Website RFPs: 5 Most Important Requirements

Responding to an RFP is incredibly time consuming for vendors, so be considerate of their time by providing firm and sufficient information.  The RFP should allow vendors to quickly determine whether they are a fit or not.  You certainly don’t want to read responses from unqualified vendors and likewise, vendors don’t want to waste their time responding to longshot opportunities.

1.  CMS Platform:  Are you keeping your current content management system or seeking a new one?  If you like your current CMS, then make it clear that you intend to keep it.  If you don’t like what you are using, then state why.  If you prefer certain CMS platforms that you are truly knowledgeable about (not just ones you’ve heard of), then list them.  If you don’t know, then make it clear that you are open to moving to a new CMS.  Why, because most vendors are tied to specific CMS platforms. 

2.  Time frame:  Be reasonable.  Allocate sufficient time so the vendor can provide a well-thought out response, so you have all the information you need to make a smart choice.  Also realize that any vendor worth hiring to build your new college or university website won’t be able to start immediately and will likely take 8-12 months to complete.  So after you have sent out the RFPs, answered questions, received & reviewed responses, listened to finalist presentations and selected the vendor for the award, expect 4 weeks to get the project underway.  Stable firms will have other projects in progress and will need to work them into their work queue. 

3.  Budget:  Reveal your budget.  State whether it’s “firm” or a “target”.  And be honest.  It doesn’t make sense NOT to do so.  You have a number in mind, share it, even if it’s a range.  Provide as much detail as possible.  If you don’t have a number in mind, you have no business putting out an RFP. Vendors can quickly determine whether it’s realistic or not for their business practices.  It will force responding vendors to match the scope to your budget to give you the best possible solution for your money.  And some vendors will recommend additional add-on items, if budget permits.

4.  Content Migration:  What are your plans with your content?  How many pages are on your current website?  List all the active websites that will be affected by the project.  Are you going to completely re-write everything?  What percent of the pages do you anticipate being migrated to the new website?  Are content owners or possibly students going to help with the content migration internally?  Or is the vendor expected to migrate all content.  Keep in mind that this will increase the price tag significantly.

5.  Special Features:  Take the time to look through your current website and identify any special features that you want carried over to you new website.  Then, take more time to review some of your favorite Higher Ed websites and identify any other features that you want/expect with the new website.  List all of these with as much detail as possible.  Every college website has templates, a fairly common top level navigation and lots of content pages.  So the special features are what most vendors are trying to identify.  Vendors that have delivered many Higher Ed websites (like us!) want to know what’s unique about this college?  What are the “extras”?

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