So you've decided (or someone has decided for you) that your organization needs a new website. Where do you start? How do you put all the puzzle pieces in place in order to prepare for such an enormous undertaking? You start by drafting a project charter that identifies the stakeholders, who plays what roles in the project, and what your goals and success criteria are (your business requirements). But before you can kick off the redesign, you need to select the website design and build partner who will walk with you every step of the way. This is an enormous decision, the outcome of which will make your next year or so a blast of discovery and exciting work, or a dirgelike misery that will make you wish you were doing literally anything else with your time.
So...how do you craft an RFP that helps both you and redesign agencies understand what is needed and sets shared expectations for the project? I've issued a lot of RFPs over the years, for large website redesigns and small ones. I've learned hard lessons from those early ones where I neglected to include critical details, where I didn't ask the right questions. Because a great RFP is one that helps the right agency shine and also helps the wrong agency self-select out of the bidding. Not all projects are right for every website redesign agency, and a good RFP will help them determine if it's the right fit.
It is my hope that the following will help you craft a strong website redesign RFP, one in which both your organization and all redesign agencies win.
Are the look and feel locked down, or are you seeking creativity in reimagining your brand? If a rebrand is imminent, I suggest including this as an FYI of sorts in the RFP because this is a dependency that all agencies will need to consider when crafting their timelines.
Do you require a non-proprietary Content Management System (CMS) such as Drupal? If so, what version? Do you require integration with a Customer Data Platform such as Marketo or HubSpot?
There are details about how you expect your website to function and behave.
There are non-functional basics that you should identify, such as you need the site to be built responsively (e.g., it must be mobile-friendly). Other non-functional requirements might include "CMS will be easy to use by non-technical staff" or "web application will be available in multiple languages."
Functional requirements include things such as e-commerce, blogs, and gating. These are the details that specify what is needed for development.
Do you need someone to craft a content style guide or do any writing? I've yet to find a web redesign vendor that has strength in this area, and that makes total sense. They are web designers and developers. They shouldn't be great writers or content strategists. I included this here not because I think you should have content requirements of your web agency, but because it is such a critical part of your successful redesign that you need to think it through. How is all of the writing getting done? Where is the photography coming from? If you make this an afterthought, it will show in your finished product.
(Great post on website redesign content strategy here :))
Do you want the vendor to set up your Google Analytics and/or create dashboards in Google Data Studio to visualize your data?
There are legal accessibility requirements, so make sure you at least meet these minimums. There are third-party tools you might want to be integrated into your redesign build, such as Siteimprove that run continuous scans to ensure you don't have broken links or inaccessible content.
Do you want the vendor to deliver any governance documentation that outlines policies and procedures for maintaining your website? Depending on your internal resources, this might be something you prefer to create in-house.
Is on-premise hosting one of your requirements? If not, you need to understand your hosting options with each vendor. Some vendors offer hosting, many others will work with you to select a great third-party hosting option such as Pantheon or Acquia.
Do you require in-person training or will Zoom be fine? Do you also want written documentation about the CMS? Go a step further - perhaps you want written documentation that specifies how YOUR particular custom environment works, and not just generic CMS documentation. I strongly suggest you be prescriptive here. Perhaps recorded training broken into use cases is ideal for your team (e.g., "I want to create a web bio"). I've had vendors deliver customized training videos along as well as customized CMS documentation, and find most teams turn to the videos first.
This one is incredibly important, especially if you don't have a project manager of your own on your internal team to take lead and instead have a distributed group of staff working on your web project. How do you want to communicate with your vendor throughout the project - just via email and phone, or do you require a collaboration app such as Trello or Basecamp? How will you collaborate on documents - in Google docs? Using versioning in SmartSheet? I find this to be a key differentiator and recommend you push for details when a proposal is vague in this area. They might say "We'll use whatever the client prefers" but if they have never used the tool you prefer, there will be a learning curve for them and a loss of efficiency for all of you as they get up to speed. I have also worked with vendors who were well-versed in the tool I wanted to use, but they would only set it up using their account and not ours. This resulted in a lot of frustration as my firm's web team had to keep signing in and out of different accounts throughout the day.
You want to strike a balance in crafting your RFP - you want to clearly state your requirements but you also want to give vendors the opportunity to differentiate themselves by asking open-ended questions. For example, if you write "Will you use Basecamp and Google Docs?" they will likely say yes, but in my opinion, it's better if you ask them how they plan to manage the project and what tools they will use. This gives them the opportunity to lay out their vision for how the project will be delivered successfully.
If you'd like me to share one of my website RFP templates, please get in touch. I'd be happy to.
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