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Why We’ve Embraced Service Blueprints for UX—And Haven’t Looked Back

Why We’ve Embraced Service Blueprints for UX—And Haven’t Looked Back

Kristen Duke

Digital interactions aren’t binary, nor are they compartmentalized. If we change one point in the user’s experience, we change their entire web experience—often instantaneously. So, traditional approaches that divide and isolate experiences don’t work as well as they did ten years ago. Today’s environment is simply too interconnected to change one facet without impacting another: blogs, email, social, mobile, etc.

For the sum of these parts to come together as one experience, rather than a disjointed one, we need a holistic process that “zooms out” to contextualize a user’s journey end-to-end, not merely through patches and spot work. And, as if that’s not enough, we must then account for all of this on both the front- and back-end of development.

Enter our enthusiastic embrace of “service blueprints,” a process we’ve adopted to overlay “user experience” with “service experience” (and help us allocate project resources and implement strategies accordingly).

Understanding the Service Blueprint

A service blueprint outlines the user’s journey, not only for the user, but for all things that must happen simultaneously both before and after the user’s journey to enable the experience to come to fruition. So, instead of just mapping out the experience between a user and the things that they see or touch, a service blueprint maps out the journey alongside the processes and systems that happen behind the scenes.

How do we do this? Service blueprinting begins with getting the project team members, and sometimes even the client, in the same room to collaborate rather than emailing rigid guidelines en masse. Once there, we work together to map out the user journey using sticky notes: visualizing our thoughts, speaking the same language, sharing perspectives, and centralizing processes—reaping the rewards of streamlined schedules, cost, and communication. With the user's journey mapped out, we then use more sticky notes to document all the touchpoints, logic, front-end, back-end, and any third-party software or systems that will need to exist to support the user’s journey.

Collaborating in this way ensures key details won’t be lost in translation (where traditionally, one team would pick up where another left off) and allows us to identify conflicts and barriers early on by strategizing both front- and back-end solutions simultaneously. Most importantly, this allows us to start from the user’s perspective. It allows the entire design of the service to be created with the user at the center.

Yet the largest reward is the systemic efficiency wrought from approaching challenges multi-dimensionally. To use the example of ordering food to go at a café , it’s the difference between promoting the sale as an isolated transaction versus strategizing the UX of an entire café to promote lasting relationships. This accounts for all the elements that make up the broader service experience: signage, customer loyalty programs, parking, the menu items, the back-end inventory system—and, finally, the actual ordering process.

The result is a holistic blueprint encompassing customer insights, wireframe outlines, technical guidelines, development implications, timelines, and everything in between, and propels the project forward with some serious momentum.

Designing a Service Blueprint for Ecommerce

When our client, MariaDB, asked us to help design an ecommerce tool, we needed to ensure the user experience didn’t suffer. The goal was to have users receive the same optimization for sizing and clustering, delivery options, customer country and currency, and any requisite training or consulting add-ons that they did with the human presence.

Incorporating a service blueprint allowed us to collaborate on strategy upfront and involve the client in key conversations early on. In centralizing, everything we gathered from stakeholders, customer-facing interviews, and back-end environments to a single document everyone could understand (and respond to) prior to any design work.

Breaking down these silos increased transparency and allowed our client to make grounded, long-term decisions that skyrocketed efficiency. Essentially, we built them a new system of roads for users to travel across, rather than filling potholes and constructing detours.

Benefits of a Service Blueprint

The more we allowed for disconnected experiences, the greater the need to zoom out and address the surrounding environment to ensure more organic, connected experiences. So, we stopped dividing and conquering, and started collaborating by streamlining the design process and the advantages were clear:

  • Better Collaboration: Aligning teams simultaneously prevents losing important details in translation as one team picks up where the other left off.
  • Surfacing Conflicts: Integrating front-end and back-end development forces hidden barriers to the surface, which might not otherwise appear until later in the process (causing setbacks and wasted resources later in the game).
  • Systemic Efficiency: Troubleshooting impacts early on, reduces project timelines, while also cutting costs down the road (reducing the load for customer service, IT fixes, etc.).

Let us put the service blueprint to work for you. Get in touch.