A Web Usability Professional Retraces Ann Coulter`s Steps Through Healthcare.Gov
From: Boss Aktuba [Email him]
My day job is making websites, mobile apps, desktop software, and other technology more user-friendly. After reading Ann Coulter`s article ” Screw You, Mickey Kaus! ” I decided to go to healthcare.gov and see what`s really involved to just look at plans.
Typing healthcare.gov into my browser and pressing return, I was presented with a somewhat noisy page, but three main options were foregrounded: “See plans before I apply,” “Apply now for health coverage,” and “See stories/share and connect”. I clicked on “See plans before I apply.”
Then I was prompted to “Answer a few quick questions to see premium estimates.” I didn`t see any way around this. I had to select whether I was “looking for coverage for myself and my family” or whether I was “looking for coverage for a small business I own or operate.” I selected “myself and my family”.
Next I had to select “health” or “dental” coverage. No way around this either, so I selected “health”.
Next I had to choose my state from a drop-down menu. Still no bypass.
Next I was asked for my county, again from a drop-down menu. I had no choice but to go along with it.
After that several more questions popped up, this time about the ages of people in my household and whether my employer would cover them. I was getting annoyed. A basic principle in usability is to let users know what will be expected of them beforehand, and that principle was being flagrantly violated.
Another one is to delay as long as possible any requirement that the user enter personal information or, more generally, do work. In other words, the site should give the goodies up front as much as it can, then ask the user for stuff later. Healthcare.gov was clearly not built with this principle in mind.
Most visitors to Healthcare.gov would continue entering information and then being confronted with more questions, and I don`t know how much longer this vicious cycle would go on for. I spend all day analyzing the layout of screens, so I noticed a blue box which contained a long text link beginning with the words “No thanks…” I instinctively clicked on that link, and that turned out to be the shortcut past what I assume would have been the arduous interrogation that Coulter described.
At the top of the next screen was a big box of text warning me that the prices I was about to see might actually be lower, and encouraging me to go back and enter more detailed personal information. But I scrolled down past it and was finally able to view the list of available plans. I won`t comment on what I thought of the plans, except to say that sticker shock probably prompts a lot of people to go back and enter their personal information.
The great irony here is that Healthcare.gov is managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, whose website states that they are “committed to providing accessible technology to members of the public and its employees…with and without disabilities” under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794d).
Section 508 deals with making websites accessible to people with disabilities, and virtually all of the literature on it states that most of Section 508`s goals are, and should be, in line with general usability standards anyway. I would summarize these standards thusly: A good website or app is like a helpful assistant—pleasant to talk to and look at, quickly, concisely and clearly delivering exactly the information you requested, and not behaving in a way that annoys you, confuses you, or gets in the way of what you want to do.
My guess is that Obama`s reelection website followed web usability standards beautifully.
The writer has written two articles for VDARE.com under what he calls the obviously fake name “Boss Aktuba”.
James Fulford writes: If the Obama reelection site did, it might have something to do with the staffing at his campaign headquarters. This picture, from a Steve Sailer blog, [Whiteness Crisis At Obama HQ Postponed For The Duration] is of the staff at Obama For America headquarters.
If there’s a corporation in America with a headquarters staff that white, then they hire a PR department to make it look like it isn’t.
Our own usability note: links to Healthcare.gov are not live. This is deliberate—it seems to be some kind of fraud, and we wouldn’t want readers to be exposed to it accidentally.