We’ve been designing top quality websites for just shy of 16 years now. And some of the RFPs we’ve received have been – how to say this nicely – less than useful. Website redesign RFPs can range from useful and informative to downright meaningless boilerplate content.

I know that these are required by boards, and by-laws, and whatever, but an incomplete scope of work will result in less than ideal proposals from vendors and can even lead to massive delays or other issues with the projects down the road.

In terms of getting pricing, I leave that up to you. You will likely be faced with the choice between fixed price/fixed deliverables and an agile style design and development process.

Either way, you’ll need a meaningful scope of work. One of the first things we ask a client who contacts us is “do you have a written scope of work?”

“Do You Have a Written Scope of Work?”

Work this out before you contact potential vendors. Here’s why…

  • It will help everyone (internally) get on the same page as to what is going to be built
  • You’ll be able to get a better idea of whether your budget matches your scope, so you can narrow deliverables as needed
  • It will help you determine which firms specialize in the type of work you need them to perform

A solid scope of work is a time saver. It helps you get right to the good stuff. Fluff is useless at this stage. At some point your vendor might need to know how your organization formed, and the founder’s story, etc. but not right now. Right now they need the following:

  1. Website Project Overview
  2. Outline of Required Functionality/Workflow
  3. Clear and Measurable Goals for the New Website
  4. Targeted Schedule/Timeline/Milestones
  5. Website Design and Development Budget

Let’s take a look at each of these to outline what they mean exactly…

Website Project Overview

Each website has an audience and a purpose. This is the basis of what you need to describe.

  1. Who is this website for?
  2. What does it need to do?

Who Is The Website Target Audience?

Every website has a target audience. Before you do anything, you need to identify the group or groups who will be using this website. For the purposes of this overview, we just need to know who the user is so we have some context to go with the desired functionality.

Don’t worry so much about the demographics or get too granular. Just something like “this website is for gardening professionals looking for planting tips and tool recommendations.”

This way we know who the audience is but more from the perspective of how this website will meet their needs. Then, from there you can get into more specifics.

What Is The Website’s Purpose or Primary Functions?

What should the new site do or offer? For example, “these gardening professionals are looking for an online utility to help them plan plant groupings” and “they need a plant lookup tool that matches the plants to the space and the need.”

You can then outline the specifics of that utility further along in the document. For now, just focus on the “elevator pitch” or the 30 second overview of what this website does and what makes it special.

Remember, there are likely lots of websites out there offering something similar to what you’re looking to offer. Try and identify early on what will make your website unique and more desirable than the others.

I recommend reading 10X Marketing by Garrett Moon. This is a great resource when determining your marketing strategy and how to differentiate yourself from the competition. Ultimately, you’re looking for a competition free zone. A market where no one else offers what you are offering.

Outline of Required Website Functionality/Workflow

Context is always helpful here. You could say, “we need a database of plants that can be searched.” But, that could go in many different directions.

Instead, we need to know the context and who is searching for plants? Do they already have a base knowledge of horticulture? What types of searches will they want to perform?

Think of a car. Any car could be described as a vehicle with 4 wheels, an engine, seats, a steering wheel, and brakes. If someone described their car to you in this manner, you would have no idea what kind of car they’re describing. It could be a Ferrari. I could also be a Festiva.

Mapping the User Experience (UX)

Your outline of required functionality needs to walk through the user experience, step by step. How will the target audience use this website. Outlining your workflow in a detailed step by step will also uncover any roadblocks or missing pieces.

For example, with our plant website example, do they need to have an account to access this utility? Does it cost money for them to join? Will they be able to save their searches and/or purchase materials? Is there any sort of community element that could exist between users? Like a discussion area, etc?

As you walk through the process of the user experience, ask yourself these types of questions to ensure that you cover all user needs and their associated functionality.

Clearly Define Technical Requirements

This is pretty straightforward. We need to know exactly what you’re asking us to build, technically:

  • Is it a public facing website or a member’s only online app?
  • Does the development platform matter? Does it need to be open source or Microsoft, for example?
  • Do you need a content management system like WordPress or Drupal? Do you have a preference?
  • Are there other applications like a CRM or marketing automation system that the website must integrate with? Do you have any documentation on integration or information about an API?

Of course, some of this information may be foreign or unknowable to you. If you don’t know or don’t have a preference, say so. It’s perfectly OK to ask for recommendations.

Clear and Measurable Goals for the Website

You’re not just building a website for fun. You have goals; goals you may not even be aware of. These goals need to be clear and attainable.

Increasing sales is not a clear goal. Lots of traffic is not a clear goal. Remember your priorities here. Why are you building this website? Of course you want sales and of course you wants lots of traffic. But there is no real way to plan for or measure vague goals.

