Priorities for 2021 to help the Digital Directorate make government services better

March 24, 2021 by 1 Comment | Category Scottish Approach to Service Design, Service design

Blog by Serena Nusing and Sam Ernstzen, User Centred Design team, Digital Transformation Division.

The job of a service designer in Digital is to advocate for the Scottish Approach to Service Design and to support the development of user-centred, accessible and effective services. In this blog Serena Nusing, senior service designer, and Sam Ernstzen, service design lead, share four things they will be working on next financial year that will help Digital Directorate to deliver more accessible, and user-centred services.

1) Helping our digital programmes to think about our services as a whole

As service designers we aim to design ‘whole services’ considering all the different touchpoints, products and components that build up a service. We look at services from end-to-end, front-to back, and across every channel from a customer point of view as well as from the organisation point of view. The job of our service team is to navigate the customer through our service, consciously designing every moment to provide a consistent experience and meeting, managing and maybe even exceeding expectations along the way. We aim to minimise what can be left to chance so that customers can realise the benefits the service provides and feels supported throughout their experience. In order to do this we need to understand where our service intersects with other parts of the organisation. While we talk a lot about a service ‘serving’ the customer, it is equally important to consider how the service will serve the business too.

With all of these considerations that are inputs to a customer experience, that‘s why we look at a service as a whole and collaborate on the service journey across programmes and departments to make sure it delivers what the customer and the organisation needs.

You can learn more about what service design is on resources.

2) Changing the way, we talk about our services

When dealing with users, the language sends an important message about the service we provide. To design and deliver user-centred services, we need to define what a service is and how best communicate it to our users.
A service starts with being easy to find, and a user must be able to understand what the service will do for them and how it works. Services are not organised in the same way that we organise ourselves internally, services don’t have work streams or strategies or programmes – these are the things that create the service. People experience the service through the touchpoints we create for them to interact with such as web content, conversations with the service team, forms they need to fill in. The language we use is therefore a critical part of the user experience that can turn into a problem and frustration if not considered.

Language not only needs to be easy but consistent in order to keep the customer orientated and confident they are doing the right thing. The customer does not speak our service language. The nature of our service language can be quite technical and bureaucratic which the customer won’t understand – how we make this specific and useful so customers can interact with us confidently is part of creating a useful service.

Lack of consideration about language can result in extra pressure on the service to solve these through extra queries being generated and poor satisfaction that the customer has chosen the right service.

To address this we run workshop sessions across programmes looking at how we talk about our services to our customers. This does not only help the customer to better understand our services, it also helps ourselves to become clearer about what we’re doing.

3) Identifying and developing common service patterns

The Digital Directorate offers a number of different services to public sector organisations such as cloud services, publishing services or payment services. Although these services might be quite different in terms of their offerings and context, they are built up from similar service components like requesting something, getting help or paying for something. Service patterns help to design services that provide a consistent and familiar user experience, making things quicker, easier and more accessible for users. This benefits the organisation as we consciously design the service to ensure the service is deliverable.

It‘s not about designing a service pattern and then simply duplicate it for a different service, but it‘s a starting point for a design team to work from and can help shaping decisions. Working across programmes allows us to identify common service patterns and to collaborate on them. You could think of it like a food recipe that you can swap out and tailor to different needs e.g. catering for dietary requirements, meal for two or a show- stopping dinner party.

4) Developing service design awareness material

Within Scottish Government we‘ve recognised a great interest of people to learn more about what service design is, when and how to involve a service designer and what the benefits are. In one of our last blogs we talked about common service design myths. To raise more awareness of service design we want to develop material tailored to specific Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) roles. Last year we ran a number of different co-design workshops with people to explore their current understanding and involvement with service design and to identify gaps as well as opportunities. At Services Week 2021 we presented our insights from these workshops and gathered feedback. Over the next months we now want to start co-creating the material and testing it with the people.

Next time you are working on a service consider how these points could help you improve your approach and delivery.

Service design is a relatively new discipline in Scottish Government situated in the Digital Transformation division, however its remit is far wider than digital. If you would like to find out more about service design and how it can help you please contact – or

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  • sam says:

    Thanks for sharing this useful information. Really very useful tips and Very interesting details provided here.

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