When it comes to design in the 21st century, all the options can seem confusing. Isn’t User Experience the ultimate methodology? Or do I use Design Thinking? And isn’t there also Service Design? And aren’t they all user-centered?
Yes, yes, yes, and absolutely yes.
Often these three methodologies overlap, but there are differences. Let’s clear it up once and for all.
User Experience: Optimizes the overall experience a user has with a product like a website or application. Focuses on usability, functionality, desirability, and user research.
Design Thinking: Focuses on solving problems with products or services based on a cyclical process of ideating, designing, and testing rapidly. Focuses on multidisciplinary teams, problem solving, logic, and intuition.
Service Design: Improves services by focusing on each aspect of a service in order to optimize the experience for the user and stakeholders. Focuses on touch-points, interactions between people, the big picture, and infrastructure.
User Experience: In practice, User Experience is focused on digital products, or products with user interfaces. The most common products are websites, computer applications, and mobile apps.
Design Thinking: This methodology is used in a much wider range. Use it with everything from products to services to internal business strategy.
Service Design: Here we zoom in. Service Design specifically focuses on services since most businesses tend to invest fewer resources on improving services compared to products.
User Experience: Here, we usually use different methods to optimize each of our three priority categories: usability, functionality, and desirability. Specific methods include the following:
- Surveying and interviewing users before anything else happens
- Streamlining user journey including content and design, especially with regards to CTAs
- Testing, testing, and more testing
Design Thinking: This methodology has an easy to visualize cycle of brainstorming, designing and prototyping, and testing. A closer look shows us:
- Brainstorming (aka ideating) with people from different departments and backgrounds
- Prototyping and testing before you’ve invested too many resources
- Repeating the process until you’ve got what you want
Service Design: With this methodology we have more of a list of tools than a process. There are tools focused on improving each focus point of a service. That mean we have tools to make a service more user-focused, to optimize the touch-points of a service, and to improve interactions between people. An example tool from each would be:
- Co-creation between different members of the design and dev team as well as between the team and end-users.
- User journey mapping
- Customer profiles and motivation matrixes to analyze interactions between different players
You are absolutely right that these methodologies seem really similar. They are all user-centered rather than business-centered. They’re all about making changes and optimizing. But you can see that each methodology has specific areas it is best at. And you’re probably going to use a combination of all of the above at any point in time.
All three of these methodologies are useful and valuable. And in the end, the main goal is to create a product or a service that treats the users well and therefore boosts your ROI. And all three of these methodologies do just that.