Map your goals to a calendar. For example, a realistic goal might be 100 new users each month. Then, backtrack from there. How do you achieve this goal? How much traffic do you need and how much of that traffic needs to convert to reach that goal.

Conversion Goal Tracking

We created this little utility for mapping conversion goals. It’s basic but it makes an important point. You cannot simply say that you need more traffic/sales. You have to map this out.

  1. 10,000 unique visitors a month
  2. 1,000 of those will fill out a contact form
  3. 100 of those will become member

If this is a brand new website, these numbers will be educated guesses and will require tweaking as the data starts coming in. But, always start with numbers. Aim for 10,000 unique visitors a month. Then, using Google Analytics, track the following:

  1. Unique visitors: how many individual people visited the website?
  2. Pageviews: how many pages did they visit?
  3. Conversions: how many filled out your contact form? How many are now members?

When you map out clear and measurable goals, it breaks you out of the Iowa mindset (if you build it, they will come) and forces you to ask the tough questions. Will people come to and use this website? How many visitors do you need to be profitable or otherwise consider this a success?

It’s helpful for the vendor to know these things up front. We will need to know what your conversion points are so we can effectively use design and development to drive and track conversion.

Targeted Schedule/Timeline/Milestones

Every project has deadlines, and being honest about these is important. What do I mean? Well, it’s great to have a target launch date but is that date realistic and necessary?

Are you putting yourself in a precarious position by committing to a deadline that is unattainable and/or unnecessary? And if the deadline is a must, then put together a plan for your minimum viable website.

What is the minimum that absolutely has to go live on that date (the deadline)? Sometimes planning your website project in phases can actually make the entire project go faster and come in under budget. Only focus on what you need live and when. Do that, then move on to the next phase (or milestone).

Website Deadlines: What Can Go Wrong Will Go Wrong!

It’s Murphy and his dang law! Projects have delays. Some are caused by the vendor and some by the client. It doesn’t matter who is the cause, what matters is that delays are inevitable and need to be taken into account.

Make your deadlines realistic and attainable. Deadlines should have purpose. And those deadlines need to be communicated up front to your website design and development team.

They need an opportunity to assess whether they think they can realistically meet that deadline. The honest ones will express concerns if the deadline it too ambitious.

Website Design and Development Budget

Americans don’t like to talk about money. This is certainly a part of our culture. It’s not polite to ask and it’s considered garrish to discuss money openly. So, instead, we play a guessing game.

If you do not feel comfortable disclosing your budget, I understand. It’s not the “norm.” But, it is incredibly helpful to all involved if this is included in your scope of work. Why? We need to know if we can realistically do what you’re asking for the money allotted.

Honesty about Your Website Budget Saves Time and… Money!

If you tell us you have a budget of $25,000 for what we would consider to be more like $40,000 worth of design and development work, we will be honest and tell you that.

Then we can either choose not to bid and waste your time, or we can work with you to identify what parts of the scope we could do for $25,000.

Or maybe you tell us your have $25,000 for your project but we can do it for $15,000. Maybe then you can use that extra money for SEO/SEM work or some content marketing (this has happened).

What if your budget simply does not match your scope? Is it better to hide your number only to be surprised later when you get your bids? That doesn’t help anyone.

The Website RFP Spin Cycle

We’ve seen organizations put out an RFP without a budget only to have to go through the RFP process all over again because they got bids that were way over their budget. Imagine the time that could have been saved if they would have simply listed their target budget.

Honesty is a good policy here. If you have a max budget of $25,000 but really want to stay under $20,000, then say that and ask for proposals at both price points. A reputable firm will work with you to make the best use of your budget and resources (ask around for referrals to be certain you’re talking to one).

If you’re unsure of your budget, try speaking to some colleagues who have just been through a similar project. Perhaps they can share some realistic budget expectations.

An Honest, Detailed, and Relevant Website Scope of Work

This is our dream. We want this information up front so we can do what we do best, build great websites and web applications. We have zero desire to take advantage of anyone. And any design and development firm worth their salt will feel the same way.

Our goal is to help you achieve your goals. If we do that, everyone is high fiving at the end AND you’ll give us referrals.

To get to this point requires honesty about the scope, timeline, and budget. It requires flexibility and an open mind. And it requires clear and useful communication about what’s important in your website project.

A great website or web application is not built on guesswork. It’s built using a clear and reasonable plan that is based on an honest, detailed, and relevant scope of work. Do you agree? Let me know in the comments section below.

Do you have questions about an upcoming project, drop us a line. We’re happy to help.

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.

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