"People, I got this."
While long-time-blog-favorite John McAfee scrambles to diagnose the issues surrounding Healthcare.gov, a public/private software professional and TPM contributor makes an important (and underreported) point about the underlying problem:
“The Healthcare.gov site itself is probably one of the best Federal websites ever built, both in design and in the approaches used to code it. It's pretty, usable, relatively fast, and overall really quite good.”
“[The problems occur] when the website passes your data to an extremely complex array of systems that span multiple agencies... And if any one of these systems -- several of which are very old in IT terms -- has a glitch and can't complete the task, the [Healthcare.gov experience] fails for that user.”
So fixing this problem is a simple matter of upgrading the entirety of the federal government’s information technology infrastructure (including all those firesale Atari 800s the IRS purchased in 1986 after Hurricane Frances)?
None of this, of course, should come as a surprise to the IT teams implementing the online healthcare exchanges. But it’s not particularly useful to blame the Healthcare.gov designers for an underlying crisis of back-end obsolescence.
(Multiple reports now seen to suggest that the HHS decision to require a user account be created before he/she can browse health plans may be the cause of one significant bottleneck.)
Now, this contributor could be completely wrong. I haven't looked at the code myself, and there are plenty of experts who've questioned the quality of the site's coding and design.
But if at least one source of the problem today traces back to the sustained lack of investment in federal technology, that's something to consider. Thanks again, sequester.
I do feel bad, though, for that poor Web design firm that had to remove the Healthcare.gov case study from its own website for fear of fire bombing.
All they needed were some better grass-roots media relations. And look, we've got a new resource just for that:
Now that the long-awaited ACA Exchanges website is up and running, it's time to answer the question we’ve all been asking: Just how bad is government Web design?
Seeing as the White House bungled the messaging roll-out of healthcare reform—so thoroughly, in fact, that Americans now support the Affordable Care Act while opposing ObamaCare—you'd be forgiven for the soft bigotry of low expectations.
But why speculate when we can dive right in:
Okay, a couple quick thoughts on the home page:
1. I don't hate it. I mean, sure, the smiling minority headshot and soft focus background is a tad lazy and patronizing. But if the visual goal here is to be non-threatening—i.e., to keep potential subscribers from remembering how death panelists are soon to be gambling for the clothes of your deceased uncle Steve after denying him life-saving cobra anti venom, but really what was he doing in the Congo anyway?—I'd call it a win.
2. Check out the font they've used for the lead copy. It looks like a sign from Harris Teeter. Clearly, this health sign-up is going to be like a friendly country store, and not at all like a soul-crushing administrative burden. Again, I don't hate it.
Now here's where things get a bit trickier. From a UI perspective, we’ve got ten featured links on this page, including one link labeled “Start Here” and another separate link labeled “Apply Now.” That’s not ideal, but it’s also not horrendous. Let’s see what happens when I click the big, green “Apply Now” button:
Yay! More smiling minorities.
Oddly, I like the construction of this second page better than the home screen UI. Here we’ve got a mere three featured links, and a clear binary choice between individuals and business owners.
Oh wait, I just scrolled down, and this page extends vertically with ten thousand additional links and an infographic-style process outline.
Stunningly, the designers here have been able to make a simple, four-step process look complex and multidimensional. But that’s a bit nitpicky, I suppose.
Heading back to the top of the page now. When I select my state, I’m prompted with a second big, green “Apply Now” button, which takes me to an enrollment screen. But wait, we know from our handy infographic that “Apply” is actually the second step in our four-step process. So twice now, we’ve been asked to click a big, green “Apply Now” button that doesn’t actually let us—you know—apply.
This is why people hate bureaucratic forms; they seem sneakily interminable. I’d really like this site to give me some sort of indication of how long this is going to take, and how far I’ve progressed. In fact, you'll need to click on a separate “Checklist” link just to find out what’s needed to fulfill the application requirements.
Look, healthcare is complex; I get that. And this website seems to be far better than your typical federal webpage:
So all in all, I'm impressed.
Then again, we’ll have to see if the site actually functions. For all we know, the back-end of this thing is controlled from a Hardees in Duluth. Which raises a crucial question: do people still eat at Hardees?
Hubspot just published their Marketing Benchmark from 7,000 Companies, aimed at determining how successful their customers are at generating web traffic and inbound leads. Specifically, the report addresses the following questions:
- How does online content quantity impact web traffic and lead generation?
- How does blog frequency affect web traffic and lead generation?
- How much does social media usage help?
