IT experts: is still a mess

Experts see issues in front and back ends of problem-plagued health care portal; fixes are likely in government hands

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John Pavley at the Huffington Post felt that on looking at the code, the core of the problem was clear: The site was a rush job. "[T]hey started out in good shape but tried to do too much, too soon. There are many unoptimized files left on the site, which they seem to have rushed out the door.... If they want to live up to their initial promise and completely open source the code on, I'd bet thousands of developers would volunteer to fix all of their bugs for them."

The problem might also have stemmed from the budget alloted to the whole project. Back in April, the Washington Post noted how building the health care exchange was estimated to cost at least $5 billion to implement. Congress alloted only $1 billion, so Health and Human Services patched together the needed budget from a number of other, different federal allowances. It's not hard to see how one of the victims of such a lean budget was a proper test framework for the needed infrastructure.

Developers are already gleaning lessons aplenty from the early failure of James Turner at cited four major takeaways: do load testing; "pretty doesn't trump functional"; validation logic has to be, well, valid; and user experience is "a very precise art."

"There have been several times during the sign-up process where I was left in a deathtrap of UI I couldn't escape from," Turner complained, "and it was unclear what the next step was."

How bad is it when even the IT experts themselves can't navigate your product? Real bad.

Turner went on to point out, as many others have, that this sort of behavior would be unacceptable from any commercial entity. "The way that the federal government bids out software is fundamentally broken.... Why can't the government draw on [the expertise of Amazon and Google] when designing a site as critical to the public as, rather than farming it out to the lowest bidder?"

At least the government is admitting it has a problem, but it had better hurry if they want things to be working by the time the Dec. 15, 2013 enrollment deadline looms.

This story, "IT experts: is still a mess," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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