Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about how a lack of service design got under my skin. In the article, I talked about a trip I had to a popular beauty brand’s store. A couple of months later, I found this article which details how Sephora updated their website experience to better accommodate online shoppers. But I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘what are they doing to help their in store experience?’. Enter service design.
As I mentioned in my previous article, I’m still on the fence regarding whether service design should be separate from user experience design. I think the main issue with it being this way is that user experience design gets construed as ‘designing for the mobile or web interface only’ by both UX practitioners and those that hire us. Thus, UXers begin to leave out the service part of their solution, either because they are oblivious that it is their responsibility or because their boss tells them that the service part of the solution is for the service designer to figure out. Because of this a gap in the product forms between the web and any other channel experiences. In the case of Sephora, this could be ringing true.
I would say that the solution to this problem is to stop separating service design from user experience design, but that opportunity has already passed. The title user experience designer has fallen flat, and has been misconstrued so many times that many people don’t even want it anymore. Service design provides an out in this way, and allows people to work on different types of projects besides just the interface ones. However, I do think that one solution to this problem is for all of us in this profession who design for a user’s experience with a product or service to go back to basics and really understand the pillars that this profession stands on. To me, these are the pillars of Information Architecture: users, content, context. Understanding that we design for the intersection of these three things covers most any situation one can imagine, and brings us back to our discipline’s center.
The outcome of us going back to these pillars, is that we, as service providers, become aware of what our job really is. It is to facilitate, as best as possible, a user’s experience with a product or service. No matter what we call ourselves, that will never change. And, the sooner we all become aware of this, the sooner we can stop creating and arguing about new disciplines, and just sit down and get to work.
Liz, I think your feelings are shared by more than UX designers, but designers in general. It is more than the title of user experience designer that is misconstrued, but the title of designer itself that is so often misconstrued and under-valued by clients and perhaps even society. When interaction design was used as a term it was hijacked inappropriately by interface designers, and user experience design suffers a similar downgrading in the minds of some, as you describe in your post. Product designers also experience the feeling of being under-valued that you describe for UX designers.
With regards to service design versus user experience design, as a lecturer in product design and service design at Glasgow School of Art, our students are taught to design for the user experience and to apply the appropriate design skills to design the physical interactions with touch points, physical and digital, that enable or deliver the experience – which may or may not involve a service. Tools and methods specific to service design are applied to explain and design how a service will be delivered, explaining to the client how the customer will experience the service, but also visualising what the company has to put in place in terms of staff and infrastructure to be able to deliver the service as designed. That is perhaps the biggest difference between user experience design and service design and why ‘bosses’ do not want to give the time to the service design as it involves knowing how the client organisation works and how they are structured – something not all clients will pay for as they might feel they have only commissioned a user experience design and believe their management and service delivery structures are adequate.
In essence, service design is the application of design for services and involves a range of design disciplines from product through interaction to user experience design with specific tools and methods that help communicate how the service delivery will happen, or should happen. We experience services through the various interactions we have with staff, products, interfaces (digital and physical), but sometimes to deliver the appropriate user experience, the user experience designers will have to define how the service will deliver the experience, and that often means designing how the organisation will have to organise itself to deliver the service and subsequent experience.
Perhaps there is a job to do in changing how people perceive the value of design itself. By necessity, we might train within design disciplines, but the underlying principles of a user-focussed design approach crosses many of these discipline boundaries and as such we find ourselves bumping up against other disciplines. Celebrate the differences, recognise the similarities and in that way we might create services and experiences that customers might actually enjoy.
Well put Stuart. I love that you bring it up to an even higher level. My concern is that we are too narrowly trying to define something (different design disciplines) in a world where people aren’t even sure of the benefits of the parent discipline (as you describe so well). Thanks!!
This is a great post.I think it will be very
usefull to us. I read it but I need some thing more to know about this. How can
I know about this.
Thanks! If you are looking for more info on Service Design itself I would check out http://www.service-design-network.org/
Yep. UX is a subset of customer service.
Amen. Well said Liz. I hope someday that we’ll evolve to the point where we recognize that, digital or analog, human or computer, research or design, we’re all striving for the same thing: “It is to facilitate, as best as possible, a user’s experience with a product or service.”