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10 tips for writing a strong website or digital product RFP

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Cartoon depicting a circus ring with a ringleader cracking a whip at two people sitting on stools with the caption I may be dating myself, but I can remember when this wasn't a part of the RFP process
Source: Rob Cottingham, Noise to Signal

Updated – Check out our recently created downloadable RFP guidelines post  – LINK

Although we typically begin our scoping conversations with a structured conversation (called a Design Needs Assessment), we recognize that many organizations must adhere to an RFP process. We’ve received hundreds of RFPs, from small startups to multi-billion dollar organizations. Here is our top ten list for allowing potential partners to shine through an RFP response:

  1. Have a clear timeline and rationale behind your proposed dates – be clear whether these dates are hinged on specific event(s), or whether there is flexibility within milestones.
  2. Explain your internal communication model – was the RFP written by the people we’ll be working with?
  3. Discuss your role and the other members/roles that will be part of the project – who are the decision makers and what does the typical feedback loop look like internally?
  4. Lay out your project requirements, not your process — let the agencies responding to the RFP help you define the process.
    1. Include project goals and affiliated KPIs. You don’t have to explain how you expect to achieve them, just what they are.
  5. Identify if you’re looking for the responding agency to have core competencies in all tasks/activities outlined (i.e. are you willing to split up the work among multiple agencies?).
  6. Give the responding agencies time to formulate a response and factor in several Q&A sessions between acceptance and completion of response.
    1. Include a clear explanation of the agency selection process. It is useful to know what opportunities for dialogue will exist along the way.
    2. Explain the decision criteria for agency selection.
  7. Tie project requirements and/or activities to specific goals and outcomes.
  8. Don’t make things up — call out areas that are unknowns to your team.
  9. Are there other partners in this project? If so, have they already been selected? Consider adding a bit of information about them and their role(s) in the project.
  10. Do any wireframes, designs, code, etc for this project already exist? What about persona definition, user journeys, product roadmap, etc? If so, please outline the current status of the assets we’ll be working with. If we’re not starting from scratch, are you open to deviating from your current path?

As a final piece of advice, consider asking someone in the organization who hasn’t been intimately involved with the RFP to read it without context to uncover gaps. Often we find the RFP writer is so close to the problem/project that information that is assumed to be self-evident… isn’t. We put forward these guidelines not to over-orchestrate the RFP process, but rather to make sure that the proposal process is as efficient as possible for those companies submitting RFPs.

If you’re in the process of writing an RFP for a website or product redesign, feel free to reach out to us for review.

Author Jayne Hetherington

Jayne is a lifelong runner and holds a graduate degree in visual and media arts. She believes that a deep understanding of the end user comes from a genuine relationship with each client, built on mutual trust and respect.

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