12 Essential Components of Great RFPs for Banking Websites

A solid RFP that very clearly defines your needs will save you time and aggravation down the road, eliminating a lot of surprises, scope creep, additional fees and unnecessary stress. A thorough, strategic RFP is the best way to ensure your financial institution ultimately delivers the website experience you expect.

Preparing a request for proposal (RFP) for a website redesign is a critical first step to finding the right agency for your financial institution. Comparing vendors equally is nearly impossible without a carefully-crafted RFP defining your goals, needs and expectations. Use this handy guide to identify the essential components of a great website RFP, so you can better understand agency capabilities, weigh your options and select the best fit for your institution – now and in the future.

Typically occurring every 2-4 years, a website redesign is a large undertaking for any bank or credit union. Most often, an institution’s needs go well beyond designing a beautiful site, so preparing a solid RFP is a critical exercise to help ensure that the goals of all your internal stakeholders are represented. And, once your respondents have submitted proposals, you will have the necessary information to evaluate vendor capabilities, aiding in your decision-making process.

1. Background and Objectives

To help website agencies tailor their proposal to meet your specific requirements, it’s essential to provide a succinct background about your institution, including, but not limited to your asset size, target markets, geographic footprint, and brand proposition. Then, it is important to define the objectives of the website redesign project, both short-term and long-term and how you plan to measure the results once the new site launches.

2. Basic Requirements

Most agencies quote strategy, design and development hours based on how many pages and page templates your new site will require. For instance, simply telling an agency that you want to slim down your site isn’t as helpful as telling them that you are looking to have no more than 100 pages and 4 page templates (e.g., home, section main page, product category page, product detail page).

3. Design Specifications

You will need to be very specific about your design needs so that you ensure the resulting quotes reflect everything you expected. Some of the most common design requirements include:

Responsive design – If your site needs to be built on a single code base that automatically adjusts to target screen sizes (typically desktop, tablet and phone), then you need to define that you are expecting your redesigned site to be responsive. If you expect a widescreen version of the site as well, define that up front because that will factor into your pricing.

Brand standards – Be clear about branding expectations, so that the agency knows whether they will be working with a defined brand style guide or whether you will be leaning on the agency to work more creatively off of your logo and brand colors. You may also inquire if the digital agency is capable of quoting on new branding and corporate identification to assist in the web design.

Third-party branding – A bank or credit union’s website is often dependent on third parties, but the goal is to provide a continuous, seamless experience to end users, regardless of multiple writers, designers and programmers contributing to the site. Clarify whether you are looking for a web style guide once the website is built, which will provide detailed specifications around your new design so that it can be easily passed along to 3rd party vendors to match the site branding as much as possible.

Social media branding and support – Launching a new website often coordinates with rebranding of social media properties, so that there is a coordinated digital brand. Define your social media branding needs (including your target platforms), from basic platform branding to more customized design templates for standard and promoted social posts. You may also inquire if the digital agency is capable of quoting on ongoing social media marketing and support to promote the new site and business goals once it is live.

4. Content Specifications

Content writing, from copywriting to copy editing, is an important component to any redesigned site. Most institutions require either copy editing or a complete copy overhaul to achieve the right tone, level of information, and search engine-friendly keyword support. Define your copywriting expectations, so that an agency can estimate hours to accomplish those goals. If copywriting is not going to be requested of a vendor, it’s key that you be aware of the resources required in-house to provide the website copy, defining who within your organization will be responsible. Also, if additional types of content will be required, from multimedia to infographics, define your needs and expectations upfront.

5. Marketing Specifications

Bank and credit union sites are no longer simply a gateway to log in to online banking. These days, websites can be a powerful “virtual branch” and inbound marketing hub, so be sure to set expectations about which marketing services your new site will require. Some of the most common marketing services that might be part of a website redesign RFP include:

Search engine optimization (SEO) – Define your organic search engine optimization needs and expectations both as part of the project as well as after the site launches. Let the agency respond with how realistic your goals are, and recommended services to achieve those goals.

