Requests for Proposal: SolSmart Program Designation Platform and SolSmart Website

IREC invites submissions for two separate requests for proposals (RFPs). The two proposals will support the SolSmart program, which has helped more than 450 local governments make it faster, easier, and more affordable to go solar.

Responses to both RFPs are due on May 20, 2002.

SolSmart Program Designation Platform

We are updating the SolSmart designation platform which tracks the progress of each community as they fulfill the SolSmart criteria. Once updated, communities will be able to log in to the platform, submit required information, and interact with SolSmart staff as they progress toward designation.

Website Design and Development

IREC is seeking a web developer to update and improve the SolSmart program website. The existing website launched in 2016 and is in need of an update to improve functionality, user-friendliness, searchability, and SEO optimization.

If you have a question about the proposals, please email [email protected] Answers to all questions will be published on this page in the space below.

Submitted Questions and Answers: SolSmart Program Designation Platform

Q: Currently, it looks like solsmart.org handles the login and holds the credentials in a WordPress database. If you’re moving to a salesforce-based platform for this functionality, a login on solsmart.org would likely get passed to this new platform. Is that how you’re envisioning it? Public-facing information is on the solsmart.org website and community users and the associated private content are on the Salesforce side?

A: SolSmart.org currently houses our resources and has an application on it, but it is not linked to our current Salesforce platform.  We currently use Salesforce for all our communities, but only have internal users that need to transfer data between multiple places.  Our desire is to have more user types, including our SolSmart communities, able to access the new (updated?) Salesforce platform from the website. 

Q: The sign-in form on this page:  https://solsmart.org/get-started/apply-for-designation/ goes to a WordPress login.

  • What happens after they log in?
  • What do they see and do?
  • Is the intent to move whatever is there to Salesforce?
  • Or will there still be a need for a user to log into the SolSmart.org website

A: The sign-in page goes to our online application within the website.  It is not within Salesforce.  We, internally, take that information and move it to a review sheet.  Once it is reviewed, we again move it into Salesforce.  It gives much room for error.  We would like the community to upload information directly into a Salesforce application.

From a user experience point of view, the Salesforce application will be integrated seamlessly with the SolSmart.org website. Users will be able to visit the website, log in, and access the platform there.

Q: We’re working through our estimate for the RFP and wanted to dig in to the requirement for the go-live date. October 1 is very ambitious even if we were to start today. Could you share a little bit about why that date is important to you?

A: October 1 is our goal for completion in order to make the new platform available to our communities as soon as possible. The timeline is subject to change and may depend on internal considerations as well as technical requirements. If you do not believe this timeline is feasible, please propose an alternative date for consideration. Please note, however, that it cannot be extended indefinitely — there will be a requirement in our grant for completing this project by a set date (to be determined when grant paperwork is finalized).

Q: Confirming a mid November go live is acceptable before we begin our scoping effort.

A: We can work with a mid-November timeline for the platform if that is the best overall proposal. We would still like to update the public website by October 1 if possible.

Q: When you noted, “Under the new platform, we would like the community to upload information directly into a Salesforce application. From a user experience point of view, the Salesforce application will be integrated seamlessly with the SolSmart.org website. Users will be able to visit the website, log in, and access the platform there,” are you thinking that integration, application, and sign on setup will be led by the website vendor?  Or by the team building out Salesforce?  Or TBD?

A: We assume it would likely be led by the platform development team. However, we’re open to either option and we hope to work with both vendors to find the best solution from a technical and logistics standpoint.

Q: Could you please run a Lightning Readiness Report – https://help.salesforce.com/s/articleView?id=sf.lex_readiness_check_kick_off.htm&type=5 and send the PDF to us?

A: This is available on request.

Q: Can you confirm how many internal users will be using the system, and expected number of portal users (or logins per month?)

A: This will vary a lot and it would be hard to give you an exact number. At a given time we can expect around 40-50 internal users, including Technical Assistance Providers and Designation Administrators. There may also be up to 200 communities at a time that are accessing the platform at various stages of the designation process (this could include multiple users per community).

Q: Are the Technical Assistance Providers or the Designation Reviewers employees of IREC with full access to Salesforce? Or will they be effectively contractors with limited access?

A: The SolSmart team will include IREC employees as well as numerous other organizations that are partners in this program. All are full members of the SolSmart team and should be treated as such. That said, we expect that only some individuals will have full administrative access to Salesforce. Others will have more limited access that allows them to do their jobs assigned, without accessing all of the back-end features.

Q: We would like to confirm you are considering international bidders?

A: Apologies, we are not able to consider international bidders.

Q: If hypothetically we can be executed on contracts by mid June, given staffing takes 4-6 weeks, we kick off on July 15th, and a 16 week project without hiccups takes us to mid November, but more likely December due to the nature of Experience Cloud work being highly client interactive, and we cannot guarantee a go-live date. If that timeline is a dealbreaker please let us know.

A: No, this is not a deal-breaker for submitting. Please include the proposed timeline in your application. If we’re interested in following up, we’ll be in touch to discuss details and negotiate the timeline if needed.

