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How to Write a Request for Proposal (RFP)

This article outlines the typical components of an RFP for a web design project.

Last updated: August 5, 2014

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document commonly written by a company seeking bids from potential vendors for a project. As with any complex project, a website design project requires clear communication between the client and web developer in order for the client to receive accurate bids. The RFP serves as a baseline of project requirements on which competing vendors may price their services.

This article outlines the typical components of an RFP for a web design project. Although more information can be added to the document, the components below represent a basic set of information that the developer will need in order to make an appropriate proposal for the project.

The RFP Writing Process

If you were going to build a house, you wouldn't go to a construction company and demand, "Build me a house, and tell me what that's going to cost", would you? Of course not! You would first have to tell the construction company how much you were willing to spend, where you are going to put the building, how big your plot is, what style of building you want, how you envision expansion in the future, and so on. You would need to start with a blueprint before any building begins.

Approaching a web development project is a similar process. In order to build a successful site, both client and developer must first start with a solid understanding of the client's goals for the site. In other words, a blueprint — the RFP — must first be developed.

An ideal RFP would clearly specify all the requirements pertaining to your website. It would allow the developer to present you with a proposal based your particular needs and, needless to say, the more details your RFP contains, the more accurate a proposal the developer is able to present.

The Following Components Should Be Included in an RFP

Project Scope

  • A brief background of your company.
  • A brief description of the project.
  • Budget — what is the anticipated budget, or budgetary range constraints, for the project. It's very helpful to include a detailed budget which developers can use to scope and scale your solution. Providing budgetary constraints in your RFP will save you, and your responder, time.
  • Time frame — include any project deadlines you may have. Are there crucial meetings, milestones, cut-off dates, etc. that the developer should be aware of? Be realistic with a time frame. It's also good to anticipate and state how flexible you are with the project's completion date.

Target Audience

  • User demographics — who will be the main users of your site? Mobile users? Desktop users?
  • User comfort level with technology — how technically savvy is your audience? Will they know how to deal with plug-ins, for example?
  • Will users have high-speed connections, or will many be subject to limited bandwidth connections?
  • Audience base — how large do you expect your user base to be?

Design Requirements

  • Will the layout be fixed-width and static or responsive?
  • Are there any color palette and font treatment requirements or preferences?
  • Do you have existing corporate identity guidelines that must be followed? If so, how will the developer be able to access these?
  • How should the site "feel"? Include some adjectives to describe what your site should communicate.
  • Provide examples of sites you liked or disliked, and why.
  • Will there be any animated or video elements (i.e. Flash or HTML Hypertext Markup Language5)? How many? How are they going to be used?

Technical and Infrastructure Requirements

  • ISP/hosting considerations (Are you self-hosted? Do you have administrative access to the webserver and databases? Describe hosting facilities, operating system, webserver, and/or ISP Internet Service Provider hosting package. Do you have any administrative needs to be outsourced?)
  • Browser/platform considerations (please include browser versions), PC Personal Computer, Mac, UNIX Universal Network Information Exchange-based users/clients), iOS, Android, Windows Phone
  • Development platform requirements (e.g. Dreamweaver, WordPress, Visual Studio.)
  • Web application development framework (e.g. ASP Active Server Pages.NET, PHP Hypertext Preprocessor , ColdFusion, JSP JavaServer Pages, Rails, etc.)
  • Code repository/version control requirements (e.g. GIThub, Subversion, Visual Source Safe)
  • Front-end, responsive design framework preference or requirement (e.g. Twitter Bootstrap, Zurb Foundation)

Functionality/programming Requirements

  • Will there be forms on the site? If so, how many? How should they be handled? (e.g. e-mailed to recipients, stored in a database, etc.)
  • Will the site require tools to manage content/information (e.g. ability for staff to add content such as press releases or quarterly reports)?
  • Will there be any e-commerce on the site? If so, who will be entering data on products offered? How will transactions be managed?
  • Are there any other interactive features the site should have? What are they, and how do you envision them to work?

HTML Production Requirements

Search Engine Optimization

  • Describe any currently defined search engine friendly production requirements and expectations
  • Indicate if you are seeking SEO Search Engine Optimization/ SEM Search Engine Marketing consultation services

Ongoing Site Maintenance Plans

Project Management

  • Who will be the main point of contact on your staff?
  • How will the tasks be divided between you and the developer in order to complete the project?
  • Are there any third parties (subcontractors, etc.) that will also be involved in the project?

RFP Response Deadline and Contact Information

  • When is the response to the RFP due?
  • To whom should the response be sent?

Additional Tips

  1. For all items listed above, be sure to clearly indicate if you must have any item(s) bid as an optional aspect of the project. Keep in mind possible dependencies between project aspect/components that may make this impractical.
  2. Before writing your RFP, determine your budget for the project and, beyond that, your priorities for selecting a Developer who can meet your budgetary requirements.

Writing an RFP is a good exercise for anyone thinking about a site design or redesign as it takes thoughtful planning to specify and construct a website. A well thought out, quality RFP is essential to a successful endeavor because it helps you to focus on your goals and exactly how to achieve them.

Need Help with Writing an RFP?

Check out Collaborint's Technical Consulting Services and let us assist you with your project planning.

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