Events Service design

Is good content service design? And how do you deliver it?

Thank you to everyone at IXDA Sydney — especially Joe and Lisa who were no sooner off the plane from the IXDA international conference in Milan, than they were hosting another event and sharing what they learned.

The Feb 20 IXDA gathering headline speaker was Mel Flanagan from Nook Studios who shared Nook’s case studies and approach. Check out Nook’s site for the government case studies outlined on the night.

Nook’s approach is content first, participatory, highly visual, and user-centred. The government case studies featured websites, brochures, and videos. Examples reimagined maps to overlay other information like policy data. Others included visual representations of process and legislation to show where people fit in. One such visualisation influenced the government department involved to create an extra step in their process for community consultation and outreach. This shows the power of reimagining and ‘evidencing’ experiences.

Here is what I took away and took notice of from the evening.

Reframing service design with content strategy

  • Services don’t work without content. Content is central to the experience
  • If you are not being content-first you are making transactions, not experiences
  • Get to know the policy, how the money flows, the time involved, the material flows – to then map and visualise a process that people can make sense of and use

“Content design is service design” Mel Flanagan, Nook Studios.

Content and information design is service design

  • Consider, what the user journey is and should be, and what the content experience should be to support it
  • What information do people need to know and understand across their journey? (Mel spoke of creating technical maps, story maps, and policy maps).
  • What decisions is the user informing?
  • Who do they need to go to? What are their rights?

“A lot of what we are doing is map making” Mel Flanagan, Nook Studios

Redesign the project

  • Gather data and content first
  • Have a content team from the start to avoid the ‘content crisis’ that occurs when project development and design streams progress too far without content. After all, what can you launch without content?
  • Rethink “discovery” phrase – include an explicit pre-design phase to understand objectives, audiences, stakeholders and importantly to also understand the context, data, and what content exists now
  • Include participation with stakeholders at every step
  • Optimise your workflow and design process to produce the digital experience with print artefacts

As always, be human-centred

  • Get to know your audience to give them what they need
  • Take a participatory approach with stakeholders
  • Test concepts with the target audience/end-users


Side Projects

Pushing beyond the MVP

I did some volunteering here and there for one of my favourite organisations Open Australia. This included occasionally managing the twitter handle for their project “Election Leaflets“. My job was to tweet and answer questions. I began noticing some patterns and then dug a little deeper to see what it all meant. I wrote up my research in an article: Scrutinising the Audience Experience of Election Leaflets.

Towards the end I made an observation about MVPs — minimum viable products, that distinguishes them from minimum viable experiences.

“Election Leaflets was a minimum viable product that successfully made election ephemera easily accessible online. Its future may be at a cross roads – the National Library also archives election pamphlets although it doesn’t yet publish content live for either enjoyment or scrutiny. The next step should its evolution continue will be for us to create a minimum viable experience for both familiar and new users to meet the needs of the community as a whole.”

In this case the MVP certainly proved the capability of the product and found a product market fit for those already familiar with Open Australia. The next step was to evolve the product into an experience that would see it expand to serve a new “market”, of politically engaged people unfamiliar with Open Australia and make the usability of the publishing flow more transparent.

Read the article for the full context but in the meantime consider whether your MVP caters to the needs of your audience across their end-to-end journey.

Election Leaflets Twitter User Journey revealed some break points in the experience with the product
Election Leaflets Twitter User Journey revealed some break points in the experience with the product where how to contribute was not clear for unfamiliar but engaged users.
Service design

How long does a journey take to make?

This week a colleague rushed up asking how long it would take to produce a journey map and the answer was … it depends.

But first, what is a journey map?


A journey map is a model of a person’s experience over time with an organisation. They can describe a service experience of an existing customer, such as a support call or they can describe the sales experience of a new customer. The latter usually conforming to some version or other of the purchasing funnel. For the purposes of this post I am discussing current-state and not future-state journey maps.

Who and what is represented in journey maps?

A journey map can be the story of a specific persona or it can depict the generalised experience of all customers. Adaptive Path makes this distinction and labels the former a customer journey map, and the later an experience map.

Then there is the “stage” to consider. The front-stage shows the customer experience and the back-stage presents the corresponding experience of the organisation – the teams, systems and processes that combine to deliver the experience. This kind of journey is usually described as a service blueprint.

So … how long does a journey take to make?

To plan resources, people, and effort you need to think about the content and the data that’s informing it. This can come from internal workshops, co-design sessions, or through customer and staff research.

