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4 Minute Read | May 28, 2024

Top Website RFP Mistakes and How to Avoid Them – Part 1

The Request for Proposal (RFP) process is a pivotal yet complex component of website development. RFPs are generally considered a necessary evil both for the organizations that issue them and the agencies selected to respond.

But the process can be improved! In fact, we believe the RFP process can be a positive experience for all involved.

That’s why we want to help organizations avoid common mistakes to ensure they select the best partner for their website needs. And who better to guide you than your digital BFFs!

In our inaugural Around the Campfire episode – a new vodcast series focused on a variety of digital topics and featuring our Northwoods experts who provide insights, tips and guidance – Jim Brophy, group director of digital, and J.R. Samples, regional solutions director, share the most common mistakes they see organizations make when it comes to developing and issuing website RFPs and offer expert tips on how to improve them.

This is a high-level recap of the topics addressed in the first installment of this two-part series. Watch the video recording below for the full discussion.



Mistake #1: Not Starting the RFP Process Early Enough

The single most common mistake that organizations make is not allocating enough time for the RFP process – a critical step in establishing a solid foundation for what is arguably one of the most critical vendor relationships a company will have.

The process of developing and responding to RFPs, which is a complex and time-consuming task, should be initiated early to avoid pitfalls and ensure the best possible outcome.

From the moment an organization decides to start the RFP process, it can take three to six months just to navigate through the initial stages, which include preparing the RFP document, soliciting responses, and evaluating proposals. Once a partner is selected, it often takes nine to 18 months for website design and development.

So, starting the RFP process early is more than just a best practice; it’s a strategic approach that can significantly affect the success of a website launch.

By acknowledging the time-intensive nature of RFPs and preparing for the extended timelines they require, organizations can set realistic expectations and create a more streamlined, effective process that leads to better outcomes for both the issuers and the responders.

Mistake #2: Omitting Website Strategy

It’s one thing to redesign your website, but it’s another to do it strategically to ensure the greatest chance of success – both for you and your users.

That’s why we always advise clients to conduct a Website & UX strategy prior to delving into a redesign.

In addition, separating the website strategy and user research phase from the design and development phase of your website project can lead to more concrete project planning and timelines, and far less ambiguity.

Conducting user research and developing a website strategy before issuing an RFP for website design and development not only helps to clarify the project scope but also enables respondents to gauge whether the project aligns well with their capabilities, ensuring more accurate and fitting proposals.

All of this is to say that starting with strategy will lead to more successful partnerships for you and better outcomes for your project.

Mistake #3: Pre-Determining Your Platform

Many organizations have existing platforms they must use, sometimes with multi-year contracts they’re obligated to see all the way through. Others simply have a preference for a particular platform based on their current martech stack. That’s completely understandable. Not having flexibility around platforms will by no means doom your project.

But if your company is open to exploring options, the ability to be platform agnostic allows for an unbiased approach to selecting the most suitable platform based on where your website strategy guides you, driven by your users’ needs and your business objectives.

By remaining neutral with regard to the technological platform, organizations can avoid predispositions and focus on finding the most appropriate solution based on the unique requirements of their project.

Mistake #4: Being Ambiguous

Developing a strategic foundation ensures that organizations can articulate their needs effectively to potential website design and development partners, leading to more precise estimates and, ultimately, more successful project outcomes.

Without a defined strategy, website design and development RFPs often suffer from ambiguity, leading to a wide variance in responses and estimated cost ranges that are far too wide (one company recently received estimates ranging from $50,000-$800,000) that can hinder the selection of the most suitable vendor.

In essence, a strategic approach to RFP development serves to reduce uncertainties and aligns your project more closely with your organizational goals and user needs. This provides a clear roadmap for both the issuing organization and potential vendors, ultimately leading to a more successful partnership and a more effective final product. And that’s a win for everyone.

Mistake #5: Underestimating the Importance of Content Planning

Content – or the lack thereof – is usually the No. 1 reason why websites don’t launch on time. Content can be a bit of an afterthought, as so much focus is put on design and development work. But content strategy should always be done up front, guided by your website or UX strategy, as it affects all stages of your website project, from planning to execution.

Lack of content strategy can cause delays but it also can increase your overall project cost as design may need to be retrofitted to support new content late in the process. Even more importantly, lack of content strategy can result in not meeting the expectations of your target audience. It's critical that content and design work together to produce the best possible outcome.

