Costly Mistakes in RFP Creation Process and How To Do It Right + Municipal RFP Template

You are probably aware of the importance of having a website for your municipality. Sure, that is a great start. But it is only a start. There is a lot of work that goes into the RFP creation process and defining the focus can prove to be difficult. Perhaps it has even crossed your mind to use an RFP template from a larger municipality, thinking their website looks great and all you need to do is change some bits of information here and there.

Although ‘easier’ may sound tempting, it can be quite costly in the long run. Most of the municipalities we have worked with have found themselves in a similar situation.

In this article, you will learn how to create a good RFP for your website with functionalities that your municipality actually needs. As a result, you will be able to save your municipality tens of thousands of dollars in the process by not including items that aren’t actually essential for you or your residents.

You will learn:

  • What are the most costly mistakes in the process of creating an RFP
  • How to create RFP step-by-step
  • Which website features are a ‘must have’ and which are ‘nice to have, based on the size of your municipality.
  • How to make the final decision

Mistake #1:  Asking for requirements your municipality does not need

Ensure your RFP speaks for the needs of your municipality alone, otherwise results are more than likely to be unpleasant. Let us assume that your municipality has a population of 10,000 residents. If you were to take an RFP template from a larger city or base the template on a quote from the largest web development company, this will likely result in:

  • Spending taxpayers’ money on features that your website does not actually need.
  • Overpaying for features that are not customized for your municipality profile or needs.

You should embrace difference. It is what makes us unique and sets us apart from the rest of the crowd. It is what defines us. The same applies to municipal websites. Your goal should not be to imitate but to be specific to your municipality’s needs and expectations.

Ensure your RFP speaks for the needs of your municipality alone, otherwise results are more than likely to be unpleasant.

Chew on this, does Atlanta with a population exceeding 400,000 residents and containing various departments need the same website, with the same features as the Acworth municipality, populated by only 15,000 residents? Most probably, no it does not.

Our experience with past clients has shown us that lack of knowledge and time are factors that often prompt small municipalities to copy larger municipal websites. They do not even stop to consider whether they actually need such complex and advanced features.

Don’t Overpay For Functionalities You Don’t Need

The result of such an approach is an embellished municipal website that is not tailored to the municipality’s specific needs. Consequently, the municipality ends up paying up to five times more than it would for a customized website. Save thousands of taxpayer dollars by paying only for website features specific to your municipal needs.

Mistake #2: Treating the price as the key value indicator

Do you need a functional website or a fancy website? Toyota or Lexus Analogy

Is driving a Lexus essential to completing everyday tasks, such as shopping and driving your kids to school? You could do it, but these tasks can also be completed driving a more economical car, such as a Toyota. Both cars get the same job done, but at different prices. One offers extravagance, the other functionality and simplicity. Nevertheless, the result is the same, but the cost differs.  


Image Source: koonslexusofwilmington.com

On the other hand, if you are a CEO of a large company who is going on a business meeting with foreign investors, you’d need a prestigious car, so a bit of extravagance is justified.

Consequently, the most rational and viable option for small municipalities would be simplicity or in the case of the car analogy – a Toyota. This will save your municipality a lot of money and ensure that your website is customized to meet all your needs without having to pay for superfluous features.

When Do You Need a Lexus?

If you’re a big municipality that needs more complex features to cater for a unique community, then choosing a special design tailored to these specifications does justify the higher cost. For standard needs (small municipalities), Toyota will get the job done efficiently and for a fraction of what Lexus would cost.

Is the most expensive option really the best option? What does the price actually include?

The cost of website development can vary significantly, beginning anywhere from two thousand dollars to as high as twenty-five thousand dollars.

The mindset that we often come across is – I want to make sure the website works correctly so I am willing to pay (much) more to achieve it.

It’s not a wrong approach- quality and safety are crucial, it definitely makes sense to hire the best in the industry.