Key findings include:
- Companies that have 51-100 pages of web content generate 48% more traffic than companies with fewer pages.
- Companies with 101-200 pages of web content generate 2.5 times more leads than companies with fewer than 50 pages of web content.
- Companies that update their blog frequently (more than 15 posts per month) generate 5 times the web traffic of companies that don’t blog. Small businesses tend to see the biggest gains when they increase the frequency of posts.
- Even a modest increase in blogging increases inbound leads. By increasing blog frequency from 3-5 posts/month to 6-8 posts/month, companies experience a 55% increase in lead generation. B2B companies that post only once or twice a month generate 70% more leads than companies that don’t blog at all.
- The blog will pay bigger dividends over time. As companies increase their total blog posts from 11-20 to 21-50, web traffic typically grows by 45%. And companies with more than 200 articles generate five times the leads of companies with ten or fewer total blog posts.
- Social media matters. Companies with 51-100 Twitter followers generate twice the Web traffic of companies with fewer than 25 followers.
- One thousand Facebook likes seems to be the magic number. Companies that reach this milestone generate 185% more web traffic than companies with fewer likes.
You can download the full report here. It’s full of information that validates the work of content marketers everywhere.
- Katie Hanusik
If you logged on to GCN, FCW or Washington Technology this morning you no doubt noticed something new. All three websites, which are part of 1105 Government Information Group, look completely different than they did just last week. Apparently 1105 has been undergoing some changes and the new websites are the most visible change.
If you haven’t checked out the sites yet go ahead and take a quick peek, I’ll wait…
So, what do you think? Personally, I think there are positives and negatives about each site. I’ll start by saying that from what I can see, FCW (which has officially changed its name from Federal Computer Week to FCW) is the only one that has even addressed the changes with an Editor’s Note, which is right on the homepage welcoming people to the new FCW.
Overall I think that GCN and FCW hit the mark. The new design is more modern, cleaner and easier to read. The top navigation is easy to understand and the site is much more visual. I also really like the addition of what’s trending to the top navigation as well as the incredibly easy to find links to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Click on an article and you get a box on the right that lets you know what the most popular articles are. However, that said, FCW now only lists one editorial contact (Troy Schneider, Executive Editor) while GCN doesn’t list any – a kink that is hopefully still going to be worked out as there have been changes to the editorial staff at both publications.
Unfortunately, Washington Technology’s redesign wasn’t quite up to par with its sister publications. As Mark Amtower points out in this blog post, “I don't find the new design to be a user friendly experience compared to what was there before and I think this redesign will lead to less traffic and shorter visits to the site.” Not only does Washington Technology not tell you what the most popular articles are, they’ve buried what’s trending within the subpages.
Also, for those interested, the publications have rolled out new editorial calendars for the remainder of the year, which you can find links to below. It appears that along with new websites, the publications are doing what they can to stay relevant and provide readers the most current information.
It seems to me that FCW and GCN managed to keep their individual identities when redesigning their websites while also making it clear they are part of the same family. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Washington Technology.
So, what do you think? Like the new sites? Hate them? Sound off below!
GCN Q4 2012 editorial calendar
FCW Q4 2012 editorial calendar
Washington Technology 2013 editorial calendar
Remember the old days – say, the early to mid-2000’s – when most online news consisted of straightforward stories centered around facts? These stories were typically pretty cut-and-dried, providing information on new products, corporate earnings, the latest executive scandal, etc. All done with minimal to no commentary and, most certainly, no trace of any particular passion either way. For the most part, the online world was still reporting news from the perspective of the newspaper that used to be called the Old Gray Lady.
At some point over the past few years, however, that all started to change. It began with the rise in popularity of blogs, which allowed people to expound on any number of subjects and articulate their own opinions. Eventually, many of these sites morphed into something that sort of resembles a news site, but more accurately can be termed “enthusiast sites.”
Enthusiast sites are designed to provide information to fans -- sometimes of the rabid variety -- of a particular line of products or specific topic. They’re different from blogs in that they’re typically maintained by more than a single person and report news just as much as opinion. In fact, they often have editorial mastheads, much like a traditional news outlet, and much of their content consists of company and product news, reviews, forum discussions, editorial commentary and more. The big difference is that enthusiast sites tend to slant their information much more positively toward the products or services they focus on.
