Occasionally we are asked to provide “initial designs” as part of a proposal for a website design project. I can understand how that seems like a useful request. However, it doesn’t help the client pick the best vendor to build the website, and it doesn’t help us make the case that we are the best choice to develop the site.

Design is not an isolated task. It’s one step of a complex and muti-faceted discovery & architecture process that we go through with clients.


Our steps include:

  • Kickoff
  • Interviews
  • Audits
  • Research
  • Analysis & Recommendations
  • Project Design (IA / Sitemap / Wireframes / Mockups)
  • Project Plan

All the above happens before we write the first line of code. Design is an answer to many inter-related questions that generally haven’t even been asked yet at the RFP stage. The process from kickoff to client-approved mockups can easily take 50 to 100 or more hours of work (for a larger enterprise type of site with hundreds or more pages).

A homepage mockup that’s put together in three hours has no relation at all to the design that will ultimately be the website. Frankly, we don’t want to be judged on a three-hour mockup, because we’d never actually design for a client that way. We don’t know what the site should like, or what should be included in the main navigation, when we are writing the proposal. We are being hired to figure that stuff out. Likewise, the client really isn’t learning anything useful from the design comp. And honestly, odds are mock ups provided in a proposal are not actually work designed for that client. It’s probably leftover design work from another client, quickly reworked to look like it was done for that project.

Asking for mock ups in the proposal is a lose-lose scenario. Good web design shops (like us!) will just pass on that project, and even if the vendors comply, the customer isn’t gaining any insight that will help lead them to a good decision. What you can do is evaluate design firms based on their body of work, and the quality of their proposal. Then bring the short-listed firms in for a presentation and conversation, where you dive deep into their design processes and workflow. That conversation, supported by the initial written proposal, should provide the insight needed to make the right choice.
Or, you can just make your life easy by hiring us!