However, It’s often not true that the best value can only be delivered when you choose the most expensive option.

Many web design companies that charge more than industry standard don’t often provide the best value. It’s because:

  • they don’t cater exclusively for municipalities. Their learning curve is steeper, they don’t have proven solutions and systems in place so they have much higher production cost.
  • they are a well-known brand in the industry and they’re spending massive amounts of money on marketing to keep their leader position.

Mistake #3: Taking an RFP from a larger municipality

From our perspective, RFPs with requirements that are too rigid and not adapted to the needs of a specific municipality often puts us in an uncomfortable position. We see municipal website RFPs which clearly contain lots of features that a given municipality does not need.

We are not convinced – should we send the quote and just set the price for all those features? Should we try to “educate” the clerk and explain that the RFP should be rewritten, thus risk losing a potential client? It is a difficult situation for us and the municipality.

How to do it right and save your municipality thousands of dollars?

1. Identify the Needs of Your Municipality

In order to avoid overpaying and overspending taxpayers’ money for your website, it is important to identify the needs of your municipality. Here are some key questions to help you identify your needs:

  • Why do you need a website? (Is the aim to have a content publishing platform or do you need something more?)
  • How much content do you need to publish and how often?
  • What kind of IT assistance will you need after the website is created?

Answering the above questions will give you an idea that, in most cases, you need simplicity. You need a website that works according to your needs, that makes it possible for you to easily publish content without IT knowledge and offers support to resolve any problems immediately.

Download free, editable RFP template. Simply fill in the details regarding your municipality!

2. Keep requirements simple and flexible.

Do not set rigid requirements. Go over the essentials:

  • Website hosting
  • Website training
  • Website support

Allow web developers to prepare a quote that matches your needs. The more requirements you list, the more limited we are when preparing a quote for you.

Your RFP should be as simple as possible and it should contain:

  • Definition of project subject
  • Timeline and technical scope
  • Definition of who is going to be working on the project
  • List of required qualification
  • Legal requirements

3. Choose website features: must-have vs nice-to-have

There are two types of features that you should be aware of when making your RFP – must-have features and nice-to-have features. Must-have features are things that you should ask for in your RFP proposal. Nice-to-have features are things that can be a good addition but are not an absolute necessity.

Keep in mind though, that a list of must have features scales up with the size of your municipality. The more departments and residents you have, the more it will benefit from various upgrades.

Must-have features

Nice-to have-features

Small municipality (up to 10,000 residents)

  • Minutes & Agendas
  • News & Notices
  • Online Contact Us Form
  • List of downloadable Ordinances & Resolutions
  • List of Forms & Permits for downloading
  • List of Board/Council members
  • List of Committee Members
  • Elections and Voting Page
  • FAQ Page
  • Calendar of Events
  • Training and guidance after site is created
  • Hosting with software updates
  • Easy content management
  • Site Search
  • Backups
  • Mobile Friendly Design
  • Sign Up for Notices
  • Instant Notifications via SMS/Test and Email
  • RSS compatibility
  • SSL certificate
  • Dedicated Server
  • External database connection
  • Permission-based login (Manager level controls)
  • Branded email address
  • Fillable forms on site
  • Slideshows
  • Published Notices are syndicated to Social Media
  • Site Map
  • SEO-optimized
  • 508 Compliant
  • RSS Feeds
  • Online Payments
  • Searchable FAQs
  • Video Hosting
  • Hosting of Audio Files
  • Unique and Custom Homepage Design

Medium municipality (10,000-50,000 residents)

  • All of the above
  • Searchable FAQs
  • 508 Compliance
  • Multiple logins
  • Multiple calendars
  • Branded Email Addresses
  • Video Hosting
  • Hosting of Audio Files
  • Unique and Custom Homepage Design
  • iOS and Android App
  • Super admin who can manage other users
  • 24/7 support
  • Fillable forms on site
  • Custom Branding/Logo Design
  • Unique Design for each Department page
  • Facilities Reservation System
  • RFP/RFQ Bidding System

Large municipalities (more than 50,000 residents)

  • All of the above.
  • Unique Design for each Department page
  • Dedicated Server
  • External database connection
  • Super admin who can manage other users
  • 24/7 support
  • Multichannel content publishing
  • Custom Branding/Logo Design
  • RFP/RFQ Bidding System
  • A/B Testing for usability
  • Sub-Domains for different departments

Here you can download free, editable RFP template for your municipal website!

