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How to Write an RFP for Website Development

Published Jul 18, 2016

The good news: your company is getting a new website! The not-so-good news: you need to find a website development company. You’ve been tasked with asking for and compiling a ton of information to evaluate and compare several potential website designers.

In other words, you’re in charge of writing an RFP for website development.

The truth is, many agencies dread receiving RFPs as much as, if not more than, clients dread writing them. In fact, some agencies have a strict policy of refusing to respond to any formal Requests for Proposal. Ever.

Is the RFP really all that bad?

Sometimes. But it doesn’t have to be. So, how do you write an RFP for website development?

Let’s start with the problem. The purpose of an RFP is to identify the best vendor for your job. But by serving up a very long, very restrictive RFP, you’re setting your company up to miss out on the best part.

Would you walk into a cardiologist’s office, announce that you need a valve replaced, and then tell the doctor how to do it? Probably not. Because the doctor has knowledge and experience that you don’t, and you’ve come to him precisely for that reason.

So why would you do that in your RFP?

You see, you are coming to a website development company with your request because they provide a service that your company can’t take care of internally. Because web development agencies like CMDS possess experience with a set of technical and creative skills that your organization doesn’t. So we damn well better be able to give you some ideas that you hadn’t even dreamt of.

But by restricting communication between our companies, and dictating exactly what you want and the best way to get it done, you’re missing out on that most valuable thing that we can bring to the table.

Most RFPs also leave no room for discussion, brainstorming or questions. In this world of hyper-social connectivity, is document-to-document communication really the best we can do?

Are we suggesting that the RFP must go? No. We just think that maybe it’s time for an extreme makeover.

Here are the dos and don’ts of how to write an RFP for Website Development:


  • Ask us to meet with you as a very first step. We want to hear about your business, its challenges, its successes, its culture — directly from you. Let’s make sure our team and culture have the right chemistry to mesh with yours before we go any further.
  • Be transparent with us about what your organization is trying to accomplish. Lay out your business objectives as a whole as well as your goals for this particular project. Let us know where this project fits into your overall marketing plan. Clue us in on your target audience, and what you know about them.
  • Explain to us the problems your company is facing, challenges of your current website and the motive behind reaching out for help. Feel free to include a ‘wish list’ of features you’d like a new design to include.
  • Ask us to figure out a solution to your problems. Let us educate you — after all, isn’t it our experience that compelled you to reach out to us in the first place?
  • Let us know how you’ll measure the success of your new website — both quantitative (increased traffic, sales) and qualitative (brand identity, customer loyalty).

(Please) Don’t:

  • Feel like you need to have advanced knowledge in OUR field. You do what you do best and leave us to do what we do best and we’ll both be happy.
  • Hesitate to show us examples of some websites you love, and maybe some you hate.
  • Put too many restrictions on how this is all going to go down. Leave us room to do our thing and we promise, we’ll wow you!
  • Restrict communication — we need access to as much information about your business as we can get our hands on.

Final thoughts

We get it. Hiring a web development company to build, or rebuild, your company’s website is a big deal. You don’t want to select the wrong vendor, spend your budget and end up with a site that doesn’t live up to your dreams. But by opening the lines of communication, and making the website development RFP process a two-way dialogue rather than a one-sided mandate, you just may find that the finished product far exceeds even your wildest expectations.

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