The Perfect Website Request for Proposal (RFP)

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First off, this post focuses on your typical marketing website often built with WordPress, or maybe Drupal, as the Content Management System (CMS). It’s less about enterprise-level web applications or bigger e-commerce websites. While parts of the process are the same, their complexities and moving parts are far more complicated. For this, we’ll focus on your typical 50-100 page lead-generation, marketing site.

We receive a lot of RFPs; some are great and easy to understand the needs and others… not so much. We see them fitting into one of three main categories:

  1. Too generic: oftentimes with so little information, it’s hard to get a handle on expectations, needs, desires, or purpose
  2. Too complex: can feel written by purchasing or procurement, with boilerplate language that is obtuse and convoluted and doesn’t address the nuances of the marketing and sales teams
  3. Just right: typically crafted by someone that has gone through the process and knows what they want and also want they don’t want – all of which is well spelled out
    This post will outline the kinds of details that are helpful to the people you’re sending your website RFP to (design firms and digital agencies). At the bottom, there is a link to a downloadable Website RFP template that we hope you find useful.

Okay, let’s start with the basics.

Identifying the right firms to send your RFP

Some shops are better than others for certain projects. We excel at custom WordPress websites and Shopify websites. But we are not necessarily a good fit for giant enterprise sites that need specialized content management systems and have a lot of complex integrations. Likewise, some of the bigger firms are not the right place to send a 50-100 page WordPress marketing site to, unless you want to spend $150,000+.

The best ways to choose firms:

  1. Referrals from peers and trusted connections on LinkedIn
  2. Finding out who did sites that you’d like to emulate (quick tip, check the site footer, many will feature a “designed by” callout)
  3. Basic Google search to identify design-centric and like-minded, culturally-aligned firms that have in-house project management, UX design, and development. Finding a firm like ours that has video production, animation, and copywriting in-house too is a big plus!

Now onto the document itself…

Below are the sections that we think help the most:

About Us: include a paragraph about your organization, ideally in your own words. Something that helps to normalize or humanize the language that might be on your existing About Us page on your website.

BONUS! It’s also helpful to include an outline of the website redesign project team – who are the members of the working group, who is the primary project owner, and what other stakeholders or approvers will be involved along the way.

Project Overview: include a little about why you are embarking on this project. It could be: the current site is dated, does not meet our content needs, is not connected to a CMS, does not reflect the current brand, etc.

Timeline expectations: be sure to include:

  • Deadlines for RFP submissions
  • Timeline for RFP reviews, pitch meetings, and ultimate award
  • Expected project kickoff date
  • Target site launch date (along with any helpful information on why this date is desired, especially if it’s meant to align with a product launch, sales cycle, or event)

Project Requirements: be sure to include things like:

  • What is it that you want the new site to do differently?
  • What points of integration need to happen (Salesforce, HubSpot, MailChimp, commerce, etc)?
  • Do you see the site being a content hub so that you can post a lot of thoughtful information from a thought leader’s point of view?
  • Are you creating a lot of case studies?
  • Is there a requirement for interactive maps?
  • Do you plan to do a lot of videos and will showcasing that content be a need of the site?
  • Is there a complex portfolio of products and services and does that information need to be dynamic and interrelate with one another?
  • Who is going to write the content for the site – is this something you expect from the firm you hire or will your team handle copy?
  • For photography are you thinking mostly stock imagery and some custom headshots or is it more than that–and what do you already have in your asset library?

Technical Requirements – share things like the CRM that you want it to connect to, or if the site needs to integrate with a separate database. Even note if it simply needs a newsletter sign-up form that connects to Constant Contact or if you have special tracking needs beyond Google Analytics.

If there are particular hosting considerations that need to be factored into the project, this is a good place to mention that too.

Extras – There are some additional sections that take an RFP to the next level and ensure the responses are as specific as possible to your needs. These include:

  • Analytics – a snapshot of the current traffic coming to the site provides valuable baseline information.
  • Proposal Requirements – an outline of what you want the proposal to cover helps you better compare responses. Also note the desired format, deadlines, and contacts.

At the link below, you will find a template with placeholder information that we hope you find useful.


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