Choosing the right tools for the given task helps us work better, faster, and more effectively. In service design, the right set of tools and methods can ease communication, maximize the created value, save time and money, and help us gain insights while minimizing the margin of error by enabling a more systematic approach.
Many of the tools in a service designer belt are aimed at creating opportunities to learn more about clients, their customers, and other stakeholders meaningful to the service at hand. However, the methodology of each individual service designer goes beyond survey sheets or user data. The writer Jeff Duntemann said, “A good tool improves the way you work. A great tool improves the way you think.” Accordingly, service design is not solely implemented via tools or gadgets but, more importantly, through guiding the communication and design maturity of the client, team, and development process.
Tools should always be defined by the people involved; in service design, that is, more specifically, the needs and resources of the client and the people interacting with the service. Service design is one of the most holistic elements in a development process; it’s no wonder that many of the tools and methods applied in service design overlap with web analytics, business development, UI/UX design, social science, marketing, or even technical design methods.
What differentiates the toolbox of a service designer from other fields is the pedagogical and anthropological reasoning behind it. As does agile development, service design is also based on the emphasis on continuous learning. This is why agile and service design makes such a great match and complement each other in a vision-driven and psychologically safe environment.
When, what, and how?
Rarely all of the tools and methods are implemented within one project or even at a specific point. Most commonly, the right set of tools is formed together with the expertise and experience of a Service Designer and the client. It is the scope, resources, and stage of the project that define what tools and methods and in which order are needed to ensure that the development of the service promotes the goals and objectives of the client and enables excellent user experiences.
List of tools
In this section, you will find the most common service design tools and techniques used in Wunder projects. Many of them can be modified and applied to cater specific needs of the project at a variety of stages. For example, there is no “wrong time” to do user research as there’s always more to be learned about the needs and experience of the target group. Likewise, a workshop could be modified to either innovate ideas through bubbling brainstorming sessions or to strictly determine the various items on a roadmap.
The tools are organized by the three stages of the service development cycle: Concepting, Defining needs and specifying the requirements, and Continuous development. For a quicker overview of the tools used in each stage, please check out our visualization of the subject.
Tools for concepting
Here are some of the most used service design tools and methods of the concepting stage. You can learn more about the service development cycle and Concepting stage in the What is service design section.
Phase: research. Involves: service designer, client insights may help.
They say – imitation is the purest form of flattery. Even though copying a competitor’s or similar service’s model to the T is rarely the smartest thing to do, it never hurts to take a peek at how others have handled similar issues or what solutions they’ve developed to solve them. Benchmarking optimizes the art of learning from one’s equals by evaluating the other services or solutions available according to set context or goals. Notably, benchmarking should not be done at random. Instead, the measurement via which peers are compared should be aligned with the goals of the developed service.
In a nutshell, benchmarking’s benefits include the opportunities to “learn from the mistakes of others”, pick up on the best practices as well as align your own service’s user interface to the industry’s standards. It’s important to remember, however, that benchmarking should be realistic instead of aspirational. Comparing a budget-controlled service or its solutions to Apple’s or Google’s solutions is not only redundant but could potentially be risky in regards to controlling the expectations of the client, end users, or other stakeholders.
Business Model Canvas
Phase: research. Involves: project team (incl. PO) + other possible client representatives.
Business Model Canvas is familiar to many from the world of business development. In a web service’s life cycle, it is a useful service design tool that is used in either the development, evaluation, visualization, or renewal of a service.
Service is always developed for a reason. In the private sector, the motive usually has something to do with gaining or increasing the revenue of the organization, whilst, in the public sector, the reasons behind a web-service project might include the will to increase public satisfaction or accessibility. Therefore, despite its corporate-driven name, a business model canvas is a great tool to be utilized in developing both public and private sector services. It gives the design process a reference of framework and structure, with which the business can be conceptualized around existing new services or goods. This framework consists of 8-9 factors: Costs, Key Partners, Key Activities or Critical tasks, Key Resources, Revenue Streams aka Cash flow, Customer Relationship, Channels, Value Proposition, and Customer Segment. By observing and answering the key questions behind each factor, an image or “canvas” of the business/service model can be drafted, indicating all major moving parts behind the service; what is needed to keep it running, and what must be accounted for as the service is being designed or developed.
