How not to launch a website

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healthcare.og - How Not to launch a Website

The American people can enroll for health insurance through a brand new website! But the website and launch was an epic failure.

On October 1, 2013 the United States launched its healthcare exchange website which coincides with the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – which really created some buzz.

The buzz I’m referring to is not the ability for Americans to compare prices on health insurance plans, to begin enrollment in a chosen plan, and to simultaneously find out if they qualify for government healthcare subsidies – but as a new online product launched by the U.S. government.

Those of us who have launched many websites – or even one online product or service via a website – know that there is a lot that goes into the launch plan.

Like any great launch I’m sure the government and it’s developers wanted to achieve several goals:

  1. Drive massive traffic to the healthcare exchange website and to allow users to easily compare prices on health insurance plans
  2. Get a load of PR across digital and non-digital media to promote the site
  3. Entice people to enroll through ad campaigns – especially during launch week
  4. Enroll millions of people within the first week
  5. Provide a simple User Experience

It seemed that the site was up and running but it didn’t take long for users to quickly experience hurdles and be stopped by numerous types of technical problems.

The Result:

  • More than 8.1 million people visited the site from October 1-4, 2013 [USA Today (1)]
  • Glitches (simply logging on doesn’t work, broken calculators, and incorrect information)
  • By some estimates only 1% of interested people were able to enroll to the site in the first week of its operation. [Wikipedia (2)]
  • Bad PR

Jon Stewart Delivers Blistering Takedown of Obamacare website Rollout

*Glitches and crashes mentioned in video have little to do with amount of traffic and points to faulty system throughout.
*Probably most negative burst of PR a website has received. It’s up there with Wiki-leaks and Pirate Bay.

Despite the fact that this was an immense launch and development failure there is much to be learned from this blunder.


The basic formula for any launch strategy is to:

– Build a solid foundation
– Leverage many experienced UX designers and developers
– Understand your target audience
– Eliminate the risk of technical issues with an insane amount of testing
– Connect with your new visitors and form a strong bond so they’ll come back
– Conversion is top priority, traffic second

Websites are not something to be undertaken lightly. Yes this was epic in every single way and made even more so by the fact that it’s a nationwide government initiative.

Be inspired to never launch a product, service or website – like – without first testing and ensuring a positive user experience.

So what are your thoughts on from a product launch perspective?

Let me know if you have questions, whether it’s about launching a website or a product in the comments below. Good luck in your future launchs!

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