UX Research and Service Design are both essential elements of the design process. In many ways, they are closely connected, especially regarding personnel, expertise, and resources. However, there are also a few key differences that separate UX research from service design.

These differences and similarities are worth exploring, especially for those interested in UX design and process development. So, let’s take a closer look

The Differences between UX Research and Service Design

1.    Focus and Scale

UX research is very targeted and is often focused on providing granular insights. These pointed insights are then used to improve a specific experience or enhance a specific set of interactions. Service design is slightly more large-scale and is not as focused on the minute design details.

Focus and scale can change from one organization to the next, but in general, UX research is more focused and smaller in scale than the general and large-scale purpose of service design.

2.    Research Goal

The research goals of UX research and service design are often different. Service designers usually focus on researching larger, more significant and have a broader range of factors to consider. Whereas UX researchers often need to apply a higher level of specificity in their research and look to solve more granular issues.

3.    Craft

UX researchers and service designers leverage their crafts in different ways. In general, service designers take what they’ve learned during their research and use that information to sketch and prototype early concepts.

On the other hand, UX researchers are more focused on crafting ways to share insights across the organization and use their research to inform cross-departmental collaboration. UX researchers might use reports, scripts, and newsletters to communicate their senses to include the valuable details they’ve discovered during the investigation.

The Similarities between UX Research and Service Design

1.    Mission

Ultimately, the mission of a UX researcher and service designer is the same: to create an excellent experience for users. In this sense, there is a great degree of overlap between the two departments. Both UX research and service design are ambassadors for end users. They are paying attention to users’ needs, desires, and expectations and ensuring they are acted upon by the company.

Daily, both departments will interact with users to learn more about the user experience and use their feedback to inform future UX developments. A UX researcher and a service designer play a role in deciding the next move for how the organization serves its users.

2.    Methods

While not precisely the same, there are many transferable methods from UX research to service design. Both can leverage collaborative canvas and workspace tools like Miro or Mural to workshop ideas, understand concepts and communicate within a team. The specific tools used may differ from one organization to another; both the foundational methods of communication, delivery, and collaboration are remarkably similar.

3.    Qualitative Skills

The last fundamental similarity between UX research and service design worth mentioning is the common qualitative skills. Individuals in both departments must be good at deep reasoning, empathetic thinking, pattern recognition, and listening. Indeed, there is an overlapping foundation that means that the skills required to do the job will always be quite similar.

Service designers often transition into UX research and vice-versa because these common qualitative skills, honed over time, are equally valuable and applicable across both departments. While the level of rigor and accuracy applied by UX researchers to qualitative studies may be slightly more intense, the practical steps and skills are ultimately very similar.


Hopefully, you now know how UX research and service design interact, overlap, and dissect. While the two differ in important ways, there are a number of common skills, methods, and goals between the two. Moreover, there is a large degree of overlap between the kind of people that become researchers and designers.

In some ways, UX research is just one element of service design. As a result, both roles and departments can work well in tandem. Both methods of work enable design and research teams to find actionable insights and start working towards real solutions. The key to getting the most out of the research and design process is to pay attention to the granular details and keep the users at the center of everything.

To learn more about UX research and service design, please get in touch with our UX experts.