Article

 

Designing modern digital services

 

Insights from a seasoned design veteran

 

Designing modern digital services requires industry knowledge, practical experience, and a experimental-oriented mindset. As the digital landscape evolves, designers must focus on reliability and creating experiences that meet both business objectives and customer needs. This article explores essential aspects of digital service design to ensure quality outcomes that align with the vision.

 
Designing modern digital services – Insights from a seasoned design veteran
 

Introduction

 

Designing any kind of digital service greatly benefits from the designer having industry knowledge and practical experience related to the topic at hand. However, having no domain knowledge can also be beneficial because it brings fresh perspectives to the team. Sometimes, naive questions from a new enthusiastic team member can lead to valuable insights. In most cases, it's beneficial to have a experimental-oriented mindset, where different approaches are considered and solutions are boldly tested to prevent the project from going off the rails.

 

As Can Kilicbay, a digital service designer, once aptly said:

 

“Don’t strive for perfection, strive for solutions.”

 

I dare to claim that in today’s constantly changing and increasingly complex world, there is no such thing as a 'perfect' solution. There are only solutions that fit the situation and time, and new solutions may later emerge to better suit current circumstances. Therefore, making progress is always a better option than striving for perfection. I mention this because I have observed that sometimes companies or designers have a strong desire to reinvent the wheel. In other words, things are done entirely differently than in mainstream digital services. The unfortunate fact is that people spend most of their time with other services, such as social media platforms and streaming services. Therefore, solutions must follow generally accepted best practices and prevailing trends.

 

It is neither reasonable – nor necessary – to reinvent the wheel, as Anthony J. D'Angelo put it:

 

“Don't reinvent the wheel, just realign it.”

 

Collaboration Model

 

As mentioned before, having industry knowledge and experience in designing digital services is highly beneficial. In consulting, this can be challenging because consultants work with a variety of industries. Achieving the desired outcome in any domain requires smooth collaboration with the client's contact person. The client knows best their industry, business, and has connections to individuals with relevant expertise. This ensures that the implemented solutions meet both business objectives and customer needs. It establishes a foundation for sustainable collaboration and product development that serves both the business and the customer. I believe in open and close collaboration between the client – or in an in-house project, the orderer – and the designer to ensure a high-quality outcome.

 

American sports legend and businessman Michael Jordan eloquently described the importance of collaboration:

 

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

 

Modern Challenges

 

The challenge in designing today's digital services lies in accommodating a diverse customer base and often extensive stakeholder groups. By diverse customer base, I mean that the user of a digital service can be both a technically skilled 18-year-old and an 80-year-old with poor eyesight. For example, using a touchscreen is usually very natural for young people, but older individuals may not be accustomed to it. Additionally, elderly people might face issues with everyday things like dry fingertips, which can make it difficult to use a touchscreen.

 
An example customer persona of an elderly person to build empathy among the people working on the project.
 

An example customer persona of an elderly person to build empathy among the people working on the project.

 

Since modern digital services are often designed for everyone, the mapping of stakeholders and service ecosystems are extremely important steps. This helps to understand the overall picture and identify who the service is being designed for and what their needs are. There's often talk about universal design or inclusive design, where accessibility, usability, and barrier-free design are the most important drivers of design and product development. This is because the potential users of the service include virtually everyone. As I mentioned earlier, the challenge is to create a service that serves everyone while providing a pleasant and personalized experience for the individual user. This is easier said than done.

 
Examples of ways to gain insights from various points of view to help develop an understanding of the most meaningful needs of the customer.
 

Examples of ways to gain insights from various points of view to help develop an understanding of the most meaningful needs of the customer.

 

In modern digital services – especially in FinTech and HealthTech – data security and the sense of safety are particularly important. Most people understand what data security is, but by the sense of safety, I mean that the user develops trust in the service. In such sensitive services, users absolutely do not want to encounter IT problems, such as programming errors, connection issues, or timeouts. In other words, things must work as reliably and smoothly as possible.

 

Summary

 

During and after the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for digital services – especially in the healthcare sector – has increased exponentially. Modern digital services are often complex and may contain sensitive user data. As the world becomes increasingly digitalized, we designers have a lot of work to do. Most people care more about the reliability of digital services and getting things done than about how cool they look. Let's leave our egos aside and focus on creating meaningful and seamless experiences that reflect customers' real needs, are accessible and easy to use. This is one way to create a better world for everyone. ▪

 

Author

 

Perttu Talasniemi has over 15 years of experience in designing, implementing and productizing digital services across multiple industries.

 

Published on June 19, 2024