Guidelines for planning

Resourcing guidelines for journey mapping approaches
Activity Inputs Who you’ll need Time Considerations Cost Trade-off
Quick Workshop Anecdotal knowledge Subject matter experts, product owners, front line staff as proxies for customers. 1-2 facilitators. Half-day
  • Usually output as high-level post-it notes.
  • Add 2 days to make a legible and shareable electronic or print deliverable.
$ Minimal time and cost but no first-hand customer data.
Workshop Existing researchVoice of customer data Subject matter experts, staff, product owners. 1-2  facilitators. 1-2 weeks
  • Invest time in sourcing past research reports.
  • Voice of customer data from different sources needs time to collate into a consistent form for comparison and analysis.
  • No data of external factors (personal network, competitors) and just interactions with your organisation makes for a one-sided story. Customers are more motivated to give feedback when something has gone wrong; the resulting journey may be disproportionately negative and may miss all the positive forces that made them customers in the first place.
$$ Minimal time and cost. Depending on quality of research and data journey can be fragmented with no context for wider story or experience.
Journey co-design workshops Recounted experience. Example touch points. Customers who have recently or are currently going through the experience.One facilitator, one note taker. 2-5 weeks
  • 1-2 weeks to recruit participants.Approximately 1-2 weeks of co-design workshops.
  • Allow more time if your segmentation requires more participants to get a representative sample.Time to synthesise what you learn into insights and onto the journey itself. 3 days – 1 week.You may opt to run modified Delphi sessions where each subsequent co-design session builds on and edits the previous one–so you are essentially always working on the one map.Add 3-5 days to make a legible and shareable electronic or print deliverable.
$$$ Customer data represented but highly dependent on recall. Detail of real time customer experience e.g. with a specific touchpoint or episode may be lost.
JTBD switch interviews with customers Recounted experience. Customers who have very recently switched to your product or away you’re your product to a competitor.
One researcher. Note taker optional.
3-5 weeks
  • 1-2 weeks to recruit participants.
  • Allow more time in recruitment to get the exact customers you need.1-2 weeks of research depending on the number of participants in your study. Synthesis is streamlined with JTBD Four Forces diagram and customer timelines.Great research technique to support agile teams in iterative rounds of discovery or development. Applicable to a buying journey only.
$$$ Customer data represented but dependent on recall. Skilled interviewer should be able to elicit detail of real time customer experience of a specific touchpoint or episode.
Contextual interviews and/or longitudinal diary studies with customers Recounted or directly observed experience.Qualitative insights.Can dig deep into quite low level detail and describe context of use of example touch points. Customers who have recently or are currently going through the experience.
A representative sample for each customer segment.
A team of researchers. 2-4 depending on the number of customers.
8-12 weeks
  • Worthy investment for strategic projects
  • Resource intensive approach to follow-up with participants.
  • Compelling when paired with quantitative research to size findings.
$$$$$ Requires large investment and results are not actionable for some time but end result is credible research report usable by both executive and operational teams.


As with anything, there are trade offs involved. A well researched and high detailed journey will certainly stand the test of time, be useful to multiple audiences, and be a persuasive research piece to support change. It all depends on your project needs and constraints. The 80/20 rule may also apply—making smaller investments with Jobs-to-be-Done research or co-design workshops may yield most of the major insights you need to uncover for significantly less cost and time.


I have made a some updates since first publishing this post. Thanks to Krispian Emert for your valuable feeback.

Events Product design Research

Jobs to be Done Sydney #4 Interview workshop

Monday 23rd March was the fourth installment of the Sydney chapter of the Jobs to be Done meetup, and the first co-organised by me. That’s right, after so many years of attending meetups I’ve finally stepped up to help Christian keep the ball rolling. As always we were wonderfully and generously hosted by Brainmates who also host and sponsor Product Mavens and Product Talks Sydney. I’ll be getting along to one of those very soon.

Always putting on a great spread for us.
Always putting on a great spread for us.

JTBD 4 was all about customer interview practice and the particular techniques used in Jobs-to-Done. Like other qualitative interviews it probes for detail but a Jobs-to-Done interview also

  • hones in on a participant’s ‘hotspots’
  • asks seemingly irrelevant questions, such as what the weather was like that day to not only trigger memories but to stop the interviewee post-rationalising their decisions
  • tries to identify each trigger where the participant progressed through a stage of the buying, switching, or leaving journey.

Which customers to recruit to understand the buying journey.
Which customers to recruit to understand the buying journey.

JTBD interview facilitation tips
JTBD interview facilitation tips

We watched a video of Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek demonstrating the interview technique at Business of Software 2013. Then everyone got a chance to practice interviewing themselves in groups. It was pretty funny and sweet hearing everyone’s stories. Especially from the business owners. Inspiring stuff.