We often see small municipalities ask for features that they will likely never use, or which are not needed for their small town. Some examples include having RSS Feed, the requirement their site be hosted on a dedicated server, and integration with external databases.

Without going into too many technical details, the cost of additional features is high and there simply is no rational explanation for implementing them for small cities.

4. Remember about elements that are particularly important for a municipality

What you should be asking for, however, are things connected with support and training. Remember, most of the time you do not need a fancy website. Instead, you need support that will handhold you in case anything goes wrong. It is important to have support available all the time. This need for constant support is why hiring a freelancer can be risky. Freelancers cannot guarantee this constant support and security because of their indefiniteness in terms of working hours, sickness leave and holiday leave.

Here are some factors you should consider about support and training:

  • How many people answer the phone?
  • What happens after the page is created?
  • How is the training performed?
  • How much does the training cost? Is it a one-time fee?
  • How many people can be trained at that cost?

We hope that the above table will prove to be useful when dealing with the RFP creation process and quotes evaluation.

5. Making the final decision

The best thing you can do in regard to pricing is following these five simple steps:

  • Use the table above to determine which features you absolutely need for your website in the next 12-24 months.
  • Ask companies to provide pricing to have a site with all the Must Have Features. This will give your committee a good baseline when comparing raw features.
  • Ask bidding companies to provide ala carte pricing for each Feature from the Nice to Have Column, based on your municipality size. In this way, if you have a higher budget you can pick and choose the features that will be beneficial to your organization and your residents.
  • Asking for referrals and recommendations is nice but do not just rely on the recommendations a website vendor gives you. Of course, a vendor is only going to provide a list of clients who will give stellar reviews! Try finding out a list of other municipal sites the vendors have done and cold-call them to ask them for their feedback and what things they find easy to do with their site, and what things they find hard.
  • Compare the quote prices, compare the level of expected service you will get for training & customer service, include the evaluation of how easy it would be to edit and publish new content on your site, and evaluate the perceived time & effort it would take to have your new site launched.
Download free, editable RFP template. Simply fill in the details regarding your municipality!

6. TownWeb – What is our price range and what do you get?

At TownWeb, we cater exclusively for municipalities and our prices are based primarily on the size of the municipality. We also have different options that affect the design based whether or not you wish to have a design based on a pre-built theme or wish to have something 100% unique and custom. This way you can be sure you’re getting the most value for your dollar, and not paying for something that is unnecessary.

No matter what kind of website you choose, you get free and unlimited support and training. Click here to get a free quote! 

Summary of Dos and Don’ts

Do:

  • Look at examples of RFPs for municipalities that are similar in size to your own municipality
  • Look at the design of municipal websites that are in the same population range of yours
  • Think about your municipality needs from both your and the municipality residents’ perspective.
  • Ask for a portfolio to see examples of municipal websites created by the vendors
  • Ask detailed questions about support and training especially if you are small/medium sized municipality and will be responsible for publishing the agenda and various content.
  • Ask for the separate price of each feature you need. By crossing out a few fancy details you will save many thousands of dollars.

Don’t:

  • Treat the sticker price as the key value indicator.
  • Copy the RFP from a municipality that is different in size.
  • Set rigid requirements in the RFP by making everything a “must have” feature – set only the bare minimum and let web developers prepare a personalized solution (it will save you money and provide you with a solution that best fits what you need).