[thelist] How do I build a proposal for a website?

Andy Budd andy at message.uk.com
Fri Aug 8 06:09:30 CDT 2003

Kelly Hallman wrote:

> I don't see any devaluation there.  Maybe of your own time, if it is 
> that
> precious that you can't invest a few hours prior to getting a project. 
>  I
> wouldn't do that for a $500 gig, but I don't really do $500 gigs, 
> either.

Well first off I'm not suggesting putting no time into a proposal. 
Talking to the client, getting an idea of their needs, analyzing their 
RFP, meeting with the design team to discuss the response and putting 
together a proposal outlining what we see to the the core problem, how 
we run our projects, the make up of the project team, examples of work 
and testimonials etc etc all take a considerable amount of time. For a 
small project this could be a couple of person days, for a large 
project it could be a week or more.

This is already a very large resource drain to secure a potential 
client and something that needs to be done in a considered and managed 

Now you may suggest spending a "few hours" on some designs but In my 
experience, to produce anything halfway descent you'd need to spend at 
least a day or two (much more for a big project) which adds 
considerably to the overall cost of a proposal.

The reason I feel it devalues the business is by doing designs before 
any planning has taken place you're saying that design is something one 
can just "knock up" and this devalues the whole planning/strategy 
phase. Many designers (and especially those coming from a print design 
background) see web design as just prettifying an interface. However 
good web design is about analyzing the clients business needs and the 
users needs, making considered decisions about Content, IA etc etc and 
is not something that can (or should) be done right up front in a "few 

I'm not saying that my time is "precious" however my skills, abilities 
and experience do come at a cost and I really don't like the idea of 
giving creative away. Design is about fulfilling goals, it's not art 
and it's not a beauty contest. I really feel that giving away creative 
work can be a big mistake.

On saying that it does depend somewhat on the size of the contract. For 
a £10,000 it's just not worth it. For a £100,000 it's probably worth 
doing. However be prepaid to be judged not on your abilities or track 
record but on whether you choose a colour scheme that the MD happens to 
like (I suggest blue!)

> Lately I've been of the mindset of giving clients a comp or two before 
> the
> job, just so I don't have to go through all that hassle and rigmarole 
> of
> trying to convince them "yes, I know what I'm doing."  A nice portfolio
> site could probably help that, but a lukewarm portfolio might not.

But the problem is, it's fine if you're just showing them something as 
an example of what you can do. To show them how creative you are! 
However most clients will judge you're offering as your suggestions and 
if they don't like your initial suggestion your stuffed. If they do 
like your initial suggestion and say, yes, thats the design we will go 
for, you've already done the design before you've actually done any of 
the preliminary work that's required to come up with a good solutions. 
The website will get built based on a design you spent a "few hours" 
coming up with and the site will probably not be much of a success.

> Since I'm willing to do it, and you're not, I'm more likely to get the
> job.  Also, they are more likely to feel confident in my skills because
> they've already seen an example of what I could do for them.  Also, I'm
> less likely to be hooked up with a client who is going to give me major
> headaches over the design, because we already know there's some 'fit'.
> If they choose not to go with my offering, I may have lost a few hours.
> I may have saved a whole lot of sanity down the road, if my vision and 
> the
> client's vision are too different.  Plus, I have some new design ideas
> that weren't used and may be salvaged into some other project later.
> If they do choose to go with me, the few hours spent prior are usually
> well worth it.  If they like one of the designs so much that they want 
> to
> use it as is, even better.  If not, the comps still serve as a jumping 
> off
> point for discussing the direction for moving forward.

At which point you've already locked yourself into a direction without 
having done the proper research and planning. This is the way lot's of 
people do web design and it's a personal bugbear of mine. Get a job (in 
in this case a RFP) and the first thing many people do is launch 
photoshop. No discovery phase, no tech specs or requirement building. 
No wireframes or anything. Just open up photoshop and start dropping in 
pictures and blocks of colour.

> I think if you want to talk about devaluing the profession: what if the
> perception arises among those searching for web designers that all web
> workers are stingy with their time and unwilling to do anything extra 
> to
> prove themselves to you?  The first person who comes along who doesn't 
> have
> that attitude will probably get the job just on that merit.  So, 
> thanks :)

Oh I don't know. Personally I want my client to get the feeling that 
I'll be there to best service their business needs and the needs of 
their clients. To feel that they have hired a professional design team 
who will approach a design problem in a structured manner and not just 
throw unconsidered creative at a problem. However so many client are 
used to working with PR and marketing companies where this is the norm 
they expect this is the way web design should work as well. However web 
design is much more like product design or software design.

If you wanted to hire somebody to build you a bit of software you 
probably  wouldn't expect them to include a mock up of the GUI in an 
initial proposal (because there is no way you can come up with this 
without first specking and planning the job). You could give it a shot 
but if they hired you on the basis that this is what it would look like 
you've already started with a problem.

The reason I think showing creative devalues the web design industry is 
I feel it perpetuates the myth the web design is solely about making a 
website look pretty and has nothing to do with good planning, IA, 
usability and marrying up business objectives to user needs.


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