Your Website Redesign RFP

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.

Preparing for a Website Redesign

In this post, we are talking about the RFP step in preparation for a website redesign.

Areas of Consideration

What are your design requirements?

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.

What are your technical requirements?

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?

What are your non-functional and functional requirements?

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.

What are your content requirements?

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 :))

What are your data and reporting requirements?

Do you want the vendor to set up your Google Analytics and/or create dashboards in Google Data Studio to visualize your data?

What are your accessibility requirements?

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.

What are your governance requirements?

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.

What are your hosting requirements?

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.

What are your training requirements?

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.

What are your project management requirements?

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.

And finally, some process questions you should ask yourself:

  • Are you open to working with two vendors - one for design and another for build, or do you insist on a single vendor who can bring both skills to the project? Have you thought through the risks inherent in each option?
  • What is your budget, and will you communicate this in the RFP? When you consider your budget holistically, I recommend you set aside money for photography, SEO, and writers - all of which will not likely be internal offerings of most web agencies. These are typically third parties.
  • How do you want the proposal delivered - digital-only, or print version as well? I like to ask for both to see if they pay attention to detail and also because there is invariably some senior decisionmaker on your team who will prefer a hard copy.
  • Who do you want to invite to answer the RFP? I find anything more than four or five proposals can be overwhelming. If you've done your prep work well, you've already weeded out contenders that you know won't meet your basic technical requirements. For example, you know you won't work with an agency that doesn't work in your time zone, or you won't work with someone who only builds websites in Drupal, then why invite them to bid?
  • Do you have a timeline in mind? Are there any deadlines or blackout dates that you as well as your chosen vendor will need to take into consideration?
  • Will you want presentations of the proposals or will you just evaluate based on what was submitted?
  • Who will be included in the decision-making, and who should be kept informed (the latter is not necessarily a decision-maker)?
  • How will you evaluate the proposals (what are your decision criteria)?

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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