Service design

Service design makes all part of a service work together: what customers see and interact with (both online and offline), and the processes and steps inside of the organisation. 

The Nielsen Norman Group define service design as: 

Service design improves the experiences of both the user and employee by designing, aligning, and optimizing an organization’s operations to better support customer journeys. 

Designing great services is challenging 

Often our services reflect the structure of internal departments or the needs of the business. Perhaps they consider only a single communication channel, such as a website. But we know that people all have diverse needs and can access services in different ways.  

Your work may involve creating or changing transactions, products and content across both digital and offline channels provided by different parts of government. 

“We don’t design services, we let them happen by accident. The services we use every day, from student loans to healthcare and housing, are more likely to be the product of technological constraints, political whim and personal taste than they are the conscious decision of an individual or organisation. By not designing our services, we’re accepting that they will simply evolve to the conditions around them, regardless of whether or not that means a service meets user needs, is financially sustainable or achieves a certain outcome”.  

Lou Downe’s book, ‘Good Services’ 

The benefits of service design 

Service design takes compromise, and more importantly, it requires collaboration. But when services are designed well, they 

A service designer purposefully and consciously looks across the entire service and designs the service with user needs embedded throughout, and not just the part you may be working on.  

Read ‘What we mean by service design’ by Government Digital Service (GDS) 

Service design tools 

Journey map 

A journey map provides a holistic view of the user experience by identifying moments of frustration and delight throughout a series of interactions.  

Journey mapping can help to reveal opportunities to address customers’ pain points, alleviate fragmentation, and, ultimately, create a better experience for your users. 

A journey map can also be called a: 

When using journey maps, remember to consider what happens before and after the core experience, even when it includes the interaction with other services and providers. 

How to complete a user journey map 

Journey maps come in all shapes and sizes. Regardless of how they look, journey maps have the following 5 key elements in common: 

  1. Actor. The actor is the persona or user who experiences the journey. The actor is who the journey map is about and offers their point of view. Actors will help you to define the actions in the map and ensure you root the map in data and evidence. Each map should only cover to build a strong, clear narrative.  
  1. Scenario and expectations. The scenario describes the situation that the journey map addresses and is associated with an actor’s goal or need. Scenarios can be real (for existing products and services) or anticipated — for products that are yet in the design stage. 
  1. Journey phases. Journey phases are the different high-level stages in the journey. They provide organisation for the rest of the information in the journey map (actions, thoughts, and emotions). The stages will vary from scenario to scenario.  
  1. Actions, mindsets, and emotions. These are behaviours, thoughts, and feelings the actor has throughout the journey and that are mapped within each of the journey phases. Emotions are plotted as a single line across the journey phases, showing the pain points and areas of delight throughout the user experience.  
  1. Opportunities. Opportunities are insights gained from mapping; they speak to how the user experience can be improved. 

Service blueprint 

A service blueprint documents how the company works and its internal operations. 

It maps out the entire process of service delivery, above and below the line of visibility.  

Fresco says: 

“If you consider a customer journey map to be a movie, the service blueprint will be its perfect sequel” 

When to use a service blueprint 

Use service blueprints for existing services. A service blueprint should not be used for new services or as an ideation tool. 

The contents of a service blueprint 

As a diagram, a service blueprint lists all the activities that happen at each stage, performed by the different roles involved.  

By mapping the steps by different user groups, the resulting matrix shows the relationship between what the user experiences, and what happens inside the organisation, helping to align the business processes to the user journey. 

This example shows the line of visibility. This line lies between what the customer sees and what happens behind the scenes. This ensures that the processes, actions and content are considered and designed, not left to chance. 

Empathy map 

An empathy map helps you to share key understanding and assumptions around user attitudes and behaviours.  

When to use an empathy map 

You create a new empathy map for each user type or user persona.  

The contents of an empathy map 

The empathy map is split into four quadrants – says, thinks, does, and feels. It helps to identify inconsistencies in the perception of the same user from various team/s and can help align the internal understanding of the user. 

Source: Service Design Tools.  

Business model canvas 

A business model canvas is a tool to help you to plan and understand in advance the business model and constraints of the service you are designing. 

When to use it 

This chart helps you to have a one-page overview of the service, including value proposition, infrastructure, types of customers and finance.  

It helps you to understand what activities are needed to build and deliver a service and identify potential trade-offs.

Value proposition canvas 

A value proposition canvas describes the value offered by the service in very simple words.  

The value proposition canvas is a framework that helps designers ensure that there is a fit between the product-service and the users.  

The relationship between the user’s needs, pain points and tasks are balanced against the value proposition of the service. 

Source: B2B International  

The service should meet the user needs by offering ‘pain relievers’ and ‘gain creators’. 

When to use it 

A value proposition canvas is often used to validate and refine a concept before moving forward with development or making the service live. 

This short YouTube video tells you more about a Value Proposition Canvas.  


A persona is a method to tell the story of a type of user, based on shared motivations, behaviours and needs.  

Personas can also be referred to as: 

When to use personas 

Personas are a great tool to refer to when making decisions about your service or communicating user needs to stakeholders.  

They help to remind you of who you are designing the service for, and their challenges and needs.  

This short, step-by-step guide to creating user personas from UX Planet is a helpful method to get started in creating personas.  

More service design tools and methods 

A library of service design tools 

What are service design tools? By Smaply 

Service design toolkit 

Service Design Tools and Methods by Iran Narges