Q: We have a project scoped that comes in under the 140k cap, however we do recommend post-go live support for the transition from our team to yours. Is it okay if we recommend that in our proposal even as it takes us over the 140k cap?

A: At this point we can’t guarantee that we’d have extra budget available, but please include in your proposal and we can follow up to discuss as needed.

Submitted Questions and Answers: Website Design and Development

Q: How does the application and account work at: https://solsmart.org/get-started/apply-for-designation/?  Is that the platform described that will be built on Salesforce?

A: Currently, the sign-in page goes to our online application within the website.  It is not within Salesforce.  We, internally, take that information and move it to a review sheet.  Once it is reviewed, we again move it into Salesforce.  It gives much room for error.  Under the new platform, we would like the community to upload information directly into a Salesforce application. From a user experience point of view, the Salesforce application will be integrated seamlessly with the SolSmart.org website. Users will be able to visit the website, log in, and access the platform there.

Q: For the integration aspects with the new platform, even visual ones like “ensure the platform is visually and functionally integrated with the larger website,” is it fine to make that a separate line item and budget item, potentially to come from the other project’s budget?  I think that will help make the main site build feasible within the core site budget. 

A: Please feel free to list that cost as a separate line item. If the total cost of the website design and development is greater than the budget we have allotted, we will determine if there is funding left over in the SolSmart Designation Platform RFP in order to cover both projects.

Q: A quick Google Index search shows about 1,700 results on the solsmart.org domain.  Does that seem accurate for page count?  It seems high from what I see, and I wasn’t sure if extra assets or subdomains were being counted, and I wanted to check if you have an idea of page/post count on solsmart.org?

A: The current website has approximately 100 published pages. In addition, it contains a number of sub-pages which include the individual community pages (458), applications (157), blog posts (115), criteria (76), resources (155), team (47). Under the future website, the applications and criteria pages would likely be handled under the separate platform. 

We do not have a specific requirement for the number of pages and are open to including fewer pages or more, as long as the website offers the functions and information required.

Q: For the map, https://solsmart.org/our-communities/designee-map, are you looking for similar functionality?  Anything you would like changed from a design or functionality point of view?

A: We would like the map to continue displaying all SolSmart communities in the United States, with links to individual community pages. If possible, we would also like to expand the map to display more information such as the point totals each community achieved, installed solar energy capacity in the community, background information such as population, and other data. Some of this information could be within the individual community pages or, to the extent possible, through a popup window on the map itself. 

We are open to other ideas for making the map more visually appealing or user-friendly.

Q: Will we need to pull any data stored in Salesforce into the live site?  For example, is the Map content powered by Salesforce?  I noticed in the platform RFP the mention of “seamless integration with the website,” and I wanted to see if that meant pulling in data?

A: When the new platform is created, we expect that the Salesforce account for a SolSmart community will include data that will be pulled into the public website. For example, the Salesforce data might include the number of solar installations within a particular community, which could be automatically pulled into the public community page accessible from the SolSmart map.

Q: Are there any other custom, interactive elements, like the map, that either exist now or you’re hoping to be incorporated into the new site and quote?

A: The current website includes a news blog and resource library, and we will need to retain both of these. We will need a way to feature profiles of communities (currently here: https://solsmart.org/our-communities/case-studies/) as well as rosters of individuals (currently here: https://solsmart.org/how-we-help/advisor-profiles/).

In the past, we have also used a scorecard or leaderboard to sort communities by their point totals and other attributes. We expect this function could likely be incorporated into an expanded map as described above.

Q: Are there any sites out there you think serve as a model for the overall look and feel you’re trying to achieve?  

A: For a map, here are a couple examples with similar information. We are not committed to using these specific designs. 1) https://cityrenewables.org/engagement-tracker/, 2) https://icleiusa.org/network/

For the general look and feel of a website, we are pleased with the main website for the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, which was recently revamped: https://www.irecusa.org. This website does not include specific functions such as a map or platform.

Q: Do you have a goal timeline for launch?  Do you anticipate launching the main site ahead of the new platform?

A: The deadline for completing both projects is October 1, 2022. We expect to publicly launch the website and platform concurrently in the fall of 2022. (Update: We can work with a mid-November timeline for the platform if that is the best overall proposal. We would still like to update the public website by October 1 if possible.)

Q: Are you guys in need of SEO or Google Ads?

A: As part of the website update we hope to improve SEO. We do not have budget for Google Ads.

Q: What’s the budget for SEO?

A: The budget for website design and development shall not exceed $30,000. This includes any work on SEO improvements.

Q: When you noted, “Under the new platform, we would like the community to upload information directly into a Salesforce application. From a user experience point of view, the Salesforce application will be integrated seamlessly with the SolSmart.org website. Users will be able to visit the website, log in, and access the platform there,” are you thinking that integration, application, and sign on setup will be led by the website vendor?  Or by the team building out Salesforce?  Or TBD?

A: We assume it would likely be led by the platform development team. However, we’re open to either option and we hope to work with both vendors to find the best solution from a technical and logistics standpoint.

Q: We would like to confirm you are considering international bidders?

A: Apologies, we are not able to consider international bidders.