Request for Proposals

Harvard Public Health magazine – Website Design and Development

Thank you to all those who submitted. This request for proposals is closed.


Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s award-winning magazine, Harvard Public Health, is published three times a year. The print edition is delivered to alumni, faculty, and administrators at Harvard Chan School. A website hosting the online edition of the magazine, published in issue format, was launched in 2016 and receives nearly half a million article views per year.

We are in the process of reimagining the magazine to become a more dynamic source of public health journalism, of heightened interest not just to the Harvard Chan community, but to the global public. Our intended audience includes policymakers, public health officials, activists, nonprofit leaders, and others interested in improving health equity and health outcomes worldwide. We envision posting multiple pieces of content each week in addition to the content developed for each print edition.

As part of our work to revitalize the magazine, we look to create a newly designed, mobile-first standalone website. The new site will be distinctive in look and feel, flexible and dynamic—capable of displaying not only beautifully designed long-form feature articles, but also personal essays, infographics, interactive data visualizations, newsletters, and more. Each of these types of content should look unique, but the site as a whole must have a unified, coherent visual language and employ a consistent design system. The site must be built on the WordPress CMS and use the latest block editor technology offered by the platform.

The magazine will continue to have alumni- and faculty-focused content. The design should include a section for this material, consistent with but distinctive from the look and feel of the main portion of the website.

The site must also be capable of processing payments for ticketed events and collecting email addresses and registration information for newsletter and event signups. It must enable a metered paywall (i.e., readers can see the first article for free and then must register or subscribe to see more), though we may not implement this at launch.

The backend of the site must be easy for non-developers (i.e., the magazine’s editors and staff) to use to post new content, edit existing content, and adjust the location of content to keep the homepage fresh.

We haven’t decided yet if the new website will be hosted independently or will remain as part of the School’s WordPress multisite network. RFP respondents must be familiar with WordPress multisite development constraints and should explain their capabilities with regard to hosting and ongoing maintenance.

Project goals

The new website will:

  • Convey at first glance that this is a serious, thoughtful but highly engaging journalistic site focused on global public health
  • Draw readers into the content with an accessible, compelling design
  • Be designed with mobile readers first in mind, but still look consistent and engaging on a desktop or tablet
  • Offer an easy-to-navigate calendar of upcoming events
  • Have the ability to run interactive data visualizations in stories or as immersive standalone pieces
  • Enable a paywalled section and metered access system (i.e., first story or two each month are free; others are blocked to all but subscribers)
  • Keep readers on the site as long as possible through effective recirculation tools (i.e., surfacing related content)
  • Entice the purchase of subscriptions, ticketed events, and signing up for newsletters
  • Offer an easy transactional interface for the above subscription, event, and newsletter user flows
  • Enable and encourage sharing of content on social media
  • Include an internal search function that allows readers to easily find past magazine content on topics of interest
  • Model accessibility (WCAG 2.1 AA) and intuitive, seamless UX
  • Be intuitive and easy to use by editors and staff who regularly update content
  • Enable ongoing development by internal IT web team and/or outside vendors

Project scope

We are seeking a partner capable of executing all aspects of the website design, development, and launch. The project includes:

  • Design of full magazine site, including homepage, articles, section and topic landing pages, and basic pages (e.g., about, contact, newsletter subscription)
  • Article templates and components
    • Note: We will want to be able to customize layouts for feature stories but may rely on templates for shorter pieces and personal essays
  • Special section for alumni content
  • Integration with existing content tools, used by all sites at the School, including multisite tags and the events calendar
  • SEO strategy
  • Analytics integration (Google Analytics, or others as determined)
  • Social share functionality
  • Full stack development
  • Coordination with the internal Harvard Chan IT web team to ensure the CMS is secured and accessible only to authorized users
  • Beta testing on multiple devices and browsers
  • Transfer of archived magazine editions**
  • Training for magazine team in CMS, and written documentation on how to use templates and publish pages and stories, in an easy-to-digest format.
  • Site launch and support for 30-days post-launch to address any unforeseen issues
  • Site hosting OR seamless transfer to Harvard Chan IT team for hosting
  • Ongoing site maintenance (please scope the monthly cost for a 12-month contract)

Notes on the scope:

  • The design and development firm will not provide content for the site. All content will be provided by the magazine team.
  • The winning design team should feel free to tweak the magazine’s logo if needed during the design process, but we are not scoping new logo design separately at this point because the magazine’s name may be revised early next year. We are prioritizing the site design and will make sure the new name and logo mesh well with it.
  • ** In an ideal world, our design and development vendor will also be able to port the content from the last three years of the magazine (nine issues, hosted on WordPress CMS) onto the new site. Please break out your estimate of the cost for this activity in the RFP response. If this process proves unduly burdensome because the old layouts are not compatible with the new design, we may remove this portion of the project and instead simply include a link to the archived editions. This may also be something that is tackled later if it is too time consuming to accomplish by launch.

Template requirements:

Flexible page templates should include

  • Mobile-first design using the latest development methods, optimized for all modern browsers, mobile-size through desktop
  • Grid-based layout options for single-column, multi-column, left, and/or right sidebar
  • A variety of content blocks with flexible display options (video, audio, image, slideshow, structured content item, and more)
  • Functionality to schedule a content publishing date
  • Ability to preview page updates with a high level of accuracy

Widget or component options

  • All WordPress editor blocks, and
  • Navigation and sub-navigation menus
  • Content tags and site search
  • Galleries, lightboxes, and slideshows
  • Headers and footers
  • Responsive tables
  • Structured content items including text and images
  • Content bars including text callouts and photo overlays
  • Banners, billboards, and cards
  • CTAs, promos, and buttons
  • Capability to do reader polls
  • Interactive elements and ability to showcase moving images (video snippets, animations, etc.)

