(This post has been revised from a previous version posted in 2014)
For many organizations, issuing an RFP for a new website can be as exciting as it can be fraught. Often, it first depends on getting budget approved and then can end up feeling a little rushed. Certain areas of consideration aren’t always as thought through as well as they could have been.
With that in mind, we wanted to share a few areas for consideration for you and your colleagues as you begin to start thinking about what you want and need in your new website, and how you communicate that in your RFP:
- What do you consider a successful outcome of the project? What does senior leadership?
These are often two very different answers. We have found that individuals can easily answer on their own behalf. But when it comes to senior leadership’s take, that can be more difficult.
Try thinking about it this way: When the board / CEO / CMO approved this project, what is your understanding of what they think they’re getting for the money? Effectively answering this question creates a beacon that can ultimately guide a successful project. It can provide both strategic clarity internally and help your chosen agency know exactly what the priority is for the project.
- What does your current site do BEST?
Sometimes projects inadvertently take a turn and the result can become “change for the sake of change.” This can happen when new leadership wants to put its “stamp” on the website.
However, by being able to list out what the current site does best, that understanding can help a vendor know what needs to remain working optimally.
Thinking this through early could be the most important aspect of the project.
- Do you own a chainsaw?
Many of our clients have been around for a while. And by a while we mean, longer than the Internet.
That usually means they have a LOT of content. It also means a lot of that content is on their website. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
It becomes bad, however, when out-of-date content gets in the way of visitors being able to find the best content on your site that meets their needs. Other times, reams of content effectively competes against itself, on your own site, and hurts your search engine optimization.
Ergo, the chainsaw question.
While most people think of new websites as a chance to create new content and develop new features, sometimes the best feature a new site can have is simply less. Less interference. Less noise. Less confusion. Fewer clicks to get to what you want.
At a previous job I joked that I was going to spray paint a chainsaw gold and put it on a bookshelf, point to it, and say “THAT’S our content strategy.”
I still regret not doing that. Oh well.
- Who is on the front lines of your organization, talking with the public the most?
There are always one or two people in an organization whose job it is to answer more questions that come in from the outside than any other.
They are often nice, cheerful people, but they can often look a little drained. It might be because they’re answering the same questions over and over. And over. And over.
If these people are not part of your web redesign project, they should be. They should be offered a full voice during the discovery phase. If the site is intended to serve the public, these folks will serve as something of an in-house focus group.
If you don’t know who these people are, use the time before your project officially kicks off to find them, meet them, and maybe even send them a card or a gift basket. Let them know who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish. Convey to them that if things go well, they might not have to answer as many of those same questions repeatedly.
- Talk to someone on the outside
We also see many site projects fail to reach their full potential when there is too much internal focus. Navigation that conforms to an org chart rarely helps a visitor understand what it is your organization really does.
When writing the RFP, organizations are already taking the first step in the redesign process and are (whether they realize it or not) setting the tone for the project.
By speaking to outsiders and even an outside agency, you can bring their perspective to the requirements list, remove much ambiguity, and take a critical first step toward ensuring the project is both realistic and meets your audience’s needs. At Taoti, we encourage potential clients to discuss their future plans with us, and even offer a free one-hour consultation to discuss the project at a high level.
- Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good with your RFP
It’s important to know that there’s no single way to do an RFP, and emulating ones written by others, even within your organization, might not meet your specific needs. If you were to omit certain key areas of consideration, you can often still get those areas addressed during the question and answer phase.
That said it’s extremely helpful to give this internal discussion and discovery phase during your RFP preparation the proper time for key stakeholders to be thoughtful and contemplate the impacts of their requests or decisions.
We welcome the opportunity to be a part of that initial conversation, and encourage you to contact us to discuss.
Good luck with your project!
About the Author
Chad Capellman has been swimming in the intersecting currents of media, society and technology for more than 20 years. He has worked with more than a dozen content management systems, and hates most of them. He enjoys crafting solutions that can save clients from his past pain. Chad brings his editorial, programming, account management and occasionally appropriate sense of humor to many of Taoti’s largest and most-recognized client projects.