The most fun was the discussion afterwards. We all shared our own experiences and opinions on interviewing etiquette: the art of asking open questions, whether it is OK to ask closed questions, and the trick of leaving a question hanging for the participant to fill the void.

Getting ready for group work and interview practice.
Getting ready for group work and interview practice.

Thanks to all who attended. A guest speaker will be announced very soon for the next event so sign up on Meetup if you haven’t already. See you there!



Events Product design Research

Deconstructing a Jobs to be Done switch interview

It’s fascinating to hear about the decision making process of customers when they decide to buy a product. Its more interesting still to think about the reasons they may be leaving another product for this to happen. What may on the surface seem perfectly rationale ends up being haphazard, circumstantial, and even highly emotional.

Design research methods promise to uncover this human story and outlay the behaviour, needs and goals of customers and/or users of a application. What the Jobs to be Done approach adds is a focus on identifying valuable features from the customer’s perspective and contextualizing them against the forces of habit and anxiety that may cause the inertia behind not switching to a new product. Its a compelling model, so I am so pleased that my former colleague and friend Christian LaFrance has started a Sydney Jobs to be Done meetup.

It was a great turn out for the third event this week hosted by Brain Mates in the centre of the city. Thank you Adrienne for the perfect setting, and for the wine and food.

Christian played back the switch interview from the second meetup. He led the interviewee to unwind his experience from the point of purchase right to the beginning explaining small and broad details of his story. As we listened we modeled notes along a journey framework and analysed them in groups with the Jobs to be Done four forces model.

I won’t go into the detail of the approach here. There are much better resources online for that (check out JTBD online, JTBD radio, and Christian’s Flipboard collection as a start). I did pick up some tips though from meetups 2 &3

  • Its important to get granular. Asking after irrelevant details is a useful technique to help people remember and visualise events.
  • Christian recommended asking questions to validate assumptions as soon as you catch yourself inferring too much.
  • The value of the model is explicitly seeing and thinking about the weight of the combined factors within the Push and Pull quadrants that have to overcome the customer’s habit and anxiety for a switch i.e. a purchase to happen.

The audio of the switch interview which is about a customer buying a mobile phone is available on the meetup page of the group. Join up while you’re there. This is a practical group so I promise you will learn something while you’re there. Thanks again Christian for a wonderful event.

Events Service design

The evolution of CX

The first Australian CXPA meet-up in Sydney (16/4/2013) was a breakfast session at Atlassian HQ with Cyrus Allen of Strativity as the MC. The special guest via a Google Hangout was CXPA and Temkin Group founder Bruce Temkin. He is also the creator of Forrester’s Customer Experience Index and Voice of Customer Award.

Bruce Temkin beaming in via a Google Hangout
Bruce Temkin beaming in via a Google Hangout


What Bruce saw from his side via this tweet

Coming at this space from an Experience Design background as I do, I was most interested in what Bruce Temkin had to say about the ‘evolution of cx management’. He presented the following chronological model:

CX intrigue 2005 -2009

  • Organisations have applications, infrastructure in place.
  • CRMs don’t deliver anticipated value.

CX exuberance 2008 – 2013

  • The term CX gets ’slapped’ on top of titles.
  • 60% of companies think they will be customer experience leaders in 3 years (the maturity model indicates this is a much longer journey)
  • Shows that ambitions are emerging, but that organisations are not realistic about the implications.

CX professionalism 2011 -2015

  • People are starting to have clear practices and procedures around customer experience
  • A set of consistent practices is being collectively pushed into the community (via the CXPA of course 😉
  • VOC programs, journey mapping become standard process.
  • Close loop systems are in place to re-contact customers and learn.

CX Mastery 2014 +

  • Real time customer satisfaction analytics are able to project NPS, customer trends and other metrics.
  • Employee engagement becomes increasingly important as the connection between staff and the ability to drive sustainable customer experience is acknowledged.
  • The human resource sector becomes committed to employee engagement.

Temkin’s rally cry to the community was to practise a core set of repeatable processes and procedures; for the differences in practise that have existed to date to become standardised if the ‘era of CX’ is to continue. In support of this vision the CXPA is developing a vendor neutral certification program they hope will be recognised as a legitimate professional standard globally.

I should mention the format of the breakfast. The talk was followed by a Q&A and group discussion. It was valuable gaining insight into so many organisations so quickly and hearing about the various surveys, processes and incentives in place. I have a whole page of notes but if your are intrigued, you may just have to come along to the next event.

If you want to read more of Bruce Temkin’s work check out his blog Customer Experience Matters.