Digital products are still used in a physical world, and they need to be built for it.
When we talk about “digital products,” we tend to think of apps, screens, dashboards—aesthetically pleasing interfaces full of data and delightful copy. Perhaps we even think a layer deeper, imagining what sort of user research or cutting-edge dev stack underpins it all. But building a product requires attention to so much more than the devices we’re building it for, or the hands of the people holding them. Screens are an interface layer atop a vast web of people, processes, and real-world interactions, each needing care and attention to detail.
Crafting each thread of that web is the essence of a fundamentally good product. And that craft is service design.
How do we make the transition from digital to physical seamless, and make sure no information is lost along the way?
Service design is tricky to define. Digital design as a whole is still nebulous in terminology (even as we’ve built so much of the discipline upon the work of the earlier HCI practitioners—UX before it was UX). At MojoTech, we define it as defining the entire delivery of a service. Take health insurance. If you’re trying to buy a new insurance plan, or pay a premium, you’re not just interacting with an app or website on your phone. You might be exchanging messages with an agent, who has their own set of tools and internal processes to figure out how to best assist you. How do we make their work easier? It might mean helping them think of new ways to address and triage support tickets, or a rebuilt internal knowledge base to cut down on fact-finding time.
The same questions apply to the real world. If you need to visit an insurer’s office, how do we make the transition from digital to physical seamless, and make sure no information is lost along the way? How does the space of the office itself affect what you need to do? Is it loud? Crowded? What tasks do you need or prefer in-person help for? This could mean building a space that feels more quiet, spacious, and secure, if sensitive transactions are going on. Or it could mean providing site staff with additional interaction time to get to know customers personally, if that kindness and trust is what customers need to use the services you’re providing.
But none of this has to be a massive, monolithic reassessment of your entire operation. It’s as simple as just acknowledging that you’re so much more than an app or website. Everything you offer is being used, operated, and provided in the physical world. There’s stress. Distraction. Miscommunication. Widening the scope of your problem solving means more opportunities to more fundamentally improve what you do. And you don’t have to start from zero—there’s already existing frameworks and tools to help you make sense of it all. Journey mapping, persona creation and Jobs to Be Done are all easy ways to begin getting a feel for the entirety of what you do.
Competitive edge isn’t just the most visually polished app. It’s making sure everyone behind the phone screen or outside is enabled and supported to deliver the best work they can. That compounding expertise, seamlessness, and care, end to end, is what will set you apart.
Build for the real world. Not just for apps.