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Buidling An Effective Website RFP

     -     Jun 14th, 2013   -     Accounting Marketing, Accounting Websites   -     0 Comments

When it comes time to redesign your firm website it is often difficult to determine which design firm you should work with. The most common way to find the best designer is through the request for proposal (RFP) process. However, if you’re like most firms we interact with you may have very little experience creating a RFP that gets you the most valuable information necessary to make the best decision.

A well-written RFP that clearly outlines the scope and expectations of the project will ensure that the bid you receive is the most accurate for the task ahead. Below we have outlined the key items that should be included in your RFP to ensure you are able to accomplish your goals, stay within budget and be delighted by the end product.

 Key Elements of a Website RFP

At a minimum the following elements should be included:

  • Firm Introduction – You want those are bidding on your project to have a good understanding of the size, history, and culture of your firm. Talk about your target audience(s) and be as specific as possible.  The more a prospective development company can understand about your company, the more easily they will be able to advise you on elements that may benefit your project outcome.
  • Discuss Goals & Project Outcome – What do you want your website to do for you in the end? Are you trying to generate more leads? Are you promoting and selling tools like e-books and white papers? Are you trying to build your mailing list? Or are you simply looking to have a presence on the Internet where prospects can find more information? None of these have to be stand-alone goals; they may all be your goals, or a combination of a few. The point is to development companies about how you envision this website working.
  • Resource Identification – Yes, we know that the ‘magic number’ is a secret, but you don’t want to waste your time, and we don’t want to waste ours, so try to give a broad range estimate, or even a cap.  Helpful terminology includes ‘small scale website’ or ‘large scale web project’.  This is indicative of the kind of time and money you are expecting to spend on the project, and it will help companies cater the scope of the project to fit within your budget range. If you think of a website like a car, going with a basic model will still get you from point A to point B, but going with a luxury model will come with a lot more bells and whistles and do the same. Be sure your RFP includes a bit about the internal resources you are devoting to the project.  Do you have a committee or team that is dedicated to seeing this project through? Is there a single point of contact? Is there a staff member devoted entirely to overseeing this project? Or are you hoping to have time for it in between client work? The resources you have available within your firm will strongly indicate the expected timeline for a project.
  • Create a Timeline – Within your RFP be sure to include a schedule for the project process, this shouldn’t include all of the milestones, but it should give the development teams bidding on the process an indication of the timeline you are looking at, and when they can expect to hear from you. Include the following:

Week 1 – RFP goes out

Week 3 – RFP due back

Week 4 – Short list of companies to be selected

Week 5 – Successful bidder notified

Week 7 – Project purchase order issued, retainer sent out

Week 8 – Initial project scoping meeting

Week 9 – Development begins

Week 18 – Site Launch

  • Request Qualifications – An RFP is just as much about getting a company to want to work with you as it is about finding a company that you will work well with.  In any RFP you should request specific information about the website development company, we’ve provided a fairly comprehensive list of what you should look for in your responses from bidders:
      • Information about the company itself and key players who will be working on your project specifically.
      • A description of their proposed project development approach, including development process, and technical details.
      • A list of references, and at least three URLs to completed website projects.
      • Testing and quality control process
      • Proposed schedule (this will probably be more realistic than your anticipated timeline based on experience)
      • Cost and payment details and schedule
      • Costs incurred outside of proposal (domain, hosting, maintenance)
      • Project Stages
      • Terms and conditions


  • Outline Your Wish List – The most difficult part of an RFP is understanding everything that you could have in a website, and what actually fits into your budget. A lot of the time firms don’t know exactly what they need, or what they should have in a website and so they leave it up to the prospective development team to figure it out later on in the process. Consider including a broad wish list in your RFP – with room for flexibility.  This helps your future development team understand where your thought process is, and this is also a good exercise for learning what you want. Explore other websites, take screen shots, and jot down URLS of sites that you like, or that have functionality that you want your site to have. Dream it up and jot it down, chances are if you have an idea for a function but can’t find an example, it can be built for you – or it may exist already and you just don’t know where to find it (but a good web development company will!).  Some ideas you might think about are:


      • A clickable rotating carousel on the home page
      • Twitter Feed
      • Portal for clients to retrieve and sign documents
      • Blog
      • Newsletter subscription
      • Great Search Engine Optimization
      • Featured partner/employee section
      • Video archive
      • Events Calendar

Finally, be sure to include your contact information, or the contact information of the person a prospective bidder can reach out to for more information.  You need to be accessible and open to answering additional questions if you want to get the most accurate bids possible.

In Perspective

Of course there are a lot of other items you could include in your RFP, but this is a great start and thorough enough to get comprehensive bids from qualified candidates. Remember that the goal of an RFP is to select a company that you trust.  Have realistic expectations; know that despite your best intentions and theirs, there will be bumps in the road.


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