Tips for Creating a Website Design RFP

A Request for Proposal (RFP) kicks off the selection process for a new website design.  A good RFP helps find the best company for the job.  A good RFP guides the design of a successful site… and a good RFP reflects positively on the company that builds it!

Blizzard Internet receives RFPs from hotels, resorts, CVBs and others pretty regularly.  They vary in quality but are generally pretty useful.  We would like to share some tips to help you get more out of your RFP:

Questions to Ask to Protect Yourself:

  • Ask permission to do a D&B Credit Check. (You do check the credit of your major vendors, don’t you?)
  • Ask for professional liability insurance.   A hotel has a lot to lose if something goes haywire with their website.
  • Does Vendor work with any competitors? Is Vendor willing to forego working with direct competitors?  Most resorts don’t want their vendor working with the hotel next door.
  • Do you have an office?  What percentage of your employees work there?  Do  you want to do business with a virtual company… or someone with a brick and mortar presence?

Feature Requirements to Consider:

  • Do you want user management?  Ask for change tracking and multiple permission levels.
  • Do you want to blog?  Blogging and RSS feeds are both effective in the tourism industry.
  • New website must support  the following SEO tags: title, URL, meta description, H1 ; use flash judiciously.
  • Make sure your website has its own dedicated IP address.

Questions to Determine Expertise and Background.  Ask For:

  • Three references from projects of similar scope.
  • Three examples of projects of a similar scope competed in past.
  • A sample copy of contract with proposal.
  • Examples of clients in highly competitive marketplaces with good Google rankings.
  • Business History.  90% of businesses fail within their few years.  That new guy on the block  may not be around for the long-term.
  • Ask for bios of key personnel.

Miscellaneous Advice:

  • Consider requiring a LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/Php) platform.
  • Use an open-sourced CMS  (ie WordPress)
  • Ask for training and a demonstration of training materials.  Do you want to know the best practices and bring website updating and management in-house?
  • Content management platform must not be vendor specific. If you sever  ties with your web designer, you should be able to keep your website.
  • Do you want your vendor to include an on-site visit of key account personnel in the proposal?
  • Make sure you own design, coding, copy and SEO.   While you may not own it all, you need to establish clearly what part of your website you do own.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  • Do I want to integrate into social media platforms like a blog, Facebook or Twitter?
  • Do I want reviews featured on my site? Do I want to integrate hotel reviews from TripAdvisor?
  • Do I want to track visitor activity? Booking engine revenue? Usability of specific aspects of my website? Do I want to do A/B testing?

While all these tips may not be relevant, several of them can certainly reduce the risk of purchasing a website that doesn’t meet expectations.