The only way to get bids in from prospective vendors in a form that can be analyzed successfully is to spend the time to develop a Request for Proposal - or RFP - that outlines the structure of the site that is to be built. That process can be lengthy and challenging, but it will be worth every minute.

Some things to consider:

  • You'll need to consider how many sections you're going to have, how many pages will be required to support those sections, and how they will relate to each other.
  • You'll need to think about the number of type of graphics you want to use, and whether or not you want to utilize technologies like Flash. Costs can be much higher when new technologies are implemented, because you'll need to cover the lowest common denominator by providing a static mirror page for each Flash page to support users who don't want, or need - or who can't use Flash for one reason or another.
  • What is your information structure and navigation going to look like? Information architecture is the way in which your content is organized so that it's easy to find; navigation makes it easy to get there.
  • What will the look & feel be - will it capitalize on already existing advertising or collateral, or will it have its own unique character?
  • Will you have forms to collect user information?
  • Will you have a search engine or database?
  • Will there be a catalog of items for sale?
  • Will the sales be handled online or offline through other sales channels?
Adequate requirements definition is the first most important step on the path to a successful web development project. Without a solid RFP, your requirements may not be clear, which could lead to inconsistent responses. This then can leave you with the unpleasant and frustrating task of having to compare apples to oranges - a situation that can make it very difficult to assess the responding vendors strengths and weaknesses, and their ability to fulfill your project's needs.