Harvard Chan School resources

While the primary drive of design and development is required to be conducted by the vendor, the Harvard Chan Office of Communications and IT Web Team includes designers and full-stack WordPress developers who may be called upon to contribute to the project at various points and degrees. This would be determined by availability and agreed upon by both the client and vendor before the start of the project.

Guiding principles for the website

Accessibility: The magazine website must meet Harvard’s accessibility requirements (WCAG 2.1 Level AA). We expect this site to serve as a model of web accessibility. Similarly, the UX should be a model of intuitive, seamless, user-focused architecture, including the interface for signing up for newsletters and registering and paying for events.

Searchability: The website and its content should be optimized for search engine results and remain search friendly.

Inclusivity:  Our website must serve a broad global audience and its design should reflect the diversity of the Harvard Chan community and the wider public health community.

Flexibility: The website and its content will continue to evolve. As such, the CMS needs to be flexible and user-friendly to content administrators so we can experiment with new forms of content and serve our readers well.

Responsivity: The site must be mobile-first in its design and scale effectively across small to extra-large viewports without sacrificing the visual language and feel; and should offer a printer-friendly format.

Performance:  In order to meet our goals of Accessibility, SEO, and Inclusivity, tools and technologies should be sensibly selected to ensure that the website is as lightweight and loads as quickly as possible.

Guiding principles for the client-vendor relationship

We expect a relationship built on mutual respect, open communication, accountability, transparency, and a willingness to listen and adapt as needed.

The winning firm should provide a detailed timeline of the project shortly after the engagement commences and should ensure that we are tracking efficiently against those deadlines.

As the project advances, the winning firm should advise the magazine team on best practices, site structure and organization, domain architecture, content tagging, analytics, SEO, and roles-based permissions

We expect to have a single point of contact with the winning firm to handle our day-to-day interactions. We expect to hear from the broader team, or at least all those who have played or will be playing a significant role in the work, at major milestones, including kickoff workshops, during discovery, and design presentations.

We prefer in-person or video conferences for discovery, workshops, and design presentations; regular check-in calls suffice in between milestones.


RFP available September 15, 2021
Questions Due Rolling (answers posted to this website)
Proposal Deadline October 15, 2021
Vendor finalist presentations Last week of October 2021
Vendor selected November 5, 2021
Engagement begins As soon as feasible after selection
Please indicate your available start time in your proposal
Site launch February 15, 2021
This is our ideal timing; if you do not see this deadline as feasible, please let us know and share your preferred timetable, including how you would scope a minimum viable product to be ready by Feb. 15, what would be part of a Phase 2 development, and when you would expect that to launch.
Post-launch monitoring and updates as needed Feb. 15 – March 15, 2021
Maintenance Please scope a 12-month contract beginning March 15, 2021


Your proposal

Firm and team bios
Please provide us with some background on your firm and its structure. Please also provide bios of the team members with whom we’d be working throughout the project, along with each of their primary responsibilities for this project. Please disclose any third-party partners you plan to work with on this project.

Relevant examples of your work
Walk us through a few recent projects that are structurally similar to this one. What was successful about these projects? How did you approach collaboration with the client and other vendor partners? How would your team go about tackling challenges that could arise in this project? And share specifics such as whether they were developed on the WordPress CMS, or reach a certain accessibility benchmark.

Your approach for this project

  1. Describe how you would approach the deliverables included in the project scope
  2. Specify the support you would need from the magazine team to accomplish this work
  3. Provide a rough timeline and expected cost for each phase and deliverable
  4. Provide the total budget for the project

Your inspiration for this project
Please share links to a few websites that you think could inspire the design of the new Harvard Public Health magazine site along with a sentence or two on what you most admire about each source of inspiration.

These links do not need to be sites you have worked on. For each link, please explain whether you were involved in design or development and if so, your role in that particular project.

Provide three current client references, including company name; contact name, title, email, and phone; relevant links; and a brief description of history with this client.

After we have received the proposals, we will invite the finalists to deliver a 45-minute presentation over Zoom. You will have a chance to present your proposal and answer questions from the magazine team. Please bring the team members who would work on this project to the presentation. 

How to submit
The deadline to submit is October 15, 2021. Submit your proposal as one PDF file using the submission form provided.

Q&A process
Questions and requests for clarification will be accepted on a rolling basis up until the proposal deadline. FAQs and answers to selected questions will be posted online. Due to the volume of questions asked, we regret that we might not be able to answer each one. We strongly recommend clear and succinct questions, and we suggest submitting as early as possible.

Selection process
The magazine team will evaluate proposals based on the following criteria:

  1. The team is diverse in skills and experience and includes members with extensive and strong backgrounds in the design and development of similar sites. The project team is energized, consistently staffed, creative, and available.
  2. The examples of past work provided are relevant to this project and highlight the skills of the team that will carry out this work.
  3. The proposed approach and timeline is thoughtful, realistic, and creative. It is based on the strengths of your organization and ours, and it lays out a clear path to a successful and timely launch.
  4. The three references on similar projects consistently rate services and results as “excellent.”
  5. Your methods inspire constructive thinking and demonstrate a striking ability to gain insights around user experience and drive consensus among stakeholders.
  6. Your past design and development work adheres to web standards, including accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.1 AA).