Website Design RFPs: Who are they for, and How Do You Write One?


Browsing through the many web design firms on the web, you will often find the line “submit your RFP here.” RFP, or request for proposal, is essentially a work order that you send a web design company; it allows you, the client, to provide the details of your project, and allows the web design company to try and convince you to choose them for your project.

RFPs – not for everyone

RFPs aren’t necessary for every web design project out there. The general guideline is that if your budget is over $10,000, there’s a good chance you’re going to need an RFP. If your budget is less than $10,000, an RFP will probably not be necessary – just contact the web design company and provide them all the details of your project.

However, keep in mind that an RFP (which can range in size to a few pages to over 100) can stifle even the most creative web design company. The RFP process itself stems out of the professional business world, and the best kind of web designs are more of an “art,” per se than an actual business. No matter if you choose to send an RFP or not, always look at the web design company’s portfolio – their examples will say a lot about the style of the company, and if the designs don’t match the prices; well, it’s best to go onto the next firm.

What to include in your RFP

There are a main list of ingredients that you need to include in your project summary, even if you are just contacting the web design company and not writing an RFP. These are the basics – who you are, what you’re looking for, how much you have to spend and your timeline. These four items should be included in your e-mail to the web design company, which will then come back to you with some more detailed questions to flesh out the project.

Who you are

It’s not obvious, but the industry your company is in can affect the web design project greatly. It can also affect how the web design company will approach your RFP – or your everyday contact form, as well. Take for example a small business that sells women’s shoes – and on the other hand, a law firm. The shoe store would more than likely be open to a more whimsical or casual approach, whereas the law firm as a necessity must be professional and businesslike.

What you’re looking for

For an RFP, there is a lot that needs to be included in what you’re looking for. This includes how many pages that are needed, which of these pages are templates (templates can carry through an entire site, and essentially are the same page, with different content and/or pictures), whether or not you need a content management system, payment processing and a back-end database.

Samples are a very important part of the web design process. It shows the web designer exactly what you are looking for – and isn’t always about the website itself. Perhaps you have found a website with  a type of design that you like – or one that has features that you would like to include, such as a gallery or blog. There are many kinds of features that can be included in your website, so be sure to browse around and look at many examples.

Other features include responsive design (ensuring that the website is easily accessible no matter what device its viewed on), SEO (search engine optimization, how you’re site is found on the Web), home slideshow, social media, blog, custom map integration and blog. The main idea is to determine what you want your website to do – the designer will be able to help you with the details.

The budget

Websites can be pricy – but just like anything else business related, they are an investment. Think of it this way – your website is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week salesperson that answers questions, advertises and generates leads – all in one. Go through your company’s budget and determine how much you can rationally spend on your website – and keep in mind that you can always add more pages or details later, just let your designer know that future work may be available.

The timeline

Everyone wants something yesterday; but unfortunately, that’s not a realistic deadline. Give the web design company a time they need to provide you questions by, a time they need to submit the proposal by, and a time the project needs to be started. For example, you can submit an RFP, and require the web design firms to provide you with questions by end of week two, finished proposals by week four and project start by week six. It’s all a matter of how quickly you need things done – some web design companies may be able to provide a quick turnaround, but that will usually be at a higher cost.

Web design firms want your business; it’s just a matter of finding the right company that will work with your project requirements.