Events Service design

Service Design Thinks and Drinks 4: What is Service Design?

Service Design Thinks and Drinks/4: Service Design vis a vis Experience Design

If you have not been, Service Design Drinks is a casual meet-up, where guest speakers present and take questions from the audience. It’s held regularly at the Trinity Bar in Surry Hills. The fourth event was held on 18 May and was attended by 30 or so user experience designers, including a team from Different.

The last event was a panel discussion moderated by Damian Kernahan, from Proto Partners. The panellists were:

  • Opher Yom Tov, formally of Ideo, now working with BT
  • Rod Farmer, Co-founder and Director of Research, Mobile Experience
  • Susan Wolfe, Managing Director, Optimal Experience
  • Faruk Avdi, from the NSW Department of Education and Training

The opening question put to the panel was “What is service design?”

  • Opher Yom Tov: Weaving together discreet experiences in an ongoing relationship.
  • Rod Farmer: Meaningful value at the point of interaction.
  • Susan Wolfe: Thinking about the broader context. Experience design is service design.
  • Faruk Avdi: The ecosystem a product exists; experience design is a subset of service design.

Much of the early discussion veered around product design, defined as designing for the experience and the utility that it brings, and not focussing exclusively on the product itself.

A conversation followed about the importance of leadership and change management in service design projects. Several challenges were discussed:

  • How do you model relationships?
  • If the bar is always moving, how do you exceed the standard that has been set?
  • Companies do not measure people’s performance on delivering a whole service. What KPIs should be set to help put service initiatives into operation?

The final question put to the panel was, who’s doing it well? This was best answered by Ant from Different who said that the best service experiences are being had at the ma and pop stores. Everyone agreed; the challenge is getting big organisations behaving like small business. (Interestingly, Mark Pollard made the exact same analogy at a Social Media Club event when asked about the challenges businesses face in participating effectively in social media).

It was a lively discussion, where the panel conceded that service design is a fairly new term. It was interesting to see that the industry is still forming its opinions as to what service design really is, and how it differs to experience design and also interesting to see how the field of user experience is expanding and defining itself.

An edited version of this post first appeared on the blog Different UX

Postscript June 17, 2010

Audio of the event has been published on the Service Design Drinks blog:

Design Events

Designing for Touch Screens

I was totally enamored by the Microsoft Surface at WebDU. Here is a mix of what I learnt, filmed and experienced.

Touch Design Principles

Shane Morris outlined some design prinicples when designing for the Surface, but many would apply to designing for smaller touch screen devices.

  • Don’t deploy a desktop application to a new device, consider the specific requirements of a touch interface
  • You may be designing for more than one simultaneous user. Users may be interacting from different directions so the app should be ‘direction-less’.
  • Non functional gestures need to be acknowledged. (Vapour trails have been built into the Surface platform to orient the user and show non consequential hand gestures.)
  • Use large targets. Avoid traditional controls.
  • Design for the super real i.e. design digital objects using real world objects as inspiration. Think about how the object  behaves in the real world, to design how the virtual object responds to touch.

Below are some amateur video clips of me and others playing around with the Microsoft Surface.

Switching it on

The Surface is not a magic table. Under that huge resistive touch screen is a machine. Weirdly, a convenient button to switch it on, located on the outside, does not seem to have been included in the design brief.


People are happy to clean up the debris left by other users on the Surface, and its all part of the fun and learning.

Hold on! Those 2 demos show it working great but …

One handed, while I was holding the camera, I was having a bit more trouble than the peeps in the Lonely Planet demo. I had objects spinning out of control all over the place but it was still fun.

The point of the Lonely Planet Surface app is to load a passport with information, like photos and videos from the store, that you can look at later online. Each “passport” has a barcode type sticker so the machine can read it. Each Lonely Planet book also has a “barcode”, so as soon as you plonk it on the table it reveals relevant content.

Lonely Planet passport and guide with Microsoft Surface "barcode"

Lonely Planet passport and guide

Resistive Screen

Touch devices are either resistive or capacitive. The Surface is obviously resistive, so the pressure you apply affects the interaction as this simple Ribbons app demonstrates.

Design for the Super Real

This wine store didn’t quite work for me. It used pretty conventional controls, and I kept trying to do something with the bottles themselves. The workflow seemed kinda busted too.

But the piano app works great.

Another learning from this blog post is that videos take forever to upload on Youtube. FOREVER!


WebDU 2010: Start-up, How to Get Going as a Web Entrepreneur

Collis Ta’eed spoke at webDU a few years ago on how to start a web community. He should know, Collis founded the Envato network which publishes PSD TutsVector TutsActive TutsFreelance Switch amongst other titles. It’s inspiring to hear about web success stories. The Envato network employs 25 people and attracts ‘a few million visitors a month’. Impressive.

Often it is difficult for speakers to share lessons learned in work, because of client confidentiality, and because sometimes it’s not good business to give too many secrets away. To solve this dilemma Collis delivered his presentation on how to start a web business by discussing a hypothetical case study. His words of wisdom are summarised below.

