You are about to embark on one of the most thrilling moments in a digital marketer’s career – selecting a partner for a website redesign. Thrilling can be exciting, but also scary if you don’t know what steps to take to ensure a smooth ride. A well-constructed website redesign RFP can help you properly plan for the inevitable bumps and gotchas in a redesign project so that the only surprises you get are good ones, and so the net result is a new website that is strategically well thought-out and successful.
Involve Project Stakeholders Early
Before you take a leap into any major project – like a website redesign —involve the people who will help guide the decision making. If appropriate, request input from the marketing team, product owners, customer service team leads, IT and of course the executives who will be setting and approving your budget. Conduct informal interviews with key players and start to compile a wish list of features and functionality they’d like to see both short-term and longer-term, goals they’d like to achieve, and processes they’d like to streamline though this redesign. Learn about their pain points so you can communicate them effectively to the bidders who in turn can help recommend the best solutions. Educate yourself and others internally and then set expectations early on in the process. Unless your budget is unlimited, you likely can’t give everyone everything they asked for. So, it’s important to strike the right balance between what the group has collectively asked for and what you will be requesting during the RFP process. Being forthcoming in the early stages will build excitement and “buy in” to your project – which you’ll be able to leverage later on to help make the project successful.
Clean Your (Technological) House
When you are packing up to move to a new house, it’s common to audit your belongings and separate what you want to take with you and what you’re ready to leave behind. A website redesign is a perfect opportunity to do the same. Review your site map, features, functionality, and content before you send out your RFP, and identify what you are ready to retire, and what you’re missing. This doesn’t need to be a complete overhaul, but if you can archive outdated blog and news posts, determine what pages can be sunset, and remove old PDFs and other files no longer being used, it will be helpful to make agency quotes accurate. Many agencies base their redesign cost on page count (as well as design layout/template count), so try to clean your attic before seeking bids. Once you’ve selected your website redesign partner, they’ll perform a complete audit of your site’s architecture and make new recommendations anyway, but a little effort to do initial editing ahead of time will likely save you money and time in the long run. If you don’t have time to do this kind of cleanup ahead of time, clearly communicating in your RFP what you don’t plan on carrying over to your new site could also help eliminate scope bloat.
Educate Yourself to Set Realistic Expectations
Know your high-level budget range and timeline and understand that a good website takes money and time. If you aren’t sure of either, then place a few calls to prospective vendors ahead of time and have some initial discussions on what you are looking for in your new site. Most agencies welcome these initial calls, and you will likely be provided with some valuable information such as high-level quotes, general project timelines, an overview of that agency’s capabilities along with some current industry trends that could get you in a better-informed mindset when you start to write your RFP. Be sure to also connect with your internal IT team to learn more about CMS and technology stack preferences, hosting requirements, and any current contract terms so you are armed with an understanding of the technologies involved. And, don’t forget the importance of ADA conformance! Not only will you want your new site ADA conformant to the latest WCAG standards at launch (currently 2.1 Level AA), but also confirm what ongoing ADA services your organization needs, and what each agency offers. Use all of this research as a guide so you are developing an RFP that agencies will be able to bid upon comprehensively and realistically. You want your RFP responses to be useful and tailored to your specific needs, so doing a little legwork ahead of time will really help.
Writing your Website Redesign RFP
Now that you’ve done your homework, you’re ready to pull it all together into your redesign project RFP. The following are some tips on how to make that RFP effectively document your company or institution’s requirements to seek useful responses for your website redesign project.
Highlight Key Information
Immediately upon receipt of a website RFP at a digital agency, RFPs are quickly scanned by several groups of people who need to know key dates, contact information, and a project overview before diving into the details. Make it easy for your bidders and put this information where it can quickly and easily be found. Like the website you want redesigned, your RFP should be considerate of user experience.
Share the State of your Brand
Is your brand ready for a total overhaul or refresh, or are you unhappy with certain elements? If so, your RFP should communicate this up-front, since brand refreshes and overhauls impact and/or drive website redesign scope and timelines, as well as spark additional recommendations your agency might suggest to keep site visitors aware and confident as your brand evolves along with your new website. If a branding agency is involved, communicate that in your RFP, including how you envision their role during the website redesign, and any key dates that might impact the redesign project – most importantly the date the new brand will be finalized. If you are introducing a new brand, let bidding agencies know if you are open to complimentary tactics to help make this introduction smooth and exciting, such as site tours, launch campaigns, and more.
