Your first step to a new website
Many of you know that our product (Maestro) is built by our marketing firm, Rokusek. You may not know much about Rokusek, and that’s okay…if you’re passionate about downtowns then we’ll get along just fine!
I mention Rokusek because we have worked with hundreds of companies across the world to develop a new website, including many downtowns and Main Streets. Websites are one of those things that needs to be updated regularly, and will need to be replaced every so often. That’s one of the questions we get asked a lot. Unlike a website isn’t like a logo that can last a company for decades, a website needs to keep up with technology and features that customers are looking for. A good rule of thumb is that you can get 3-5 years from a website. Now, we all know in Main Street that means probably 5-7. However, by that point, you’re facing obsolete technology that may limit functionality that you once had. Making sure you’re staying up to date and planning for a new site is important…but when it’s actually time for a new site are you ready?
Through our experience we have realized that there are usually questions that haven’t been answered, or in some cases even thought of, that can change the scope of your project significantly. Even most RFP’s that we see leave us with questions because of all the variables that go along with a website. Unfortunately, we’ve seen organizations go with the least expensive option only to discover that the proposal they selected didn’t include certain features because the company didn’t know what was entailed with certain features. That’s why we created our RFP worksheet. This is a tool that you can use to develop an RFP that will help any company provide your organization with a thorough proposal and allow you to accurately compare apples to apples.
To help you make the most of it, let’s dive into a few of the sections of the worksheet.
Basic Info / Contact Information
While it may seem trivial, having an RFP that includes the primary contact is very important for vendors who may have additional questions (though completing this worksheet should limit those)!
You may wonder why you would want to provide information about your mission and a description of the organization. This will help potential vendors understand the organization they are going to be working with. You will be surprised at how much this section will also help clarify things for your organization. The mission of your organization and how you describe yourself will help to set the design or “look” of a website.
This section lets the vendors know why you are wanting to move forward with this project and gives some crucial details about the scope of work.
Understanding why you want to update the website will help prospective vendors highlight the things that are important to you, and putting it down will help you identify what those things are!
It is also imperative to include all the features and implementations that you have or want to have in your new site. Additionally, you’ll want to include as much detail about these as possible. For instance, you don’t just want to say that you want a business directory with your site. You would say something to the effect of “Needs to incorporate a business directory that includes name, address, phone, website, hours of operation, logo, and description. Currently using WordPress Business Directory Plugin version 4.1.2. Can export all information from this listing and would like to be able to import to new directory.”
Including all the features such as Business Directory, Events/Calendar, e-Commerce, Property Listing, Blog, and anything else you have or want included in your site will help ensure that all your bases are covered and that each proposal you receive will meet the needs of your organization.
This section of the RFP worksheet is probably the most overlooked, even for vendors, at times until the last minute. Yes, we all know the website address (url), but do you control the domain through GoDaddy? Does another company? Where are you hosting?
While the answers to the questions in this site likely won’t change the scope of the project, having answers will certainly help that process along and will show vendors that you will be a great organization to work with!
Having these ducks in a row will really help you keep your project on track and make the entire process easier.
If there is one thing Main Streets tend to have it is volumes upon volumes of content. It’s no surprise really, we’ve got the best stories dating back to the origins of our communities. However, when it comes to your website, knowing who will be responsible for generating, editing, and loading that content is important.
The most important part of this section is the navigation…if you are set on something. I would encourage you in this step to be open to suggestions from your vendor. While there is no denying that you are the expert on your community, you’ll want to trust their advice as they are the expert in web development, SEO, and more. This is very similar to billboards, and how the content can get lost if it isn’t viewable from 70mph at a distance. So make sure you’re collaborating with your vendor and are listening to their suggestions – and trust they are offering them for your benefit!
Timeline & Budget
This is a section of the worksheet that you may or may not share with the vendors…so why is it on the worksheet? It’s there to help you have some ideas going into the project about what resources are available and when you’d like to have your new site live. The more thorough you are with the other pieces of your RFP, the more this section will become the differentiator for the vendors.
First, let’s talk timeline. Be as flexible as possible with this. Give yourself as much lead time as possible – expecting to have a new website up and running in a month is not usually realistic and probably will come with a higher price tag.
Now, let’s talk about budget. It would be impossible for me to give you an idea on what a budget should be because each one is different, which is why we’ve created this tool for you. We get asked a lot if people should put their budget in the RFP. As a vendor, it’s great. It tell us whether or not we can be competitive on the project. However, as an Executive Director I didn’t like to include price in my RFP’s. I found that when it did, the proposals almost always were close to the max budget….funny how that works. Having said all that, it is important to mention communication with vendors about budget. Once you get proposals back, if there is a vendor that you really like and want to work with but can’t afford it….talk to them!! I cannot stress this point enough. I realize that if you are a municipal entity, you may be legally bound to accept the low bid, but if you are not then do not be afraid to talk to a firm and try to negotiate a price that will work for both of you. They submitted a proposal so they obviously want to work with you. Proposals are just that, proposals. You may be surprised how easy things are when you talk to the vendor whose proposal you really like!
Using this worksheet will give you a great start in preparing your RFP and getting the most bids possible. Don’t forget about other things to put in your proposal that aren’t on the worksheet such as any legal disclaimers or preferred vendors (local) status that are specific to your community or organization. Once you have your RFP…share it with the world as well! Get this out in as many places as possible and let the vendors come to you!
To download our RFP worksheet, please complete our form to the right. We hope this helps you in putting together your RFP and gets your next website project off to a great start!