Phase: research, ideation. Involves: project team (incl. PO) + other possible client representatives.
A system map is a visualization of the service that indicates all the different actors involved in the delivery of the service and their mutual links in one frame. These links could be the exchange of goods such as money, information, documents, data, or products.
A common example of a link is the relation between a public sector website and a service database such as the Finnish TPR and PTV. The system map clarifies how these different service components and roles are related to each other, thus creating the illusion of a living organism with which the end user can interact seamlessly. It’s a great way to visualize the “hidden movement” inside and around a web service highlighting the dependencies and value exchanges that are easy to forget about.
Phase: research; Involves: stakeholders, service designer, and relevant client representatives.
The purpose of stakeholder mapping is to identify and understand the different stakeholders, their needs, and their level of influence on the service. The process involves several steps, including identifying the stakeholders, understanding their needs and interests, mapping their level of influence on the service, and developing a plan for engaging and communicating with them. This process helps service designers to identify potential challenges and opportunities and to ensure that the service is designed to meet the needs of its stakeholders. By mapping the different stakeholders and their relationships, service designers can identify potential conflicts or challenges that may arise and develop strategies for addressing them.
Stakeholder mapping enables the design and development of a more effective and successful service that meets the needs of its users while also achieving business objectives by understanding the dependencies and interests of those who are both directly and indirectly related to the service at hand.
Phase: research; Involves: service designer and sampling of target pool (usually users, stakeholders, or client internal teams).
Interviews are a user research method in which a researcher asks open-ended questions to a participant to understand their experiences, behaviors, and attitudes towards a product, service, or topic. They help the designers gather insights and feedback from users on their needs, pain points, and expectations.
This method provides an understanding of users’ perspectives, motivations, and behaviors and uncovers valuable insights that can inform the design and development of more effective and user-centered digital services.
Phase: research; Involves: service designer and sampling of target pool to whom the survey is sent (usually users, stakeholders, or client internal teams)
Surveys are used to gather accurate and usually quantitative information from a large group of participants. Ideally, surveys are designed to cumulate a wide range of answers and produce quantitatively measurable and comparable data. However, small-scale surveys can also be very helpful in gaining insight into the target group and their unique needs, issues, and motivations.
At Wunder, surveys are generally implemented in two ways: either alongside workshops as a form of a pre-assignment or as a feedback tool. Surveys are a way to test and validate a theory or a hypothesis in a service development process: they allow one to dive deep into the details of a specific feature through tailored questions. This is why they are often utilized in the stages of the process where specific questions derived from qualitative research are established.
In fact, as a rule of thumb, it is important to remember that when utilizing surveys and other forms of quantitative data (e.g., web analytics), one should always compare and contrast the results with qualitative information obtained from, e.g., interviews or user testing. A survey alone will only tell you half of the whole story.
As surveys are a very flexible tool that can be designed to gather information from various groups of stakeholders, users, or target groups. The keyword, however, is a group; generally, the sampling size needs to be sufficient enough in order to gather valid and reliable data depicting the target pool. On the other hand, if not enough data can be collected, the survey’s answers can always be enriched with data gathered through, e.g., interviews or focus groups.
Phase: research, ideation (results used later on in other development cycle stages); Involves: service designer, users, customers, target group, stakeholders.
User personas or user profiles are example cases of a target group’s users based on previous qualitative user research and other valid data available. These profiles capture the “model” of the user: what are they interested in, what are their core needs, what motivates them, what problems they have, and so on.
- Helps to deeply understand users’ needs and motivations,
- An illustrative tool that gives everyone a “common language” to talk about users: a common shared understanding of users increases,
- Can be used in content production in the future,
- User personas diversify the understanding of the needs of stakeholders and target groups, even if the project does not yet involve customers,
- Enables a more user-oriented design when there is no room in the scope for direct user participation.
- User personas and profiles are not a method that directly involves users,
- The process of describing profiles can sometimes be long, and it requires up-to-date information about customers, e.g., from statistics, observations, and interviews.
Brainstorming and thematization of observations
Phase: ideation; Involves: any team/group with a shared goal.
In brainstorming, it’s quantity before quality. Though the ultimate goal of the session may be to generate a specific solution to the problem, one usually has to “kiss a few frogs” in between. However, it is important to be able to recognize non-applicable ideas and form them into better ones.
