Service Design Tools

As you will know from my recent post about Lauren Curries Lecture I have become interested in Service Design recently. Today I have been looking at the website Service Design Tools which shares advice on design research. I actually find the language of the site quite complex but its easy to get a general grasp on what they are trying to do. The tools page is a really fun area where you can see a lot of different research methods at a glance.

The ‘role playing’ tool for example involves the designers pretending to be someone using the service. This tool could be used in conjunction with the ‘character profiles’ tool, whereby the designer could pretend to use the service from various points of view.

This reminds me of the book I am reading at the moment, Change by Design, by Tim Brown who is the CEO of design firm IDEO (very famous, check it out). Brown discusses how his team role-played situations in a hospital when designing the service of the NHS. Being strapped to a gurney for example let them empathize with how the patient would feel and what they would see. Sitting at the reception desk would allow them to see the place from another angle and so on.

I think that I, as a graphic designer, could and should start to think about using these research tools. For example I am creating an iphone app for one of my latest projects. The concept of my app came from the idea of a household rota, where chores could be allocated and bills could be logged. It has since grown into more of a ‘facebook for student flats’. Basically the app lets people who share a house keep track of things like shopping lists, repairman appointments, and who’s turn it is to clean the bathroom. It also has a quirkier side (which keeps it young and targets it to the student audience in particular) with things like each persons favorite pizza topping.

I got a lot of input from my friends at uni for the things the app could do together with my own experience of living in a student flat. This research helped me with the content – what about the actual ‘service experience’ of the app? Looking at this website has made me think about looking at the design of my app from the actual users point of view. This would focus my attention on the actual navigation and usability apposed to the content and what font works best. I could also imagine being a first time app user or someone who doesn’t have experience with social networking. This might highlight for me that I need more instructions or that I am using the wrong words. Would someone who doesn’t use social networking know what a status is? Do I provide enough contextual information that would allow them to figure out what it is? Hmm, I think I’ll be making some changes to the design tonight!

Doing this kind of ‘user’ research allows designers to discover relevant problems which they can then fix. It might be a nice idea for me to even just pick one of these tools and use it for every new project I get. Picking a different one each time will allow me to learn new research methods and see what information they can provide me with.

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