We blew it

Testing. It’s a common thing. Tests play a critical role in our society; tests determine if someone can drive, if a student can graduate, or if a vaccination works.  Testing is also a critical part of website development and use. When developing a website, best practices dictate that you test your site with your users.  You do this for a ton of reasons, mainly because when producing a website you aren’t doing it for yourself, but are doing it to best reach your users.

At the IDEA Lab, we have done something different with the development of our website – we brought it into our office.  Late last year we developed the website on a tiny budget. Our contract for development of the website ended last September and since then development and maintenance has been primarily done by me and some other members of the IDEA Lab staff.

So back to testing.  Yesterday we launched – for the first time on the IDEA Lab website – public voting for the HHS Innovates pathway. HHS Innovates celebrates and recognizes HHS employees for their innovative work in solving problems at the Department.  One way we recognize teams is through the “People’s Choice” Award – this allows the six finalists an opportunity to  let the general public and their stakeholders know about the great work they have done and get them engaged by voting on their innovation.  For the actual voting of the “People’s Choice” Award, we installed a new module that would allow users to vote.  We did some testing on the module, but clearly not enough.

A press release announcing public voting went out yesterday at 10 AM and we quickly discovered that the voting module was not working correctly – it was only registering a percentage of the votes cast, and users repeatedly got voting errors or a never-ending loading button.

The errors are due to a domain and network problem between our hosting site and how we map the website through hhs.gov. While you might not care about the actual reason, know this – for a pathway that is designed to recognize employees for their innovative work, we stumbled out of the gates in doing so.

We are currently replacing and testing a new voting module for the website, but until that is fully functional, public voting is suspended.

Errors, mistakes, failures are all part of the experimentation and development process. The fact that we have brought website development into our office is a different model of operating in government and the errors and frustration you all have experienced over the past 24 hours are noted.

We apologize profusely for the delays. Please watch this space for updates and we will let you know when we re-enable voting.

Public voting has now resumed. You can vote on the HHS Innovates page here.