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How to Develop a Web Design Proposal

When clients want web design work to be done, they prepare an RFP (Request For Proposal). An RFP is a document that outlines the goals and scope of the project so designers can better prepare a proposal. Often, however, the clients themselves are not sure what they want or what can be done, so the RFP is not as helpful as you may hope.

Often the RFP outlines clear, sometimes strict, procedures for submitting your proposal, telling you what to include, when to submit it, and what to expect after that. For RFPs that are less specific, here’s a list of things you should include in your RFP response:

  • Project summary. Include a section that outlines the project, any specific ideas you have for the project, assumptions you have about the project, and any unique qualifications you and your team have for the project.

  • Project budget. The most important aspect to include in your proposal is the bottom line: How much is this project going to cost the client? Provide an estimate for the project that covers the work assumptions and ideas you stated in the project summary and timeline.

    When estimating, always add 20 to 25 percent more than you think that the project will cost. You can always impress the client by billing less, and if you end up needing the additional amount, you’ll be thankful that you built in the extra padding.

  • Visual examples. Clients usually respond better to visuals than to a lot of text. Wherever you can, include diagrams and sample designs.

  • Market and competitive analysis. Depending on the nature of the project, it may be helpful to provide a market analysis section that shows competitive sites and discusses ways to differentiate the client’s site. If you are developing a website for a commercial enterprise such as an online store, it’s helpful to do a little research into similar websites to make sure that the design you propose is competitive.

  • Your company background. Include a section that provides an overview of your design agency or consultancy along with case studies of relevant projects you’ve completed. Also include a short bio on you and other key team members.

  • Outline of content and special features. Create a basic outline of the content and features you propose for the website based on what the RFP states and the brainstorming you’ve done with the client. For example, if you think that an interactive timeline would be a great addition to the website, list it as a special feature and describe how it would work.

  • Sample navigation ideas. Along with a list of content and features, you may even go so far as to suggest how you’d organize the interface. For example, you can outline a list of main categories and subcategories — and even outline how the interface might work.

  • Production schedule. Include a section that outlines the production schedule, complete with client sign-off points, your team’s milestones, and the client’s deliverables (tasks that the client is responsible for). A client sign-off point is when the client formally accepts the recent progress (by signing a document to that effect) and knows that the company cannot ask for revisions without incurring additional costs. It’s also important to determine up front who has sign-off authority for the client. Also, often, the client includes a desired due date for the project. In this case, you can work backward from that date and scale the production effort accordingly. For example, if the client wants the project done in just one month, the scope and budget of what you can accomplish is already limited.

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