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Web Design vs Service Design

Warning signs that indicate that your next web project could be a wasted investment


Dear reader!

Web projects are expensive and time-consuming and since they require huge investments, then they usually create huge expectations. Unfortunately, in our line of work, we have seen that web projects can fail badly due to reasons that are not even connected to the IT solution that is being created. Instead, those reasons may often lie in the service or within the company’s internal processes. This means that sometimes, it may be reasonable to take a step back and to first focus on analysing and improving the service. Service design provides the perfect tools for this.

Service design enables analysing the service thoroughly and through that, transforming it into something more valuable, user-centred, and efficient. Service design can be conducted within any company quite easily with “simple home tools”, meaning that you do not always need to plan a big budget for it or hire a design agency.

But how do we know when to bet on service design instead of investing in a new IT solution?

In this digital guide, we have written down the most common warning signs that indicate that a planned web project might not bring about the desired results.

This guide is mainly aimed towards specialists who are responsible for ordering web updated for the company – e.g. business managers, development managers, service managers, and product owners.

We hope you enjoy reading it!
Trinidad Wiseman’s team

What is service design

Service design is a process for creating new services or further developing current services, which is focused on mapping out and improving a company’s internal processes. Its goal is to make the contact point between the user and the service provider:

  • As useful, user-friendly, and desirable as possible for the client
  • As efficient and different from that of competitors as possible for the service provider

Service design looks at how an organisation provides their service to create more value for both the client as well as the service provider.

The main principle of service design:

  • Based on research
  • Iterative
  • Person-centred
  • Inclusionary

The benefits or service design for companies

  • Increases customer satisfaction and improves customer service
  • Increases employee satisfaction
  • Decreases inefficiency and enables process optimisation
  • Increases customer loyalty
  • Helps to send clear messages to the clients
  • Helps to decrease labour costs
  • Helps to find new business models and to innovate

Service design vs web design (UX/UI)

Although both disciplines value a user-centric approach and creating a pleasant experience for the end user, these two design methods are quite different in their approach.

Service design is focused on improving the service as a whole and increasing its value proposition, and concerns, among other things, physical touchpoints, employee experiences, and digital products. The term web design within the context of this guide encompasses both user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design and is characterised by a focus on one digital touchpoint, such as updating a company’s homepage.

Service design vs web design blueprint
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How positive or negative a client’s experience with one service is depends on what their experience with that service has been at various touchpoints. Touchpoints are moments when the client comes into contact with the service in one way or another. For example, for a food delivery service those touchpoints would be understanding that the client is hungry, looking for the app required to order food, deciding on what food to order, ordering it, being notified, receiving the food from the courier, but also things like calling customer service, receiving an e-mail about a campaign, or seeing the courier on the street with the logos of various companies on their outfit.

Puutepunktide joonis
Puutepunktide joonis

The biggest difference between web design and service design is that web design deals with resolving the issues connected to one specific digital touchpoint, while service design is focused on all of the touchpoints as a whole and on designing the movements between them.

Multiple levels are differentiated between in service design – the front stage, backstage, and supporting processes. The front stage involves the part of the service that the customer can see and consume, and the backstage involves all the work that makes the front stage visible and convenient for the customer. In the case of the food courier example mentioned above, a part of the service that is visible to the customer is using the app to order food and communication with the customer service representative.

However, backstage is where you can find everything that is necessary for the service to work but not directly visible to the customer, for example, the development of the app that is required for ordering the food, preparation of the food, or for organising the couriers’ work. Supporting processes are activities that further help the whole service to run as smoothly as possible, for example, internal company rules and procedures, budgets, instructions etc.

Service design levels blueprint
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In a service design project, all possible touchpoints are concentrated on to ensure a successfully working service and a pleasant experience for the customer. One service includes many touchpoints and often, in addition to the service design project, separate UX/UI projects AKA web design projects for touchpoints also need to be carried out. Service design helps keep the goal of the service intact and whole by concentrating not only on the digital products, but also on ensuring the continued operation of the front stage and backstage.

Service design concentrations blueprint
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When to choose service design over web design?

While service design and user experience design methods are similar in essence, they differ in terms of content and goals. Service design concentrates on the big picture and is focused on improving the service as a whole, while web design concentrates on solving a specific problem. Based on this, you should determine the goal of your project prior to starting the project.

