#UX101: A few words on Content Strategy and Service Design

User experience design is a pretty broad discipline, with many different areas of focus you can align your career to. There’s information architecture, user research, usability testing, requirements modeling, wireframing, prototyping… each with a different focus, approach and outcome.

I personally don’t like to specialize on one particular area. I like variety, and I also think that specialization can lead to lost opportunities and less chances for learning and advancement. However there are two UX specialties that are increasingly in demand, with lots of opportunities for professional growth.

These two disciplines, service design and content strategy, are considered by some as an extension or separate from UX altogether. I disagree, but I can also see the demand for these services resulting in them becoming as “big” as UX is now.

Because of this potential, focusing your attention on either one is a good idea, so it’s worth spending some time discussing them here.

Service Design

When we engage with a company, we want the experience to be a positive one. We don’t want to have to jump through hoops to get what we want/need/desire, and (most of us) want’s it to be equitable for both parties. How does an organization make sure this happens every time they interact with their customers? They spend time, effort and energy planning out the best way to service their customers… a process called service design.

The service design discipline is about organizing people, processes, and technology to make sure the interaction between a company and its customers are as efficient and “positive” as possible. It is more than process design, in that it takes a user-centric look at everyone involved in the equation – the customers and the employees who are engaging them.

Service designers plot out interactions in “service blueprints” – maps that track all the moving parts in a way that gives you a “big picture” view of how complex even simple interactions are. What infrastructure needs to exist to support the employee? What information does he/she need to access? What information does the customer bring or need? How many “touchpoints” does the employee have with his colleagues? What training or skills does the employee need to help the customer? Etc.

Service design has been around for years, in various forms – McDonalds and many other fast food restaurants looked at service design long before the term or discipline was formalized in the early 1980s. It has become an area of focus for many companies as well as many governments, who are doing service design to improve the way citizens engage with government works.

In a way, service design is user experience design writ large… it’s about defining and optimizing all experiences a company provides, not just one app or website. It also requires a deep skill set and a lot of experience in multiple disciplines. But if you’re like me, and have a lot of interest and/or experience doing different things, it may be a good fit.

Content Strategy

What content do you need to create for your website, application or marketing materials? How do you write this content to make sure it makes sense to users, supports their needs, and gives them the information you want them to have? All this and more is covered in the domain of content strategy.

Content strategy is a key focus when it comes to providing users the best experience possible. If you have a great product but lousy “copy” that defines and supports it, you impact the potential success of that product.

It’s not just about writing, it’s about setting standards and planning out when and what type of content is produced. It aligns with information architecture, interaction design, and more. Good content means a good experience, and a focus on content strategy would be a good career for aspiring writers out there.

Closing

The great thing about the user experience domain is that it contains multitudes, different areas that you can focus on. Because of this variety, you can engage and add value based on your specific interests and talents. And whether it’s service design, content strategy or another sub (or related) discipline, they all have one thing in common: creating good experiences for people that makes their lives better.

Next: Notes on project management and SDLC