Part 1 - Written by by Sebastien Chung.

Over the past decade, Digital Services have become an increasingly common part of our daily lives, often augmenting or even replacing, traditional channels with digital ones. Think about the last time you visited a bank branch, paid an electricity bill over the phone, or booked your plane ticket at a high street travel agency. How many of those experiences are now predominantly digital?

Today with over two billion people using smart devices, Digital Services provide customers increased levels of convenience and businesses with opportunities to deliver better customer experiences at a significantly reduced cost.

These days, pure digital companies effectively deliver meaningful digital service experiences. Companies like Apple have used those learnings to improve their physical service experience through initiatives like the Apple Store. 

The rise of digital services

By comparison, many traditional businesses have struggled to modernise their in-store or phone services, and are using digital only as a self-service cost cutting exercise, rather than a means to craft a deeper and more intimate service experience.

Brands like Monzo and Starling are examples of companies offering purely digital banking experiences, replacing traditional touchpoints such as branches and phone support. Companies such as Uber, Airbnb and Zipcar deliver physical services (taxis, hotel rooms and car hire) in a digital first way, eschewing customer service centres, check-in desks and car rental depots in favour of digital equivalents.

Exploring the shared space

The exact definition of Service Design has been widely debated due to its fluffy edges that border on multiple disciplines. Common themes within definitions include adopting a holistic approach to the design of interactions that occur throughout the customer journey, taking into consideration business departments, actors, platforms and touchpoints.  

With technology being pivotal to the digital service’s value proposition, digital touchpoints become a much more important part of the overall service experience and in some situations, replacing the entire service experience. So much so that it is increasing helpful for Service Designers to have a deep understanding of UX principles, methods, and practices when approaching Digital Service projects.

Don Norman defined UX Design as “encompassing all aspects of the end -user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products” whereas recent definitions point to UX Design as the design of an “experience between a person and a single touch point”.

UX SD Comparison

When designing digital products and services, UX designers are increasingly required to adopt a holistic approach to their work. Often this approach requires digging deeper into the wider context of the problem and how the solution may relate to the wider organisation, its business goals and the end-to-end customer experience. 

As stated by Eliel Saarinen...
"Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context - a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan."

A wider comparison

Good UX designers are always looking at the context. That inevitably means stepping outside the screen to understand how their products are being used in the real world. Often with digital products and services, the wider context of the project has been neglected, requiring UX designers to take on this service component out of necessity. Similarly, Service Designers often need to delve into the details of a digital touch-point to create meaningful specifications that can be handed over to a UX designer.  With the rise of Digital Services, the boundaries between the disciplines and the role of the designer are becoming increasingly blurred. As Service Design becomes more digitally focused and UX projects become more and more service oriented, a shared space between the disciplines emerges.

In a follow up post I will dig deeper to explore this shared space by looking at the processes and methodologies that UX and Service designers use in their day to day work.


Resources used in the creation of this post include:

This is Service Design Thinking, Stickdorn & Schneider   Service Design, Polaine and Reason