By Kursat Ozenc
Software designers and development teams have lost the luxury of working on a single platform or device. In today’s fast-paced environment, traditional waterfall processes and long product launch cycles are gone. Within recent years, major software companies—including Autodesk, Microsoft, and Adobe—have moved toward service-based offerings. These take the form of monthly subscriptions and product suites covering comprehensive workflows. Many factors account for this shift, including demand from the users, competition, and protection of profit margin. The overall zeitgeist in the software industry also plays a role, with game changers such as ‘the Cloud’, mobile, and social app ecologies.
Designers and product development teams are now in a tough position. They need to respond quicker to small product level challenges while also applying far-reaching, insightful thinking across platforms, devices, and workflows. Designers and product owners need a fresh perspective that can address both particular and systemic design challenges at the same time. That fresh perspective can be service design, which combines design, business, and development lenses. This two-part post will uncover service design, and make a humble suggestion for product teams to reconsider what a software ‘product’ might mean in this new era. We will also examine how designers might address mobile, social, and cloud-related design challenges more effectively.
Service design (SD) is an interdisciplinary field that aims to deliver service interfaces that are usable, useful, and desirable to the users, while also being efficient, effective, and distinctive to the suppliers (Mager, 2009.) In the past decade, interest in SD among designers has been noteworthy, including organizations such as www.service-design-network.org, as well as personal blogs such as www.servicedesigntools.org, designforservice.wordpress.com, and design4services.com. SD can be seen as a T-shape discipline that addresses both systems- and product-level challenges. Service designers approach a service problem as a drama with beginning, middle, and end phases. They also frame front and back stages of the business as design challenges. Finally, service designers bring a holistic perspective that considers both single touch-points, and the overall journey of a user engaged with the service.
SD methods are real mash-ups, taking best practices from different design disciplines including interaction, graphic, and industrial design. The most distinctive methods, however, are mapping and enactment. Mapping of journeys, relationships, and stakeholders allows exploration of system level interactions, whereas enactment methods such as experience prototyping and role enactment reveal the product level interactions and service moments.
In characterizing service design thinking, Stickdorn suggests user-centeredness, co-creation, sequencing, evidencing, and being holistic as the five principles of the discipline. Among these principles, sequencing means designing all the steps that a user might take while using the service, which can be developed through using journey maps, role-enactments, and scripts. Evidencing means defining the intangible delivery of the service through offerings, such as a coffee-latte for a coffee shop. Engine, a service design consultancy, similarly put value, systems, journeys, people, and propositions as the five fundamentals of service design. Journeys are similar to sequencing: the path that the user takes to form her experience. Proposition is the distinctiveness and desirability that a service can offer to the user, such as a preference for coffee shop A over B.
In software design, it’s easy to relate current design practices to user-centeredness. What user-centeredness means in our hyper-connected world is another story. In parallel with advancements in computation, the way people access, create, and use information has changed dramatically. These changes affect not only people’s tools and resources, but also their habits around technology use. People become real jugglers, wearing many hats at once, curating their product wardrobes based on emerging needs and desires. One workflow per product is not the case anymore. To unlock this dynamic challenge, other principles become handy, mapping peoples’ prospective journeys and creating offerings, value, and propositions accordingly.
The strength of SD lies in its ability to capture both the system-level and product-level challenges. Aforementioned principles blend both abstract, intangible wholes and concrete, tangible parts of a service. The next post will take these principles and apply them as lenses to inform the design of software. Situating service design in a cloud-computing and cross-platform SaaS context will demonstrate how the manifestations of these principles can inform the design endeavor.