The goal of the session is clearly defined, and the participants are usually given time to think about the problem in advance. The motto is: there are no stupid ideas. Therefore the participants are invited to write down even the craziest ideas in order to reach the target. The facilitator’s goal is to create an atmosphere where people dare to share even ideas they haven’t been fully thought through. Great brainstorming is based on the foundation of psychological safety, where no one has to fear others laughing at them or judging their ideas. This requires that the different personalities of the participants are taken into account, which can be done by combining different techniques and methods of generating and sharing ideas, e.g., first generating ideas individually and then beginning to share and build one on top of each other. This generates a so-called “divergent movement,” which enables a broader set of possibilities to be discovered.
A brainstorming session is followed by an action or follow-up plan, which describes what to do with the ideas and how and when to proceed with them in one direction or another.
- A common understanding and outline of the service as a whole is created,
- The customer has room to talk freely, also bouncing from one topic to another,
- Gain insights and identify the latent needs and motivators of the customer and stakeholders.
- Thinking about the matter often remains at a superficial level. Perspectives or questions can also limit thinking, so it’s important to keep an open mind when mulling over topics.
- Brainstorming can create ideas for viable solutions. However, more thorough defining is needed in order to prioritize or implement them.
OKR (Objectives and key results)
Phase: research and ideation; Involves: service designer (possibly analyst or other related project team members), client; management level, product owner.
In terms of OKRs, the Objectives stand for the qualitative goals that tell what the desired end results of service look like. Key results, i.e., quantitative results. With the help of key results, the goals are broken down into defined results, thus monitoring the realization of the goal.
OKRs define internal objectives and set key results in order to achieve goals and measure/define their success:
- Clarifies and helps the organization (and its web analytics) to focus its activities.
- Align implementation in the same direction throughout the organization.
- Guides the organization towards continuous learning.
- Increases transparency and responsibility.
- Aim for results faster.
- Helps the management to see an up-to-date picture of the implementation of the strategy.
- Increases the meaningfulness of work.
- Define the mission of the service
- Define communication goals: what do we want to tell our users and why?
- Create a shared understanding of the tone and style of communication and content
- Let’s understand more broadly the goals of the operation and the desired results
- Create a foundation for setting analytics metrics.
- Make observations about how the user interface should be designed to measure the realization of each goal
- Not finalized content structure, but a draft of what things should at least be/taken into account in the content
- Does not produce a measurement plan (KPI)
Phase: research and ideation; Involves: service designer, client representatives (brand, CX, etc.) and product owner, the user (for validation), and the rest of the project team (at least thoroughly shared results in order to assure shared vision).
Experience principles are inspirational values that help create a shared vision of what a great user experience looks or feels like. Based on research, they contain insights into what users expect, need, and value in terms of their relationship with the service.
Ideally, the principles, or vision, is shared within the organization as well as the team working on the service development. With them, developing mutually compatible solutions is easier, cheaper, and more fun. The experience principles work as threads, connecting and guiding the design and implementation of solutions inside the developed service toward common goals. Accordingly, the experience principles also promote user-based design and development, as every solution has a purpose related to the experience of the end user.
All in all, experience principles define and share the emotional goals of the user/customer experience and create a shared understanding of the tone and style of communication and content.
- promote user-based design and development by tying development to the experience of the end user,
- help to recognize emotions with increasing subtlety and to develop strategies for regulating (or managing) those emotions,
- provides a “language” to talk about feelings alongside a user-oriented web-service development process. This brings the humane side of design and development closer to our everyday decision-making processes.
Information architecture design
Phase: ideation; Involves: service designer, client/PO, technical architect, and project management.
Information architecture design is the process of organizing and structuring information on a digital platform to make it easy for users to find and understand. This involves defining the purpose and goals of the platform, analyzing user needs, and creating a logical and intuitive structure. It’s important because it reduces frustration and improves the user experience, and it can also improve efficiency. Examples include site maps, navigation menus, and labeling systems. A thoughtful and user-focused design can create effective and user-friendly digital platforms.
This method helps to ensure that users can easily find and understand the information they need, reducing frustration and improving the overall user experience. A clear and intuitive structure of information helps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the digital platform.
