11 Feb 2014

Healthcare.gov: User Experience Design Update

With a March 31 deadline looming for open enrollment, the broken Healthcare.gov web site is still a disaster. 

Let’s see how that 90 million dollar contract is working out.

My favorite call to action was the “Apply by Phone” button used in the original homepage.

Original homepage

Original homepage.

Next is the new homepage, with images removed as a test for organic SEO, and meeting WCAG 2.0 and Section 508 accessibility standards.  What is the name of this website?  It doesn’t indicate the domain, or a site name.  If you didn’t know the URL, what search terms would be used to find this website?

There are still two ways to “get insurance”.  This was the same mystery task as the original version, in which visitors guess which call to action to choose.  Does “Get Insurance” get them started or let them enroll or help them search, or does this top user task start with “Apply Now?”

Where is site name

What is the name of the website? Where do we start?

The bottom of the homepage is text-based with lots of redundant information, as if to imply there is nothing much to put here.  The blog posts are on the topic of the deadline.  So are the “49 days left to enroll” and the, um, “31”.  Meanwhile, even down here in the below-the-page-fold basement of the homepage, there is no site name to be found, although there are a few hints.

I find it hard to understand why this section of the homepage is not used to help funnel different types of user groups inside the site. The headings don’t motivate anyone to explore or take action.  Wow. “Top Content”.  That excites me.  And really.  How about those videos?  There is no persuasive design person in all of Accenture to fix this?

Bottom of homepage

Does any of this content motivate you?

I did find the site name by the way.  It’s “Health Insurance Marketplace”, according to this page, https://www.healthcare.gov/archive/, which also needs an update since it still claims that October 1, 2013 is the deadline for enrollment.  For 90 million, fixing existing content should be easy to do.

What Do You Want to Do First?

They still don’t understand why people come to this site and who they are.  The target market for ObamaCare is not the middle or upper class.  The plans are no cheaper than shopping and comparing health plans from ehealthinsurance.com/.  I compared the two.  Guess which one is easier to use?  The difference is that lower income people may qualify for tax credits using the ObamaCare.

Lower income people, young people and the uninsured are the target users.  None of them are identified on the homepage and guided to where they may find the information that fits their needs.

As before, I found where to start on the homepage is still an issue because the calls to action are not well defined.

For example, if you click on Individuals and Families, you arrive here.

Individuals and Family Funnel

Where does this link take us? What happens here?

Several millions later and they have not repaired this page.  Before you apply, logically it makes sense to search for what’s available. You can also click a button to call. (Love that one.)  If you are an individual, perhaps your needs are different than a family of six.  Where is the user path for single people?  Everyone is funneled into the same corral.

If you like the new big button on the homepage, you may start there first.

See Plans button

It doesn’t matter who you are, everyone starts here. However, with this task, you are asked questions to help narrow down your search.  What a shame the button or any descriptive text doesn’t mention that.    Any company worth its salt in user experience design knows that people follow tasks they understand and which meets their specific needs.

I did try and find health insurance plans for a variety of needs and the functionality remains broken.  No matter how many times I entered information, such as the state and the type of coverage, the site forgets it if I start over for a new search.

Not intuitive.

Not intuitive.

Its okay to keep personal details secure such as name, address and income but some of the basic sort criteria could be retained to shorten comparison shopping times.

The site does not handle more than one function at a time.  For example, you can only look for health or dental insurance, but not both at the same time.


For those of us who do website design focused on usability, user experience, persuasive design, and build functional Internet software applications far more complicated than Healthcare.gov’s site, awarding a  $90 million, one-year contract to fix a broken site is impossible to understand.

This page makes no sense.


This page can be found in a wide variety of ways, creating a sense of getting the run around.


Site has poor navigation.

There are so many companies with usability experts and software application developers who could save the website for a fraction of the cost.  What a shame they were never asked to help.


  1. Scott Bradshaw February 11, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    Kimberly, thanks for the view from a website perspective. As an insurance agent, I hear a lot about the ACA, and oddly, I never hear anything positive about it. In fact, even the Obama administration does little to offset the dearth of positive comments. If everyone, from every perspective, feels that the ACA has been poorly managed, and poorly conceived, I wonder how it ever became law. Regardless, thanks for your insight, from a different perspective than I normally get it.

    1. Kimberly Krause Berg February 14, 2014 at 2:59 PM

      Thanks for your feedback. No matter what anyone’s opinions of the law may be, my focus is on how bad the website is and the utter shame that so much money is poured into it – and it’s still broken!

  2. Amy Raysor February 12, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    This has been the most frustrating website ever.

    your info is so spot on.

    1. Kimberly Krause Berg February 14, 2014 at 3:00 PM

      Thanks for your comment. It’s fun in a way for me to “test” it, but I’m also a consumer simply trying to use it!

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