Following on from an article I wrote about differences between UX design and UX writing, here’s an article about how fits into design.

A commenter on my original article pointed out that UX design is not service design, which I wholly agree with, even though it is sometimes referred to as that.

So let’s revisit the lawnmower example to explore service design.

UX design basics

UX design, user experience design, is design occurring whenever the user, aka customer in this example, interacts with the service provider. This could be the email about when the lawnmower will be delivered, the email with the receipt, the customer service phone script, the ‘rate your experience of our site’ pop up, the free lawnmower catalogue that comes through your door or inbox if you ticked those particular boxes, the instruction manual. Anything written, digitally or graphically designed.

Of course, digital UX design would just be the digital bits. However if the instruction manual is made available online it becomes a component of the digital UX design. The digital UX design team should be made aware of it and make sure it meets the user-friendly standards of the rest of the online content and design.

The term UX design also covers the part of the online journey where users enter details, preferences and payment — the UI user interaction part of the process.

Service design basics

Service design zooms out even further — it’s the whole shebang. Everything to do with the service the customer receives, consciously or unconsciously.

From service design to UX design to digital UX design to UI design to microcopy

As Joelene commented, “service design is to UX design what UX is to UI design”. As UX design encompasses UI design, similarly service design encompasses UX design. And adds in a plethora of extra logistics.

With the lawnmower example, it’s designing the production timescales and price point. It’s about selecting a courier service. It’s deciding whether to provide a guarantee, its length and conditions. It’s about whether it’s going to have an electric cord, rechargeable battery or be manual. Although this may also be referred to as human-centric design, cue necessitation of a further article! It could be about colour and size.

service design

Now ‘good service design’ can operate off a whole different set of decisions and evaluations from ‘service design’. You can provide a service without it being a good service.

Good service design is about optimising the service for the user/customer. Choosing a courier who will be responsible about where they leave your package and respect any instructions you stated in the delivery notes. Deciding to include a long guarantee, asking users which power source they prefer. It considers making replacement parts available and providing a local repair service.

‘Good’ here refers to good for the user, or customer. When we talk about ‘good service design’ it’s presumed we’re intending to be good to the user. Bad service design is design for business profits first, for example a small plastic orange peeler specifically made only in orange — so that it’s one day accidentally thrown out with the peel, to make you buy another one. This is obviously also unethical and not environmentally-friendly.

Environmentally-friendly and ethical service design

Let’s not forget there are also factors like environmental impact and how ethical the production process is.

Factoring the environment into design would be asking whether physical products can be made of biodegradable or easily recyclable material. How many resources go into making the product in the first place and the carbon footprint of transporting the goods. Shipping costs come in carbon too.

Interestingly, when a digital product launches the design team say it’s been ‘shipped’.

Ethical production processes consider all elements in the supply chain, the social impact of materials used on the area they’re taken from, extraction of materials, good working conditions and modern slavery.

Excellent service design

Excellent service design would be a service designed optimally for both the user and the business or service provider, with environmental and ethical issues factored in from the very start of the product design journey.

Of course in the real world it’s hard to achieve 100% on all of those things without putting the price up for the customer which in turn can be bad for the business. You have to calibrate everything and it’s easy for one element to knock out another.

For example a vegan food delivery service I know of uses plant-based, locally produced food — ethics, environment, tick, tick — and includes ice packs in the parcel to keep the food cool — customer service, user experience, tick. But the ice packs are made of plastic that can’t be recycled and although there’s an ice pack return scheme it isn’t obvious plus adds customer tasks — environment, customer service and user experience negatives.

I’m sure they’re iterating this though, which is another thing good service design always needs…

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