Tools for defining needs and specifying the requirements
Here are some of the most commonly used service design tools and methods of the Defining needs -stage. To learn more about this stage, visit the Defining needs and specifying the requirements section in Wunderpedia.
Product specifications are the exact requirements of what the product/solutions need to do. It consists of metrics and value. The idea of metrics and value can also be approached through user point of view “feature” thinking: composing the requirement as a sentence describing what the user needs to be able to do/see/experience etc via the solution. The process of target specification includes phases such as collecting a list of metrics (what needs must be addressed and what specific metric measures/indicates performance in terms of these specific needs), benchmarking existing solutions and competitors, setting the ideal and marginally acceptable values (defining what success looks like) and reflecting on the result and process afterward.
Phase: prioritization, after research and concepting, before the solutions are developed; Involves: client/product owner, project management, and team.
MVP, or minimum viable product, refers to the minimum elements/requirements the service must have or meet in order for the initial launch. This is done for the service to be user tested “in action”. The results are then used in the iteration of the service; MVP is not and should never be the final product. The user data and information about the service’s mission and vision determine which items or elements are required in the MVP in order to gather valid information about the success of the service and its goals after the launch.
The overall reason for MVP definition is to launch the (minimum viable version of the) service earlier, allocate design and development resources more efficiently (save time and money), maximize value, and create more user-centric and user-friendly solutions in the future through gathering valid information about the success of the service and its goals after the initial launch.
Phase: prioritization, continuously throughout the project (whenever new elements or contents are evaluated, designed, or developed). Involves: client, product owner, project management, and project team.
Prioritization guarantees that the resources invested in the project are implemented in the actions that maximize the value created for the client. This is vital in terms of agile development. By setting a value to the different goals and needs of the service, the design and development as well as internal or external content creation teams of the service can better understand what to focus on first and what comes later. Furthermore, defining the primary actions/elements/content the user should engage with enables viable and strategic UI design. For example, by dividing what critical information (like contact information of a service or recruitment links) is, the interface can be designed to better promote those actions. Accordingly, more niche information can be implemented lower on the page, the idea being that most users will be satisfied with just finding the correct number to call and aren’t bothered to learn more about the various ventures the service might have on the side.
Prioritization is the key to guiding users to achieve and perform actions in accordance with both their own goals and as well as those of the service/organization. It helps to understand better what is critical content/information and what is non-critical, which in turn enables strategic and user experience-friendly user interface design. Define what the MVP (minimum viable product) is. Create a delivery queue and understand which elements need/can be developed/implemented first.
- Form a delivery queue: what will be done first, what will be done next, what will be left for next year, etc.
- It is possible to separate critical information from non-critical (nice to know) information.
Card sorting: e.g., content
Phase: prioritization. Involves: any group of people with a shared goal – users, clients, stakeholders, or internal design/dev group.
Card sorting is a valuable research method that can provide service designers with valuable insights into the needs and behaviors of users and help to create services that are more intuitive, efficient, and effective. It’s used in service design to help organize and categorize information, content, or functionality in a way that makes sense to users. It involves asking participants to sort a set of cards that contain different items or concepts into groups that they believe are related. The aim of the card sorting session is to group the labeled content and organize the categories into hierarchies.
There are two main types of card sorting: open and closed. In open card sorting, participants are given a set of cards and are asked to group them in any way they see fit and to give each group a name. As users can label the cards by themselves, open sorting gives insights into the preferred terminology. In closed card sorting, participants are given a set of predefined categories and sort the cards into those categories according to their thinking models and expectations.
The method is excellent for planning the information architecture for a new product, but also for improving the existing one. It helps to understand how users think about and organize information, as well as how they navigate through a service; gain insights into how to design the structure and organization of a service that best meets the needs of users; and identify areas of confusion or ambiguity in the service design and suggest improvements.
Phase: any. Involves: any group of people with a shared goal – users, clients, stakeholders, or internal design/dev group.
Workshops are a great way to gain insight, build awareness and shared understanding of a topic, ideate solutions, and discuss a specific subject efficiently. Workshops led by Wunder are professionally facilitated, usually around 1-3 hours long, well-paced, and designed to address a specific goal. They are usually divided into specific stages or actions, each building towards the overall goal, thus enabling the equal observation of different points of view. Efficiency and value creation are built through the systematic approach and by enabling, facilitating, and coaching inclusive, effective, and goal-oriented communication.
