Giuseppe Attoma, CEO

The main component of any service: the user

The user is the central element in the service system model.

Contrary to the industrial approach, which separates production and distribution, in a service model production and consumption are very often simultaneous. In other words, the service is produced at the same moment of its consumption: it cannot be stocked. Without the presence of the user, the service simply doesn’t “exist”.

Nevertheless services are often designed without taking into consideration their users. As revealed by a recent international study on innovation published by Nielsen, the majority of new products and services are withdrew from the market within the first three years following their launch; and, among those that aren’t withdrawn, more then two thirds are doomed to failure.

The pertinence of a new product or service, in terms of consistency with users’ real needs (and not only perceived ones), together with its usability, are unquestionably among the key factors of its success. Especially today, when consumers often don’t demand to own objects at all costs anymore, but to dispose of a “time of consumption” of a good or a service.

It is for this reason that our starting point in the definition, conception and development of a service is always the user, true soul of the whole service.

  Every breakthrough product needs an audience, Nielsen, 2013

“…our starting point in the definition, conception and development of a service is always the user, true soul of the whole service.”
Giuseppe Attoma, CEO

Fragile future: inclusive design, ageing and growing service complexity

Practicing our job of service and user experience designers, we often notice that today’s objects, applications, interfaces, products and services are designed for a “model user” who is often far from being representative of a “real user”, that person who, concretely, will use those devices in real life.

This becomes especially critical nowadays if we compare this phenomenon with, on one hand, the complexity growth in the service ecosystem where we are all immersed – diversification of terminals, multiple accesses to the same service, services that are more and more complex and efficient, leverage and fragmentation of markets and uses… – and on the other hand with some societal trends as, notably, the population ageing in general, and in particular among the workforce.

What we notice is a growing misalignment between the model user (for whom today services are designed) and the real user (the person who will, as a matter of fact, use those services, based on her actual abilities and the context of use). According to us, this misalignment shapes a “new fragility“, both for the user and the systems that produce services.

Our mission is to comprehend this complexity and learn how to manage it, so to design systems, services and products that correspond to the abilities and aspirations of those users that will really, concretely use them.

“…we notice a growing misalignment between the model user (for whom today services are designed) and the real user…”
Giuseppe Attoma, CEO

Accessibility and design for all: a cultural shift to challenge a world seen by able people

Who do we really address when designing services?
At Attoma we insist very much with our clients on inclusivity, a concept that we find more structuring and universal than accessibility.

The goal of inclusive design (see definition on ) is to make objects and services that suit the needs of as many people as possible. It is an important design issue, but most of all it is an ethical and cultural stance.

A paradigm of “non-disabled world” dominates the service society in different sectors. Even if the progress in taking handicap into account is undeniable, the issue of inclusivity is not completely understood yet. By way of example, in France, the act on accessibility to public transport, enacted in 2005 and then reviewed in 2014, requires compliance of public transport networks and systems with certain standards by 2015. But the requirements are very specific and often disregard the real context of application. At bus stops, for example, the compliance to information standards would result in bus shelters being entirely covered with timetables and route maps.

Inclusivity usually tends to improve services for the overall population: a mobility system that is perfectly usable for a person who wears presbyopic eyeglasses and carries a suitcase, or a stroller, will be necessarily easier to use for everybody. But this is not always the case. For instance, when Attoma helped RATP (Autonomous Operator of Parisian Transports) design the interfaces of their touch-screen terminals for the launch of the Navigo pass (a contactless smart card that enables authenticated access for passengers), it appeared impossible, at the time, to integrate in the same, only interface the accessibility constraints associated with visual impairments. By trying to make the interface accessible for everybody, we reached solutions that for most people were very complicated. It was thus more pertinent to offer visually impaired people the chance to enable a functionality, which allowed them to buy tickets thanks to an interface, designed especially to to be navigated through voice guidance. This choice, far from being discriminatory, allowed to guarantee a greater efficiency of the service for the overall target audience, in the framework of accessible technologies and in the context of the project.

Attoma’s goal is thus to foster the utmost inclusivity of services, while avoiding all dogmatic viewpoints: design devices that are accessible for the majority, but, when needed, employ complementary devices as well.

“A paradigm of non-disabled world dominates the service society in different sectors.”