The Best Web Design RFP Ever Written

March 20, 2017
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Dear Matt,

We are A-R Editions, Inc., a 52-year-old publisher of historical sheet music in Madison, Wisconsin, and we need a brand new website. Our people have spent a great deal of time thinking through what we want and have outlined our requirements in a formal RFP. However, I don’t want to waste your time asking you to invest hours drafting a written response. Rather, I would ask you to spend just a few minutes reviewing our requirements and let me know if you think that your preferred technologies and skills are a good match for our project. If they are, please tell me how you would like to proceed. I would welcome a thorough conversation before any attempt to respond to our RFP. We want more than just a new website. We are looking for a partner to help us grow our business in new directions for many years.

I will be out of my office the rest of this week and will be difficult to reach but please leave me email or voicemail and I will be checking them while I am out.

Many thanks,


We didn’t pursue this job because it wasn’t the right fit for Astuteo, but it’s the best Request for Proposal (RFP) that we’ve ever received. Why? 

The RFP makes no assumptions.

A successful, long-term relationship often begins with a simple hello, by way of an introductory email or phone call, and a short follow-up conversation. Why? Because there are a hundred reasons why a web design company may or may not be the best fit for your project – timelines, availability, technology needs, business requirements, industry expertise, and the personalities involved just to name a few. By asking for input instead of assuming you already know all the answers, the request is very inviting.

The RFP is kind and considerate.

More importantly, so is its author. It’s considerate of the web designer's experience and perspective, and shows an interest in hearing what we have to offer in our own words. As customers, we all have specific needs and personal preferences that need to be accounted for in a project – that’s why a 36-page formal requirements document was attached to the request. But it was offered as an outline for discussion, not necessarily as a predefined scope of work. This open-minded approach almost guarantees the author is a fair and reasonable person to work with.

The RFP was detailed, but not demanding.

Like I said, a 36-page formal RFP was attached to the email to help us get a handle on the scope of the project. However, it was presented as a challenge in need of a solution, not a fixed solution in need of a cost estimate. The problem with predefined solutions is that they leave no room for the valuable questions or criticism that the experts you seek are likely to have for you.

The RFP focuses on the project, not the proposal format.

Speaking of demands, it’s okay to have them with regard to your project requirements, but be careful not to get overbearing with your proposal requirements. Sure, you have a ton of questions and you’re a diligent project manager – that’s awesome. What won’t be awesome is the response you get, or lack thereof, when you demand that vendors conform to strict presentational requirements just to respond to your RFP.

The RFP seeks a partnership, not just a price. 

Money is great and all, but make no mistake – you have a problem that needs solving, not a carrot to dangle in front of a horse. The right web design partner needs to match more than just your budget, and you need to meet their qualifications, too. Therefore, the goal of your RFP should be, first and foremost, generating interest in your project. Without any interest, it’s a non-starter.