That’s why it’s so important to develop a comprehensive content plan early on that can serve as a roadmap, guiding all project phases and ensuring that each step is aligned with your overarching business objectives and user needs.

If you’re unsure what content help you may need, it’s a good idea to talk with potential vendors to better understand the impact of content on your project and to ensure it’s part of your website strategy. You should also note in your RFP whether you have in-house writing resources available, plan to work with a freelance writer, or if you may need writing assistance from your selected vendor.

All experienced website strategy, design, and development partners should be able to provide solid guidance on content strategy. At Northwoods, our team offers a variety of content guidance and support, whether it involves writing your content, tag teaming it with you, or providing guidance to your in-house writers, with the end goal of producing engaging SEO-optimized, audience-relevant copy.

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon! In the meantime, visit our blog for more helpful insights and tips and reach out if we can be of assistance in your website redesign journey.

Authored By

J.R. Samples

J.R. Samples

Regional Solutions Director

Jim Brophy

Jim Brophy

Group Director, Digital

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<p style="margin-bottom:11px">The Request for Proposal (RFP) process is a pivotal yet complex component of website development. RFPs are generally considered a necessary evil both for the organizations that issue them and the agencies selected to respond.</p> <p>But the process can be improved! In fact, we believe the RFP process can be a positive experience for all involved.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s why we want to help organizations avoid common mistakes to ensure they select the best partner for their website needs. And who better to guide you than your digital BFFs!</p> <p>In our inaugural <a href="/AroundtheCampfire" linktype="2" target="_self">Around the Campfire</a> episode &ndash; a new vodcast series focused on a variety of digital topics and featuring our Northwoods experts who provide insights, tips and guidance &ndash; Jim Brophy, group director of digital, and J.R. Samples, regional solutions director, share the most common mistakes they see organizations make when it comes to developing and issuing website RFPs and offer expert tips on how to improve them.</p> <p>This is a high-level recap of the topics addressed in the first installment of this two-part series. Watch the video recording below for the full discussion.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" referrerpolicy="strict-origin-when-cross-origin" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XXCcHbeXxZU?si=devQPFALxaDx6C8w?rel=0" title="YouTube video player" width="560"></iframe></p> <hr /> <h2>Mistake #1: Not Starting the RFP Process Early Enough</h2> <p>The single most common mistake that organizations make is not allocating enough time for the RFP process &ndash; a critical step in establishing a solid foundation for what is arguably one of the most critical vendor relationships a company will have.</p> <p>The process of developing and responding to RFPs, which is a complex and time-consuming task, should be initiated early to avoid pitfalls and ensure the best possible outcome.</p> <p>From the moment an organization decides to start the RFP process, it can take three to six months just to navigate through the initial stages, which include preparing the RFP document, soliciting responses, and evaluating proposals. Once a partner is selected, it often takes nine to 18 months for website design and development.</p> <p>So, starting the RFP process early is more than just a best practice; it&rsquo;s a strategic approach that can significantly affect the success of a website launch.</p> <p>By acknowledging the time-intensive nature of RFPs and preparing for the extended timelines they require, organizations can set realistic expectations and create a more streamlined, effective process that leads to better outcomes for both the issuers and the responders.</p> <h2>Mistake #2: Omitting Website Strategy</h2> <p>It&rsquo;s one thing to redesign your website, but it&rsquo;s another to do it strategically to ensure the greatest chance of success &ndash; both for you and your users.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s why we always advise clients to conduct a <a href="https://www.nwsdigital.com/Services/Websites/UX-and-Website-Strategy" linktype="3" target="_self">Website &amp; UX strategy</a> prior to delving into a redesign.</p> <p>In addition, separating the website strategy and user research phase from the design and development phase of your website project can lead to more concrete project planning and timelines, and far less ambiguity.