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

Andy Budd andy at message.uk.com
Fri Aug 8 11:48:15 CDT 2003

Janet Green wrote:

> Andy, I see the point you're making,


> but what do you believe is the alternative when the client 
> specifically *asks* to have design mockups (or even just a color 
> scheme) in the proposal? It seems to me that your answer to that would 
> be to say, "I won't provide those because I can't do any design 
> without thorough planning and research, but I *can* show you what I 
> have done for other clients so you can see that my design work comes 
> out of the research and planning."

This would probably be my first retort, and if the client was small (as 
the initial posters client sounded) i'd probably stick to this

> Which is a great and true and fine answer, until the client reiterates 
> that they want to see some mockups because they want to see what you 
> can do for *them* before they hire you, and now you're in a position 
> of steadfastly refusing to give them what they're asking for.

If the client really wanted to see some mock-ups that's fine. I'd let 
them know that we are happy to do visual design and let them know our 
hourly/daily rate for design.

It's not hugely common but we have been involved in paid pitches 
before. If the company values your time and creativity they should be 
willing to pay you. If not it would start some alarm bells ringing.

> (Or, they shrug their shoulders and let you do it your way without 
> pushing the issue, until it comes time to pare down that pile of 
> proposals.) Will the client respect your commitment to your principles 
> and hire you without mockups, trusting that your thorough research and 
> planning will give them what they want? Or will they just pick one of 
> the ten other designers who *will* give them a peek at some creative 
> because it's easier to work with someone who didn't put up a barrier?

Well this is an interesting question. I've been involved in a number of 
seminars about pitching and one thing that comes up more than anything 
else is whether to show creative or not.

And it really seems to come down to the individual client and the line 
seems to be evenly drawn. Some people have said that  sticking to their 
guns and explaining why they can't show creative has secured them the 
job. Other people have said that they were the only people who showed 
creative and they was the reason they got the job.

The funny thing is that in my experience the smaller the job, the more 
out of you the client wants. However larger or more experienced clients 
are happy meeting you and getting a feel for if they like you. They can 
tell a lot by what is in your portfolio and what you say (and don't 
say) on your websites,  the process you follow and most importantly the 
vibe they get from you and if you sound like you're actually interested 
in the project.

One interesting thing you said was <snip> will they just pick one of 
the ten other designers who *will* give them a peek at some creative 
</snip>. If they are getting 10 other designers to come up with design 
concepts, they are not trying to select a design team. They are trying 
to get as wide a range of designs as possible in which case I'd 
politely decline from showing designs.

> Or - would YOU chuck the client altogether and forego the proposal? My 
> experience has been that in developing a proposal, you can gather 
> enough information from the client about the key parts of the site 
> (functionality, audience, purpose, etc.) to be comfortable in creating 
> a couple sample pages and saying, "This is one way this might flow 
> together. Of course, that could change once we get into the planning 
> process."

If the job is of a reasonable size, they are only talking to a few 
other design companies and I feel that they understand the fact that 
what we're showing is just an example of what we can produce and they 
weren't just shopping around for free design ideas, but they really 
weren't willing to pay for creative I probably *would* provide the 

> Spec creative doesn't devalue the profession because clients are too 
> busy running their businesses to even think about it and your fellow 
> designers know and understand the challenges you face in finding that 
> balance between creative integrity and client service. I can't think 
> of anyone else offhand whose opinion I'd even worry about.

I still feel that spec creative can (and often does) devalue what we 
do. If it's a big client, a large project and only a few people 
pitching, thats one thing. However often a client will send an RFP to 
lot's and lot's of designers, not so as to choose the best company, but 
to choose the best design. Rather than hiring one design company and 
seeing 3 design treatments, they get 10 companies to produce a bunch of 
design (for free) and choose based on the design they prefer and not 
the credentials, ability or processes the company follows.

This means 10 designers have given their time and expertise up for free 
and the client hasn't had to pay a cent to any of these designers for 
their work. This is what I mean by devalue. In the future why should 
client come to me or you and pay us for our design skills when they 
know somebody out there is willing to do it for free?

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