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

Janet Green JGreen at desmoinesmetro.com
Fri Aug 8 14:47:19 CDT 2003

>>>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.<<<

True but as the client you're not getting anything that's useful as an end product, either, unless you steal one of the designs and implement it in-house, which of course is an ethical question and worthy of a whole other discussion. But, outright theft is the only way the designer's "free work" at this level is going to be devalued, because you are still leaving the client with the need for an end product. 

>>>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?<<<

Again, because what the designer is "doing for free" is merely providing a couple of potential screen caps in order to show the client that they actually read the RFP and understand at least on a superficial level the elements involved in the project. If the client were asking you to provide an entire sample website, complete with working links, navigation, researched content, etc. as part of the proposal, I'd say heck-yeah that's giving away the store and bad for the profession overall. But all I'm suggesting is that there's no devaluation in providing a sample page or two, assuming you preface its presentation by stating that the design and structure will evolve as the project goes along. By doing this you're not providing the client with their end product on speculation, you are just providing an idea that still needs to be turned into a working website - which of course then becomes the paying part of the job.  

>>>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.<<<

I agree there comes a point where it begins to feel like a design contest - and, like you, I wasn't much into entering design contests. On the other hand, maybe the client is really trying to get a range of *bids* (not designs), and the visuals help them see what they're getting for their money. If designer A bids low but the visual doesn't appeal to me, and designer B bids high but has a great concept, that should be a factor in the decision of whom to select. I send out RFP's all the time and frequently get 10-15 bids in return, but I'm not looking for a range of designs. I'm looking for whoever can provide my solution at a cost I can afford, and for someone who is interested in and wants the project. There are lots of factors that go into selecting one proposal over others, and whether the bidder provided all the elements requested in the RFP would certainly be one of them. I've actually found that some bidders provide visuals even if I don't ask for them, perhaps to show their concept of how a new feature can be implemented into our existing site. Whatever the reason, it always makes me think they've at least read the RFP thoroughly and gone to some effort to get the job. 

Sometimes that turns into a disadvantage, though, too. I recently had someone write to me with an unsolicited  pitch for a news service they were providing - "It would be great content for your site and as you can see by the screen cap attached, it integrates seamlessly into your existing site." They'd taken a screen cap of my site and pasted their product into my content window, and frankly it looked horrible. They provided me with a free visual, but it was, to borrow a phrase, a "real turn-off." I gave them the benefit of the doubt and visited the sample client link they'd provided, thinking they had probably done a much better job of incorporating the content into a paying client's site. Not true. Not only did the feature look every bit as "pasted in" on that client's site, it ALSO looked exactly like the one on the screen cap they'd given *me*. Thus I had zero confidence in their ability to customize the feature to fit each client, and that was one reason why I declined the offer. 


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