Full Stack Service Design is a model to help people break services down into their parts that make them and understand how all of these parts impact the user experience

Full Stack Service Design

Services are made up of thousands of tiny, often accidental design decisions.

These design decisions are often unconsciously made, in isolation from one another, and without an understanding of the impact they will have on our services or the experience our users will have of that service.

From policy development to metrics & measurements, organisational structures to technical architecture, all of these components — and the decisions we make about them on a daily basis — have an impact on the services we deliver and our ability to meet user needs.

Yet the vast majority of the tools we use…

Full Stack Service Design is a model I’ve used for years to help me navigate and understand how to diagnose services that fail, support organisations to meet user needs and outcomes and design new offerings that can be realistically delivered.

It is a model that helps people break services down into the parts that make them and understand how all of these parts impact the user experience.

I’m sharing the model online in the hope it will be of use to people running services, organisational leadership making decisions that affect user experiences and designers who need to learn how to…

Culture Layer
Culture Layer

Culture envelopes all the components of a service because it shapes how we make decisions and act. From the autonomy staff have to how authority works, our culture shapes how we design.

‘Culture’ encompasses how we think, speak, act, our beliefs, our moral compass, how we talk, what we wear, how we interact, which all affect how we make decisions. The intent we put out into the world is shaped by this and the existing cultural conditions around us.

Our ‘culture’ as an organisation is expressed through our attitudes and beliefs, how we make decisions, how we express our thoughts, and what we show up to expressly care for.

The culture of an organisation can be both organic and intentionally fostered. An organic culture is often created by like minded people gravitating towards one another based on perceived shared values and interest. These might be shaped by similar backgrounds, shared experiences and commitment to the shared mission.

Organisations can make efforts to intentionally design or foster a culture. These efforts include writing down principles, manifestos documents, company merchandise, leadership…

Intent Layer
Intent Layer

The intent of an organisation is the thing that it wants to achieve. This could be to ‘reduce road deaths’, ‘be the best beverage company in the South West’ or ‘make it easy for people to get the groceries they need conveniently for less money’.

Whatever this thing is, it is often more detailed than just simply ‘making money’ (if a commercial service) or ‘looking after or supporting people’ (if a public service).

An organisation’s intent is the thing that defines what services it provides and why it operates. This intent is often documented in a ‘mission’ or ‘purpose’, and, if that intent is fully supported within that organisation, will be encoded in every layer that this organisation uses to think — from its policies and business models right down to it’s values and ethics.

When we’re changing a service it’s important that we consider each of these ‘thinking layers’ and the effect they will have on how that organisation behaves and what it does.

Organisation layer
Organisation layer

Services are shaped by the organisations that create them.

Just like how a product is shaped by the machine that produces it, the way we construct our organisations or collaborative arrangements to design, deliver and maintain services affects the user experience. Our mental models of how organisations or organising should work often create constructs that our services inherit, making users do the hard work to navigate the bureaucracy of organisational designs.

Infrastructure layer
Infrastructure layer

Services are built on infrastructure that enables them to run. Sometimes this infrastructure is visible to users, but most of the time it’s behind the scenes powering the service to help users, both staff and members of the public, do what they need to do.

Services Layer
Services Layer

A service is something that helps someone do something they need to do — be that to pay tax, book a holiday or buy a house. Services are designed (intentionally or otherwise) to deliver an intended outcome as defined by the organisation providing it.

When someone is using a service, we might refer to them as ‘a user’, and the experience they have as the ‘user experience’. We might replace ‘users’ with other more specific words like ‘patients’ ‘visitors’ or ‘residents’ that reflect the relationship that our user has to our particular service.

When we talk about someone using a service, we can also mean people who are delivering that service, because that person often needs to use parts of your service, even if they are doing so to provide a service to someone else

Services are made of the things that our users see and experience themselves — their user experience and the things they don’t see — the business processes that we use to run those services.

Full Stack Service Design is a model to help people break services down into the parts that make them and understand how all of these parts impact the user experience. There are 5 layers that make up services;

The service: User experience and Business Processes

Infrastructure: Systems and technology and data

Organisation: Governance, Finance, Procurement, Org Structure, Skills and Roles, Measurement, Incentives, Authority

Intent: Business Models, Policy, Measurement and Incentives, Mission, value and ethics


Why protecting people from online harm needs to be informed by user-centred design

an illustration of a woman looking at a laptop with an alert sign on it
an illustration of a woman looking at a laptop with an alert sign on it

After a year when many people’s lives were lived online more than ever before, and with that trend only set to continue, the issue of online safety has never been more important.

This is an introduction to the issues surrounding Safety Tech and how user-centred design is crucial in helping this growing sector to safeguard people online.

In 2020, OFCOM reported that 22 million adults using the internet have personally experienced online content or conduct that is potentially harmful.

What is ‘Safety Tech’?

Perhaps you’re more used to hearing about ‘cybersecurity’, which is focused on protecting data. Whereas ‘cyber safety’ — or what’s increasingly being referred to as Safety Tech — is focused on protecting people.

Put simply, the Safety Tech industry produces products and services designed to block harmful content and prevent online harassment, abuse…

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact to date around the world. As part of my daily work in supporting organisations to deliver good services and trustee positions I hold, I’ve had to oversee contingency planning for care services moving to remote delivery in less than 2 days, charities figuring out how to deliver in home services to young people online who don’t have digital access and hear from my team at Snook about the challenging situation our clients are finding themselves in to keep people safe with staff sickness up by a third.

Conversely, through these challenging times, it’s also…

Sarah Drummond

Founder @wearesnook @dearestscotland @cycle_hack @mypolice | Service Designer + Boss | GOOD Magazine’s Top 100 influencers 2016|Google Democracy Fellowship 2011

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