Web Reliability

HealthCare.gov: Even The President of the United States Cares About Reliable Websites

Mitchell Kimbrough
Written March 11, 2019 by
Mitchell Kimbrough
Founder & CEO

The stakes were high. In some cases, arguably life and death. Due to political infighting, the project had been stalled and the timeline cut unreasonably short. The project scope expanded and resources were pulled away. But failure was not an option, and the site was launched.

Just a few minutes after the website went live, it fell over. It crashed. It went down and pretty much remained unusable for weeks. When HealthCare.gov launched it was not reliable.

Twenty-one days after the website launched, the President of the United States addressed the nation from the White House Rose Garden. He said, "There's no sugar coating: the website has been too slow, people have been getting stuck during the application process and I think it's fair to say that nobody's more frustrated by that than I am."

Even the President of the United States cares about reliable websites. Modern life is dependent on the web in ways we’d never imagined. Sometimes reliability matters so much that it can derail a presidency, ruin careers, or even cost lives. Web Reliability doesn’t just matter for your small t-shirt business website! The truth is that it matters for everyone.

Recently, during a visit with a good friend who works for his local power company, the subject of power outages and grid failures came up. We talked about all the basic components that make up a reliable electrical grid, the dependencies, and how a small blockage in one area can cause the failure of the system as a whole. That conversation triggered a genuine epiphany for me. All of a sudden, twenty years of experience writing code and building websites had a focus, a defining organizing principle. Throughout all of this time it had never been clear that so much of my job was about delivering reliability. But now it was obvious and undeniable.

When a website crashes or fails to deliver on its promises, it's similar in many ways to what happens when a city’s power grid blacks out. In fact, the parallels between the reliable flow of electricity through a power grid and the reliable flow of customers through a website are striking.

The book that follows describes the Web Reliability Framework. This is a system for envisioning, building and maintaining websites that consistently support customers in flowing through a website to achieve their goals. Reliable revenue generation for the website owner is the outcome that this smooth flow delivers.

This framework has been designed to be a convenient tool for website owners. The structure is easy to remember and the solutions easy to understand. You can throw your current problems at it and find resolution. The Web Reliability Framework breaks those problems down into their component parts so that you can more easily understand them, explain them to others and solve them. What you’ll find as you read on is that the problems on a website almost always have to do with team, plan, and action as well as motivation, resistance, and management.

There are a thousand specialists and a million books available to help with every aspect of a website, but there has not been one comprehensive tool to help with understanding and successfully delivering on the big picture.

The Web Reliability Framework is intended to serve as a much-needed helpmate to that long-suffering soul who is responsible for a website. It helps frame conversations about website priorities in a way that translates to your daily life. It helps you structure and win arguments about what's most important on the web, so you can advocate for success and get the resources you need to achieve it.

Web Reliability matters for everyone who carries the weight of website ownership. The individual who is tasked with keeping customers and revenue flowing through a website may be a marketing manager or IT director at a large company. Or if the website is for a smaller business, ownership may belong to the sole proprietor. And sometimes, once in a while, the long-suffering soul responsible for the smooth flow of customers through a website is the President of the United States.