They’re also a PR manager’s dream because they cater to a very vocal, active, targeted and engaged audience. Visitors to enthusiast sites typically have a very high interest in a specific product or service. They also spend a lot of time on these sites looking for the latest and greatest news. A site like iMore, which caters to the iPhone and iPad crowds, is a perfect example. There’s a ton of information there, much of it being shared amongst the very active forum members. If you have an iOS app that you’re trying to get reviewed, or a new iPad accessory you’ve just rolled out, this site should be at the top of your hit list.
iMore is just one of many. What’s great is that there are literally hundreds of these types of sites devoted to various aspects of the tech world, with more popping up every day. Sure, some have more readership than others, but even the smallest ones offer a great opportunity to get in front of the people you want to know about what you have to offer.
As we’ve discussed in this space before, the media landscape has changed a lot over the past few years. News is now being reported differently – and thousands of people who share similar interests and a passion about products (imagine that!) are visiting enthusiast sites every day to get their fix. They should definitely be on your PR radar.
- Pete Larmey
Image courtesy Nadham/HP Blog Hub
B2B websites are like Russell Stover candies -- each one is terrible in its own way. (There's an Anna Karenina joke in there somewhere too, but who's got the time?)
Why are B2B websites so pathetic? It's because there's "nothing" riding on them. Sales don't happen (in the literal sense) on a B2B site. There's no shopping cart. So B2B companies are much more wiliing to spend their resources on salespeople (who actually do close deals) as opposed to "passive" marketing materials like Web.
Big mistake, and you probably know why.
B2B websites often matter MORE than B2C sites. If I'm buying a new brand of cracker, I'm not necessarily going to the website first. But if I'm about to spend $60,000 with G&G Consulting, you'd better believe I'll be Googling those suckers.
But wait: If success on the B2B Web isn't about sales, then what's it about? Conversions? Page views? Unique visitors?
We can help you define and achieve the right success metrics for your business. And a great way to start is by reading our FREE WHITEPAPER. C'mon. What are you, scared of success?
It is almost that wonderful time of year again when people dedicate an entire 2.5 weeks of their lives to the NCAA March Madness Basketball tournament. Whether you actually love the sport or you just really want to win your company’s bracket for bragging rights, everyone will be using technology to stay on top of the action. This year, however, easy access will cost you. According to the NCAA website, you will be able to watch all 67 games live, just like last year, but now you’ll have to cough up $3.99.
There are a few ways you can get access to games without paying, however. Looks like anyone who has access to Turner Sports will be able to view games free of charge. CBS will be streaming their games live on the web for free, as well. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay the one-time fee of almost $4 to ensure you don’t miss a shot on your computer, Android or Apple device.
Peter Kafka reprinted this awesome roadmap in his All Things D article (via BTIG’s Rich Greenfield):
- CBS will stream the games airing on the CBS Network throughout the country live on CBSSports.com for free. Consumers will only be able to watch on PCs/Macs, with no tablet/smartphone access.
- TBS, TNT and TruTV will stream the games airing on each network live at TBS.com, TNT.tv and truTV.com for consumers who authenticate their respective MVPD service provider (currently all major MVPDs authenticate these network Web sites, except Time Warner Cable). As with CBS, the games will only be available via PC/Mac (no portability).
- Complete access to March Madness on Demand via PC/Mac, smartphone and tablets with interactive features, regardless of whether you have subscribed to MVPD service, will cost a consumer $3.99 (one-time fee for the whole tournament). Streaming online and across portable devices will be available from the selection show through the championship game.
Aside from watching the game, however, there are other ways to be active in the March Madness craze. Apps/websites such as PlayUp, FanFeedr, and I Can’t Find the Game are just a few that can help.
Still, although it is totally giving in to “the man,” I’ll probably just pay the $3.99.
- Kate N.
"Hey, come on over... I just want to talk to ya..."
In my younger and more formative years, I did quite a bit of Web consulting.
Sometimes, when we were first starting out with a client, he/she would say something like: “Okay, off the record, what do you really think of our current site?”
Now the first thing to remember in this situation is that invariably, the person asking was intimately involved in the design and development of the offending site. So you have to tread carefully.
I like to use what they call a “compliment sandwich.” You start with something positive, then slide in a carefully worded critique, and then finish it off with more positive kudos. So it ends up something like this:
“Links mostly work. The site makes me want to vomit. Good fonts.”
Fact is, in the B2B and B2G world, there are a LOT of bad websites. And not all of them get to benefit from my tactful analyses (example: “Your site makes me increasingly convinced of a godless universe.”)
So we've written up a little white paper for you that reveals the 5 keys to a great business website.
It's quick, easy to read, and FREE.