Will attend to your needs
  • Can communicate properly
  • Are adequately staffed
  • Have relevant experience
  • Thoroughly understand the project

How Do I Write it?

Your RFP should be written in two sections. Section one provides information about your company and the project. Be specific! The more information you provide to prospective vendors, the better they will gain an understanding of the project and ultimately deliver a great product.

Start out with a general background of your company. What do you do? Who is your audience and what are their needs? Identify the members of your team who will be working on the project.

Lay out your budget. What would you like to spend on the project? Bidders will scale their proposals according to your resources.

Next, go into the project itself. Is this a redesign/update of your company’s current site or a brand new website? Is it static or will you require a CMS to make updates to it? What problems will the proposed site solve for your organization? What are your goals?

Address functionality. What are the essential components to your new website? Will you need ecommerce? A newsletter signup? Event Registration? Think about your “must haves” and list them out. The agency you choose should have a clear plan to address all of your needs.

You may also wish to add non-essential components. These are things that you would like to see on the site, but aren’t deal breakers. Do you have databases to be imported or existing eCommerce systems that need to be connected to? Do you have a preference regarding hosting or format (UNIX, Apache, etc…)?

How would you like the site to look? Give a general idea of what the feel of your company is so that designers can design appropriately. Remember that this document will be used not only for proposals, but as a guideline once the project gets underway,

Provide a detailed sitemap! You will receive a much more accurate quote if firms know exactly how big your site will be and how many pages you want.

Finally, provide a timeline for the RFP process. Give details from release date and proposals due date to awarding of contract and desired site launch date. This allows agencies to determine whether or not they have the resources to meet your deadline.

Section two provides a structure for agencies to respond. Here, you can tell them exactly what you want to know.

Start out by asking for background information. How long have they been in business? What are their specialties? What kind of clients do they work with?

Then, ask about the development process. Get a description of the process they follow when creating websites. This should include milestones, testing, and technologies used.

You’ll want to know what method they use to communicate with clients and with what frequency. How do they keep to a schedule?

Next, ask them to break down their budget. What will the website cost in terms of production hours and tools required? Will they provide post-launch support and how much does that cost? Do they have a preferred hosting environment and email provider? Does the price include training for your staff on how to use the website? A user manual? A style guide? What kinds of miscellaneous fees can you expect?

You’ll want to know about relevant experience. What qualifies them to work on your project? Have they done similar work for other clients? Ask for examples.

Agencies should be required to submit references, which you will call and verify.

Meet the team. Request background information on all members of the agency team who will be working on the project. What are their specific qualifications?


A basic outline for your RFP should look something like this:

Section One: The Project

  1. Company Background
  2. Audience
  3. Our Team
  4. Budget
  5. The Project
      1. Goals of the Website
      2. Functionality
      3. Look and Feel
      4. Sitemap
  6. Timeline
  7. Terms
      1. Submission Methods
      2. Due Date
      3. Format
      4. Disclosure

Section Two: Proposal Outline

  1. Background
  2. Process
  3. Communication
  4. Budget
  5. Relevant Experience
  6. References
  7. Team Bios

Don’t Rush It

Take your time in developing the RFP. It’s a process in which you can clearly define the project and what you wish to accomplish with it. Think about what you really need and then create a process that allows the most creative and effective agencies to rise to the occasion. Choose a partner that can showcase what you do best by combining their online experience with your company’s expertise.


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