Is Your Civic Website Going Out to Bid? Learn What to Ask in Your RFP.

Written by Deb McNew

Choosing a government website designer is an important decision. You’re not just choosing a service provider; you’re choosing a strategic partner and expert advisor to help lead you through the process of creating a tool that will serve as a keystone in your citizen communication strategy. If you’re putting your government website design out to bid this year, and are wondering what questions to ask in your formal request for proposal (RFP), we have compiled a list of the questions that will be most valuable in helping you align your local government with the right strategic partner.

Start with an Overview of Your Objectives

Before you ask any questions of your prospective government website designers, start with a summary of your objectives. To offer a proposal that will answer the underlying question as to whether its services will fulfill your needs, a prospective partner will need to understand your objectives. Include an overview section at the beginning of your RFP questionnaire that includes the following insights:

  • The state of your current local government website, including where it is failing to help you accomplish your goals.
  • Any relevant historical background information that will inform prospective government website designers as to how your current needs have evolved.

Differentiate Needs Versus Desires

Spend time brainstorming your list of all the features and functionality you think you’d like in a local government website. Then, organize the list by wants, versus desires. If there is a software integration or functionality that you know you need to keep your administrative workflows in place, any prospective vendors will need to know what those deal-breaking capabilities are. Some may realize they aren’t the right fit for your municipality and save you both the time and effort of submitting a proposal.

Think about wants and desires in terms of:

  • ePayment integration
  • Form submission capabilities
  • Layered administrative access
  • Open APIs
  • Live video integration capabilities

Outline Specific Submission Requirements

State explicitly what information you expect to receive in each proposal. Ideally, each RFP submission should include the same content, formatted in the same way. Be sure to indicate how your administration wants the proposals to be received, and whether they must be submitted electronically and/or in hard copy. If hard copy submissions are required, indicate how many total proposals should be included and stipulate the number of original copies with original signatures from authorized company agents, versus duplicates.

This will best allow you to compare submissions, evaluate qualifications, and determine which government website designer is best able to meet your needs. Ask that the following be provided:

  • A completed vendor qualification response that answers all outlined questions.
  • For submissions to be prepared and packaged in accordance with your municipal bid requirements. Check with your purchasing department, as that may mean that all bids must be sealed and delivered with specific documentation on the box or envelope.
  • A hard deadline. Remember to take into consideration any national holidays that may impact the mail, or your office’s ability to accept submissions. Also, don’t accept proposals from any prospect who fails to meet your submission deadline. If a company can’t complete its proposal in time, can you trust it will meet your website development deadline? For a project as significant as your local government website it’s not worth the risk.
  • Your submission review timeline. By providing a timeline that includes when a final decision will be made, you can avoid repeated follow-up phone calls from proposal submitters.

Vendor Qualifications

Ask all bidders to provide the following qualifying information:

  • A company overview to establish their experience and credibility. Specifically ask for:
    • Company history.
    • Office location(s).
    • Experience working directly with local governments to determine which vendor can address your specific needs.
  • Support team information to ensure you will be assigned dedicated and experienced resources.
  • Municipal website design experience. You’ll want to choose a solution provider with experience not just in website design, but in local government software solutions. Specifically ask for:
    • A minimum of three references of established, existing municipal/government clients.
  • The project development philosophy and approach. Ensure any prospects have an established and proven process for developing customized solutions that solve communication challenges. Specifically ask for the following information:
    • Average project timeline.
    • An outline of all project phases.
    • An explanation of the design and existing content migration process.
  • Assurance that all prospects meet compliance requirements established by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Do not accept any vague responses to this question. Be sure to choose a partner with knowledge of ADA requirements and proven experience.
  • Available consulting services. Any reputable solution provider should offer expert guidance and in-depth consulting as an optional service.
  • Ongoing (post go-live) training availability and options.
  • Support, hosting and maintenance capabilities. It will be essential to choose a partner with a proven, battle-tested solution for data security.
  • Pricing information. Understand that your final estimate should be customized based on specifications mutually agreed upon during the contracting phase, however all reputable prospects should be able to estimate the cost of your investment by providing a lump-sum price or range. A valuable partner will also help you budget expenditures accordingly if you know you are working with a set budget.
  • Security capabilities. No website can remain live 100% of the time, look for a partner that can guarantee at least 99% uptime outside of regularly scheduled maintenance.

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