“Re-launch” – How Not to Launch A Website

One of the things I check in my feed reader each day is the OU media release feed (I know, I should probably go to Platform or the intranet, but I prefer going to a single place for my newsfix, okay, which includes news from elsewhere…). Today’s feed included a post that declared:

The Open University today launched an initiative aimed at allowing people around the nation to outsmart the recession by topping up their skills.
The launch of a new website, which gives access to free educational resources, top tips for getting jobs and advice about accessing financial assistance for fee-paying courses, coincides with the New Year’s Jobs Summit hosted today by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The Open University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Brenda Gourley, who is attending today’s summit, says the unveiling of “Re-launch” is evidence of the OU’s commitment to helping to educate the UK out of the recession. [Full press release]

Good stuff. Timely, relevant, and potentially useful :-)

But was there a URL pointing to the new site mentioned in the story? Nope… So I did a search on the OU website for “relaunch”, then “re-launch”. No joy… Hmmm… If the team has done their job right, Google should be up to speed though – so get out the site: limit and try there. Nope…

Okay – there’s a link on the OU homepage to the press release… any links in the body of the story? Err, nope… Hmm, maybe Twitter will know?

Ah yes… of course:

Not the best use of linktext, methinks?

So the site will be called “Re-launch”, I assume, with the page title containing the word “Re-launch”, and maybe even “relaunch” in the URL? Nope – the URL is http://www.open.ac.uk/recession, the landing page title is The Open University – Outsmart the recession – Home and the word “relaunch” doesn’t appear anywhere on the mini-site homepage:

If I had to guess, I’d have said the new site was called “Outsmart the recession” (though of course, I’d have probably gone for “OUtsmart”;-)

(Good to see the delicious and Digg bookmark links in there, though…:-)

PS the version of the story that’s carried on Platform does have a link, so a point to them:-)

PPS I’ll race you to the top of the Google rankings for “Open University relaunch”… heh heh;-)


So easy, it’s not fun any more…

[PS oops – it seems that the website was launched a couple of weeks earlier than anticipated in order to catch an unplanned for PR opportunity. This meant that that not all the mopping up that was intended was done in time for the launch, and “the site was nowhere near the state we would normally launch a website” … So apologies to the team who put the hours in to get the site out in the time that was made available to them… The initiative’s a good one, and the site supports it well:-)]


  1. Tony Hirst

    “The link in your blog post to the OU’s site has a “w” missing.”

    Don’t you just love the way that error correction works on the web, in near real time? (fixed now… (link and link text were both incorrectly given as [ww.open.ac.uk/recession]) – but was it ever really broken….?!;-) heh heh)

    I wonder if changes are ever made to the press releases? I wonder if changes to published press releases are ever *allowed*? (or do they only have one chance to get them right????)

  2. Tony Hirst

    @tom your blog says you talk to companies about how to use “social media such as blogs and wikis for marketing”.

    So taking the above post as a case in point, assume one of your clients launched a website, and it was criticised in a post like the one above, containing as it did a broken link to the new site.

    1) would you recommend the company should track the interwebs for people talking about their new site just anyway?
    2) if the company saw broken links (not, but should be) pointing to your site, should they try to get the links fixed?
    2a) Does it make a difference to 2) if the post containing the broken link is a positive sentiment or a critical/negative sentiment one? (I.e. should the company not try to get a broken link fixed on a negative site? Explain your reasoning….;-)

    (I’m currently pondering the pros/cons of PageRank influenced by sentiment, and this is all feeding “case thoughts” into that…)

  3. redbaiters

    That is awesome! Especially the final screenshot, you were on fire today, and I only just got through your tweets, now I am doing the blog round up :)

  4. Emma

    On Google.co.uk – the OU’s press release is the top hit for open University relaunch (no “” – there’s nothing with the exact phrase), butStephen Downes now beats you on the .com one.

  5. Tom Smith

    1. Of course, any company should be monitoring everything, everywhere, anytime
    2. Of course, broken links are bad
    3. Of course, if the sentiment is a negative one it’s good to calm the waters.

    I suspect that the people who made this boo-boo have really shitty tools. Shitty tools that don’t let them manage and filter things to monitor. Crappy CMS tools that don’t check links. And press releases tend to be like emails, once they’re gone they’re gone.

    Cocking up a link is unfortunate, but the bigger error was the visual/semantic design of the whole project. Both the name “Re-launch” and how the site was promoted on the Home Page was almost designed to be missed… a non-word linked to a non-site. You’d have to be reading with LOTS of attention to be notice it.

    I’m going to assume that because they “camouflaged” the launch of “Re-launch” so well, nobody noticed or clicked the link so the 404 cock up was only noticed by the 2% of people who actually clicked it (and those switched on people were smart enough to add another “w” … like me:-)

  6. Tony Hirst

    @tom The link “cock-up” was actually all my doing – so no fault to the original producers of the PR; I was more just playing a game here, to see if anyone picked up the broken link on the blog and bothered to comment;-)

    @emma when I saw OLDaily, last night, I thought Stephen would take the Google.com slot; and bonus points for checking on google.co.uk ;-) (Just out of interest, when you’re logged in to the co.uk site with Google credentials, are you seeing many differences in search results (i.e. personalised search results) cf. when you aren’t logged in to Google?)

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