I am not sure if it is due to the economy and job market (which, side note, check out Steffan Antonas’ blog entry about this)…or if people are looking for a supplemental income…or if people realize they don’t want to be doing what they’re doing 30 years from now…or a combination thereof…but I’ve recently had a few people in my life talk about starting an online presence of some sort. In talking with these friends, I realized that even though I am not a certified expert in the field of starting up a website, I do now have some first-hand, first-time experience and knowledge that can possibly help others who are starting to go down that same avenue that I started venturing down a few months back. I’ve found that with starting up a website, it is a total learning experience. So, with the notion of if I knew then what I know now, I’d like to put together this documentation with the hopes that it will help give other people the knowledge that I wish I had when I was starting to put the wheels in motion.
And, to try to keep this from being super long, I will split it into two parts. In this first part, I will cover what you should put together before you even start searching for that “just right” designer for you and your project.
Fortunately, I have a good net of people in my life that have experience with web-based start-ups. In communicating with one of my friends, he said, “Sounds like a cool idea, send over your RFP, I’ll take a look at it, and try to point you in the right direction.” My verbal response: “O.k. Great! Thanks, man.” My mental response: “What the eff is an RFP?” After jumping online, I quickly find that it is an acronym for Request for Proposal. Basically, it’s an official document you put together to give prospective designer/developers a rather thorough idea of what you are looking to have created. Once you have an RFP, you can then distribute it out to prospective developers, requesting a proposal (including a quote) from them based on the information you included. I grabbed a couple of samples online to work with, and here are the sections and sub-sections I came up with:
Oh right, before I continue…throw away your fear of including detailed information about your idea and having that information go out to other people (a.k.a. prospective developers). If you do your homework and choose trusted, respected developers, there should be no worry that your idea may get out there or that someone may steal your idea.
SECTION 1- COMPANY and PROJECT OVERVIEW
- Company Brief: are you a start-up or existing company; where are you based out of
- Company Mission Statement: what are you trying to accomplish with your site
- Project Overview: briefly explain what your site will be about; what’s your target market; what will your users be able to do on the site; what are your revenue ideas…but remember this is an overview, you will be able to explain the idea, product, and services in more detail later in the RFP
- Budget: how much money can you spend on getting your site created, also explain that if the allotted budget can not cover everything you have outlined, you are open to proposals that would scale down your idea or trim functionality in order to meet your budget.
- Timeframe: when do you want the project completed
- Site Interaction: what services and products will your site be offering; services include things that users will be able to do on your site (i.e. submit specific types of content, rate things, comment on things). Products include anything that you will be selling (i.e. premier membership, t-shirts).
SECTION 2- DESIGN and DEVELOPMENT DETAILS
- Design and Functionality: give some examples of other existing sites that you like the design of, be specific on why you like the design (do you like the clean look). Also provide samples of sites that you like the functionality of (i.e. do you like how it easily links to Facebook, or do you like the rating system).
- Development and Compatibility: do you want your site to be developed with certain software or are you open to whatever so long as it can do the things you’ve outlined. Do you want it to be able to successfully run on particular browsers…do you want it to have a Content Management System (CMS), which is an administrative platform where you’d be able to manage site content, manage the database, etc.
SECTION 3- WEBSITE FLOW CHART (SITE MAP)
- I used mapping software and would recommend ProtoShare to create this site map. Start with the homepage, and branch out from there…from the homepage, what pages can a user get to? The about us info? Their user profile? A directory? Then, from each of those places, where can a user click to? Explain this with cute bubbles/boxes and arrows.
SECTION 4- SAMPLES OF WIREFRAMES
- This isn’t required, but I’ve received feedback that this is very helpful. Again, I would recommend using the software ProtoShare to create these wireframes. Maybe I should have started with what wireframes are…they are a very rough outline of what you want the layout of your pages to be (do you want horizontal navigation in the header, do you want a box explaining the site towards the top of the page). Once you create them, with software or with pencil and paper, include a couple in this RFP.
SECTION 5- PROPOSAL DETAILS
What do you want from the prospective developer? What do you want them to include in their proposal to you?
- Background: you will want some background information on them, have them include samples of prior projects that may have required similar skills to you’re your project will entail (this could just be through a link to their portfolio)
- Design: what I found here (which I’ll get into more detail in part 2) is you want to get samples of design work that the prospect has done that may be similar to the look that you want. Their portfolio may include some really nice looking sites, but if you dig around a bit, you’ll realize that they were only responsible for the back-end of the site…not the design. And, the sites that they actually did design were nothing close to what you want.
- Development: what software do they plan to use and why did they choose to use that software.
- Investment and Timeline: request that they outline the specific products and services they can develop for you and how much each component will cost (break down the cost of things). Ask for a timeline that each stage will get completed (from how long the design aspect will take, to how long programming will take)
I know this seems like a lot of information to pull together, but if you have written a business plan for your idea, this RFP should be fairly simple to write. And, if you haven’t written a business plan, this RFP should help solidify your idea and organize the details. After the RFP is complete, you are ready for the next step: send it out and wait for proposals to come back to you. But wait…who do you send it to? How do you decide who to send it to? Are you going to go the route of a freelancer or a large design company? Or maybe even overseas? This will all be addressed in the next blog entry…so stay tuned.
By the way, uknowpia is so close to launching, I can taste it. Keep checking back and get ready to get creative. We will all soon be creating lists that define our life experiences…hopefully in a humorous, all-in-good-fun way. Can’t wait!