I have had the pleasure of being involved on both sides of the website procurement process - answering RFPs (Request for Proposal, or Tenders in the UK) and in helping clients to draft web design briefs.
While each website is unique, most share at least some things in common and these can therefore be abstracted. These common requirements and features are what I outline below.
Clarity is key
What website projects definitely all share in common is that if customer doesn't have a clear idea what they want, then they're less likely to have a satisfactory outcome.
Writing the web design brief can therefore help clarify objectives and in so doing help to ensure suppliers can respond appropriately. The more clarity in the brief, the easier it is for respondents and for those making the supplier selection.
So here's what I think customers might include when writing their website RFP or web design brief.
The Web Design Brief
Description of your company
- how long has it been operational
- what it does
- in what sectors does it operate
- its customer base
- its ethos
- its USP
Describe the sector's key characteristics.
Who are your competitors?
Give some indication of the current state of play - does your website generate enough sales, does it rank well, project the appropriate image, etc?
Tell them what works or doesn't work well with the current website - what strengths you want to build upon, what weaknesses need addressing? Here you could perform a SWOT analysis to help clarify the situation.
Should suppliers think of this as a 'green field' project - all existing content and website structure should be re-engineered as appropriate.
Give contact details of your project manager. If you expect suppliers to follow a project methodology, outline it here.
Clarity is crucial here - use plain language and avoid 'domain speak'.
Project Goals & Objectives
What must the website achieve?
Is it to merely an improved design or is it something more fundamental that you want to achieve?
Is the site primarily informational or is it to generate sales or attract job candidates?
Do you want the supplier to also be responsible for SEO?
Give respondents a clear idea of your goals and objectives.
Ask the respondent to cite similar successful examples from their portfolio, with a reference.
Size - how many sections & pages do you anticipate it will have?
Content - do you have all the content or will supplier need to supply?
How will you measure success? Eg: Page one Google rankings for selection of keywords.
Do you require hosting? Must it be written in a specific programming language?
Who is the target audience(s)?
What are the demographics?
Personas - do you have any? If so, how will they find you, what do you want each persona to achieve?
Are those responsible for managing the website technically skilled?
What testing should suppliers undertake?
For example, state that "The website must be accessible via standard browsers, smartphones and tablets. As such no technologies such as Flash should be utilised."
Outline what it is that users and managers should be able to achieve when using/managing the website.
Should it be a content managed website?
If so, you might state, "Website editors must be able to edit content without requiring technical knowledge - we therefore require a solution based on an open source Content Management System (Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress, et al)"
Does it integrate with other systems - client login area? If so, give examples.
Should it have forms and downloads for user to complete? If so, should it include a 'forms builder', document management capability (directory, etc)?
Will there be discussion forums?
What type of user interaction will there be (comments, etc)? Will user actions be recorded by analytics software?
Will partners be able to upload content?
Should it be multi-lingual?
Try to retain a balance between the minimum possible requirement and aiming for the stars. It maybe more realistic to think of approaching this in phases if there are a large number of functional requirements. What is important here is that you do not "bookend" the project - if you have a phase 2 or three in mind, make sure that phase 1 can be extended (ie., that you don't have to start all over again when you want to add extra functionality some way down the line).
Ask the respondent to describe how they will implement the above.
Outline what it is you expect in the responses and also how you will score responses.
Outline how you want respondents to structure their response - your score card (below) might be an appropriate structure.
What format should responses be in (paper/electronic (.doc) )?
Refer to the project schedule for return of proposals.
Outline how much weight you will give to certain aspects of the response.
|Requirement||Quality of Response||Score (out of 10)|
|Understanding of objectives|
|Overall quality of the response|
Outline your budget or budget range.
Does your budget include SEO costs? If so, what is the split?
Outline the proposed project schedule. If there is a definite launch date, work back to determine other dates. Leave yourself plenty of time for testing prior to launch. Consider having a 'soft' launch first.
So, here are some pointers to what you might include in a web design brief or RFP.
Some people might be surprised to see I've included a budget or budget range. Believe me, including your budget will reduce the amount of time wasted answering speculative responses - a £5,000 budget will rule out some agencies just as a £100,000 will rule out others. Also, an outline budget should help avoid situations where you have a wide variety of price points (some unbelievably cheap, others extortionately expensive). Stating your budget also shows you are serious and not just fishing for prices.
Finally, consider involving a disinterested third party in writing or reviewing your brief before you send it out to potential suppliers. Expert, impartial advice will help in the delivery of better outcomes.
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