Product Design vs Service Design

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People get confused about product and service design. With companies finding it harder to differentiate their physical products, they look for service differentiation by its on-time delivery, better and faster response to inquiries or the quicker resolution of complaints to create a memorable customer experience.

As competition intensifies, the design offers a potent way to differentiate and position a company’s products and services. Design is the totality of features that affect the way a product looks, feels, and functions to a consumer. It offers functional and aesthetic benefits and appeals to both our rational and emotional sides.

Product design
Service Design

What are Products & Services?

Many people think a product is only tangible that is, it is visible and can be touched but a product can be intangible as well. A product is anything which is introduced in a market to satisfy a want or need, including physical goods, services, experiences, events, persons, places, properties, information and ideas.

A service is any act or performance one party offers to another that is essentially intangible and does not end in the ownership of anything. Distinctive characteristics of Services are:

  • Inseparable – Services are typically produced and consumed simultaneously; whereas physical products are manufactured, inventoried, distributed and later consumed.
  • Variability – Services are highly variable and the quality of services depends on who provides them, when, where, and to whom.
  • Perishability – Services cannot be stored for later sale or use and this can be a problem when demand fluctuates.
  • Intangibility – unlike physical products services cannot be seen, tasted, felt, heard or smelled before they are bought.

One thing to remember is that products and services are closely aligned. The service component can be a minor or a major part of the offering. We distinguish five categories of offerings:

  1. A pure tangible good such as soap, toothpaste, or fruits & vegetables with no accompanying services.
  2. A tangible good with accompanying services, like a car or air conditioner, with a warranty or specialized customer service contact.
  3. A Hybrid offering, like a restaurant meal or getting a haircut, of equal parts goods and services.
  4. A major service with accompanying minor goods like air travel with supporting goods such as snacks and drinks.
  5. A pure service, primarily an intangible service, such as babysitting or massage.

As you can imagine, the differences in these definitions mean that there are also contrasts in the processes of designing products and of designing services.

What is Product Design?

As Smashing Magazine stated, “Product design is the process of identifying a market opportunity, clearly defining the problem, developing a proper solution for that problem and validating the solution with real users.”

As such, design thinking is a brilliant foundation for the product design process since it is so focused on finding actionable and practical solutions to the problems of users. It helps designers to outline exactly what they’re trying to achieve in terms of their users’ needs, thereby creating something with a much greater chance of success. More than simply the look and feel of a product is considered! 

Service Design

What is Service Design? 

Let’s hear from the masters themselves, shall we?

According to the Service Design Network, is “The activity of planning and organising people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service to improve its quality and the interaction between the service provider and customers. The purpose of service design methodologies is to design according to the needs of customers or participants so that the service is user-friendly, competitive and relevant to the customers.”

Every service is different so there is no set procedure, however, we follow some basic steps like :

  • Talking to the stakeholders to deeply understand their ideas on what an ideal experience would be like.
  • Based on these findings we work on a variety of ideas that we believe will improve the service.
  • Service prototypes; mock-ups of an idea that allow someone to experience how it feels to interact directly with the new aspects of service.

When service design is done well it leads to services that are desirable, enjoyable, effective and efficient for providers and consumers.

With this in mind, it’s true to say that services are more people-centred than products.

Want to learn about the service or product design?

Posted in UX
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