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The Tender Trap

What do you do if you are invited to respond to a tender and the company who put it together has got it all wrong?

It’s a tricky question – but one that comes up time and again when it comes to web development.

We recently received a tender brief for redeveloping a website for a South West organisation that immediately raised alarm bells. While the marketing team involved obviously had a clear idea of the issues they needed to address, the proposed solutions set out in the brief were going to cause them as many problems as they solved.

They specifically requested that the tender should reflect a proposed development structure – unfortunately, one where we could see that much of the development work would be duplicated, and key design information architecture work would be carried out after the CMS to support them was built, with potentially serious consequences for usability.

In this kind of situation, we are always faced with the dilemma of whether to simply respond to what the company is asking for in the way they requested, or to let them know our concerns and respond with a proposal to work the way we know is best.

In this case, we decided the best course of action would be to talk to the people who put the tender together and express our concerns that they risked compromising their project – and spending more than they needed to – if the project went ahead as they suggested.

Thankfully, the people we spoke to understood our point straight away and were happy to hear constructive suggestions about their project.

The problem for businesses putting together web tenders is that web development is a mix of different disciplines – it’s part marketing and part web design, you need expertise in both to make it work.

Marketing teams will understand their marketing aims and what the want the site to achieve for them, but often have limited knowledge of the actual technical processes of building a site.

Similarly, pure web design companies will know how the technology works but not how it can best support a businesses marketing aims.

We always recommend that when putting together a web tender, companies should take advice not only from the people in their organisation responsible for marketing but also from people who understand the nuts and bolts of web development. Ideally, both should work together – not just on the tender, but on the whole web marketing strategy.

Not every organisation will get the people they invited to tender picking up on issues with their brief – often, understandably, web companies just aim to meet the brief they have been given.

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