What’s the difference between Service Design and UX Design? UX Question #95

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Mohammad from Arlington, Texas, asks: What’s the difference between Service Design and UX Design?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Mohammad. This is UX Question number 95 and I am Ben Judy.

What’s the difference between Service Design and UX Design? Well, these disciplines overlap in some ways, and they are different in some important ways.

Service Design focuses on designing and improving the entire experience a customer has with a service provider, considering all channels, touchpoints, and interactions. A service designer will map out the customer journey and service designer processes, identifying pain points, and creating holistic solutions that address both customer needs and business goals.

An example: I once did service design for a independent, boutique grocery store and deli in a tourist destination. The primary artifact I created was a service design blueprint.

Around the same time, I also did some software user experience design. I conducted user research, created wireframes and UI prototypes, and iterated on designs based on user feedback.

So I was doing service design work and UX design work at around the same time. What was different between these two projects?

One difference was in what I focused on. My UX project was almost entirely about the design of the software. But my focus for my service design project extended beyond digital interfaces to encompass physical environments and processes. For example, I mapped out an optimal flow of people traffic through the small physical footprint of the grocery store and the optimal placement for point of sale devices.

A second difference was the people I studied and designed for. My service design blueprint had various actors. Some were customers in the store, and some were employees and the store manager and even suppliers and vendors. I didn’t just have one set of user personas, I had a cast of actors—both customers and service providers.

A third difference was in regard to organizational effectiveness. A lot of my service design recommendations had to do with internal business processes of the store. The UX work really was just about improving the interface and interaction design for the sake of the user, not about how the business made or sold the software.

Now, what was the same between these two projects?

Both involved collaboration with various stakeholders.

Both involved conducting desk research and field research, synthesizing what I learned, and making recommendations.

And both were human-centered.

So you can see from this example that while both disciplines aim to enhance human experiences, Service Design has a broader scope, considering the entire service ecosystem. UX Design is more focused on digital interfaces and interaction design.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: What will I not learn in a UX bootcamp?

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