Jon Mikel Bailey

Your Web Design RFP Makes Me Cry Real Tears—Part 2

By: Jon Mikel Bailey | March 11, 2019 | 
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web designEditor’s note: There’s not a lot to love about web design RFPs, but sometimes they’re necessary.

In this two-part series, Jon-Mikel Bailey tells us why your web design RFPs don’t need to bore others to tears. 

Today, we bring you part two.

If you need to catch up, check out part one.

If you’re already caught up, get to reading!

Website Goals

You have website goals.

Your goals may shift over time, but they should be realistic and measurable.

Here’s how to turn vague, meaningless goals into realistic and measurable alternatives:

  • “More sales” could become “gain 100 monthly leads through our contact forms.”
  • “Increase traffic” could become “get 10,000 unique visitors to our product pages every month.”
  • “A professional looking website” could become “design an interface that allows users to access materials, within three clicks or less.”

You get the idea.

Be specific and list goals you can track.

And reach.

Sure, it’s great to have lofty ambitions, but you achieve those ambitions by setting realistic and attainable milestone goals.

Conversion Goal Tracking

Say you want 100 new sales each month.

That means you need 100 conversions.

So if you get 10,000 unique visitors a month, and 1,000 of those will schedule a demo or view a product.

You need a conversion rate of 10% for 100 to purchase.

If this is a brand-new website, you’ll want to start smaller because you’re beginning with a guess.

So maybe you know you want 10,000 unique visitors.

But maybe you think 5,000 in the first few months is more attainable.

Start there and check your Google Analytics to assess and adjust your goals.

Look at:

  • Page views: unique pages visited by a unique visitor
  • Unique visitors: an individual tracked as they navigate your site
  • Conversions: a purchase, completed form, or call (using call tracking software)

Let’s give Kevin Costner a break. He’s tired of hearing voices. (“If you build it, they will come.”)

Clear and measurable goals force you to be honest about your expectations.

Is the traffic we expected coming?

Are they doing what we want them to do?

What can we do differently?

A trackable baseline makes answering these questions much easier.

And web developers need to know what your conversion goals are, so we can use design to drive that conversion.

Timeline and Associated Milestones

Be honest about your web design deadlines. Please.

Is your target launch date a hard deadline?

What happens if you miss it?

Committing to an unrealistic deadline could be putting your job at risk.

If the powers that be are insisting on a hard deadline, try pushing back by getting them to commit to a minimum viable website: what is the bare minimum site that must launch?

Explain to them that this isn’t your goal, your goal is the full website, but things happen, and it’s better to prepare for any potential outcome.

And while you’re having this discussion, mention that building a website in phases has significant benefits:

  • You get something live faster.
  • You can test audience usage earlier to make smarter development decisions based on real data.
  • It will save you money because you’ll know what to develop and, more importantly, what not to develop.

Agile development is one way to build out your site in phases.

You can also do this as a fixed cost/fixed deliverables waterfall style project.

You just spec it, price it, and build it in smaller chunks.

Website Deadlines: Murphy Wasn’t Playing!

Project delays are inevitable, and need to be considered.

It’s Murphy’s Law!

Tie your deadlines to a purpose.

And your stakeholders and team members should all understand what the deadlines are, and why they’re essential.

Your team should be able to have an honest discussion with your web design and development team about the target deadlines.

It’s important to be frank, and to let the web design and development team know it’s OK for them to push back on a deadline.

Let them know that, while deadlines are essential, the real ability to meet them is just as important.

Be wary of the agencies who quickly agree to any deadline.

Trust the agencies who are honest and push back.

They’re just looking out for your best interest, and don’t want to get themselves in any trouble either.

The Dreaded Budget

It’s part of our culture to not talk about money.

We consider it impolite to talk bucks.

Consequently, we do this awkward little budget dance.

This helps no one!

In the long run, honesty about your budget will get you more for your money.

Be Brutally Honest About the Budget

When we get a web design RFP with a budget, we can quickly assess if they’re asking for the right amount of money for us to do what they want.

This can work in two ways.

You tell us you have $40k, and we assure you that what you’re asking for costs more like $60k.

We can then work with you to prioritize what you want in this $40k phase.

Or we both quickly conclude that we are too expensive for what you need, and you have to look elsewhere.

Time saved!

Maybe you have $40k, but we tell you you could get everything you wanted from your scope of work for more like $25k.

That’s $15k extra you could allocate to SEO or SEM or some other project you’re considering.

This actually happened with one of our clients.

And, as usual, be wary of the firm willing to do the work for $25k when all other firms are giving you ranges of $40-$50k for the same scope.

They could be desperate or low quality–or both.

Budget Avoided is Time Lost

We’ve bid on RFPs where the budget was not listed.

The client hid the budget and, unfortunately, were not prepared for what happened next.

They got a bunch of bids that were way over the budget they chose not to share.

They had to start all over again!

This time they had to be honest about their budget and, in the revised RFP, asked the bidding firms to make suggestions on what they’d get at that price.

Just be honest.

You’re not buying a used car.

You’re investing in one of the most critical tools in your marketing and communications arsenal.

Let’s say your max budget is $50k, but you’d like to reserve $10k of that for other purposes, if possible.

You’re now giving the agency an opportunity, to be honest with you.

The good ones will be.

Allow them the opportunity to discuss the options with you based on this information.

If you’re unsure about what your budget needs to be, ask colleagues and partner organizations what they spent on their website, and how everything worked out.

A day on the phone with people who just went through a website design will save you lots of time and money.

An Honest and Thorough Web Design RFP

This is all we ask.

We want to know the truth about what you expect, so we are confident we’ll deliver.

And, if we can’t, we’ll let you know.

If we get the chance to deliver, everyone gets high-fives and holiday gift baskets!

And you’ll give us referrals.

Be honest about the scope, timeline, and budget.

Be flexible and keep an open mind.

Start your web design project with a clear and unequivocal statement of everything you expect.

If you do this, you will have mitigated most, if not, all risk and will position yourself as the hero who got the new website done!

Any questions? Ask me below.

Any disagreements? Let’s debate them below as well. I ain’t scurred.

Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

About Jon Mikel Bailey


Jon-Mikel Bailey is a founding partner at the web design and development firm Wood Street, who just celebrated their 16th year in business. Jon speaks at conferences nationwide on UX, SEO, content marketing, and design. Jon has a wife and 11-year-old daughter, 2 dogs, 3 cats, and apparently a bunch of field mice. He's a drummer in his spare time but still thinks he's a rock star. We won't hold it against him.