Every week, hundreds of mobile RFPs hit the market. Since many of them make their way here to WillowTree, we decided to put together a “best practices” summary highlighting questions your company can ask to get the best possible responses and pricing estimates for your mobile project. Of course, these are guidelines first. Keep in mind they need to be customized for each mobile app project you might be considering in order to choose the best mobile development agency. We hope this template will provide you with a helpful starting point to find your top development and design team. If you don’t have your Mobile or Digital Strategy locked down, take a look at our Mobile and Digital Strategy RFP Template.

To receive a copy of this Sample RFP in Word format, please send a request using our contact form, and we’ll be happy to send it to you.


Notes and prompts are in italics and are intended for the Issuer of the RFP. They should be removed prior to distribution of RFP to potential Responders.


1. Project Strategy & Purpose

In this section, the Issuer’s goal is to give Responders sufficient context to propose real and complete solutions. If this information cannot be completed, a mobile strategy project may be a required first step, prior to a Design & Development project. Please see the Mobile Strategy RFP template [link] for more information.

  • Summary of Business Problem: What core business problem is the mobile or digital solution designed to address? What are the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)? What was the origin of the concept and how has it evolved?
  • Stakeholders & Decision Makers: Who is leading the project? Who are other stakeholders and what is their level of involvement? Whose budget will this come out of? Who are the final decision makers?
  • Scope: Is this a mobile- or digital-only solution or part of a larger project that includes non-digital components? Does this product establish a new line of business or enhance an existing one?
  • Users: *Provide the Responders all available information/research regarding the the end users of the app, including:
    • Personas
    • Journey maps
    • Other user research and description of methodologies*
  • Features:* What analysis/ranking of features has been conducted? What methodologies were used?*
  • Competitive Overview: Do the Issuer’s competitors have solutions in the market? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Are there non-competing but analogous experiences that inspire the solution?
  • Design Direction: Issuers should provide Responders with current style guides as well as examples of apps/websites that the Issuer feels are indicative of their design direction, including descriptions of what specific attributes the Issuer likes/dislikes?
  • Operating Systems (OS) & Devices: Which devices and Operating Systems will be supported? If yes, what drove those selections? If mobile, how has the decision of native apps vs. mobile web vs. both been considered? Are these decisions final or still open?
  • Architecture / Integration: How will the overall system be architected? What back end systems/data sources will the mobile apps be interfacing with? Do these systems currently exist? If so, Issuers should provide access for Responders to review the APIs/feeds as part of the RFP process. If not, what is the timeline/process for building them? Will the Responding agencies be asked to assist in the architecture and/or development of the APIs/feeds?
  • Prototypes: Provide Responders any prototypes developed to date.
  • Marketing / Distribution: How will this product be promoted and distributed to end users? What will drive engagement and ongoing repeat usage?
  • Target Timeline & Drivers: What is the target launch date and what drives that date as the target (e.g. a certain event)? Are there other dependencies required to hit this date (e.g. APIs/feeds that need to be built)?
  • Goals & Ideal Outcome: What is the financial model? What other quantifiable goals are there? What are the soft/qualitative goals (e.g. supporting a certain brand image)? What are the potential costs of failure (i.e. delivering a poorly designed, slow or buggy app, or missing timelines)? How and with what frequency will goals be measured?

2. Mobile or Digital Agency Background & Capabilities

The Issuer’s main goal here is to ensure finding an Agency who will help solve business problems creatively, propose incredible design options, and deliver a stable, fast, elegant mobile experience, within timelines/budgets. Also, Issuers should make it a priority to find partners who are easy to work with. The questions below are designed to help Issuers pinpoint real differences among responding Agencies, which is often difficult to do:

  • Summary/History: How did the agency start? Who is the executive team and what is their background? What is the mission of the agency?
  • Differentiators: How does the company differentiate itself vs. competitors?
  • Portfolio: Please summarize your top mobile projects, the problem you were trying to solve, and provide a link to each (if publicly available).
  • Awards: Please summarize your top awards or other examples of thought leadership in the space.
  • HR & Hiring Processes: Please provide highlights of your work culture, any ratings/awards in this area and please summarize your hiring process. [Since the Issuer is ultimately buying the capabilities of the agency’s team, it’s important to understand how the team has been created].
  • Mobile Design & Technology Assessments: [This is an absolutely critical part of the RFP as it will give the Issuer insight into how the agency thinks and approaches projects]:
    • Please give a short summary of at least two strategy projects and/or assessments you have done in the past and the outcome. Sharing specific return on investment data should be emphasized.
    • [If this project includes a current app/mobile site that will be updated as part of this project, Issuers should provide it to the Responders and let them give feedback as this will force the agencies to show how they think and would approach the problem]. Please perform a design and code assessment and make at least three significant suggestions for design and development improvement.
    • [If the project is greenfield; i.e. there is NOT a current app or website]. Please perform a design assessment of the following (up to two) apps/mobile sites and elaborate on what you like and what you would approach differently.
    • [If initial wireframes or designs have already been created, Issuers should have the Responders review them and give thoughts/feedback. Issuers will learn a great deal about how each Responder thinks and will likely receive some valuable design improvements]. Please perform a quick design assessment of our current designs, and your suggestions for improvement.
    • [If mobile solutions will tie into existing back-end systems, Responders will want every agency’s feedback on whether they can work with the current systems or would suggest changes]. Please review the following [APIs, Feeds, Data Sources, etc.] and explain whether you can use them as is, to deliver the desired mobile functionality or if you would suggest changes. Please elaborate.
  • Design Capabilities:
    • How many full time employees constitute your design team? Part time? Freelancers? Subcontractors?
    • Where are all the above employees and freelancers/subcontractors located? Will any work be done overseas or by contractors/freelancers? Do any of your employees work remotely? If so, how many? Are the designers and developers in the same office? [Generally speaking, better designs result from more tightly integrated teams – For example, Bloomberg reports that collocated teams outperform geographically distributed teams].
    • Will we be able to interface directly with your design team members (i.e. be able to call the designers directly)?
    • What do you look for when hiring designers? Describe your design hiring process.
    • What is your design team’s feedback process, for both internal and client feedback cycles?
    • Describe your design team’s process for designing accessible and ADA compliant experiences.
    • Please include a short resume for your head of design.
    • Please list at least two design team members with short resumes, at least one of whom would be assigned to our project if it were to start today (we understand that individuals may or may not be available when the contract is executed). [The goal here is to get an idea of the type of designers the agency has on staff].
    • Please summarize a typical design engagement, by week, from start to finish including deliverables.
    • How will we interface with your team on a day-to-day basis? What tools will be used?
    • Please describe at least three design engagements that include substantially similar mobile experiences or functionality to this project. Please describe the problem, the approach taken, and the outcome.
    • Please include at least one example of where the Design team differentiated between a phone and tablet version of an app?
    • Please include at least one example of where the design team substantially differentiated mobile experiences among iOS, Android, Windows and mobile web?
    • How does your design team validate design decisions? Please summarize a typical design engagement, by phase, from start to finish including deliverables.
  • Development Capabilities:
    • How many full time employees constitute your Development team?
    • Please also divide these by operating system (e.g. iOS, Android, Windows, Mobile Web, DevOps), or note where employees work on multiple OSs? Part time? Freelancers? Subcontractors?
    • Where are all the above employees and freelancers/subcontractors located? Will any work be done overseas or by contractors/freelancers? Do any of your employees work remotely? If so, how many? [Generally speaking, better software results from more tightly integrated teams – For example, Forrester reports [link] that collocated teams outperform geographically distributed teams].
    • Will we be able to interface directly with the Development team (i.e. be able to call the developers directly)?
    • How will we interface with your team on a day-to-day basis? What tools will be used?
    • [If the Agency will be asked to assist in integrating, modifying or building back-end systems] What backend/DevOps capabilities do you have? What languages/frameworks do you use? Please describe one or more similar engagements, including the problem and the solution you were able to deliver.
    • What do you look for when hiring developers? Describe your development hiring process.
    • Please include a short resume for your head of development, as well as the head of each OS/platform (e.g. iOS, Android, Windows, Mobile Web, DevOps) that will be used in this project.
    • Please list at least two members of each OS/platform team with short resumes, at least one of whom would be assigned to our project if it were to start today (we understand that individuals may or may not be available when the contract is executed).
    • How do you manage/ensure best in class technical documentation?
    • Please describe at least three development engagements that include substantially similar mobile experiences or functionality to this project. Please describe the problem, the approach taken and the outcome.
  • Security / Intellectual Property:
    • What approaches do you use to ensure high quality software, free of malicious code? How do you control for “inside jobs”?
    • How do you manage the use of open source or other libraries that could compromise the IP of the final product?
    • What tools/processes do you use to ensure security of code, 3rd party libraries and client materials?
    • Does your standard development process include the use of company owned proprietary IP (e.g. a platform, library, or SDK) to aid or expedite development? How is the IP used? How is it licensed to clients?
  • QA Process:
    • How many full time employees constitute the QA team? Part time? Freelancers? Subcontractors?
    • Which offices will the team members be in? Will any work be done overseas or by contractors/freelancers? Do any of your employees work remotely? If so, how many?
    • Will we be able to interface directly with the QA team?
    • What do you look for when hiring members of the QA team?
    • Please include a short resume for the head of QA.
    • Please list at least two members of the QA team with short resumes, at least one of which would be assigned to our project if it were to start today (we understand that individuals may or may not be available when the contract is executed).
    • Please summarize a typical QA process, by week, from start to finish.
    • How will we interface with your QA team on a day-to-day basis? What tools will be used?
  • Project Management Process:
    • How many full time employees constitute the PM team? Part time? Freelancers? Subcontractors?
    • Which offices will the team members be in? Will any work be done overseas or by contractors/freelancers? Do any of your employees work remotely? If so, how many?
    • Will we be able to interface directly with the PM team?
    • How does your PM team deal with large complex organizations and differences of opinion within those organizations?
    • What do you look for when hiring members of the PM team?
    • Please include a short resume for the head of PM.
    • Please list at least two members of the PM team with short resumes, at least one of which would be assigned to our project if it were to start today (we understand that individuals may or may not be available when the contract is executed).
    • Describe your automation and manual testing strategy.
    • How will we interface with your PM team on a day-to-day basis? What tools will be used?
  • References: Please provide three references of similar projects. Interviews with the references will be limited to 10 minutes.