Do you wish to fix the whole service or business model process or is your project focused solely on updating the digital platform? Does the company know their main problem areas, such as an outdated website, or is it receiving constant negative feedback from users without knowing what the actual problem is?

In the case of bigger and socially important services, it is worth thinking about service design. For a smaller task, such as the creation of an online store, opting for web design may be enough. You should also keep in mind that one does not exclude the other and that service design and web design actually complement each other. However, it is more useful if service design precedes web design as that helps provide a clearer overview of the service as a whole and its processes before taking on specific touchpoints.

In the last chapter of this digital guide, we provide you with a practical guide where you can read in more detail about the warning signs that indicate you should seriously consider carrying out a service design project.

How to carry out a service design project?

Service design provides a variety of options for reaching a solution, dependent on the size, essence, and needs of the service. One thing is always certain however – the approach is customer-centric, which means that customers are involved in the process throughout the whole project as well. The goal of a customer-centric approach is to offer the service’s end users as positive an experience as possible.

The most popular methods which are used in both service design and UX design are interview, personas, workshops, prototyping, and usability testing. Service design additionally uses service plans, the business model canvas, and a service ecosystem map to map out processes.

Methods such as prototyping and usability testing are done slightly differently in service design projects than in web projects since service design is also focused on the offline parts of the service, in addition to the digital ones. This may include redesigning one service point, training people, or putting together instructions to redesign employee behaviour. In this digital guide, we will mainly take a closer look at the creation of digital prototypes.

Next, we will elaborate further on the methods used in service design projects and how these differ from those used in web design projects.


Interviews are an important part of both UX design and service design as they provide a good overview of the habits, needs, problem areas, and opinions of the users concerning the service or system.

  • Interview with key representatives – the goal is to clarify the business needs and expectations for the existing service and environment as well as other topics that remained unclear after familiarising yourself with the materials. This helps ensure that the new solution meets the client’s needs in addition to the users’ needs. Around 3-5 people from the client’s side generally participate in this interview.
  • Individual interviews with users – are necessary to get acquainted with the opinions of the end users AKA the customers, to clarify their goals, needs, and problems. Individual interviews are a great way of gathering valuable information by relying on the experiences of real users. These interviews will also be used as a basis for the creation of personas. The number of interviewees generally depends on the number of target groups, but as a general rule of thumb, we try to interview at least three users per user group.
  • Group interviews with users – in addition to individual interviews, it is sometimes beneficial to conduct group interviews where multiple customers are present at the same time. Group interviews allow for a lively debate between the participants and to discuss everyone’s needs and problems together. The size of the group is usually around 3-5 people.


Personas are a summary of a group of users of the same type who have the same goals. One persona usually represents a user group or human role and is based on the characteristics of actual end users, which is determined during interviews. Personas help us get a better idea of the most common user types and they help to prioritise functionalities, simplify design choices, and, if necessary, to communicate the needs of the end users to people outside the team.


There are different types of workshops and dependent on the goal of the project, the requirements for conducting them may differ. Workshops can be conducted at various stages of the process and often, many workshops are conducted during a single project as they all serve to fulfil different purposes.

  • Design thinking and service design workshop – this workshop provides participants with general knowledge of service design as well as practical tools to conduct user research. The workshop teaches how to define problems and participants are given an overview of design thinking and service design principles and their benefits for organisations.
  • Service plan mapping workshop – in this workshop, participants are first given theoretical knowledge of the service model: what it is, why it is necessary, and above all, how to do it. All of the stages on the customer journey are explored one by one in this workshop and at every stage, all the layers of how the service is provided to the customer are described, from the visible ones to the supporting processes taking place in the background.
  • Ideation and co-creation workshop – the goal is to find solutions to the problems identified during the user research phase together. Different parties, including the service provider and the customer, work together in this workshop to generate new solution ideas that will help everyone reach a common understanding of the general structure of the screen layouts or the functionalities of the service.
  • User journey mapping workshop – is necessary for determining the step-by-step journey for users when using a touchpoint in the future, and for clarifying user needs and the functionalities of the user interface.
  • Prototyping workshop – the goal is to demonstrate the service solutions that exist only on an idea level in a presentable format, e.g. paper prototype, video or a poster.