</p> <p>Conducting user research and developing a website strategy before issuing an RFP for website design and development not only helps to clarify the project scope but also enables respondents to gauge whether the project aligns well with their capabilities, ensuring more accurate and fitting proposals.</p> <p>All of this is to say that starting with strategy will lead to more successful partnerships for you and better outcomes for your project.</p> <h2>Mistake #3: Pre-Determining Your Platform</h2> <p>Many organizations have existing platforms they must use, sometimes with multi-year contracts they&rsquo;re obligated to see all the way through. Others simply have a preference for a particular platform based on their current <a href="https://www.nwsdigital.com/Blog/What-Is-MarTech-and-Why-Is-it-Important">martech stack</a>. That&rsquo;s completely understandable. Not having flexibility around platforms will by no means doom your project.</p> <p>But if your company is open to exploring options, the ability to be platform agnostic allows for an unbiased approach to selecting the most suitable platform based on where your website strategy guides you, driven by your users&rsquo; needs and your business objectives.</p> <p>By remaining neutral with regard to the technological platform, organizations can avoid predispositions and focus on finding the most appropriate solution based on the unique requirements of their project.</p> <h2>Mistake #4: Being Ambiguous</h2> <p>Developing a strategic foundation ensures that organizations can articulate their needs effectively to potential website design and development partners, leading to more precise estimates and, ultimately, more successful project outcomes.</p> <p>Without a defined strategy, website design and development RFPs often suffer from ambiguity, leading to a wide variance in responses and estimated cost ranges that are far too wide (one company recently received estimates ranging from $50,000-$800,000) that can hinder the selection of the most suitable vendor.</p> <p>In essence, a strategic approach to RFP development serves to reduce uncertainties and aligns your project more closely with your organizational goals and user needs. This provides a clear roadmap for both the issuing organization and potential vendors, ultimately leading to a more successful partnership and a more effective final product. And that&rsquo;s a win for everyone.</p> <h2>Mistake #5: Underestimating the Importance of Content Planning</h2> <p>Content &ndash; or the lack thereof &ndash; is usually the No. 1 reason why websites don&rsquo;t launch on time. Content can be a bit of an afterthought, as so much focus is put on design and development work. But content strategy should always be done up front, guided by your website or UX strategy, as it affects all stages of your website project, from planning to execution.</p> <p>Lack of content strategy can cause delays but it also can increase your overall project cost as design may need to be retrofitted to support new content late in the process. Even more importantly, lack of content strategy can result in not meeting the expectations of your target audience. It&#39;s critical that content and design work together to produce the best possible outcome.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s why it&rsquo;s so important to develop a comprehensive content plan early on that can serve as a roadmap, guiding all project phases and ensuring that each step is aligned with your overarching business objectives and user needs.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re unsure what content help you may need, it&rsquo;s a good idea to talk with potential vendors to better understand the impact of content on your project and to ensure it&rsquo;s part of your website strategy. You should also note in your RFP whether you have in-house writing resources available, plan to work with a freelance writer, or if you may need writing assistance from your selected vendor.</p> <p>All experienced website strategy, design, and development partners should be able to provide solid guidance on <a href="/Services/Websites/Content" linktype="2" target="_self">content strategy</a>. At Northwoods, our team offers a variety of content guidance and support, whether it involves writing your content, tag teaming it with you, or providing guidance to your in-house writers, with the end goal of producing engaging SEO-optimized, audience-relevant copy.</p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><em>Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon! In the meantime, visit our blog for more helpful insights and tips and <a href="/Contact-Us" linktype="2" target="_self">reach out</a> if we can be of assistance in your website redesign journey. </em></p>
