3 June 2020
Susanne van Mulken
Susanne van Mulken
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Service design, UX design and TrueX design

At Informaat, we often get asked about how service design and UX design relate to each other. And then we introduce yet another term: TrueX design. I’m not particularly fond of pigeonholing, after all, what we all try to do is find great solutions for customers, citizens, patients, employees, … humans. But if you introduce a new term you need to clarify how it relates to other terms. So, to understand how they relate, let me start with a quick explanation of what we mean by each of them.

Service design

Service design is what you do when you’re considering, let’s say, starting a restaurant. You think about your customer segment, you research their needs, you think about how your proposition can stand out, about atmosphere, your menu, drinks, your personnel, affiliates, your digital touch points like website, socials, and apps. All the things that make up your service, both physical and digital. But you also care about what’s going on behind the scenes: your kitchen processes, procurement, food delivery, personnel training, etc.

Service design is a method that allows you to create a service in a user-centred and structured way and that makes it possible to orchestrate all elements that your service consists of. At all times weighing desirability, feasibility and viability. Iteratively developing the concept to a more stable and concrete one, using all sorts of visualisations to facilitate envisioning and discussion.

UX design

UX design is what you do when you think about a digital touchpoint, like a website or mobile app. You research user needs, you develop a digital concept, you work out screen flows and wireframes, specify the interaction styles, you collaborate with visual designers and copy writers for visual style and copy, and with developers about how your solution can be implemented.

Difference in scope

Although it’s not always so clear cut, there are some clear differences between the two. Service design is holistic (all channels, front and backstage), whereas UX design usually focusses on digital. Service design focuses on ‘designing the right thing’, whereas UX design rather focusses on ‘designing the thing right’.

Also, the scope of UX design is more limited and the results are usually more predictable from the start of the project. The difference in scope is also reflected in the deliverables. Service design deliverables reflect a more general view, whereas UX design deliverables go into much greater detail. For instance, a service design persona might describe user segments that are relevant for the whole customer population. Whereas a UX design persona usually describes the user needs of the segment for that particular application and context.

TrueX design: values goggles on

OK, so what is this new term, TrueX design? TrueX design focusses on creating true experiences, experiences that are valuable, authentic and credible. In our view, current societal and technical developments urge us to take a new step in thinking about and doing design. So far, designers have focused mostly on values like ‘Ease’ or ‘Usability’ as a standard way of focusing (and measuring the quality of) their designs. That is good, and still a lot can be gained there, but there is more to service experience than just ‘Ease’.

Let’s explore what’s beyond ‘usable’ and ‘seamless’

TrueX design is Informaat’s approach to a design process that revolves around shared values: customer values and organizational values.

We take an explicit values perspective and enrich the design process, activities, techniques and deliverables with that perspective. We put on our values goggles from start to end. That way, innovation and improvement projects get strong digital strategies and designs that are well thought through.

TrueX design brings a much needed alignment between the strategic, tactical and operational teams in an organisation. It does so by focusing on what all those teams have in common: their shared values.

The end result is that customers will experience services as particularly valuable, authentic and credible.

So, TrueX design is not a discipline on its own, like service design and UX design. It is rather a different way of looking at experiences and can (and should!) be applied in both service design and UX design projects.

Want to know more? Read my post ‘What is true experience?‘ Or, let’s get in touch.

About the author

Susanne van Mulken (/susannevanmulken) is managing director Strategy & Delivery and responsible for the development and application of experience design models, methods and expertise. As senior C/UX strategist and service designer, she has more than 15 years of experience in strategic design of (digital) services in various industries, such as retail banking, insurance, telecom, climate control, and government. Before she joined Informaat, she worked on the development of intelligent user interfaces at the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). She has a master’s degree in Cognitive Psychology and a PhD in Cognitive Science.

Service design (40), TrueX (8), User experience (39)

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