You’ve already decided it’s time to redesign your law firm’s website. Your firm’s partners are on board. You have the budget set aside. Now you just need to identify the right design partner. The first step, of course, is to prepare a request for proposal. An RFP is used to outline the requirements of your web design project and invite multiple firms to place bids.

You might be thinking that the onus is mostly on the web design firms during this part of the process. After all, they’re the ones submitting proposals for your consideration. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The reality is that the quality of the proposals you receive from potential design partners will correlate directly to the quality of your own RFP. Think about that for a moment. It means that the quality of your RFP will play a decisive role in the hiring process — and, by extension, on the eventual quality of your firm’s new website.

So how can you be sure to prepare an effective RFP, one that sets up your law firm’s website design project for success?

What Makes for a Well-Written Web Design RFP?

Remember, the purpose of an RFP is to set clear objectives for your law firm’s new website. A well-written RFP provides clarity about your firm’s positioning, current website, scope of your design needs, technological requirements, and so forth. It also demonstrates that you have specific objectives related to outcomes. In other words, a good RFP leaves little to the imagination.

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This clarity of purpose and vision gives potential design partners an unambiguous understanding of your project scope and objectives. It immediately helps them to know whether or not they are equipped to handle your project. And it also gives them a concrete set of requirements on which to build a realistic price quote.

With a high-quality RFP in hand, a design firm can craft a reality-based proposal, one that matches the actual job you are hiring for. And that means apples-to-apples proposals that you can meaningfully compare.

In the end, the quality of your web design RFP reflects the thought and consideration your team has already put into the project. The more you think through your goals for your new website, the stronger your RFP will be.

The Dangers of a Poorly Written Web Design RFP

On the other hand, a poorly written RFP is one that lacks sufficient details or leaves the elements of the project open-ended.

For example, are you looking for a full rebrand, or are you looking for a design partner to work within your existing branding system? Don’t be coy and ask the potential design partner what they think. For one thing, the question of whether or not to rebrand is a big question, one that goes well beyond a website. It’s a big decision and a heavy lift, so you don’t want to imply that you might do it if you don’t actually have the internal buy-in or the resources.

A poorly written RFP sets you back in a couple of ways.

First, you may not receive as many proposals from design firms. Just as you are assessing the various firms that submit proposals, design firms are also assessing your firm’s potential as a client based on your RFP. A less polished RFP gives the impression that your firm isn’t clear about its goals for the project. Because of that, it hints at disorganization or lack of agreement. The result is that fewer designers will choose to go after your job — especially the best designers, who can afford to be selective. And when the best designers opt out of your process, the quality of your finished work is sure to suffer.

Second, the proposals you receive won’t be as easy to compare. With an unclear RFP, each design firm that responds will be forced to prepare an estimate based on their best guess as to what the project might entail. That often means wildly divergent quotes and inflated prices.

How to Produce a Winning Web Design RFP

Anyone can learn how to write an RFP. But the ability to produce a winning one begins with how clearly your firm understands its own goals and requirements. In fact, when it comes down to it, a badly written RFP isn’t really the catalyst for poor design work. Instead, it’s the symptom of a larger problem. That bigger problem may be disorganization, unrealistic objectives, a lack of preparation, or a dearth of internal alignment. Either way, it reflects a lack of clarity or consensus.

And until the root problem is fixed, you can be sure that it will plague the entire web design project from start to finish. To avoid this costly misstep, make sure you don’t start the RFP process until you’ve developed consensus around a clear set of objectives for your firm’s new website.

Beyond that, you should be sure to:

  • Make your firm’s positioning clear. When your potential design partners understand where your firm sits within your particular space (and how you hope to grow), they are better able to conceive of a proposed solution.
  • Express a clear reason for your website redesign process. The more specific, the better. For example, you might explain that you need a new website because your current site doesn’t perform well on mobile devices. Or perhaps you have research indicating that users are bouncing off important pages more quickly than you’d like.
  • Develop a clear list of the technological requirements. This includes any necessary functionalities or integrations with third-party applications.
  • Make sure the scope of your project is clear. Potential design partners can’t give you an accurate price quote unless they understand exactly what your project will entail. Lay out the details of your project as clearly as possible by attempting to anticipate a designer’s questions.

Producing a high-quality RFP takes time, but it’s well worth the effort. Doing so will enable you to select the right web design partner and ensure the success of your new website.

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