How To Write A Website Redesign RFP That Helps You Find The Perfect Agency Fit
Dec 08, 2021
It’s time to redesign your website. Maybe it’s been ten years and you’ve been putting it off. Maybe your business has grown and you need the credibility boost that a fresh site can provide. Maybe your business has evolved over the past few pandemic years and you need to better communicate your offerings. Drafting an RFP is quite a task, we get it, but we cannot stress enough the importance of a well-written, well-organized RFP. A thoughtfully drafted RFP can be the very reason that you find a website design agency that is a perfect fit for your organization’s exact needs. Sadly, it can also be the start of the sort of client/agency miscommunication that can result in disfunction, dissatisfaction, and potential project failure.
The Agency Perspective
More and more agencies are opting out of the RFP process because of the time and effort required to complete a stellar RFP response. Every minute working on business development is a minute away from great, paying clients and a lot can be asked of RFP participants. Stout Heart’s philosophy on RFP participation is that we will consider submitting a response if we feel that the client is in line with our values and if the RFP is written in a way that makes it clear that the client has a handle on what they need and will be a good partner. Some great work and long-term relationships have resulted from our RFP participation.
That said, Stout Heart has a hard and fast rule about RFPs that ask for free work or thinking: that’s a no from us. An architect is not asked for free designs before signing on for a project. A jeweler isn’t asked for a free diamond before being commissioned for work. We prefer our free work to be done in pro bono form for nonprofit organizations who truly need it.
Over the years at Stout Heart, we’ve seen website redesign RFPs of every sort. The good, the bad, the ugly. I am a Board Member for a nonprofit that recently revamped its website and was asked to assist in drafting their website redesign. “This will be a cinch- I could do it in my sleep,” I thought. Well, turns out the architecting of a website redesign RFP is even a tough task for an agency-lifer. Having now seen the other side of the process, here are a few learnings that I took from my brief stint on the client-side of things combined with almost two decades of agency chops.
If you do not have a clear vision of what you need/want, you should not be writing an RFP. Yet. Do your homework, consult with your team, speak to your stakeholders. If you can’t put a concise summary of your needs and goals down on paper, put that RFP on hold until you have clarity.
Know what you want in an agency. If you have a punch list of must-haves for your future agency, it’s important to put it out there. This way, agencies considering participating can determine early on whether they’d be a good fit.
An RFP does not eliminate the need for conversation. While an RFP can get you a lot of the information that you need to make a decision, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of “fit”. It’s important that you like the agency team that you’ll be spending the next few months of your life with. Get to you your prospective teams.
How To Write Your RFP
If you consider your RFP a hybridized getting-to-know-you intro, creative brief, and assignment summary, you’re probably heading in the right direction. Here are a few crucial sections that should be included in every website redesign RFP.
Keep it short and sweet. In one sentence- two max!- tell us who your organization is and what the RFP is for.
Here’s your chance to provide all the background information on your brand that an agency might need. It’s best to be open and honest here.
- What’s your history?
- What’s your team like?
- What has the evolution of the business been?
- Who do you consider your primary competitors?
- Why are you considering a website redesign?
- Who do you consider your target audience (and don’t say “everybody”!)? Primary and secondary targets welcome.
Information About Your Current Website
While we know you’re trying to give your current site an overhaul, it’s still important for agencies to know about what you’ve got on your hands. A few things to consider:
- How has the current site been successful and where would you like to see improvement?
- Do you have Google Analytics information that you can share?
- Do you have examples of websites that you love that you can share?
Sales? Education? What are you after? If you can boil this down into a few bullet points that communicate your goals for the website redesign, you’ve nailed it. If you must, feel free to identify both primary and secondary objectives. This is also the point where you’re communicating to your agency what success looks- they should be paying sharp attention here.
It might sound straightforward but this is the section in your RFP that should get the most detailed attention. This is an important section for laying out the nuts and bolts of what you believe you need in a website redesign. This should include the essential logistics (like CRM and hosting needs) as well as a general wish list (do you need an interactive store locator? How about a blog with specific filtering?) Some things to consider:
- Do you expect to see any parallax scrolling or animation?
- Do you have any infographic design needs?
- Do you have a content management system (CMS) that you’d like to continue to use or do you want a recommendation from your agency?
- Do you have a customer relationship management (CRM) system that needs to be integrated within the site?
- Do you have any eCommerce needs?
- Does your team need to be trained on how to use the CMS to update the website?
You may not like what I have to say here. It’s totally fine to let agencies know when you’d like a website to be launched but it’s also wise to listen if their RFP responses tell you that your timing expectations aren’t reasonable (as long as they give you a solid explanation for why).
Always the elephant in the room and we understand why but sharing your budget does not mean you’re showing your cards in a way that puts you at a disadvantage. Being open about your budget allows agencies to quickly determine whether they can really deliver what you need. It’s better to be realistic and upfront about this in the RFP process. If you’re not sure what the right budget range is, try reaching out to a few agencies for ballparks in advance of sending out your RFP.
This is your chance to define the format of the RFP responses. It’s important to be sure you’re including the information that you think you’ll need in order to make an informed decision. Here are a few common asks:
- Agency Background Info
- Project Approach
- Team Bios
- Work Samples
- Proposed Timeline
- Agency Fees
RFP Process Timing
Let participants know when their RFP responses are due and do your best to map out how you intend to make your decision (and by what dates). Most RFPs cull responses down to a few favorites and ask them to put together a presentation for the decision-makers at your organization. Including dates is helpful because it allows agencies to look at their pipeline and be sure your timing fits with theirs.
Many RFPs also include a deadline for any questions regarding the RFP. Often the answers to all questions submitted are distributed to all agencies involved in the RFP so that everyone benefits from having the same information.
Criteria For Agency Selection
This is your chance to let agencies know about any other requirements you might have. Maybe you prefer a local agency or an agency that also provides marketing services. If you’re giving special weight to any specific type of qualification, it’s great to let respondents know.
Include the information for the person who is responsible for shepherding the RFP process along.
A few other things worth considering:
Hosting: Do you have a website host that you’re currently happy with or would you like you’re the agency to recommend one? Many agencies partner with hosting companies so it’s worth taking the time to chat with them about any options that they can provide.
Ongoing maintenance: Hand-in-hand with that conversation comes website maintenance. Many CMS products like WordPress do require ongoing maintenance to update the CMS instance itself and any plugins utilized. If this maintenance is neglected it can lead to a broken or uneditable website so it’s best to plan for this maintenance need.
SEO: A website redesign can mean loss of SEO traction if it’s not treated carefully. Make sure that you have a conversation with your agency about how they plan to handle the implementation of redirects and general SEO needs.
Data migration: If you have a blog that’s existed for five years, chances are moving blog post content over to your new website will be a hefty amount of work. Best to address this with your agency to determine whether they will handle content migration or if this is expected of you.
ADA Compliance: It is important to ensure that your website follows the latest ADA compliance standards. Some agencies are more savvy on this subject than others, so bring it up early if it’s a concern for your organization.
The writing of a website redesign RFP can be intimidating but, if done well, it has the potential to set you and your new agency partner up for long term success. Enjoy the process- it can certainly be a fun one!