A Handy Experience Design Framework

Back in college, I was taught “The 5 P’s of Service Design”1 by my professor, Dianna Miller, as a useful method for considering the ways in which an experience can be understood, designed, or modified. Since then, I’ve often thought of these “P’s” as the levers and dials that can be pulled or adjusted to produce and fine-tune the desired experience.

Over the years, I’ve discovered additional nuances to the design of experiences and built upon my scholastic teachings. As a result, I’ve added three more P’s to the five I was initially taught, and I view these P’s not as static, but as aspects of an experience that evolve over time. To easily and consistently represent time, I have adopted a second method: “The 5 E’s of a Journey.”2

The 8 P’s of Service Design

The original 5 P’s:

  1. People – This includes the variability of the service recipient, interactions with service providers (including scripts), and any interactions one may have with other people in the space
    Examples: The host, the server, overhearing or talking to other customers in a restaurant
  2. Props – Sometimes called “artifacts” – Props are the tangible objects or digital interactions that someone engages with.
    Examples: The menu, cutlery, staff uniforms, the receipt
  3. Places – The physical spaces or the virtual environments through which the service is delivered
    Examples: the architecture, layout, signage, lighting, sounds, smells
  4. Processes – The workflows, rituals, and performances that are used to produce the service 
    Examples: Do customers pay before or after they receive their food? Do people wait in line to be seated, or do they take a number? Is there a waiter, or is it a self-serve buffet?
  5. Partnerships – Other businesses or entities that help to produce or enhance the service
    Examples: A restaurant’s food suppliers, the point-of-sale systems, cleaning services, valet parking

I learned about Marketing Mixes, and adopted two more P’s into my mental model, while working alongside a marketing firm:

  1. Price – The costs or investments required to receive the service. This affects experiences because a higher price is usually correlated with higher expectations around quality.3
    Example: The expectations one has from a $9 meal is different from what one would expect from a $90 meal in a restaurant
  2. Positioning4 – This encompasses a brand’s higher-level values, what they stand for, and to some degree what people who engage with the brand can expect.
    Examples: A restaurant may commit to only serving food that is plant-based, sustainable, non-GMO, or locally sourced. Another may proclaim “100% satisfaction or your meal is free!”

Most recently, while working as a government consultant, I found that designed solutions kept running into the eighth and final P:

  1. Policies – The rules, constraints, and reward systems either created internally or imposed from external sources that providers and recipients must obey.5
    Examples: A restaurant may have to stop serving alcohol or close by a certain hour to meet local laws, they may allow smoking on their outdoor patio, or they may automatically add a gratuity to larger parties

Note: In case you haven’t noticed already, the “8 P’s” are not mutually exclusive. For example, the furniture in a restaurant may be considered both a “prop” and part of the “place.”

While moments in time may be preserved in memory, time and experiences continue to march on. For any designed experience, it is essential to consider how aspects of it will flow and evolve over time.

The 5 E’s of a Journey

While every experience’s journey is unique, the following five phases are common enough to warrant recognition.

  1. Entice – How someone becomes aware of and learns about an experience or offering
    Examples: advertising, word-of-mouth recommendations, a “call to action”
  2. Enter – How someone initiates their engagement
    Examples: signing up, preparations, arrival, on-boarding
  3. Engage – The core value-proposition of an experience
    Examples: consuming, being entertained, value exchanges
  4. Exit – How the engagement ends6
    Examples: paying, packing, saying goodbye, leaving
  5. Extend – What occurs or lasts after the engagement is over.
    Examples: collecting feedback, follow-ups, invitations to re-engage, mementos

A Canvas for Understanding or Designing Experiences

Plotting these two methods against each other creates a useful and simple framework for mapping out existing experiences to find opportunity areas, or to help designers imagine and communicate new experiences.

Download a printable (PDF) version by clicking here, or on the image above

Note: While every box on this canvas should be considered, a great experience is NOT contingent on every box being filled.

  1. Which I learned later is a riff off of both the Information Technology Infrastructure Library’s (ITIL) Four Dimension Model and the traditional Marketing Mix

  2. “Often credited to Doblin Group

  3. and if you’re anything like me, you derive a lot of enjoyment from buying something that feels like a “great deal.” For instance, I HIGHLY recommend the $4 falafel sandwich from Oasis Falafel in Williamsburg, NYC

  4. Sometimes I call this one “Philosophies” instead

  5. While some policies cannot be adjusted easily, almost nothing is permanently set in stone. Services like Uber and AirBnB have spent a lot of time and money to influence public opinion and laws that were constraining their business models.

  6. Critically important when considering the “Peak-End Rule

2 thoughts on “A Handy Experience Design Framework

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  1. Do you have an example (could be totally fictional) of a filled-out version where existing experiences are entered and opportunities are indicated? I like the two axes, but am not sure what “things” go in the cells.

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