Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Note to self: Never launch a website while out of the office

utahlake.gov

Among other things, I’ve been working as a media consultant for the state of Utah this year — specifically related to Utah Lake. To help promote the lake as a tax-funded and public resource, I helped officials launch and now maintain a new editorialized website at utahlake.gov (pictured).

Local media, however, isn’t a fan — at least not yet — and rightfully criticized the site’s birth warts. “Government officials have launched a website aimed at helping locals stay home to vacation on Utah Lake, but the launch hit rough waters,” wrote Caleb Warnock, reporting for the Daily Herald. “On Wednesday, repeated attempts to find recreation information were greeted with this message: ‘The page you were looking for could not be found.'”

Not only did the site launch with broken links, there were a few proofreading errors too, not to mention editing notes that were never meant to be made public.

Kind of embarrassing.

Although certainly not an excuse, reasons for the bumpy launch were two-fold. First, the site was unveiled while I was out of office and town last week on vacation. That’s poor scheduling. Had I been around to ensure conformity, the broken links and proofreading errors would have been caught.

Secondly, the launch was three months behind schedule (let the record show that government moves incredibly slow!), so all parties involved were overly-anxious to “ship it.” We did and paid the price.

That said, there is a silver-lining in all of this, and I don’t say that because I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy. For one thing, the editorial is pretty darn compelling — even more so when considering that it’s hosted on a .gov website. As Warnock rightfully pointed out, the editorial needs to do a better job telling readers how to participate in highlighted activities, something we’ll quickly remedy. But in terms of generating ideas and sparking interest in a candid way, I think the editorial is better than average.

Secondly, early user feedback is positive, 77% of which replied “I like it!” when asked what they thought of the new site. (Note: Early pollsters could in fact just be stakeholders that want the site to succeed, but I’m hopeful.) Of all the site launches I’ve been involved in, that’s some of the most positive early feedback I’ve seen.

Lastly, I think it’s obvious the local reporter wants to like the site. After all, the new website was interesting enough to write about and give ink to in the local paper. And his tone, i.e. “Utahlake.gov not very help — yet” suggests he’d like to see it improve. He’s interested. Hopefully others feel the same.

Still, I’ve been publishing and populating websites with content for almost 10 years now. You’d think by now I’d be more patient when deploying them.

I’m not.