To all my UX Designers: Listen Up.
So what is Service Design? And why does it matter in this digital age of ours?
Great question. Let me break it down for you.
Service Design has many definitions. My favorite one is:
Service design as a practice results in the design of systems and processes aimed at providing a holistic service to the user.
It’s holistic. It’s multi-disciplinary. It’s integrative. It’s approaching and solving problems from a systems-based perspective.
So why does Service Design matter, especially when so much of what we design these days is focused on the digital experience?
Because the most important thing to remember is that nothing exists in a vacuum. Everything, and I mean everything, lives within a larger ecosystem, with dozens of external interactions, influences, and factors.
So when you design a new digital app, you have to also keep in mind the user’s physical environment, personal and inter-personal motivations, and physical, mental, and technological barriers they may face. Additionally, you need to design for the “behind-the-scenes” processes on the business side.
What does that complete end-to-end experience look like, for example from the moment a user decides they need to use a bank, to when they use the banking app to complete a transaction, to the post-transaction follow up from the business? What does the customer feel? What does the customer experience? And how does that compare to what they expect, want, or need?
Another example: let’s say you’re designing a mobile app for nurses in the ER to use to record patient data. You could design a beautiful UI and have incredible functionality, but you failed to account for the physical environment that ER nurses are in: they are constantly interrupted, they have to sometimes record data after-the-fact, they are always on the move, and they’re constantly interacting with several different health practitioners. If your UI did not account for these limitations and environmental factors, then you have not designed with the ecosystem in mind.
Design is not only about the end product, but also about a systematic process of identifying problems, then researching, creating, testing, and implementing solutions.
Without Service Design, you cannot deliver a holistic solution. While great UX can take you far, it cannot fix the fundamental problems.
How does Service Design differ from “human-centered design thinking” that UX Designers use?
I believe it’s the same principles, design thinking, methods, and tools, but applied at a much more intersectional and macro-level way. However, this unique holistic way of considering all touchpoints involved through all the different channels is what distinguishes it from just “UX”.
“Service design examines value and experience from a multi-user perspective (customer, staff, and business), is largely agnostic to channel and medium, and connects experience delivery to the operations and technology that produce it. Though service design shares many tools and methods with other human-centered design fields, its additional perspectives and approaches help manage the complexity that comes with multiple dimensions of service experiences, such as experiences with multiple digital touchpoints or experiences that cross multiple channels and business silos.” — Adaptive Path
Seriously, I’m a UX Designer. Why does this matter?
I hate to break it to you, but digital is not the only thing that matters. Imagine, EVERYONE has an amazing interface, beautiful UI interactions, and neat-o mobile apps. But what brings customers back to a business over and over again, now that everyone has these amazing digital experiences?
The entire customer experience.
Yes, you could have the most amazing UX/UI ever. But if your customer service is totally incapable of addressing customer needs in person or over the phone, then customers will not come back to you.
The focus on customer experience is growing, and as a UX designer, it’s our job to have a good idea of how services and environmental factors operate in relation to the customer’s goals, needs, and actions.
By understanding the entire context, your solutions will be much more impactful, holistic, and sustainable. They’ll actually address the problem, instead of putting forth a nice, shiny, beautiful-looking digital band-aid.