Ben Holliday

There is no digital service design

A lot of digital agencies and technology companies talk about “digital service design”.

What I think they mean by this is that they’re designing experiences and digital interactions that happen on a screen.

Service design will never be effective if it’s only seen as ‘digital’ or given the remit to work as digital.

The service design is the design of the service.

In my mind, this is user experience design and it’s about perspective. I’ve written about this before: When is User Experience (UX) and Service Design the same thing?

Service design is never a narrow lens. A service is almost never exclusively digital. It will always have layers of people and processes that make it work and support the organisation from where it operates.

You can’t separate a service design process from the decisions and planning around how a service will work at scale, or this is not the design of the service. Seeing technical, development, and organisation-level decisions as non-design decisions will lead to difficulties in scaling and sustaining services. In reality, you need to design a business model as much as you need to design a seamless user journey.

There are no digital services. There are only digital parts of services. Pretending otherwise delivers improved user experiences built on analog processes and legacy technologies. Neither of which become sustainable to the organisations investing in digital service design. They fail to start to tackle the more difficult questions of how they operate. This is where the real cost savings and efficiencies are as well as the future opportunities to radically rethink how services work.

In each and every situation where someone needs do something, everything is the service. Digital and non-digital. Everything that’s seen and experienced, and also everything that’s not. Design and planning for both front-stage and back-stage.

These are the things that make a service work.

It all needs designing. It’s all the service design.

This blog post is also published on Medium.

This is my blog where I’ve been writing for 18 years. You can follow all of my posts by subscribing to this RSS feed. You can also find me on Bluesky, less frequently now on X (formally Twitter), and on LinkedIn.