Service plan

A service plan or the service blueprint methodology is used in service design for mapping out organisational processes and creating new solutions.

A service plan is a diagram that visualises organisational processes to help optimise the user experience provided by the company and identify any weak spots within the service. A service plan determines which physical objects, employee activities, and systems that support provision of the service are necessary for the service to function properly.

A service plan includes:

  • A user journey when using the service and the actions the user must take to use the service, e.g. opening up an application, ordering food etc.
  • Touchpoints or channels through which the user comes into contact with the service. For example, a food delivery app, a courier, customer support.
  • Visible employee activities AKA clearly perceivable virtual and actual contacts between the service provider and the user. These may include communication with customer support, handing over a delivery etc.
  • Invisible employee activities are all activities that are necessary for the service to work. This includes backstage activities, such as managing a calendar schedule for all deliveries, preparing food, driving to the customer etc.
  • Supporting processes are all activities that support the provision of the service. In terms of technology, this may include analytics, saving customers’ contact details, saving order histories. In terms of human labour, this can include acquisition of appliances or first aid kits, hiring expert crafters to create the product being sold etc.
Servicedesign blueprint
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Web-based tools for creating a service plan:

  • Uxpressia logo
  • canvanizer logo
  • Miro logo

Touchpoint user journey

After defining the service and its processes, we can work on improving the necessary touchpoints. Depending on the project and service, it may be possible to concentrate on either one or multiple touchpoints, but oftentimes, separate web projects also focus on separate touchpoints. For example, a company can simultaneously use a web-based booking system, a mobile app, self-service kiosks, customer service representatives etc.

You can create a user journey for each touchpoint, since they are different from one another in terms of essence and, depending on the service, they may also fulfil different goals. By focusing on multiple touchpoints at once, we can also create a service-wider user journey.

User journeys are usually mapped out during a workshop and its goal is to determine the step-by-step journey that users take when using the service. User journeys are one foundation for creating a prototype.

Touchpoints user community touchpoints
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Touchpoint user journey

A prototype can be also be created for each touchpoint. Prototypes work as input for later development work, and they help keep both the client and the fulfilment team on the same page throughout the whole design process, thus creating a shared understanding of the processes and functionalities.

A prototype can have varying levels of detail, with the most common formats being the paper prototype, the wireframe prototype that has no design, and the fully designed interactive prototype. Dependent on the current stage of the project or its needs, each type of prototype has its benefits. A more detailed prototype is usually created as a result of a web project, while service design generally employs quicker prototyping and sketching methods.

  • Paper prototyping is mostly used during the initial phases of the project to quickly play out and validate solution ideas. This is a great and affordable way to quickly make your ideas come to life and test them.
  • A wireframe prototype is generally an interactive prototype that has no design and that may be adjusted for both desktop and mobile devices. Its goal is to visualise the user interface of the new system by providing an overview of the previously created information architecture, the layout of the page, and the functionalities without focusing on the design of the user interface. An undesigned prototype can help to better on usability issues and to keep everyone’s attention on the functionalities, the placement of the elements, and their wording, rather than the visual design. An interactive prototype allows to test previously defined user journeys with users.
  • A designed prototype is the most detailed version that is closest to the final product as it includes both the layouts and structures of the user interface as well as its visual design. It may be static or interactive. Creating a designed prototype is useful if you have an existing style guide or visual component, or if you wish to also validate the visual design with users, e.g. by asking for feedback about the colour combinations, the general feel, or the animations.
Touchpoints prototype

Usability testing

After creating your prototype, it is useful to also conduct usability testing. The purpose of this testing is to research user behaviour, to validate whether the solution meets user expectations and needs, and to identify places and actions that seem illogical to them. During the testing, users will be given tasks one at a time and the person conducting the test will be observing how the user solves the task, how they behave, and what they do to reach the goal.

If your prototype is interactive, then usability testing can be conducted quite easily. In addition to traditional methods, this also allows you to use methods such as eye tracking and neuro UX services.

In service design projects, where interactive prototypes are rarely created, you can instead do a pilot project or simulate certain situations. This makes testing the service somewhat more complicated and time-consuming.

User interface design

User interface design (UI) gives a product or service visually pleasing appearance. In general, this is done as the last step of the design process, after the prototype that was created and tested earlier on has been confirmed.