Workshops are not specifically restricted to a certain project stage but should be implemented whenever there is a need to enhance communication and solve a specific issue. However, it is important to recognize when the situation calls for a meeting and when there is a need for a workshop: a meeting is best suited for more top-down and informative items, whereas a workshop is a great way to gain insight and ideate solutions together. As a method, workshopping is all about goal-oriented and inclusive communication – something from which each and every team and project (internal or external) can benefit.
Workshops are a great way to bring the different stakeholders of the project together in one place to generate ideas and solve issues. The number of people represents multiple points of view, which are significant when thinking about the best possible solution. Furthermore, a well-designed, organized, and facilitated workshop helps the team to build better communication patterns while also making sure we achieve the target of each stage efficiently. It creates a sense of community; the workshop is a safe, productive, innovative, and goal-oriented environment that invites everyone to participate in and commit to the joint effort at hand.
Phase: research, ideation, and designing solutions; after research and concepting, before creating the wireframes or MVP. Involves: service designer, client subject experts/product owner, users (for validation).
Generally speaking, a user path is a series of events performed or experienced by the user. In service design, user paths are usually research (generally user research and testing as well as analytics) based, screen-by-screen visualization of this series; depicting the route a user or most users actually take to complete a specific task within the service. This path can be the service path that was intended by the designers or not. User paths can help designers and product owners to better understand the user’s experience by shining light on what users are actually doing with the service and why. The visualized paths can also highlight the possible issues users face along their journeys, which in turn motivate their actions in one way or another. Identifying the existing user paths is an important part of the research phase but also something to consider when designing better ways for users to find information and complete tasks with the digital service. Knowing the current routes, the users prefer helps to understand their motivations and pain points along the journey and consequently fix issues and develop better solutions in the future.
Phase: Designing solutions, also research, and prototyping. Involves: service designer, UI/UX designer, users (for research), and client/PO (for research and design); consultancy from a technical architect, etc., if needed.
Service paths are visualizations of the different “routes” a user can choose from in order to access a goal or specific information in the service. The difference between user paths and service paths is that a service path refers to the process the user is intended or designed to go through (depending on the current stage of the service’s lifetime) in order to complete a task/goal within the service. There can and should be several service paths under one service as the needs and goals of the users vary. Usually, a visualization of the path includes depictions of each step, highlighting the possible key or critical risks, elements, emotions, or actions involved.
Phase: Designing solutions, also research, ideation, and prototyping. Involves: service designer, UI/UX designer, users (for research), and client/PO (for research and design); consultancy from a technical architect, etc., if needed.
The service blueprint is used to shine a light on the complex processes that are happening both in front of and behind the curtain during a specific value delivery process; e.g., a person navigating to a specific piece of information on a website. It helps to identify the roles and connections of the various user touchpoints highlighting the customer touchpoints (visible for users) as well as the corresponding internal actions needed in order to deliver the service (backstage actions). A service blueprint visualizes the user’s actions as a journey map while also showcasing the process level, including the responsibilities that are connected to the delivery of the user’s experience.
As a tool, a service blueprint can be utilized during the discovery phase to research how the current journeys are planned. However, it can also be highly useful in the design, prototyping, and testing of the desired user experience, as it allows the design process to be mindful of the various moving parts that together enable the seamless user experience.
- Help to manage complex customer journeys and internal processes,
- Clarify omnichannel and siloed processes that involve different stakeholders.
- Doesn’t directly involve end users,
- If the service is a complex entity, the participation of all stakeholders is needed.
KPIs – Key Performance Indicators
Phase: designing solutions. Involves: service designer, client/PO, web analyst, and possibly other client representatives.
KPIs are the most important goals that the organization must keep an eye on in order to enable strategic development. They are quantitatively measurable values that indicate the realization of the goals or the service’s “performance” in relation to the goals.
KPIs translate the mission and vision of the organization or service into more tangible and specific milestones. They are aimed at measuring progress and can share insights about the performance of the service that, in turn, enables a more fact-based, or data-informed, decision-making process. However, it is important to remember that KPIs are not the same as metrics. Metrics measure daily activities that may support the business or service in its goals, but the KPIs indicate how the service performs in terms of its most critical goals.
