Sometimes questions are more important than answers

What is service design?

Service design makes a service easier to use, more useful and more desirable for the customers who need to use it: the service user. Whether creating an entirely new service or improving an existing one, service design focuses on what customers really need at each stage of their interaction with an organisation.


All services have been designed

Services are everywhere. Think about your everyday life and how many services you use. The dentist, public transport, your local coffee shop, buying a sandwich at lunch, the guy who cleans your office… All around us people have designed services for service users. Quite a few of them fail to deliver a great service. According to Bain & Company, 80 per cent of companies believed they offered a superior experience to their customers, but only eight per cent of customers agreed. This highlights the need for services to be designed for what users really need.

A service can be anything that helps a user to complete a goal

Service design describes a set of methods and processes which have been used widely in user-centred design, product design, marketing and strategic management for some time. At its core, service design focuses on the service user to design new services or improve existing ones. A service can be anything that helps a user to complete a goal. Therefore, a service designer could work on a project to re-design a menu for a restaurant or could work on a project to innovate a completely new experience that will be used by a global chain of restaurants.

Typically service design is used when an organisation is looking to improve a service to its customers by looking at an individual channel such as their website, call centre, printed support material and so on. Or an organisation may wish to improve services for a type of customer, or for a particular area of their business. In our work, we are typically involved in designing new, or improving existing, digital services such as websites, mobile applications, in-store kiosks, software applications and so on.

The aim is always to deliver great customer experience

A service designer will use a variety of tools to design a service but most will centre around customer research and understanding. The service user remains the primary element in all design decisions. The philosophy is to ensure the service delivers a great customer experience to enable service users to complete their interactions quickly and easily whilst allowing the organisation to benefit from smooth transactions and increased customer loyalty and market share.

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More UX Methods Questions

Usability testing is a way to see how easy to use something is by testing it with real users. Users are asked to complete tasks, typically while they are being observed by a researcher, to see where they encounter problems and experience confusion. If more people encounter similar problems, recommendations will be made to overcome these usability issues.

User-centred design is a process or set of tools used to design a service which focuses on what users need at the very beginning and continues throughout development until launch. Typically services are designed from a technical and business perspective, with consideration for users added in later. Instead, User-centred design ensures the service focuses on what users need before balancing this with the technical and business requirements.

Wireframing is a way to design a website service at the structural level. A wireframe is commonly used to lay out content and functionality on a page which takes into account user needs and user journeys. Wireframes are used early in the development process to establish the basic structure of a page before visual design and content is added.

Website prototypes are interactive demos of a website. These are often used to gather feedback from project stakeholders early in the project lifecycle, before the project goes into final development

User requirements capture is a process used to understand what typical users will need from a service which is about to be designed. Users are observed using similar services and interviewed about the ways they go about planning and completing their goals. This information is used to identify a list of content, features and functionality the new service must have in order to satisfy the needs of its users.

Customer profiling is a way to create a portrait of your customers to help you make design decisions concerning your service. Your customers are broken down into groups of customers sharing similar goals and characteristics and each group is given a representative with a photo, a name, and a description.

Card sorting is a technique that involves asking users to organise information into logical groups. Users are given a series of labelled cards and asked to organise and sort them into groups that they think are appropriate. Card sorting helps you to design an information architecture, workflow, menu structure or website navigation paths.

A user journey is a path a user may take to reach their goal when using a particular website. User journeys are used in designing websites to identify the different ways to enable the user to achieve their goal as quickly and easily as possible.

Focus groups are a research method used to gather feedback and opinions from customers. Each person in the group is encouraged to participate in a discussion which is pre-planned by a researcher and is guided by a facilitator. Focus groups are typically used to gauge opinion and gather information from users about products, services, and features before they have been developed.

Remote usability testing is a way to test how easy to use a website is with users who are in a different geographical location. Traditional usability testing brings users and researchers together in one place to conduct the test, whereas remote usability testing allows the researcher and user to be in different locations while the test is completed.

An expert review is where a usability expert uses his/her knowledge and experience of testing websites with users to walk through a website in the shoes of a typical user. The expert will spot problems and recommend changes to improve usability when budgets and timescales don’t allow for user research.

Service design makes a service easier to use, more useful and more desirable for the customers who need to use it: the service user. Whether creating an entirely new service or improving an existing one, service design focuses on what customers really need at each stage of their interaction with an organisation.

Ethnography is a study through direct observation of users in their natural environment rather than in a lab. The objective of this type of research is to gain insights into how users interact with things in their natural environment.

Tree testing is a way of evaluating a proposed site structure by asking users to find items based on the sites organisation and terminology. This online test only displays the navigation links and removes any additional clutter.

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