November 6, 2013 | Web Design
The news stories haven’t quit as we learn more and more about the fiasco around the HealthCare.gov web site launch. Hearing these disastrous stories can make anyone nervous about launching a new web site, but what are the real takeaways for small business owners and entrepreneurs?
- Large scale development and load issues probably have no bearing on your web site. The number of people accessing this nationwide web tool is immense. For most business owners, they worry about too few visitors, not too many. While you might love to have the problem of overloaded servers, it’s probably just the opposite that is your concern.
- Have a clear understanding of what users are looking for on your site. This is the most important takeaway for small business owners. When healthcare.gov first came live the “call to action” was clear and simple: Apply for coverage. However, most people did not want to immediately apply, they wanted to research the plans and options. The updated healthcare.gov design now shows too many options—4 ways to apply; apply online or apply by phone; learn or get insurance—it’s unclear which are the same and which are different options. On your own site, give your readers clear and understandable options of how to get the information they need.
- Let the experts on your development team do their job. Your expertise as a business owner is probably not developing and designing web sites. Hopefully, you’ve hired a pro to do it. Now listen and give them the time and resources necessary to do their work effectively.
- Allow time to review and debug, even the most simple site. The problems at the heart of healthcare.gov are probably not the type that are going to affect your site because you don’t have a large-scale web application running in the background. But, all web sites, even the most basic brochure-style site, need thoughtful review. The most common errors to look for are broken links and typos. Thankfully these will not bring down your whole site, but they do affect your brand image. Have a specific and thorough process to get all content proofread and all links and other functionality tested. Confirm who is responsible for this: you, or your web team?
- Plan around a reasonable schedule. The launch date for healthcare.gov was set by legislation and really couldn’t be adjusted. Many business owners also have fixed dates they wish to go live for: a big trade show, a key meeting, etc. Make sure that you plan all the steps that will be required to make that date, including extra time to handle any adjustments or debugging issues that arise. If possible, consider a plan B which is a limited version of the site that could launch, even if there are issues with other areas of the site.
If your small business or non-profit is launching a new web site, don’t be scared by what happened at healthcare.gov. Remember that your web site is not a web-based application, you should not run into the same technology/development issues that are at the core of healthcare.gov’s problems. But you do need to remember all the basic best practices of a launching site which focus on good communication and good planning.
Also read: Why the Design Fails on HealthCare.Gov