R.I.P. Web RFPs
It’s not that RFPs have no use. It’s not that they are outdated. And it’s not because they are evil (although we have known some particularly devilish documents). No, it’s because they fail you and your web project in five critical ways - each of which we will detail. But the short answer is, kill the RFP and find a web design partner that listens to your needs and whom you can trust to guide you through the web development process.
1. RFPs Don’t Mention True Goals (or how to track them)
For your web project to be successful, you need to outline the project’s goals. Requesting that a website is “easy to update,” that it “positions you as an industry leader" or “be very user-friendly” is not a goal.
Here’s what is:
We’re looking for our website to focus on communicating enrollment information regarding our “Programs and Services” section. This includes specifics on our enrollment dates, costs, and benefits to attendees. Secondarily, we want the website to direct visitors to learn more about our organization before leaving the website. We’ll look to measure this through a decrease of our homepage bounce rate (current rate is 52%).
In order for a web developer to really give you the solution you need, we first need to know how you’re going to judge (and measure) how successful it is.
2. RFPs Dictate Technology and Tools
Most web design agencies worth their pixels study technology and industry best-practices. But how do you find them? Simple. Ask their clients.
How do you figure out who their clients are? Simple. We put our name on our work.
You may be asking, “well, what’s the problem with specifying how you want your website coded?” Simply put, it limits your options. As we review your requirements, we may know a better technology, a simpler way, or a brand new set of tools to accomplish your goals. But we’ll have to quote the project according to your requirements — and that hurts you. It all comes back to finding an agency that you can trust and then allowing their experts to do what they do best. Give you expert solutions.
3. RFPs Never Mention Design Preferences
Critical design elements such as color palettes, specific imagery, or concepts you’ve seen in other websites are most beneficial to your web designer upfront. Yet, RFPs never mention these critical design preferences.
The design is the first thing someone will see when they come to your site. Shouldn’t the design be something that’s addressed in your project request? Yep, we think so too.
RFPs Are Written To Avoid Answering Questions
RFP experts will say that "a good RFP is one that doesn’t leave the proposer with any unanswered questions.” The problem is, there are always unanswered questions, such as what’s the project budget? (we’ll get more into this in a minute). Designing and developing a website is a complex process. Websites are not a commodity. These days, each website is essentially custom-created, web-based software. Every agency creates them slightly differently, using a variety of systems, and breadth of technologies. With that amount of variation, there are going to be questions. Creating a document to limit those questions is a disservice to you and your project. Questions are good. That’s what moves your project forward and allows it to fulfill your goals.
5. RFPs Avoid Any Mention of Budget - At All Costs
RFPs rarely mention what the project’s budget is. Stakeholders are concerned that if you tell your vendor how much funding you have allotted for a project, the vendor will want it all. Another common belief is that you’ll save money by making developers bid against each other on the project. Unfortunately, this ends up costing you. It costs you functionality, features, and opportunities to achieve the best possible results because those quoting the project are going to give you the bare minimum in order to keep the project cost down. They will gladly sacrifice the final quality of your project in exchange for being awarded the project.
In turn, this costs you the best solution that you can afford.
We’re creative. Finding creative solutions to problems and projects is what we do. Knowing your budget allows us to provide you with the best solution your money can buy.
How about an analogy? Yep, we got one…
Imagine you hire an architect to build you a house, but won’t disclose your budget. What kind of house are you going to get? Most likely, you either get something you absolutely hate or something you can’t afford. Budgets set expectations and helpful parameters to work within.