Customer Journey Map
Phase: research and ideation, prototyping. Involves: service designer and users/customers.
The Customer Journey Map emphasizes the user-service relationship of the user experience, otherwise also called customer experience or CX. As a general user journey map, the Customer Journey Map is usually applied to visualize a specific phase of the project instead of depicting every possible route available to the users. Customer Journey Map could, for example, focus on the purchasing process, highlighting what points in the journey enhance or diminish the users’ positive relationship with the service. One journey map can, however, also include different personas, depicting how different target group personas (e.g., “mom of four” vs. “university student”) perceive the same path. In turn, a Customer Journey Map can also focus on a certain customer segment (e.g., “the elderly” or “people with disabilities”), depicting the tendencies or issues they specifically could phase along the line and, furthermore, how those bottlenecks could affect their feelings about the service or organization.
This tool is useful when understanding the user’s experience throughout their journey in service from the CX point of view, learning different touchpoints and their meaning, and gaining valuable insights about how the service affects the brand identity/vision/customer relations of the service and organization. It gains insights into the possible issues or meaningful interactions within the path in order to build a common understanding between the different service owners and teams.
- Gives a profound picture of the customer experience,
- Helps to build a common understanding between stakeholders and teams,
- The tool is very flexible and offers possibilities for various needs according to the scope and depth of the needs.
- Building a proper and large journey map might be time-consuming.
Phase: design, prototyping, testing, iteration. Involves; designers (UI/UX and service designers); Validated/tested by: client/PO and users.
A simple prototype is a basic, preliminary model or mockup of the product or service designed to test and validate key aspects of the design. It can be created using a variety of methods, including sketches, wireframes, or basic physical models. The purpose of a simple prototype is to quickly and inexpensively test and refine the design of a product or service before investing significant time and resources in the development of a more advanced prototype or final product.
Simple prototypes can be used to test different aspects of the design, such as usability, functionality, and aesthetics. They are often created using low-fidelity materials and techniques, such as paper, cardboard, or basic digital tools. Simple prototypes may lack advanced features or details, but they are still effective in providing feedback on the core elements of the design. They help to save time and resources and create more effective and user-friendly products and services.
Prototype user testing
Phase: ideation, design, prototyping, testing, iterations. Involves: designers (UI/UX and service designers) and users/stakeholders.
Prototype user testing is a research method used in service design to test and evaluate the effectiveness and usability of a prototype with real users. It involves asking users to interact with a prototype of a product or service and observing their behavior and feedback to gain insights into how the design can be improved. Prototype user testing can be conducted at different stages of the design process, using different levels of fidelity and complexity. During prototype user testing, participants are typically asked to complete tasks or scenarios that simulate real-world use cases for the product or service. The designer or researcher observes the user’s behavior and gathers feedback through various methods such as surveys, interviews, or observation. The feedback is then used to identify strengths and weaknesses in the design and inform further iterations.
This method helps identify usability issues and areas of confusion and gather feedback on user preferences and expectations. By testing the design with real users, designers can gain valuable insights into how the product or service will be used in the real world and make changes accordingly. This iterative process of design and testing can lead to a more user-centered and effective product or service.
Prototype A-B testing
Phase: prototyping, testing; Involves: designers (UI/UX and service designers) and users/stakeholders.
Sometimes it’s hard to choose between solutions. Other times there’s a need to understand the impact a choice has on the experience of the end-user. A-B testing might sound like a more complex concept than it actually is: in a nutshell, that is the choice between option A or option B. A-B testing can be used to compare the findability, reliability, desirability, or usefulness of two alternatives. These alternatives could be, e.g., in terms of content, user interface design, or a new element, and they could be compared, for example, through web analytics, prototypes, and quantitative surveys or qualitative user testing.
A-B testing is also an interesting concept to consider when wondering about the impact of accessibility in terms of services or clients who are not legally obligated to follow accessibility standards: as around 15% of the population of the world have a disability of some sort, how can accessibility impact the traffic of a page or site compared to one that is closed from one user segment?
Tools for continuous development
Here are some of the most used service design tools and methods of the continuous development stage. To learn more about the service development cycle, visit the Continuous development section in Wunderpedia.