3. Project Proposal

The Issuer’s goal here is to ensure the mobile agency understands the business needs, has enough of an interest to put real thought into a proposal, and can meet timelines and budgets. In addition, the Issuer will get insight into how the Agency approaches these types of problems, and how seriously the Agency is taking this potential project.

  • Project Concept & Recommendations: What do you most like about our app/mobile web concept? What are you most concerned about and would change if you could? Would you suggest we do native applications, web applications, or both?
  • Other App Projects: Can you tell us about other apps that you have deployed and describe some great mobile experiences in the space we are in (or a related space)? What made them great?
  • Work Examples: Please provide an example of previous work for each major functionality of the project. If there are proposed functionalities that you have no previous examples for, please explain your approach and why you believe you will be able to perform.
  • Project Approach: Please summarize your approach to the project, and what you believe will be major variables/risks that will drive success/failure based on our goals. What will drive consumer adoption and use? How can those risks best be managed on our side and your side?
  • Timeline/Budgets:
    • Please propose a timeline for project completion.
    • Please propose both a time and materials and fixed budget.
    • Please include an approach to ongoing updates and optimization. What frequency of update would you suggest? How will updates be staffed? How will emergency fixes be addressed (e.g. a crash caused by a change to a feed source or API)? What should budget be?
  • Measurement, Analytics and Ongoing App Improvement and Management: [Mobile projects are no longer about launching an app or mobile website, and going back and doing an update every 6 months. Mobile is about constant and never-ending analysis and improvement. A mobile project is NOT an upfront project followed by “maintenance” – instead it is a long-term engagement with a partner/agency during which time the goal is to work together to constantly revise and improve].
    • How will measurement/analytics be set up?
    • What metrics will/should we be measuring? Together, how will we use analytics/reviews/etc. to drive continuous improvement?
    • What should our budget be for ongoing review of data and implementation of resulting improvements?
    • If we would like the agency to perform those tasks, what tools would you use and who would perform what roles?
    • Please give two examples of similar projects with ongoing engagement work centered on analytics/performance improvement.

4. RFP Process

  • Budget: Being open about budget ranges will significantly improve the responses the Issuer will receive. Every project has a range of options and degree of polish/customization that significantly impacts the final price. By leaving the budget open, Issuers run the risk of receiving a wide range of responses and possible project solutions, and being left without a true a basis for making apples-to-apples comparisons. The Issuers goal should be to determine who is best positioned to do the work within a certain budget range, not to let the Responders define the budget. For example, two versions of the same app could cost $200K and $500K, with one using out of the box OS-supplied design paradigms and the other being highly customized with amazing polish and motion design. If the budget range is set, the Issuer will learn how far each agency will push within that range, whereas if the Issuer leaves budgets open, the proposals will range from $200K and some for $500K but not really be bidding on the same project. It’s analogous to comparing offers for a Toyota Camry and a BMW 5-series. Best practice is for Issuers to set a budget range and push for the best app within that budget, and let Responders know that coming in with a solution at the bottom of or below the range would positively impact their chances.
  • Decision Criteria: How will the Issuer choose whom to work with? What will be the criteria and how will they be ranked?
  • Establish Timeline For: (1) Initial RFP Distribution (2) Responder Submission of Questions (and QA session if applicable) (3) Question Replies (4) Final Submissions

To receive a copy of this Sample RFP in Word format, please send a request using our contact form, and we’ll be happy to send it to you.