If We Built a Website in the Private Industry Like the One for Healthcare.Gov, We Would Be Fired and Possibly Sued

affordable-health-care-act-websiteLike many Americans, I too have gone onto the Affordable Care Act website to take a look at what all the fuss has been about. From a design perspective, things look pretty good on the front end of the website. It’s attractive enough and easy to navigate. It views well on mobile and tablet devices. There are plenty of pages containing information and answers to your questions. You can preview plans and prices to get an idea of the different levels of coverage offered in your state and county. But as a web developer, I’m more concerned about what is beneath the design inside the back end. Beyond the hype and the politics, there really is a good reason to be concerned about trusting this website with some of the most personal and detailed information of our lives. There are three key areas I personally have questions and concerns about:

Where is the ACA quality assurance? I think most people agree the website was probably not ready for prime time and the quality assurance is not topnotch. When I visited the website, I chose what I think might be comparable health care coverage my husband and I are already enjoying and chose to take a look at the Silver Plan. From what I could determine, we would be paying $300 more a month than we already are PLUS an as yet to be determined yearly out of pocket expenses. Don’t like that, but I’m willing to see details and make adjustments before passing judgment. To get more information, I had to create an account and delve into the back end of the system. I did that and didn’t like what I saw within three screen views. The amount of personal information that was requested was too much up front for my comfort and there was no incentive to give in to the request for more. I just wanted to look at their pricing, not share my entire life with them. I can shop for more details of a health care package in the private sector without having to divulge my name, address, social security number, etc. so I don’t understand why I’m not able to do the same through the ACA website. What else makes me hesitant is from what I’ve heard in the news–everywhere—the website isn’t holding up too well and people are getting 404 errors in the middle of their data entry. A Forbes contributor suggested yesterday the reason the website keeps breaking down is because the government doesn’t want to you to see the underlying costs. I don’t think he means to say the website is shutting down on purpose. Instead, the Forbes article goes on to explain the health care website requires the user to provide detailed information BEFORE you can start shopping. This means the system is overloaded with a bottleneck of information being compiled and returned to the view. It’s a lot to process, thus the 404 errors. I tend to agree with this theory. It’s unsettling to be in the middle of sharing your social security number and then suddenly have technical difficulties. I don’t trust this website just yet; therefore I’m not willing to divulge personal information. Sorry, but I’m not buying it (yeah, the pun is intended)…

What are the HHS numbers? Another thing that concerns me is Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, said earlier this month she cannot gauge how many people signed up for Obamacare. Seriously? You can’t tell me a huge organization like this–one that has to be compliant, is consumer oriented, and has a political score to keep–does not have analytics in place to gauge the numbers. Either she is not being truthful about this, or her team is failing the mark by not tracking the numbers and keeping her informed. You can easily look to the private industry for examples of how a well done marketing campaign and sound ecommerce results in multi-million dollar sales within days. Of course, no one wants to tout negative success. But again… I’m not buying it.

What about security? Last and most importantly, is the assurance that our personal data is and will remain safe. I don’t think this can be said just yet. Computer security expert John McAfee dropped a bombshell on Obamacare enrollees when he warned everyone of the strong possibility of phishing scams tied to the Obamacare websites with no way to protect those who enroll from hackers robbing their bank accounts blind. “I’ll ask you your social security, your date of birth, [so] an hour later I can empty your bank account,” he said when interviewed. He went on to say, “And this is going to happen, it’s going to happen soon. Nothing in the Obamacare system safeguards against this,” he said. He wouldn’t use the system for himself anyway, but McAfee’s words of caution cannot be discounted given his expertise with computer security.

Not buying it… the way the website is working, the pricing, the health care itself. As a web developer, I feel the pain of the development team working on the ACA website and hate to criticize. But HHS rushed this through too soon and Americans can be harmed by the shoddy workmanship of the sign up system. Perhaps by the time my insurance expires in February next year, they’ll have solved the problems and I’ll feel more comfortable exploring government health care options. But for now, I think I’ll sit back and just wait and see.

Sources: Forbes http://tinyurl.com/mbrulyk, Christian Science Monitor http://tinyurl.com/nxdobhc, and Washington Post http://tinyurl.com/lfnc8c9

WordPress 3.6 Release

WordPressWordPress continues to be one of the best blogging and web platforms around! It’s latest release, WordPress 3.6 (nicknamed “Oscar”) has a beautiful new blog-centric theme, bullet-proof autosave and post locking, a revamped revision browser, native support for audio and video embeds, and improved integrations with Spotify, Rdio, and SoundCloud. The release has been named Oscar in honor of jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson, who’s music is played in the release video shown below.

Sit back and view the short promotional video (which is quite good), enjoy the jazz, then check out our affordable WordPress services and theme designs.



Start Off the New Year with a Stronger Online Business Presence

When business owners discuss Search Engine Optimization (SEO) with us what they are basically saying is they want to bring people to their website “now!” and it doesn’t really matter how they get there. Well, it does matter “how” you get people to a site and it also matters “why” you are trying to drive them there in the first place. If visitors go to your website and aren’t satisfied with what they find there then they don’t ultimately become customers. And getting customers is what the SEO game is really all about.

Heading into 2013, here are 5 current trends to consider with regard to your website and your overall on-line business presence.

1. Do you have a Responsive Website? – New to 2012, a responsive website is designed to adjust itself to size when it is viewed on a wide screen monitor, iPad, laptop or smart phone. You can check to see if your own website fits the bill. How? View the website on your computer screen, click to minimize the screen and then click and drag the sides of your browser window to resize the website’s width. If the website still looks good, and is easy to read and understand, then it is probably adequate for today’s web design standards.

2. Consider a Blog on your website – a blog is a great way to start a conversation. If you have ideas or knowledge to share with others why not put it on your own website to attract potential customers? You’ll build your online credibility with not only people, but the search engines as well.

3. Use social media and tie it to your website – If you own or manage a small business and are not using social media, then you are missing out on one of the most cost-effective tools available for promotion, branding and customer service. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. are all free and user friendly. At the very least, every business should have a Facebook company page! After setting it up, link your website the Facebook page and/or use a widget to feed the posts to your website for viewing.

4. Get on LinkedIn – every businessman and woman should have a LinkedIn account. It’s free networking!

5. Optimize your online presence as much as possible – perform a Google search on your business name to see if and how it is listed. Review the search results to see what’s what then take steps to build or improve your online presence. If you have a storefront, claim your local business listings and optimize the information with more details—business hours, logo, videos. Consult a professional to optimize your website for higher technical functionality, analyze keywords in the content, and increase visibility with the search engines. To see examples of online business listings, do a Google search on “Gallop Web Services, LLC”.