/Northwoods-2020/Hero-Images/Hiker-Looking-Out-Over-Mountains.pngSeparating the website strategy and user research phase from the design and development phase of your #website project can lead to more concrete project planning and timelines, and far less ambiguity. https://nwsdigital.me/3ykBB1O @northwoods #websites #RFPs/Northwoods-2020/People/Jim-Brophy.jpgThe authors standing in front of a log cabin with soft, warm lightinghttps://ctt.ac/HFf5o<script charset="utf-8" type="text/javascript" src="//js.hsforms.net/forms/embed/v2.js"></script><script>hbspt.forms.create({ region: "na1", portalId: "23630176", formId: "40c5bbae-05a2-42ea-94dd-1662181fd56e" });</script>/Northwoods-2023/Blog/Social-Cards/Top-Website-RFP-Mistakes--How-to-Avoid-Them-Part-1---Social-Card.jpg?LargeTop Website RFP Mistakes and How to Avoid Them – Part 12024-05-28T00:00:00/Northwoods-2023/Blog/Social-Cards/Top-Website-RFP-Mistakes--How-to-Avoid-Them-Part-1---Social-Card.jpgIn this first installment of a two-part series, learn about some of the most common mistakes organizations make in the website request for proposal process and how to craft RFPs that lead to more successful partnerships and more effective websites.403708/People/JR-SamplesJ.R.SamplesRegional Solutions Director<p>J.R. has a rich, decades-long history of professional services and technology experience, driven by his fascination with the business results tech can enable. His interest lies in solving complex problems and creating ROI-based opportunities for multi-million-dollar companies. J.R. holds several professional certifications, including Six Sigma, Predictive Index, and Karras Negotiating and he focuses his efforts on avoiding guesswork and ensuring real value to the client. Beyond Northwoods, he finds joy in motorcycling, solo backpacking adventures, scuba diving, and reading, and he shares his time with an orange tabby named Benny and loyal German Shepherd Bomont.</p>J.R. Samples/Northwoods-2020/People/JR-Samples.jpgJ.R. SamplesAdd-In Type - NWS Data ModulesCategory - NWS Data ModulesCommittee - NWS Data ModulesDivision - NWS Data ModulesEvent Audience - NWS Data ModulesEvent Service - NWS Data ModulesEvent Type - NWS Data ModulesLocality - NWS Data ModulesModule - NWS Data ModulesNWS Data ModulesTopic - NWS Data ModulesPackage Type - NWS Data ModulesPersonID - NWS Data ModulesJR SamplesProductVersion - NWS Data ModulesRecorded Webinar TopicsRegion - NWS Data ModulesSite Display - NWS Data ModulesSkillLevel - NWS Data ModulesTopic - NWS Data ModulesVideoAudience - NWS Data ModulesVideoClassification - NWS Data ModulesVideoStatus - NWS Data ModulesTeamAll StaffSales/Mktg362098/People/Jim-BrophyJimBrophyGroup Director, Digital<p>Jim has been with Northwoods since 2010, providing digital marketing insights, solutions, and direction informed by decades of experience. His specialties include B2B web strategy, digital marketing strategy, and UX best practices, and he oversees Northwoods&rsquo; customer satisfaction initiative, True North, ensuring every client is on the right path in their digital journey. Away from the office, Jim loves golf, hiking national parks, and movies (especially sci-fi), and is a devoted sports fan, with a different team hat for nearly every day of the year. He also volunteers for the Milwaukee Symphony and is a past member of the Atlanta and Milwaukee Symphony Choruses and The Southeastern Savoyards, a professional Gilbert &amp; Sullivan repertory company.</p>Jim Brophy/Northwoods-2020/People/Jim-Brophy.jpgJim BrophyAdd-In Type - NWS Data ModulesCategory - NWS Data ModulesCommittee - NWS Data ModulesDivision - NWS Data ModulesEvent Audience - NWS Data ModulesEvent Service - NWS Data ModulesEvent Type - NWS Data ModulesLocality - NWS Data ModulesModule - NWS Data ModulesNWS Data ModulesTopic - NWS Data ModulesPackage Type - NWS Data ModulesPersonID - NWS Data ModulesJim BrophyProductVersion - NWS Data ModulesRecorded Webinar TopicsRegion - NWS Data ModulesSite Display - NWS Data ModulesSkillLevel - NWS Data ModulesTopic - NWS Data ModulesVideoAudience - NWS Data ModulesVideoClassification - NWS Data ModulesVideoStatus - NWS Data ModulesTeamAccount DirectorsAll StaffSales/MktgStrategistsAdd-In Type - NWS Data ModulesCategory - NWS Data ModulesCommittee - NWS Data ModulesDivision - NWS Data ModulesEvent Audience - NWS Data ModulesEvent Service - NWS Data ModulesEvent Type - NWS Data ModulesLocality - NWS Data ModulesModule - NWS Data ModulesNWS Data ModulesTopic - NWS Data ModulesUX & Website DesignUX & Website StrategyWebsite DevelopmentWordPressPackage Type - NWS Data ModulesPersonID - NWS Data ModulesJim BrophyJR SamplesProductVersion - NWS Data ModulesRecorded Webinar TopicsRegion - NWS Data ModulesSite Display - NWS Data ModulesNWS DigitalSkillLevel - NWS Data ModulesTopic - NWS Data ModulesVideoAudience - NWS Data ModulesVideoClassification - NWS Data ModulesVideoStatus - NWS Data Modules02024-06-03T12:05:16.04700