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Forget Digital Transformation – Focus on Your Basics First

By Jane-Anne Mennella | March 03, 2021 | 4 Comments

MarketingCustomer Acquisition and RetentionCustomer ExperienceCustomer Understanding and Marketing ExecutionDigital Marketing Strategy and ExecutionMarketing Leadership and ManagementMarketing Leadership and Strategy

Recently, someone asked me to help them book their appointment to get their COVID vaccination. She had tried, but the process and website confused her. Due to my prior experience in designing the UX for websites, she thought I might be able to help. Of course, I was happy to oblige.

Older woman trying to find information on her computer
Consider who you are designing your site for and what their situations and needs are. (Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels)


I’d like to say I guided her through with ease, but the reality was, it ended up being two confused people muddling our way through. In the end, we were successful, but the entire process was unnecessarily difficult.  Sadly, I wasn’t surprised. Annoyed? Yes. Surprised? No.

My lack of shock is not just because there have been many, many stories about how seniors eligible to get the vaccine struggle to complete the process online (and that’s if they’re lucky enough to have access to a computer and know what to look for to begin with). Somewhere, someone focused on the digital transformation but forgot to think about who these users were, what their situations/use cases might be, the journeys they’d need to take and the processes to account for those journeys.

The 1980s Are Calling. They Want Their Bad UX Back.

This lack of thought for the user journey is, disappointingly, nothing new. Research shows that people say they struggle to complete even the simplest tasks on websites – tasks that should be easy and are usually what you want your customers to do, such as check out or sign up. Don’t think it’s true? Here’s a recap of what happened to me just this past weekend when I visited some websites:

  • I had trouble accessing some site accounts or couldn’t purchase easily because a lot of systems won’t accept that my first name has a hyphen or that I don’t have a middle name
Online account won't let the person's real name be entered due to bad validation rules
The mighty hyphen, preventing me from purchasing 


  • When trying to submit information, some forms kept telling me I was making an error but didn’t tell me what the errors were
  • I couldn’t figure out where to add a new medication I was taking because the functionality to do so wasn’t under “Medications” but was under “Forms” (found it by accident!)
  • Website functionality for different sites failed to work properly when accessed via my Mac, but did work when I tried it on my PC
  • Removing and cancelling accounts could not be done online and required multiple, cross-channel steps (if you think making it difficult for your customers to remove their accounts will help them remain customers, please rethink that idea)
  • Letters I was sent telling me to access documentation on a website turned out to be incorrect, and I only know this because when I called customer service they said, “Oh yes, those are old letters/links. ”
  • No hours of service listed and the only way to contact them was via email
  • I clicked on something I wanted to buy and was thrown to a product page with a wide array of products, not to the item I had selected

The issues I ran into were all basic UX issues that could have, and should have, been easily preventable. These were tasks the companies wanted me to take as a prospect or client, and yet I couldn’t complete them. In most of these situations, my annoyance at being unable to carry out these tasks made me leave the websites I was on and go to a competitor instead. For those where I couldn’t use someone else, I most certainly drove up their costs by needing additional help from their employees (and I will switch as soon as the situation allows it).

Of course, my attitudes or behaviors towards these bad web experiences are not an anomaly. Not only is there a ton of research available showing otherwise, but, as an analyst who covers website UX, CX and optimization, my inbox is FULL of examples people send me showing what terrible user experiences they encounter. Usually these examples also include, “So I went/purchased/joined/ordered somewhere else instead.”

Marketers are constantly talking about the need to drive digital transformation to be digitally innovative. If your prospects or customers can’t get access to, purchase, use, or track the information, services or products they need, being innovative or transformative isn’t going to help you one bit. They will abandon your website, and your brand, for one that does help them. Focus on, and fix, your basics first.

Woman frustrated with a website
Users abandon websites and brands that don’t help them accomplish their tasks

Focus On and Fix Your Basics

While you should do this for the entire, overarching journey your customers take with your brand, let’s start small and focus on a popular channel: your website. Begin by documenting the journey your prospects and customers take as they use your website. (To learn how to create a journey map, read “Create Actionable, Insight-Driven Customer Journey Maps” – subscription required). Consider:

  • Where does the website come into play for them as they interact with your brand?
  • Why do they use it, what are their goals and needs when using it – to gain information, to purchase, to use a service, etc.?
  • How do they use it? Where are they and what are they doing when they access it? What devices and operating systems do they use to access your site? What content do they go to, what pathways do they take, what functionality do they need or use?
  • How easy is it for them to find the information and complete the tasks they need to? Are you following UX and Accessibility guidelines and best practices?

These are just some of the questions to consider when evaluating your website to see if it truly helps, or hinders, your prospects, customers and brand (read, “Redesign Your Website Using a Customer-Centric Focus — Part 1” for more ideas – subscription required)

Take the time to understand the goals and needs your website users have and see how well you are helping them meet and address those goals and needs. Get the basics of your website right; that’s the kind of digital transformation your prospects and customers want and need!

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

Leave a Comment


  • Bjorn Tuft says:

    I have found that the quality of a website is inversely proportional to the amount of money a company makes. It may be an example of Conway’s law.

    Large companies find it difficult to make one person or group responsible for their website, with the consequence that nobody is accountable for the outcome.

    Your example of the issue of your name “Jane-Anne” is an example of how Web developers assume that the rest of the world must be the same as their own world. It was almost impossible to order a laptop in the UK because the vendor’s website insisted on how the delivery address was to be structured and there was no way I could enter the correct address.

    Many sites will not accept a phone number with an area code, but many countries do not have area codes. The International Direct Dialling (IDD) number varies by country and the sign used for IDD is + but many sites refuse to accept it. Some Websites insist on presenting their pages in the language of the country you are located in, making them incomprehensible.

    As you know, the list is endless.

    • Jane-Anne Mennella says:

      Hi Bjorn,
      Your phone number field examples is one that happens to be a pet peeve of mine, along with required zip codes and videos that auto play. I was just lucky I didn’t happen to run into those restrictions at that time, but I know I will soon because they are still much too common.

  • As a User Researcher consulting with companies across various industries I can confirm that I see these issues over and over again. Users are stymied by them everywhere, regardless of how technically savvy they may be. Now that whole business units of large organizations are dependent on the web, and coordination between internal departments is disjointed at best, the problem of navigating a single user journey (online or offline!) can become virtually impossible. Thanks for pointing out the need to simplify, and focus on real user needs. We can do better!