Government Websites: Five Considerations to Avoid a Launch Disaster
If you’re not already covered by an approved health insurance plan, it’s time to sign up for government-sponsored health care. With just a short time left to enroll, government websites and other state exchanges can expect to see visitor volumes spike as procrastinators rush to make the deadline for enrollment.
Five Considerations for Government Websites
To avoid issues, including site outages, long wait times and confusing error messages, here are five considerations that should continue to be top of mind for government agencies when launching and managing government websites.
1. Infrastructure Planning and Strategy
Despite many advance preparations and heavy investment in success, many websites don’t perform as needed when it comes time to launch. Spikes in traffic can immediately cripple websites that aren’t prepared for them. Good IT infrastructure planning and strategy can help reduce operational and capital expenses by determining the best approach to optimize IT infrastructure. Additionally, good planning can help reduce risk, better utilize existing assets and avoid over- or underinvestment in technology.
2. High-Availability Infrastructure
Capacity and load performance issues are often due to a lack of appropriate IT infrastructure. Building an online-enabled infrastructure that delivers consistently high availability, however, is no small task. A high-availability infrastructure requires the ability to continually grow infrastructure at a dramatic rate.
To effectively design robust government websites, developers must have a deep understanding of performance thresholds, scalability, load balancing, security issues and rapidly changing technologies. Essentially, managing the delivery of government websites means managing a continuous process of infrastructure expansion in order to deliver predictable and continuous operations.
3. Adequate Testing
Stress testing is another essential component to any system launch and must be planned into a project’s timeline — and not just as isolated testing, but as full system testing that ensures everything works together smoothly. Prior to testing, clear criteria should be developed for determining whether a system will pass.
There also needs to be enough time to handle whatever problems testing may identify. In many instances, prelaunch tests will identify issues, whether they be within the infrastructure or code-related, that must be dealt with in order for the system to work as planned. Without enough time in the launch schedule to deal with these surprises, a project runs the risk of either being delayed or launching with known issues.
4. End-to-End Ownership
Another major issue for the development of any website is a lack of ownership throughout the project. If there is no one contractor overseeing the entire site, then no one is tasked with making sure everything works together. Short testing cycles only exacerbate this problem by not allowing enough time to either test everything at full capacity nor resolve issues once they are determined. Identifying and assigning ownership on government websites, whether they are complex or not, should be done at the outset of any project and is simply good process management.
5. Customer Experience Matters, Too
As a final note, it’s important to remember that while many, if not most, government websites may not have competitors, the user experience still matters. When building a site of any scale, it’s imperative that the customer experience is a high priority. To be effective, government websites must be delivered at the same high level that consumers expect from private providers.