On the other hand, if you do have established brand standards, share what you plan to provide the winning agency (e.g., a brand standards document), especially if you have an existing image library you wish to leverage for the redesigned website. Imagery requirements like this can impact project scope and pricing so it’s helpful to know up front.
Prioritize your Wish List
You want your wish list to reflect realistic expectations that align with your budget and timeline, and if you did your homework, you’ll know enough to balance the three. If you aren’t able to include everything for the site launch, it helps to identify what items could be optional or a future phase. Be sure to state your company or institution’s current pain points (e.g., high bounce rate, poor mobile experience) and not just your wish list items. Sometimes when an agency knows what isn’t working in your organization and why, they might be able to suggest a solution you didn’t think of originally. The more you educate your bidders on your needs and goals, the more creative the solutions they present should be.
Invite Others to the Party
Most sites integrate with third-parties in some capacity, so it’s important to clarify expectations around their role in this website redesign process. Do you use a third party for your online membership, loan or deposit account applications? Do you plan to add chat to your site later this year? You already own your calculator licenses and want to include them in your new site? Don’t forget to add details on existing or planned third party partnerships and how each might be impacted during the redesign. In many cases, your agency will be able to recommend strategic services to augment your third party solutions, such as custom Google Analytics tracking that allows you to follow visitors once they leave your site to complete an online application for example, or help you evaluate new third party solutions through agency partnerships and industry experience. Many of these partnerships and suggestions will be valuable differentiators among the bidders when evaluating your responses; you will want an agency familiar with the industry and have vetted partners to help maximize the opportunities that exist. Likewise, if a website redesign will impact that third-party, it’s important to loop those vendors in when appropriate. For example, if an online application is branded to match your current site design and the design will be changing, you’ll want to find out what you will need to get that vendor to create a seamless user experience when the redesigned site launches. A digital styleguide is a smart investment for these scenarios.
Consider the RFP Response Format
Including a required response format in your RFP is sometimes a double-edged sword. At first pass, requiring a standard response format makes it easier for you to compare bids since they are all being submitted in the same layout, but keep in mind this may limit an agency’s creativity and can hinder their ability to present their agency personality and project approach with their unique vision. If an apples-to-apples bid comparison is your goal, however, remember to be comprehensive in your outline and include all of the services you require such as strategy, design, copywriting, development, ADA, QA, analytics, ongoing support and hosting, and how you want each component of the RFP response handled, including budget breakouts, timeline, and optional services.
Don’t Forget about Hosting and Ongoing Support
Always indicate if you plan on hosting the website yourselves or with a third party, or if you are looking for the bidder to recommend a hosting solution. This sometimes involves a more detailed technical discussion about decisions like whether or not your current site needs load balancing, shared or dedicated servers, and any additional security needs your organization may require. Agencies welcome these calls ahead of submitting a response to ensure their solution is the right fit, so if you are unable to definitively outline your needs in the RFP, we suggest a call to work through initial hosting options after the RFP is released but before submissions are due. Your website will be built on a content management system (CMS), so you will be able to do most of your content updates on your own, but you will need to consider ongoing support needs for ADA conformance scanning, CMS updates, ongoing SEO, and more. Letting your bidders know what you anticipate your needs to be for ongoing support to help them recommend the right plan and provide more realistic ongoing costs.
The Waiting Game
Once your RFP is written, reviewed, and internally approved for release, be sure to request confirmation of receipt from your list of vendors when you send it out. Offer vendors clear options for follow up communication, such as a date to confirm intent to bid and a defined question and answer period. Let bidders know updates to your process if your selection timeline is delayed, and after you’ve made your selection, it’s ok to tell the others where they fell short. Good agencies find constructive feedback helpful and use this information to grow and evolve.
Use your RFP Experience to Build your Network
Consider keeping a list of agencies who made your short list handy, just in case they offered a service the winning agency didn’t; you never know how your needs may change. Most agencies play well together and, while not ideal, if one firm is a better fit for design and another for development, it might make sense to leverage the strengths of more than one vendor to build your team. Also, services like digital marketing or ADA conformance are often offered on an ongoing basis irrespective of who does the redesign, so involving others on an ongoing basis might be an option as well. If you’re curious about a creative multi-vendor approach if you don’t get that single, perfect, all-in-one RFP response, ask and see if you can create a custom solution that’s right for you!