7 UX principles by a Service Designer

Hidde Burgmans
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Hidde Burgmans
24 jul 2017 . 12 mins read
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Being a service and UX designer is hard. Honestly, most of the time I’m not even sure what it is exactly that I am doing (Service design, or User experience), let alone using the proper term to specify my expertise. Is it SD, CX, UX, UI?

As design is making an uprise in many forms, the terminology associated with our work has exploded. Yes, the design process is a mess and since you’re constantly iterating throughout the process, it’s hard to tell your exact whereabouts. Lately, at Koos service design we’ve been getting our heads around this lovely little part of the process mostly referred to as UX. Koos is primarily a Service Design company, but our expertise follows our solutions, and thus often lead us into the digital landscape. Before we elaborate on our experience with UX let’s create some order by drawing lines in the sand. Acknowledging the risk of it being outdated as soon as this article is published, here is our current view on the industry.

Service Design is in its core holistic. It considers every touchpoint between a company and its user, regardless of it being analog or digital, and defines the service as a whole. This includes designing completely new service propositions, customer journeys or service blueprints. Following the circle inward, CX, UX and UI are more specific fields within the entire spectrum of designing a service.

Customer Experience, or CX, focuses mostly on the experience that customers will have with a certain service or brand, hence designing all interactions between the service provider and the customer.

Where CX is mostly designing interactions between customer and brand, UX (or User Experience) designs all interactions between a user and the specific touchpoint. UX design is mostly mentioned in the digital world, but in theory it is responsible for the entire experience across touchpoints (both digital and analog).

User Interface Design (or UI Design) looks into the pixel perfect designs of digital interfaces, it’s usability, conversion, look and feel, and more.

In many organisations, Service Design and Customer Experience are interchangeable, as are UX / UI. Although theoretically wrong, CX is mostly mentioned during the fuzzy-front-end of the design process and UX / UI is used when designing the actual touchpoints. Irrespective of right or wrong, we believe better service experiences are delivered when all expertises are combined with intent.

Our trials and tribulations in combining UX and Service Design has let us to create our own UX manifesto as a Service Design company. One we use as a guideline for all our UX projects. Available for everyone who wants to create meaningful service experiences effectively. Without further ado, here are 7 UX principles by a Service Designer.

The total design spectrum.

1. Involve your user

Before we start creating our user experience, we need to know what experience we want to create. In fact, we need to know why we need to create this experience. In order to do that, we need to talk to our user.

Designing is a fuzzy process between intuition and data, between conversation and thought. Yes, your intuition as a designer helps you out every now and then, but an experienced designer knows that at the most unexpected moments his intuition fails. Therefore, we have an important rule; Empathy beats intuition. Seriously, have a conversation with your user. Try to step away from your own perspective and fall in love with ’m. Know their needs before you start designing stuff that nobody wants.

Combining Service- and UX design guarantees a process that beautifully combines the fuzziness and the concrete, perfectly balancing strategy and execution. Making sure you talk to your user, before the actual creation starts.

2. Begin with the end in mind

Before you start designing anything at all make sure you specify your goals. What is it you want to achieve, what is the single most important KPI (key performance indicator) of your service? What is the KPI of this specific page you are working on and how do you think these different KPI’s are going to contribute to the greater service experience?

First wireframe sketches indicating different buckets and their associated KPI’s.

Whenever we start a project this is the first thing we ask our clients. What is the most important result of this app and how can we measure its success. This will prevent making important decisions based on the sole opinion of the most senior person in the room. Having your KPI’s clear from the start will lead to valid discussions on your UX design and proper assessment of the end result.

3. Mand! (Basket!)

So you are about to start your UX project. Your user needs are crystal clear, you’ve got your proposition right and you’ve figured out tons of new ways to help your customer. As a creative agency, the hardest part is not including all these great ideas at once. We know… without a doubt, all of your new features are the exact same amount of amazingly awesome, but you’ve got to prioritise. People make decisions in a split second and it is your job as a designer to help them make the right one. The best way to do this is by cutting all the crap and focus on one job at a time. When designing a user experience at Koos we keep on challenging ourselves until we are sure we’ve reached the absolute core of the experience we want to enfold. A perfect illustration of the inner conversation you should be having during a design process is the following famous Dutch interview.

Here is a translation of the conversation between the reporter and the antiquarian for all you non-Dutchies.


‘This is a beautiful basket made by the firm Tiggelaar and was used on table as decoration and fruitbasket.’

