Despite peaking fears for Service Design, it’s the design discipline that’s gone large to reach global critical mass and underpin digital transformation across mobile, tablet, desktop and the wave of new ui technologies such as conversational bots and RPA. Today the Service Design (SD) family stands to be the biggest single design discipline on the globe and probably in history heretofore. That’s quite an achievement from its roots in Human-computer Interaction and heralds the new wave of digital design.
In this article, I look at the seismic shifts that are happening in digital design right now; these changes will shift the focus from consumer to co-creator and from metropolitan chic to global reach, thus realising the true value of science based design. Find out how design can mature to reach its full potential, to become an indispensable business critical function that balances, human needs to technology in a sustainable business context.
1 - GETTING OUT OF THE ABSTRACTION BUSINESS
Pretty much every Service Design conference, publication and community has been awash with discussions on the ‘implementation’ question. The growing demand to move on from futurist like blueprints to more incremental, continuous service releases. Rather than Service Design, we need to focus on design, delivery and operating services, along with our peers in tech and ops. Not only is this a more frugal, less wasteful approach but it also delivers value quicker. I’ve elaborated this new approach in a case study that maps out an agile ‘story-card’ design process that delivers lean style service increments consisting of:
Minimal Viable Service
Minimum Viable Minimum Living Service
Minimum Sustainable Service
If you want to read more about this and how Service Design must shift from abstraction (blueprints, journeys etc) then read this paper on Service Operations. If you want to get involved in this discussion and future evolution of service design try this #RealWorldServiceDesign
2 - AGILE DIGITAL TRANSFORMTION
Smart machines start to replace humans requiring a back to basics HCI approach
Expect more and deeper disruption in traditionally non-digital industries (e.g. law, accounting, health etc.) as digital transformation, automation and robotics change work and the workplace; replacing human workers with machines. This will shift focus in UX from consumers to co-creators and human activity/practice will become the domain with most potential and interest for SD as a discipline.
As smart machines start to replace human actors, SD will need to move from delivering simple usability on single interactions (e.g. UX) to dealing with more complex domains that blend human and technological agency. Human-computer interaction (HCI) issues including previously niche topics, such as ethics will be dusted down and Mumford, Tavistock and UTOPIA correctly remembered and credited. The potential is huge and only good old HCI has the answers.
Guess what? The pace of this change just got quicker too. What was cold war science fiction that took ages to build just got spiked into Agile Digital Transformation. Need a new app? new Website? even need a new business function? Last year, the answer might have been solutions that took some time to deliver, but now: AI, Robotics, AR etc are becoming quicker to deliver than relatively recent but latent legacy technologies such as web and apps. As smaller and faster applications of these new smarter technologies accrue, some of the cornerstones of digital will be transformed out of existence too.
3 - TWEAKING OPS
Tiny moments of value rather than big wow delight as UX tackles profit and value
Companies will find it harder to protect and grow revenue as new and disruptive newcomers, anti-competitive technologies and cross border competitors erode their core propositions and more importantly the size of individual transactions. Less will be sold in shops and more online and post crash economics will drive smaller faster rather than bigger slower; especially as the digital divide dissipates and global markets mature digitally.
Beyond removing barriers to conversion, UX will need to be even more tightly coupled with customer facing operations and ‘Business Thinking’. This means not just making technology usable but building value creation into all touchpoints and weaving it in as a design element. It will no longer suffice to make check-outs easy but instead UX will need to deliver sustainable engagement in order to safeguard the small returns companies will be making in the short term. Expect to see more ‘Business Designers’ as John Oswald calls them — the more globally local UX value propositions can be made the better too.
As organisations design capabilities mature, so the work will evolve from innovation oriented concepting to incremental tweaking. Here, multidisciplinary teams will combine dev, design and research into service wide and stepwise improvements. When that approach stalls then we can dust of the sticky notes and inject some good ole, design thinking led innovation too.
4 - DRIBBBLE CULTURE
Moving beyond Hipsters and Hoxton to the diverse world of digital design
Service Design reaches global critical mass — the biggest design discipline on the planet; if you add UX + SD together as a single, humanistic, digital design discipline.
Just like the eponymous DJ, everyone is a designer nowadays. That’s great and with more doers and better platforms to create and showcase work and design patterns there’s never been an easier time to do user experience. For the more seasoned practitioner, it should all get easier-cheaper and those pesky design tools actually become mass usable. As this growth continues (before the bubble bursts) there will be a gravitational shift from the centres of metropolitan cool to bottom of the pyramid glocal version power. What’s hip in ui will suddenly look like a first world problem as the global masses represent themselves at the interface.
This has many repercussions for SD as a discipline, practice and job. In the longer term, everyone doing SD will require a tighter, more focused and stronger core discipline. Indeed, the key issue is ensuring the long-term sustainability of the field is better professional standards and accreditation that recognises practice based experience. Lets hope that changes while at the same time embracing all of the energy and innovation that will stream out of a distributed global design practice. If you want to get involved in this discussion and future evolution of service design try this #DribbbleCulture
5 - MIND THE SERVICE GAP
Twixting existing systems is where innovation lies with the big SI pardners
As technology platforms mature, customer expectations grow and Service Design makes inroads into business and even government; the job will be to join existing sub-services into holistic offerings, rather than designing new ones from scratch. All from scratch stuff will go as increased commoditisation — resuable assets, code libraries, design systems (the list goes on…)replaces what I call ‘archetypal design’ with what Christoper Alexander called ‘design patterns and language’.
