Nov 11, 201312:19 PMIt's All About Content
with Thomas Marks
What small businesses can learn from the big mistakes of HealthCare.gov
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Money can’t buy love, or so I’ve been told. But guess what, it can’t buy a functioning website either. Okay, we know the HealthCare.gov website doesn’t work, it’s a bad user experience — oh wait, there’s no user experience at all — and that in spite of there being thousands of websites around the world with more monthly traffic, this site can’t handle squat. So much for “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …”. You bet people are tired — tired from a poorly developed website and massively peeved.
So what can small and mid-sized businesses learn from this catastrophe? Probably the same thing Michael Bilandic, Chicago’s mayor in 1979, learned after 36 inches of snow fell and wasn’t removed for days on end. The big things will always be there for strife and conflict, but it’s the little things that will sink you. He lost to Jane Byrne because of a snowstorm — although in the case of the HealthCare.gov site, it’s more like a firestorm.
Look, technology is everything. It’s war and it’s peace. It’s transportation, education, commerce, labor, homeland security, agriculture, energy — you get the idea. If you don’t think a digital prophet is needed in the Cabinet, think again. It’s mind-boggling to think we can build a stealthy bomber or explore outer space, but the government can’t build a website. And not just this site. Nearly all of its sites lack the basics of good design, a favorable user experience, compelling content, and an actual information architecture that makes sense to people who don’t live 12 stories below the surface in Roswell, N.M.
Here’s what we can all learn. Don’t go into your next website redesign project thinking it needs to be a footrace. If you don’t allow enough time on the front end for research and discovery, and on the back end for usability testing and bug abatement, good luck. Don’t be a skinflint when it comes to making an investment in your website. Saving a few grand can cost you 10 times that — no, 100 times that — if it doesn’t function properly and shortcuts were the workaround. It’s happening right in front of your very eyes and fingertips. People get downright angry when a site doesn’t work. They pass judgment immediately, they tell others, your competitors pick up on it, and it spirals out of control.