Pay per click (PPC) marketing – Because of the competitive environment of search engine rankings, financial institutions often need to pay to play. Clarify your interest in pay per click campaign setup and management, so that the agency can respond accordingly.

Social media management – Most banks and credit unions are highly tactical about their social media presence, but not typically strategic. Define what help you may need from a social media perspective, so that an agency can speak to their experience and recommendations.

6. Technical Specifications

Just as important as all of the above are clear expectations about the technical components of the website. It’s important to work with your technical staff to understand opportunities and limitations, and involve them early on, since they will likely want to have a say in the vendor choice as well. Common technical topics to address in your website RFP include but are not limited to:

Content management system (CMS) – If you are looking for a vendor to recommend a CMS, state any requirements (technical, budgetary or otherwise) you may have so that the vendor can steer you in the right direction. Alternatively, if you have your heart set on a specific CMS, clarify whether that is a deal-breaker so vendors without experience in that CMS can politely bow out from responding to the RFP early on.

Functional components – Define functional components of your existing site that need to be created, such as forms and databases. Additionally, be sure to include specifications around new functionalities you would like on the website.

Third-party integrations – Providing a list of your third parties is extremely helpful, so that the vendor can evaluate what will need to be integrated, what will be linked to, and what needs to be restyled to match your new site. If you are looking for a new third-party vendor, state that as well, so that the vendor can help make an unbiased recommendation. For example, a responsive website that integrates a locator search that isn’t mobile-friendly won’t be helpful to your visitors.

Custom functionality – Bank and credit union sites often require custom functionality, such as advanced searches, a rates management database or a branch locations database. Provide information about what you are looking for so that the vendor can accurately quote these features.

Personalization – If you are hoping to provide a more personalized experience within your site or via third-party marketing automation, your vendor will need to recommend a CMS that will support personalization, as well as related strategy, design and development services.

7. Analytics Tracking

Define what analytics platform you are currently using and whether that same platform will be used for the new site. It’s also important to define whether any custom analytics tracking will be required, such as Event and Goal tracking in Google Analytics for instance, so that the agency can talk to their expertise in that area and account for any additional hours required to achieve your analytics tracking goals. Additionally helpful is to provide key average monthly analytics information such as number of monthly visits, page views, time on site, bounce rate, etc.

8. Compliance

If your institution’s website has 508/WCAG compliance regulations, it’s imperative that you define this in as much detail as possible. When it comes to websites, there are various levels of 508/WCAG compliance, and each level carries a different level of complexity and testing.

9. Hosting

Your new site will need to be hosted in a secure environment so you should define your specific hosting needs. If you are not looking for quotes for website hosting, be specific about your security requirements, such as DDoS mitigation, load balancing needs, need for both staging and production servers, etc. If you do not require hosting, provide information about your hosting environment to ensure it meets the minimal needs of the selected CMS.

10. Ongoing Support

Often a website redesign is the beginning of a lasting partnership between an institution and the selected website vendor. Define your support needs and expectations up front – from your expected level of support to your expected turnaround times.

11. Timing and Budget

Every bank or credit union wants their new site launched as soon as possible. However, in reality, great sites take several months or more to create. Define your target launch date in your RFP, as well as whether your target date coincides with another institution initiative, such as transitioning to a new online banking vendor. Additionally, if you are working with a defined budget, it truly is important to let vendors know this up front. This way they can decide not to bid, or perhaps make different recommendations that are more budget conscious.

12. Vendor Background and Capabilities

Choosing a vendor can be a daunting task for any bank or credit union, so you want one that offers a full suite of services and has the industry experience to back that up. Important vendor capability considerations include:

Relevant experience – Ask the vendor for at least 5 sites built in past year that are in the credit union or banking industry, including some basic details about each project. Ask the vendor for exemplary non-FI sites they have developed, so that you can get a sense of experience outside of the industry that can bring innovation to a typically traditional space.

Team background – Request for bios or details about the core project team and understand whether the team will be based in the agency’s office or will include contractors as well.

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