Outsourcing your website redesign

Hiring a supplier (also known as a design/digital agency, third-party company, or individuals outside of UCSC) to perform work involved in a website redesign may be part of a successful strategy.

As an alternative to relying solely on internal employees, this approach can reduce initial work expenses, increase productivity and improve the overall quality of the final product. With your website redesign, it is still recommended that you establish internal ownership roles of your website and its content to ensure long term sustainability and effectiveness.

Part of your outsourcing strategy should consider the immediate work involved, and the long term maintenance, security, accessibility, and support into the future, including potential costs.


  • Follow established UCSC Website Standards: All schools, colleges, divisions, departments, or units that design, create, develop, purchase, manage, administer, host, and/or support digital resources and information technology intended for human interaction or engagement for the purposes of teaching, learning, research, service, employment, administration or other university functions must meet defined standards (security, accessibility, brand/identity) regardless of whether they are designed, developed, or maintained by a UCSC unit or a supplier.
  • Written contracts are required any time the campus engages in a transaction with an outside entity for the procurement of goods or services.
  • Insurance requirements must be met for contracted suppliers/vendors.
  • If your plan calls for developing a website outside of the enterprise UCSC WordPress Service/Theme:
    • Define the scope, costs, and workflows of the work you are getting help with.
    • Develop a continuity of operation plan to define your plans to define roles, responsibilities, and track risks to ensure the future support, service, security and management of your website as defined in the Service Level Agreement.

Developing websites using enterprise tools

Enterprise tools = official website services provided to all of UCSC. 

*Recommended choice: Use the UCSC WordPress Service/Theme to develop your website.

Who is it for:All campus divisions/departments/units.
Features/benefits:Shared UCSC look & feel. Tested for accessibility and cybersecurity. Web support: Fully supported theme improvements, training, guidance, troubleshooting, established roadmap for improvements. Ability to request features, tested integrations with directory, calendar, class schedule, courses catalog. Designed to scale for campus needs.
Owner responsibilities:Web content strategy and content creation. Following web standards.
Support:100% fully supported by the Web Service and CampusPress.
Summary of considerations when developing websites with enterprise tools.
  1. Working with suppliers that design websites within the UCSC WordPress service will ensure that long term support, maintenance, security, and accessibility needs are met. It could also prevent unexpected and potentially large costs and effort associated with custom development.
  2. When developing your website, make use of the existing tools and plugins to create and layout your content.
  3. Helpful questions to ask of a potential supplier about their process:
    • How will the digital content interact with existing UCSC services, requirements, and standards?
    • Who will own the digital content?
    • Who will maintain/update the digital content in the future? 
    • How will future updates to the digital content happen?
    • Will there be costs to maintain the digital content in the future?
    • What happens if the digital project grows beyond the original scope?
  4. Your plan may require a proposal that details your needs for potential suppliers.
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Best practices for a proposal, also known as a Request for Proposal (RFP)
  • A brief overview of your website redesign plans.
  • Specific goals of your website redesign.
  • Project details, including:
    • Technical requirements or specifications.
    • A list of expected deliverables (be specific).
    • Your target audiences, in order of importance.
    • A completed cost and timeline estimate, including itemized pricing for each element. Include any considerations for reducing costs by adjusting the balance of responsibilities between your project team and ours, or recommended efficiencies.
    • Contact Information Technology Services (ITS) early on in your process if integrations or Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are involved.  Do not assume that third party tools will interface with UCSC data systems. 
  • An expected timeline.

Developing customizations with enterprise tools, or custom websites not using the enterprise tools 

If you do plan to engage with a supplier to develop your website, the work may not be covered under the WordPress Service Level Agreement and you will be responsible for costs and maintenance. 

A continuity of operations plan is also required as part of the custom development work to explain how the website will continue to operate after the site is launched. 

Who this option is for:Campus units who have in-house resources to pay for, and maintain their own WordPress theme.
Features:Individual look & feel and hosting, within website standards. Training/guidance. Support within the CampusPress environment. SiteImprove option.
Cost:Potentially significant costs associated with design, staff, maintenance, and functionality.
Owner responsibilities:Division/department is responsible for (potentially significant) costs associated with design, maintenance, and functionality. Content strategy, web standards and accessibility, cybersecurity/information security, and identity. 
Needed personnel resources:This level of service will require an in-house web developer to maintain their individual theme. 
SupportFollow the service-level agreement by the ITS Web Service, and CampusPress providing training/guidance, infrastructure and hosting.
Summary of considerations when not developing websites with enterprise tools.

Also consider the following:

  • Understand that digital projects often morph and grow far beyond the original scope, because discovery work often uncovers additional work. This could lead to unaccounted for costs and/or significant delays in completing website redesigns.
  • In determining the scope of your website redesign, who will do the following work?
    • Project management
    • Discovery
    • Content strategy
    • Writing of content
    • Migration
    • Establish governance/approvals of work
    • Check for accessibility
    • Conduct quality assurance
  • Which UCSC partners should you consider engaging with before you begin your website redesign?
  • When the website is handed back to you:
    • Who owns the work?
    • Who maintains the work?
    • Is a maintenance budget required? How is it provided?
    • What does maintenance look like?
    • How will the site interact with other UCSC content (news, directory, courses?) aka interoperability.

Technical requirements

If you intend to build your website outside of the UCSC WordPress service and theme.

  1. Assume that you will need to find and pay for hosting for your website (see Pantheon Hosting). 
  2. If you develop your own WordPress theme or customize an existing theme, it should:
    1. be a block theme
    2. follow WordPress theme standards.
    3. be developed using theme unit test data.
    4. pass theme check.
  3. If you use or develop custom WordPress plugins, they should:
    1. follow WordPress plugin guidelines.
    2. function properly when used as WordPress MU plugins.
  4. Interoperability:
    1. Identify sources of external data and verify you have access.
    2. Do not assume that campus data sources will work with your custom theme or plugin.  

Pantheon Hosting

In rare cases, website hosting is available on Pantheon. Hosting your site on Pantheon is subject to approval from the campus Web Program Leadership Team. In order for projects to seek approval of the WPLT to host their site on Pantheon, they must:

  1. Demonstrate the technical reason(s) their site cannot use the UCSC WordPress service. Custom site design and/or a need for unsupported plugins are not considered technical reasons.
  2. Identify an individual within the unit who will support the technical needs of the site. The individual should also be capable of working in the Pantheon dashboard.
  3. Understand and accept the support agreement (SLA).

Note that meeting these requirements does not guarantee your project will be allowed to use Pantheon hosting.

Supplier and contract requirements

Suppliers should follow guidelines and adhere to UCSC Supplier Terms and Conditions

Contracted UCSC vendors/suppliers should be given first priority to ensure proper vetting, contract, and insurance requirements are met.  Early engagement with ITS and the Unit Information Security Lead is encouraged to discuss the types of data expected to be used on the website/application.

  • If your outsourcing is expected to exceed $10,000, a Request For Proposal (RFP) will most likely be required, including three competitive quotes.  Procurement requirements
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Best practices for suppliers in a Request for Proposal
  • Provide an overview of your company, including relevant experience/expertise and any key differentiators that we should consider.
  • Provide a description of your project team and expected roles and responsibilities, including anticipated expectations for involvement from the UCSC team(s).
  • Provide links to relevant recent projects.
  • Provide terms and conditions, including plain language explanations.
Last modified: Aug 07, 2023