User analytics and feedback review
Phase: research and discovery, decision making. Involves: service designer with the help of analysts, overview with client/PO.
Valuable insights about the performance of a web service can be gathered by taking a look at the accumulated user data. Analytics measuring user behavior (preferred “paths”, movement, exits, arrivals, etc.) offer merely quantitative information, which alone can not be used to derive conclusions. However, these numeric clues help in the continuous design and development of the service by revealing how the users might perceive the service, its contents, and navigation options. Buzzing on one page and tumbleweeds on the next is a clear sign of imbalance and could indicate that one content is popular or interesting whilst the other is either non-useful or hard to navigate.
On the other hand, one must be careful not to assume anything based only on quantitative information. Examining existing user feedback or conducting a few user interviews could help discover that the most popular pages are, in fact, considered as frustrating bottle caps, while the pages users spend only a fraction of their viewing time on are delightfully efficient and therefore save the users time in finding the needed information to move on.
Overall, analytics provide free and valid information and insights about user behavior, needs, and preferences, as well as wider social and economic trends, which allows the project team to create more informed solutions that better address the needs and priorities of users and stakeholders, resulting in more effective and impactful digital services.
Analytics example: “following the funnels”
Web analytics is a much larger part of sustainable and strategic digital ecosystem design, development, and overall lifespan. To showcase one of the ways analytics and service design work together, here is an example of one of the methods used in analytics but designed and defined through service design.
In terms of web analytics, a funnel is an action a user does during a session (e.g., whilst virtually “inside” the web service). A goal is set in the funnel, e.g., “subscribing to a newsletter” or “giving feedback”, and the funnel tells how people go about completing the action, what routes they prefer, how long it takes, or how many reach the goal at all. Insights on what parts need to be optimized in the user interface or experience can be discovered by observing the funnel.
Analytics example: reviewing open data sources
Reviewing open data sources involves searching and analyzing publicly available data sets to extract relevant information and insights for use in digital service development. Open data sources are reviewed and utilized in a digital service development project to gather insights and inform the design and development of more effective and data-driven services. They can provide the project team with a rich source of information and insights about user behaviors, needs, and preferences, as well as broader social and economic trends and patterns. By leveraging open data sources, designers and developers can together create more informed and evidence-based solutions that better address the needs and priorities of their users and stakeholders.
Different types of UX auditing and testing
Phase: research and discovery, decision making. Involves: UI/UX designer or service designer, users (if user testing needed).
UX or user experience consists more or less of six factors: usability, reliability, discoverability, desirability, accessibility, and utility. The whole user experience comprises all six, and deficiency in one will shine through in the evaluation of the overall experience.
Utility, reliability, and desirability can only be validly determined through end-user testing. No two target groups are the same, and both user research and feedback are needed in order to establish how well the service caters to their needs and meets their idea of what a useful, simple-to-use, or enjoyable service looks or feels like. In turn, usability and accessibility should always be evaluated or audited by a professional. Usability and accessibility are especially critical to risk groups such as those with limited IT knowledge or experience in using web services, the elderly, or people with disabilities. Therefore it is important to rely on careful expert testing and evaluate the service using proper checklists and standardization, sometimes even required by law.
Phase: research and discovery; Involves: service designers, UI/UX designers (lightweight heuristic evaluation can be technically done by anyone who wants to better understand the users’ perspective).
Sometimes, we have to walk a mile in the user’s shoes to better understand them. Service Safari relies heavily on an anthropological approach by having the designer or expert imitate the end user whilst exploring the service. A successfully conducted safari calls for a curious and open mind but, most of all – empathy. This, in turn, helps the designers to gain interesting insights and inspirations about the service, understand in detail all aspects of interaction with the service, observe the behavior of other people in the space/environment, and finally capture the opinions and perceptions of other users.
Service safari is a great way to also implement other forms of service design and user experience testing. Methods like brainstorming, service blueprint design, or system mapping usually include a small safari to induce ideas from the users’ point of view. Likewise, many usability tests are conducted at least partly through a service safari, where the expert attempts to solve an imaginary need with the service whilst simultaneously observing its usability and taking notes of possible issues that might make the website harder to use for the inexperienced or less IT-savvy user.
