Your Friday Inspiration: Product Launch Failures and How you can avoid them.

The start of a any project is an exciting time. You’ve goals are agreed and mapped out, for what will be an awesome new website or application — except that is not always how it turns out. Sometimes, despite your careful planning and best efforts, a project will fail.  I have taken a look at what I believe are some of biggest project failures over the few number of years.
London Olympics 2012
In June 2011, the Olympic committee announced 2.3 million tickets would be available for purchase for the 2012 London Olympics. As excited fans from around the world rushed the site to purchase tickets to their chosen events, they where soon met with "Sorry, we can not process your request at this time". The website had failed because poor planning meant it could not handle the rush of visitors. 
London had gone to extraordinary lengths to win and host the Olympics, only to have its website crash when it opened its doors to the public. Something that could have easily been avoided with the right planning and preparation. 

ObamaCare is the pinnacle of failed website launches. All you have to do is Google "failed website launches" and resulting search will fill page after page of how ObamaCare became the chagrin of the Obama administration. was launched in October 2013 and was designed to offer a single trusted point of information and transparency about the health insurance market. It was designed to allow consumers review health insurance plans and get the best value for their healthcare plan needs. The creation of the website was a requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that President Obama signed into law in March 2010.
On the day launched it experienced a combination of high demand and technical glitches both of which overwhelmed the online system early in the day. According to Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters, more than one million people had visited on the day it was launched which was five times more users than have ever been on the at one time.

It is thought that 2.8 million visitors alone was able to cause the website to fail according to US administration officials. The site was created to provide assistance for over 30 million people.


Developed in Moscow in 1984 Tetris was the first entertainment software to be exported from the USSR to the US. Since this time it has been available on almost every games console and mobile phone. It one of few games that became a huge part of popular culture. So how can it be considered a such a dismal failure?

The reason I would consider Tetris a product launch disaster concerns the secret battle between Nintendo and Atari. Long before Tetris became such a huge part of pop-culture, every software manufacturer that encountered Tetris, quickly realised the games massive potential and everyone wanted a piece of the action.
Everyone wanted the rights to produce the game for their console including the two biggest heavy hitters at the time Atari and Nintendo.

In theory Atari won the race; they got approval to mass-produce the game long before Nintendo got to the table. But there was a problem; they were negotiating with the wrong person. Nintendo may have been late to the game but they rapidly identified the “go-to” guy and began negotiating in earnest and won the deal after some unpleasant legal wrangling.
Unfortunately by the time Nintendo was finally crowned the victor, Atari had already manufactured over a quarter of a million games. On losing the case Atari were then faced with an expensive and embarrassing obligation to dispose of all their Tetris game cartridges. A mistake that cost them millions of dollars.

So while Tetris may have been a major success for Nintendo it also represents a massive disaster for competitor Atari who failed to do their research properly and eventually missed out.

Mark's and Spencer

In November of 2011 H&M was ready to launch it new Versace Collection. Loyal customers looking to purchase the new Versace Collection from H&M's website were greeted with a message saying "We’re sorry, we are experiencing large number of visitors at the moment, please try again later."

The "Try again later" message is the last thing this retailer's avid fans wanted to read. Given that most of the retailer's designer lines are smash hits. It was poor planning on H&M's behalf not to have prepared it's website for the outstanding sales and interest?

Blame it on the boogie

Leaving the ‘who’ aside here for a moment to look at the issue, website failures are not an uncommon event. A new website or online resource is launched whose aim is to engage people in a self-service/online manner to in order to reduce footfall traffic to office or retail stores. Think back to the last time you tried to buy a ticket for the hottest show coming soon on Ticketmaster and you will know exactly what this is like; the website becomes unresponsive, grinding to a halt or ‘falling over’.

With the combined experience of everyone at Cogneto, we have dealt with everything from online store launches, to utility companies relaunching their customer management portals to financial institutions launching new portal sites. And often, the results are the same despite best advice. The website took a pasting much like a Conor McGregor opponent.

So why does this happen and do people allow it to happen?

Let me be crystal clear here. No-one ever deliberately wakes up on the morning of the launch of a new product where a significant financial investment has been made and consciously says “Hey, who cares if it fails as the boss looks on.” It is utterly naive to also assume there’s a level of carelessness about these kind of failures. What in actuality has happened is down to usually one of two things;
  1. Poor planning 
  2. A lack of tools

The Million Dollar Question: ‘How to you stop it happening?’

Planning is key. It is merely not enough to meticulously plan the content and functionality of your online resource. Nor is it enough to make sure you’ve enough compute, disk IO and network traffic availability. Most of the failure stems from the omission to include a plan to test these resources under load. This form of testing will demonstrate several things:
  1. The performance of your infrastructure design to handle the incoming flood/waves of requests for pages 
  2. Whether your network can handle what could inadvertently become a by-product unwitting DoS attack on your network and compute resources due to the nature of the content being served 
  3. How interactive portions of the site that process input (i.e. forms) perform while a mass of simple webpage requests are going on 
  4. Where optimization under load is needed for the content being served. 
  5. How your scaling technology or ability to scale on the fly works (if it works at all) 
The second key is understanding that in today’s landscape of commodity compute services, there are tools available for this and services using these tools available.

Won’t somebody please think of the Children?

At Cogneto, we’ve been involved with large scale website launches where using our Smasher product, we’ve handled the performance and load testing of interactive and passive parts of sites. We have completed testing at various user loads; simultaneous waves of registrations, ramped up page request loads across ‘hot’, ‘tepid’ and ‘cold’ content on the site (‘hot’ being the most likely hit content, with ‘cold’ being the most infrequently hit content). All of which was able to kick back great performance metrics and alerts on what was going on with resource requests from the application layer.

If you’ve an upcoming web project launch or an existing one you’ve concerns about, please get in contact with our Smasher team today, and we can help you avoid the front-page woes.

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