This is way too long, it needs to be shorter.

Basket by Tiggelaar, made in Makkum.

Even shorter.

Basket by Tiggelaar.

Even shorter, short!



Always ask yourself can this be made shorter, simpler or can we just leave out this entire function. Mand!

Great examples; Google.comMedium/new-story

4. Consistency

So we know what we want to build, we know why (Since you had this great conversation with your user) and we make sure we are keeping it ‘Mand.’ It’s time to make some actual designs. The single most important rule in creating your UI is to be consistent.

People like clarity. Consistency throughout an interface will ensure that the least amount of brain effort is required when using your product. Shaping a smooth experience that due to recognition gets easier to use over time should always be your goal.

During the design process you are going to stumble upon a lot of problems that might tempt you to deviate from your standards. This is a high price to pay. Make sure this only happens when absolutely necessary. Deciding not to do stuff or levelling it down in order to be consistent is always the better choice.

5. Design with intent

Your service is just a small piece of the entire (digital) context your user lives in. There are over 9.000 constantly evolving digital services who are claiming your users brain, all together establishing the interface conventions we are used to today.

When creating your UX make sure you are aware which conventions fit your product. Use their power to easily lower the threshold of your product and increase the ease of adoption.

A current interface convention: bottom navigation

Being consistent might make your app very easy to use, but it also makes it very unmemorable. Hence, make sure you find some moments to throw away all conventions and be unique. Whatever it is your brand stands for, whatever story you want to tell. Choose some moments throughout the experience that fit and give it your everything. Make sure you choose these ‘delighting’ moments wisely though. Don’t reinvent the wheel on unimportant stuff. What is it that defines your brand, what distinguishes you from the rest? Make sure you choose your battles wisely. They can either be a frustrating or a delighting moment that will colour your experience. Be stubborn wisely, go crazy consciously.

6. Know where you are in the process

In your quest of creating stuff (design) it’s easy to get caught up in the details and lose overview. The importance of taking a breath and realising where you are in the design process is twofold.

First, reviewing a design asks for different conversations in different parts of the process. The graph below shows tools that can be used in each phase. Before asking for feedback of either a client or user it saves a lot of unnecessary discussions when the position in the design process is clear to all. When you’re still validating your concept it’s rather useless having detailled discussion about the colour of a button. Furthermore, it helps asking the right questions during user research. Starting with sketches and wireframes that facilitate interviews which bring out the expectation of a user. Followed by prototypes and designs that help find out whether users actually understand your concrete designs.

Source: UXmatters.com

Second, as fidelity grows something else is too. It’s your resistance to change. Sunk cost fallacy and escalation of commitment both point out that the more time invested in an idea, the less likely you are willing to change. Make sure to be willing to change to use tools with low commitment at the first phases of your design process. Knowing where you are in the process helps having the right mindset and appropriate discussions on design.

7. Show some character

Following these steps you’ve set the foundation of your user experience. Now that everything is in place, it’s time to make the final step: Connect to your user. This can only be done in one way, by showing some character.

I can identify with a chimp that shares the stress of sending out an email to a couple of thousand people or a Harry Potter fan who works at Harvest that sneaked in a Dumbledore quote. Or the high-fiving forecasting developers after coming up with this awesome ‘type YOLO to confirm’ feature.

From left to right personal messages from Mailchimp, Forecast and Harvest

People have a hard time identifying with code, a device or lifeless designs. The user experience will lift off when a different part of the brain is addressed. This happens when your user realises she or he is not just looking at pixels, but that there’s actually a bunch of people behind this service trying to tell them a story.

Showing your character will turn dull moments into decisive ones that define your brand. So make sure the two match. Making your product more human and deepening the brand experience will make your service more enjoyable to use.

Adding extra pieces of copy, gifs or emoticons have very least technical impact of all features your marketeers can think of. In the end it’s just humans using your product looking for a human connection. Work from your brand, connect to your user.

Need some help?

Being a designer is awesome. In the end it really doesn’t matter what tools or terms you are using as long as you use them for the right cause. At Koos we try to make meaningful services people love to use and help organisations become more customer centric along the way. By using service design we make sure we tap into actual user needs. With our growing UX expertise we convert these insight into a tangible experiences. These 7 principles help us maximise the output of Service Design and UX combined. Hopefully they’ll be of use in your future projects, interested in a little help? Call the Koos hotline.

Hidde Burgmans
Written by
Hidde Burgmans
24 jul 2017 . 12 mins read
Share this article