Service roadmap, update, and evaluation
Phase: planning ahead. Involves: service designer, client (PO + other possible), account manager, project manager, web analyst, technical architect/expert + project team.
The service roadmap visually depicts a high-level and prioritized schedule for the incremental development, delivery, and evolution process of the service. It includes a timeline that allows for detailed and practical planning as well as different perspectives for the same goal, e.g., service, content production, and technical progress. Strategic roadmaps are an important tool for service projects because they enable both organizations to be more agile, resilient, and prepared for change and uncertainty. By anticipating potential future scenarios and trends, organizations can make more informed and strategic decisions and take proactive steps to mitigate risks and capitalize on opportunities.
Anticipation and planning ahead can also help to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and enhance competitiveness, as organizations are better equipped to adapt to changing market and consumer demands. Additionally, anticipation and planning ahead can help to build trust and credibility with stakeholders, as organizations are seen as proactive and responsible in their approach to addressing future challenges and opportunities.
Phase: ideation, prototyping, planning ahead. Involves: service designer, client (PO + other possible), project management (can also include: experience experts, stakeholders, web analyst, technical architect/expert + project team).
Change can be hard, however inevitable, and usually much easier to both swallow and make the most of when you are prepared for it. This means proactively considering potential future scenarios, trends, and challenges and developing strategies and solutions to address them. Future casting is a design method that involves imagining potential future scenarios and using them to inform the design of products, services, and experiences. Historically, future casting has been more widely used in business development; attempting to recognize trends before others in order to gain a competitive edge on the market. By exploring potential future scenarios, businesses can identify new opportunities for innovation, product development, and market growth and create more tailored and relevant products and services.
Future casting can bring several benefits to both public and private sector organizations as well. Public sector organizations can use future casting to anticipate and plan for potential changes in policies, regulations, and public needs. By envisioning potential future scenarios and anticipating how they might impact citizens and communities, government agencies can design and implement more effective and sustainable policies, services, and infrastructure. Future casting can also help to build public trust and engagement by involving citizens in the process of envisioning and co-creating future solutions. It is also a valuable tool in risk management, as it can help mitigate risk by allowing organizations to anticipate and prepare for potential disruptions or challenges in their industry or market.
This method helps the client and project team to think beyond the present and consider how emerging trends and technologies might shape the future of digital services, allowing them to create more innovative and future-proof solutions that can better meet the evolving needs and expectations of users. It enables a proactive, agile, and responsive approach to innovation, continuous development, and service design; helps services to create more meaningful and impactful solutions that address the evolving needs and expectations of their targeted users and stakeholders.
Content creator/editor coaching
Phase: ensuring sustainability. Involves: service designer and content creators.
An outside expert’s perspective and knowledge are valuable assets to be shared in terms of developing sustainable web solutions. When it comes to an understanding the world of human-centered digital service design “ownership” the role can sometimes feel overwhelming. It’s like being the single mother of a family of 12… gremlins. Everybody wants something, and nobody is ever happy no matter what you try: the different service groups have diverse and sometimes even conflicting priorities and needs, the content creators are bubbling over with endless requests and complaints, and the users are leaving bitter feedback about how inherently frustrating the service is in use. Not to even mention the management level turning up the heat and expecting results, preferably yesterday. When the world of UI, UX, CX, and WCAG starts to feel like a lonely place, it’s best to ask for help.
Any organization can benefit from having an expert to coach their editors, service groups, or content creators on how content is designed and implemented with a user-centric approach optimized for, e.g., usability, accessibility, and engagement. By providing content creators with an understanding of best practices in UI/UX and service design, they can create more effective and impactful content that is tailored to the needs and preferences of their target audiences, resulting in higher user satisfaction and engagement, increased conversions and retention, and ultimately, better business outcomes. Through coaching the participants are introduced to the different aspects of UX: usability, accessibility, findability, desirability, reliability, and usefulness. Different exercises also help them to gain insights into the importance of the integrity of the information architecture, the trade-offs made in UI design, and the difference between user needs and priorities versus those of the service or the organization. Additionally, educating content creators on UI/UX and service design can help to promote a culture of design thinking and collaboration within the organization, leading to more innovative and user-centered solutions across all aspects of the organization’s digital services and products.