How do you come up with an idea?

  • Solve a problem you have yourself experienced.
  • Observe and look for audience niches that experience this problem.
  • Your solution should help other people make money
    • e.g. the 37 Signals Basecamp application wasn’t making money from the consumer market but became a success when it was marketed to business.
  • Test your idea with research.

How do you do good business?

  • Not all businesses are equal. The Envato network has dual business models of publishing and market places.
  • Don’t underestimate marketing. While its essential to have a good product, it’s vital to have great marketing.
  • Spread the word. Present and blog about tangential topics that appeal to people who want to use your service.
  • Build your user base with free content then add paid services.

Collis was one of the highlights of weDU for me. Keep an eye out on the webDU site. They will be publishing audio of the talks in coming weeks.


WebDU 2010: Flash highlights

Adobe were a little self aware post Steve Jobs anti Flash rant but not defensive at this year’s webDU conference. Why? Because Flash continues to improve and there are few haters in the webDU crowd. Gone was the spiel about the quick uptake of flash and flash penetration in the market place. The emphasis this year was on performance improvements in Flash beta 10.1. Expect more fan fare after the official release later this year.

Flash 10.1 beta talking points:

  • touch apis
  • improved audio support
  • performance improvements
  • Flash mobile applications run on various platforms and devices.
    App stores for flash developers on these platforms are more open to developers than you-know-who.

The touch capabilities of Flash were best illustrated by this video, developed by Struck Axiom, that I crudely caught on my camera.

In the keynote Mike Chambers went on to demo various tablets and mobile devices running flash applications including a live demo of Wired magazine running on a resistive touch tablet. Mike hinted at some sort of workflow from the publishing suite to create interactive flash. At least, I hope this is what he was hinting at.

Greg Rewis, the Creative Suite evangelist went on to outline more flash goodies such as:

  • improved text handling e.g. text boxes can be linked for flowing text
  • full support of 32 new character sets e.g. asian character sets and left to right, vertical text layout.

Greg was most passionate about the new code snippet library which tackles the learning barrier of action script to newbies. This is best exemplified by his quote: “All the Flash bashing that goes with actionscript 3 — shut up now!

  • Libraries can be imported and exported. This should be a boon for flash communities
  • The sample code snippets are generous and code can be exposed and includes instructions

WebDU 2010: the year of touch

I have been to 4 webDU conferences and this was the first year that I was not on the Daemon organising team. It felt strange to not have to do anything but enjoy myself, and that I did.

In the Day 1 keynote Mike Chambers from Adobe came out at the gates in defense of Flash (hi Mr Jobs). Acknowledging how CPU intensive flash video can be he spoke of Flash performance improvements on mobile and the desktop. He also demoed the new flash touch apis on tablets, phones and larger screens. Microsoft were there and to the delight of many brought along a Microsoft Surface. It was a blast to play with. It was interesting to hear from Shane Morris about what constraints were put into the behaviour of the Surface. In his talk Shane outlined design principles with case studies of applications designed for ANZ, Lonely Planet and Cochlear. This was my highlight of the conference. Other more technical sessions that I did not attend talked more specifically about touch technologies e.g. Dmitry Baranovskiy demonstrated the gestural capability of his Raphael javascript library.

I am pretty much a wannabe geek, i.e. not very geeky, so I left the tech streams up to the developers and spent most of my time in the UX/team stream. There was a good mix in this stream of usability, design sessions, specifically design for mobile, wireframe design, and a mix of broader project sessions. These included:

  • Robin Hilliard introducing a framework to define problems and come up with sound requirements
  • Mathew Hodgson evangelising agile. This is a hot topic, but especially relevant to a developer audience from where the concept arose. It was helpful to see this explained through a warts and all case study; and
  • Tim Buntel from Atlassian talking about managing developers.

What was great about this year’s webDU was that it was not a tutorial conference, nor were the sessions so general that you came away with nothing but a new vague idea. The sessions introduced applicable principles and approaches that rang true with real life case studies and inspirational examples.

Anyone who knows me knows I take A LOT of notes so instead of trying to summarise my favourite take outs from WebDU in one post I will try and publish a series of webDU posts over the coming days. OK. Weeks.

Until next year!


Augmented Reality Changeroom Demo

With only about 3% of online browsers turning into shoppers, augmented reality has the potential to shake up ecommerce by simulating a real life experience.

Manoj Vekaria and Sushant Verma of Rocketboots were manning the desk in the sponsor’s corner at webDU. In this video they show me and some other onlookers their impressive prototype for an augmented reality changeroom. It’s in the early stages now, so is very much a proof of concept but towards the end of the video Manoj talks about future physics simulations that will better represent the look of clothing on the wearer.

Sushant Verma and Manoj Vekaria also presented Need for Speeed, a talk about the future of Flash platform development and a comparison with related technologies at webDU this year.