The launch of healthcare.gov has brought a tidal wave of criticism. Some say the code was buggy, others blame the servers, and still others blame the user experience. While we may not be able to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, one thing is certain: What should have been a great day for many Americans became the worst day for the technology providers behind healthcare.gov.
But healthcare.gov isn’t the only site to experience a bad launch day; it just happens to be the latest example of how a site that goes live before it’s ready can cause more harm than good. When we only look at technology projects in terms of code and hardware, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Technology projects should support the people, the projects, and the objectives of the mission they are being built to support.
With that in mind, Jessica Richmond, senior director of Government Professional Services at Acquia, has put together some tips for site developers to ensure that when a site gets the green light to go live, it’s ready for peak performance, regardless of the amount of traffic it may experience.
Click through for five tips to ensure that when a site gets the green light, it’s ready to go live, as identified by Jessica Richmond, senior director of Government Professional Services at Acquia.
Part of having a usable site is, well, having a site that can be used. Performance may not be the sexiest part of a technology project, but it is the most important. When a prospective or current client tells Richmond “that stuff isn’t important,” she sees that as a key education opportunity.
Strict fixed price and fixed scope contracting models force a rigid approach that, quite frankly, doesn’t work well for software development. It’s critical to match the management approach with a model that makes sense for software development. And that is work that has to be done far in advance.
When teams try to fit in too much, or try to please everyone at launch, they more often than not end up developing a product that meets no one’s needs and doesn’t perform well. Prioritize your items, remembering to focus on performance and user experience.
This is a major pitfall with a lot of technology projects Richmond has come across. Testing is always important, and it should be done iteratively and thoroughly. When budgets are tight, performance and load testing are often the first line items to go. Big mistake. Remember how performance should be your number one priority? And don’t wait to test until you’re in the final stages right before launch. Though it’s great that you’re testing the site, you’re not giving yourself enough time to make any necessary adjustments or improvements.
Well-architected sites fail because the hosting environment wasn’t properly sized or built to handle the load. Clients looking to host a high-traffic, mission-critical site should identify existing, tested, and easily scalable solutions. Less time focusing on infrastructure leaves more time to focus on building (and thoroughly testing) the application layer – the truly sexy part that end users care about.