Lessons from the Obamacare website

To no big surprise, the healthcare.gov website went down promptly after being launched. This is the place where people sign up for “Obamacare,” and officials foolhardily insisted that everything was ready for a million visitors. It wasn’t.

Serious websites generally eschew big-bang launches because it is so hard to get it right. Often, they start out with a “dark launch” where new features are made available, but not advertised. A few people will find them and try them out, allowing the website operator to verify that everything works in real life. If major problems are found, the feature can be quietly deactivated without the negative publicity that healthcare.gov has gathered in spades.

Next time you roll out a major addition to your web site, try it out with a dark launch first, and then gradually add users in a controlled manner. “Big Bang” went out of fashion approximately 13.82 billion years ago.