Methods to keep users at the heart of service design lifecycle

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

It is well-established that services should be designed to fulfil the users’ requirements. There is an undeniable connection between design, usability and human error. Thus, public organizations are expected to deliver the services through compliance with standards (Cooper, Reimann, and Cronin, 2007). The main point here is to apply user-centred design (UCD), also known as human factors or usability engineering, throughout the development process. While designing for patient safety is important, satisfying user requirements should be based on many issues such as comfort, ease of use, training, storage and labelling (O’Brien, H. and Lebow, 2013).

Customer’s need identification method

Extensive user research aims to establish whether there is a need for a new service and identify how that service can make a positive contribution. For instance, how will the delivery of a new service increase safety, reduce costs, or improve customer’s satisfaction? Customers should be encouraged to talk freely about the services that make their life difficult, unpleasant or unsafe. If some data is already known about this, then a more thorough research study is required (Cooper, Reimann, and Cronin, 2007). Although service designing for safety is critically important, satisfying customers’ requirements should be based on the aspects of comfort, ease of use, training, storage and labelling.

Customers should include not only the target audience who will use the service regularly, but also others who may use it occasionally or help others to use it. For every service, there may be numerous user groups, all addressing potential variations in terms of age, educational background, socio-economic status, and physical characteristics (O’Brien, H. and Lebow, 2013).

Effective evaluation method

A primary principle of user-centred service design is that it should be iterative and involve a range of cycles of assessment and modification. Service design evaluation should involve not only safety and usability, but also such aspects as functionality, clinical efficacy and cost viability. It may be challenging to delay user testing when a fully functional prototype is available. At the same time, there can be some challenges such as re-certification, which leads to increased costs (Carroll, 2000).

The customer evaluation method should be processed alongside functional evaluations so that the final review can be conducted at the same time. It is significant to set the outcome goals at the outset so that the evaluation can be objective (O’Brien, H. and Lebow, 2013). As with all the development stages, there cannot be complete agreement between customers as to whether all the requirements have been fulfilled. It is crucial to recognise that what users think is not necessarily what is safe.

Research method

The selection of research methods to be used at each stage of development will depend on various issues. Also, the final choice will depend on the organisation’s interest in the views of customers or the views of a group of people. To be honest, individuals may find it difficult to give conflicting feedback or talk about personal or sensitive issues in a group situation (O’Brien, H. and Lebow, 2013). A primary principle of user-centered design is that it should be iterative and based on different cycles of evaluation and re-design.

User research should not be based solely on discursive methods because they only capture data that customers want to articulate at that specific moment (O’Brien, H. and Lebow, 2013). Let’s be honest people do not always act in the way that they say they do. While public organizations consider complementing this type of research with observations, it makes it possible for them to investigate user’s behaviour. Ideally, different information should be collected through different sources of information in order to receive an objective opinion about the service.

Method of challenging your assumptions

A significant purpose of customer research is to challenge your assumptions. When closely involved with a study, it is necessary to develop a belief that there is a clear market for a new service and that it will make an organization more attractive. This can result in an “ugly baby syndrome” when service providers do not want to know negative opinions about their service. This is absolutely normal. Meanwhile, well-established cognitive biases mean that public organizations are all predisposed to listen more to data that confirms their beliefs and place less significance upon data that contradicts them (Cooper, Reimann, and Cronin, 2007). Taking an objective method to user research is the first step towards ensuring that the new service is totally safe and fulfils the requirements of customers.


Cooper, A., Reimann, R. and Cronin, D. (2007) ‘About face 3: The essentials of interaction design.’ Indianapolis: Wiley.

O’Brien, H. and Lebow, M. (2013) ‘A mixed methods approach to measuring user experience in online news interactions.’ Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 64(8), pp.1543-1556.

Carroll, J.M. (2000) ‘Five Reasons for Scenario-Based Design,’ Interacting with Computers, 13 (1), pp.43-60.

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