What is a site build proposal?

A site build proposal is a document outlining the plan for an upcoming project. It will detail out the project’s scope, timelines, implementation processes and integrations, and proposed final deliverables. It’s a great way to clearly outline the focus of a project, and what will be considered a successful and completed handoff at project close.

Site Build Proposals vs. RFPs:

In broader agency terms this is usually referred to as a request for proposal, or “RFP”. RFPs are usually documents solicited during the sales phase of a project. A client will typically request and review multiple RFP bids sent out by potential agency partners to establish which one would be the best fit for their needs. An RFP can make or break a project – before it even starts.  Think of the RFP as the document that helps you land the deal. Without an approved RFP, there’s no project to work on.

A site build proposal is similar to an RFP, but narrows down the scope of the proposal specifically to a website build. It will have a lot of the same content regions, but expands deeper into the context of website development technologies and page + feature scopes.

My experience with site build proposals

I am very proud to say that in 2019, I obtained a master’s degree from Harvard University in Digital Media Design. As part of my final degree-awarding requirements, I was required to compose a graduate level thesis, in the form of a web capstone project.

I had to propose, scope out, and build a full, interactive and engaging web build, all by myself, in a matter of four months.

This means I had to work as an account manager, project manager, designer, developer, content writer, marketing strategist and analyst, and most importantly, a salesperson to sell my work as worthy enough to be awarded a graduate-level degree for my work in front of Harvard Professors and industry peers working at companies the likes of CNN, Google, and the New York Times.

The most important lesson I learned in this entire process, is that writing site build proposals is the most crucial part of a web process, and it can make or break a website build process and really drive the level of transparency and success you’ll have in client project reveals.

Since then, I have used the proposal writing outline methodologies I learned as part of my Harvard master’s degree to develop huge site build proposals for international clients successfully since 2018. Below is an outline of how I create my proposals.

Creating the outline for a site build proposal

The secret formula to my site proposal templates lies deep inside Harvard’s proposal templating structure, mixed with adjustments based on my last eight years of experience in tech. My current site build proposal outlines currently are composed as follows:

  1. Introduction
    • Elevator Pitch
    • Problem
    • Proposed Solution
    • Target Audience
    • SMART goals and metrics
  2. Competitor Analysis
    • Competitor Feature Analysis
  3. Technology Requirements
    • Tech Stack
    • Integrations
    • API’s
  4. Project Scope
    • Sitemap
    • Page Feature Scope
  5. Schedule
    • Project schedule, milestones, and final launch date
    • Gantt Chart
  6. Next Steps

01. The Introduction

Start your site build proposal with an introduction to the project. Do this by giving a one-sentence elevator pitch to summarize your view of this proposed project. Most importantly, establish the major overarching problem: what is wrong with the existing experience (if any) and why must its current state (if any) be changed? What are the benefits to the user for this project to be completed? Are there any business problems that can be resolved with this project? Outline your solution to tackle these problem(s), with clear, measurable SMART goals based on the project’s target audience.

02. Competitor Analysis

Choose three of your potential client’s competitors and provide a heuristic evaluation of their experiences. Notate what features reoccur consistently across competitive research that users might expect to have, and features that you’re proposing that will make your proposed new client stand out amongst their competitors. Outline all of this data in a clear, easy to understand feature comparison chart. The chart should list out in columns, the names of your potential client and their three competitors. In rows, it should display every major feature uncovered as part of the analysis, and some of the features you propose to build for this project. In the intersecting cells, mark off the cells if the competitor has the feature implemented or not. This should have a clear view of how site features compare across all major competitors.

03. Technology Requirements

List out the tech stack required to build this site. Include content management systems, hosting platforms, Javascript. libraries, integrations, and APIs needed to complete this project to make it clear how this site will be built and maintained.

04. Project Scope

Since this is a site build proposal, take the time to establish a site map of the project’s phase at first launch. List out all web pages included in this proposal in your sitemap. Also take this moment to list out potential pages outside of the scope of this proposal to outline quick wins post launch, or even as potential upsells to the client for launch. It’s important to pair the sitemap with a feature scope outline for each page included int he sitemap to narrow down the expectations for each page and to establish the scope of major features for those pages – making upcoming design reveals and build demos’ scope as transparent as possible starting from the sales proposal phase.

05. Schedule

List out the proposed tentative project schedule, with outlined major milestones, build demo check-ins, and the proposed final launch date for the project. Project launch dates may sometimes make or break the approval of a site build proposal, so you can also consider providing two alternative timelines – one for a phased MVP (minimum viable product) launch, and another for a full-featured one-time MLP (most lovable product) launch.

06. Next Steps

Always make sure to end with clean next steps. Ensure to let your potential client know that once they have reviewed this site build proposal document, that the client has a full team at their disposal ready to get started on their project. Clearly outline that the proposed timelines in the proposal are dependent on the approval of the proposal within a specific time frame: this will help you close the deal faster, and keep your project timelines on track. Hopefully within a few days, you’ll have an approved proposal and a new site build project on your hands!

Example Academic Proposal

I have made my 40-page long Harvard master’s degree capstone site proposal open to the public for viewing. You can view a copy of my 2018 Harvard site build proposal here.