Washington Mutual: How NOT to Launch a Web Site

Ian Lurie

Kudos to WaMu for demonstrating, graphically, how not to launch new features on a web site. A story on CNET points out that their online bill payment and banking system has been down since last Saturday.

In the mean time, they apparently didn’t really admit to anyone that there was a problem.

And Gary Kishner’s excuse doesn’t wash, either.

Here’s what happened:

1. WaMu launches new features on site.
2. Site fails.
3. WaMu tells customers it’s ‘routine maintenance’ (!!!).
4. Almost a week later, they admit it’s not routine maintenance.

Here’s how launching new features on a web site should work:

1. Test what you did.
2. Launch it.
3. If it fails, roll back to the old version.

My company is hardly perfect. We’ve had some real forehead-slappers. But leave an entire chunk of a site totally nonfunctional? For days?


A good quality assurance regime is critical to internet marketing.

When things go wrong, be honest with customers.

Always have a backup plan.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. I have a huge website launch coming up in a month. Well that is anticipated launch. I say anticipated because I am going to test everything! I would rather be a bit late then do what WaMu did.

  2. Update: Wama as of 8/16 still not functioning at par.
    As a customer for 4 years at Wamu, I’m extremely frustrated as I do all my billing etc online.
    Seriously considering switching banks.
    Test before launch!

  3. As a tech person in the trade and a customer I am apalled by the utter lack of technical and professional abilities exhibited by the people at wamu.com. Can you say ‘integration testing’? Can you say ‘regression testing’? Does no one know how to test and debug anymore? Just drop the code straight in to production and yippee!!! here we goooooooo. Yup. Poof! gone can’t wait to see how many people just decide to split. Duh.

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