Quick wins to reduce gaps between legacy systems, will win out over big projects with little or no existing infrastructure. And in house teams, augmented by targeted external input will lead the way, as they have the domain knowledge but not always continuous demand for niche skills such as Data Science. This shift is also reflected in the big platforms acceleration into the usability of their own stuff, where enterprise users start to have consumer expectations of technology.
For practitioners that means working closely with technology providers to focus on reducing pain points, integrating existing systems and driving standardization before then moving to optimize them. All of those creaky productivity systems will start to look Hoxton cool too. Service design will mirror this shift, maturing from design thinking to design doing and delivery; gone are the days of fluffy blue sky thinking and hello hard design in the real world.
6 - ENTERPRISE IS WHERE THE ACTION IS
New ui paradigms incubate in the workplace to the home
Enterprises will drive internal adoption of innovative technology, mobility and innovative interfaces such as wearables as workforce enablers; at the same time as consumer goods and services plateau in terms of ui, quality and functionality. The exception is voice (no not VR except for entertainment) which has user value beyond novelty. You’ll start to see people talk to do on phones rather than push and touch interaction on the high streets; it’ll start getting noisy out there and what stuff looks like will decline in importance. Generally, though anything new will get matured in a work environment rather than in a domestic one before being productised for the consuming masses.
Because of the new work front for innovation, enterprise will be where the cool kids are and the behemoths of productivity software will need to revolutionise their offerings to become the new digital darlings. SD will grow into and back to its socio-technical roots, making work better, more enjoyable and hopefully steering those integrators in the right direction and doing generally useful good stuff with new ui.
7 - SECURITY APPEAL/TRUST
Safe and boring will overtake cool as driver for adoption and use spawning a new design field
The robustness, clarity and visibility of organisations trustworthiness and security will become a primary part of the customer proposition and a constant draw on organisations resources. Unlike performance, which is a non-designed part of the user experience, security and trust will become part of the digital designers domain and a brand value.
Indeed, security will become its own design domain with discrete practices, language and practitioner based community e.g. User Security Designer. SD will need to support this shift by seamlessly integrating security and safety features, cues and signposts to help users build trust and know how to deal with risks. If security is the bottom of Maslow’s experience pyramid then brand trust is probably on the next tier. We can already see the mild backlash against short-shelf life products and services and the wish for stuff that lasts beyond the next sales cycle; that will continue and morph into digital ecology in the mid-term.
8 - DIGITAL UNDIVIDE
Huge growth in adoption outside of the trendy fringe(s)
The biggest driver in consumer digital transformation will be from growth in current platforms and technologies by the so far less connected masses currently not using top of the range smart devices; rather than from the cool early to mid adopter segments. It’s the Clapham omnibus connected rather than Minority Report. In fact, it’s more correctly the Lagos omnibus, as SD reaches global presence and smart takes over the world with cheaper cheaper.
For digital design, that means tackling the full range of platforms and devices to not just deliver omni-channel experience for the few but reach for the masses. Localisation will re-emerge as a delivery capability, this time done locally rather than centrally. Expect to see more middling SD too as mass adoption becomes more important than design awards. Lastly, Android will go big and go wide globally.
9 - DESIGN AUTOMATION
Design gets automated, personal and ahem…a bit boring
As previously discussed, the integration of design, marketing and optimisation tools will reduce human aided design and automate the process. SD Agencies will need to focus on their craft, to deliver niche, focussed design propositions as their customers adopt better and more integrated automated design and delivery solutions from new providers such ad agencies. Everything will start to look the same too except where the craft of SD is being done well.
For SD this will see the emergence of the Design Scientist:
‘Design Scientists will tweak the values, select the parameters and apply relevant aesthetics models for the system to work with rather than working up stuff and passing over to developers. They’ll probably build generative experiential programmes based on gestalt principles rather than rendering. Design Thinking will be a filter to apply just as Monochrome, Novelty and Complexity will be. Anything transient like fashion will go to the way of machines and stuff will move and change at clock speed rather than good old seasons.’
10 - TRULY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES
Data enables every experience to be personalised
Aggregated data has enabled single customer views and will go on to enable SD to deliver truly personalized content, interactions and services. In reality, SD will be a secondary partner in personalisation as it will be pretty much an automated process. However, this shift will require a much more agile approach to design where rather than single solutions there will be multiple segmented and highly tailored interaction patterns. SD will need to be the true voice of the user in the world of data-driven engagement and atomic personalisation to survive against the data and optimisation providers; to do that requires focussing on SD’s unique combination of design, delivery and research.
11 - TRIANGULATED ENGAGEMENT INSIGHT
Integration, integration, integration…
Forget UCD or for that matter traditional market research. Understanding tomorrows co-creating service encounter requires a new research toolkit. Organisations will integrate the range of research methods into a set of cross functional enablers that draw on the benefits of market research, UCD and optimisation as a single end-to-end in house service. SD practitioners will need to be open to and with their research peers and drive quality in user research through robust methods and qual-feel feedback loops into design. The three strongest research methods for digital design? Well that would good old usability testing, co-design and those dusted off formal HCI methods such as GOMS/KLM.
12 - SEAMLESS WORKLOW
It’s not a figment of our imagination, design platforms are here to stay
Wow how are tools are getting easier to use and better in supporting end-to-end delivery. Now we can run workshop online to a quality that, while still different, enables data collection and efficiencies we could only dream about in the past. Design and development tools, likewise. These tools will start to have a big impact on how we deliver stuff and potentially start to cannibalise some skill sets and disciplinary boundaries. In the future, service design will be easier to do from a co-design perspective and also in reducing time from idea to production.
© John Knight, 2018