Seeing the fallout from the problems with the new healthcare.gov got me to thinking about every business that has a website, is considering launching one or is about to redesign and relaunch its site. All politics aside, I believe there are at least three lessons that even small businesses can learn from the government’s highly visible Web debacle.
1. Don’t be in a hurry to launch until you know you are ready, and hire people who know what they are doing.
Sounds pretty simple, but if you intend to use your website as the primary link with your customers, you have to make sure it will work as promised. This is not the time to hire a cut-rate Web designer or turn the job over to someone in-house who has the time but not the expertise.
2. Your competitors will attack your incompetence – quickly.
Maybe it won’t rise to the level of congressional hearings into the matter, but your competition certainly will take notice and try to take advantage of your site’s failures. In many ways, launching a functional website is another test of your ability to execute on your promises. Mistakes or crashes only impact your reputation negatively and call into question your ability to do anything else right – like delivering quality products or services to customers, for example.
3. If something goes wrong, fix it – quickly.
Have a contingency plan in place for anything that might go wrong, from IT consultants on board for the first month of operations to a proactive communication plan in case you need to reach out directly to your customers or the media. Mistakes can happen, but don’t let them fester and turn into major problems for your business flow or reputation.
In the end, it’s hard to say whether budget cuts, lack of testing, artificial deadlines or faulty communications caused healthcare.gov to stumble out of the gate. Just take the opportunity to learn from the government and don’t let it happen to you.