Good visual design leaves the user with a pleasant impression and experience. User interface design should not be overtly eye-catching or colourful since that may distract the user from reaching their goal. The user interface must support the user journey for using the service, not make it more complicated by providing too much visual noise.

What next?

We provided you with a description of the main design methods used in service design and web design projects, but this is not where the work ends. It is worth remembering that the service design process is not a one-time activity, but a constant effort towards improving your service. During a service design project, you can identify and map out the problem areas of your service, but usually, it is not possible to fix all the issues immediately, especially in the case of very large services. And of course, neither service design nor web design is limited to the activities described here. They also include a variety of other exciting methods that can be implemented during these projects.

A practical guide

We have put together a list of the most common warning signs found in web design projects along with their causes. Sometimes, it is worth taking a step back to take a look at your service as a whole. If you recognise any of the signs below in your own service, then you should consider service design before you delve into a new web project.

Warning signs that indicate that your next web project could be a wasted investment:


If there are other companies on the market who offer the same type of service, then you may be tempted to quickly update your company’s website for competition purposes.

However, most of the time, that is not enough. Hundreds of work hours and thousands of euros later, the result ends up being a nicer website without anything having changed about the service itself. But for the client, that is not a good enough reason to opt for your company over another.

In this case, the more efficient thing to do would be to thoroughly analyse your service and to focus on finding new business opportunities.

In other words, you should implement service design to figure out whether there are any unfulfilled customer needs you could tackle, possible new customer groups, or some other way of adding more value to your service.


If, prior to the web project, you are unable to answer the question of how the planned project is supposed to increase the value of the service or if it will even affect the service at all, then the project is probably not worth doing in its current form.

In this situation, the web project’s financial side tends to lean on the side of expenses and even the most optimistic of people will have a very difficult time of figuring out what kind of added business value is created by it.

Service design can be used to map out the customer journey and the service offering as a whole. In turn, this enables you to find possible drawbacks in the service offering.

By adding in touchpoints focused on user needs as conveniently as possible to remove those drawbacks, you will create important added value for the service.


Lacking communication and cooperation between the different parts of a company can make the customer experience at the various touchpoints of a service uneven and unclear or frustrate the client.

Oftentimes, signs of insufficient cooperation earlier on become apparent in the planning phase of a new web project.

For example, different departments are not able to agree on a goal, not everyone is as interested in it, or different departments have their “one and only favourite solution” for the problem being solved by the project.


Before getting started with your web project, you should definitely think about what you are trying to achieve with the project and how to measure the project’s success afterwards. Otherwise, you may end up not making use of various business opportunities that modern technological solutions offer, and the new website will only end up being an expense.

One sign that indicates that the goal of the project has been left unclear is, for example, if the project team is unable to define their perfect client (the correct answer is not all the clients). Another clear warning sign is the inability to state the main goal of a client’s visit to the website.

Service design helps to define the goals and the success criteria of a project by mapping the client’s communication with the company through various touchpoints. Only then will you be able to assess the quality of the customer experience.

Evaluating the quality of the customer experience enables us to create a web project that achieves the desired effect and helps resolve issues with dissatisfied clients at their point of origin.


If the client wishes to avoid the web environment being offered to them or they prefer using alternative channels to achieve their goals (e.g. calling, visiting the service), then that likely points to a situation that cannot be fixed with a new user interface or design alone.

With service design, we can figure out what the reasons are for the client not wanting to use the service (or part of it) in the intended manner or why they are completely avoiding a specific online channel.

After that, we can take into account whatever results we find and make improvements to the service and the technological solution so that they become more acceptable for the client.


Does your customer support receive a lot of questions about the service? Are clients having trouble using the service? Does it seem like the client does not understand how the service works and what they are paying for?

This could indicate that it is time to “dismantle” the whole service, figure out exactly what the client needs are, and come up with a better way of putting the service together.


Another risk factor that may cause a project to fail stems from any big changes taking place within the company – for example, entering a new market or taking new approaches aimed at the client.

In situations like this, you should first take a systemic look at the service offering and check whether the existing client touchpoints are suitable for the service. This kind of approach helps to avoid “forced decisions” that affect the service offering within the context of the web.