Service design


Engaging Foreign-Language Speakers in the  Digital Services of the City of Espoo


service design, public service, service scenario, municipality

City of Espoo
Sep. - Oct. 2021 (6 weeks)
5 design students

Project Overview

The City of Espoo was looking for new digital services to ensure the daily lives of residents of the City of Espoo run smoothly. OmaEspoo was a concept of the new web portal to serve residents better online and communicate with them comfortably at a time of their choice, but foreign-language speakers were elusive to reach out to listen to their voices.

As a part of the course named "designing for services" at Aalto University, this project was carried out collaborating with the City of Espoo. The initial brief of the project was given by : “How to support the access and use of digital services for foreign language speakers?”. With the underlying goal to “ ensure inclusivity and equality in our digital services”, while ensuring “the needs of those that need support and at the same time are hard to get to participate in designing are met.” Our team interpreted this twofold, on one hand supporting foreign language speakers to access digital services and on the other hand supporting their needs to use digital services. 

My role

User research, service blueprint, drawing, illustration, APP UX/UI design

Opportunity Identification


Our team conducted on-site observation and semi-structured in-context interviews at the Iso Omena Center in the City of Espoo, where the municipality offers one of its major Service Points. The observation was divided into two goals; to understand a context where residents are interacting with the service point, and to map out potential customer journeys.

Online survey

In order to understand what knowledge the targeted people have of the services by Espoo and neighbouring municipalities, an online form was published online throughout social media channels as Facebook groups and Telegram chats, targeting non-Finnish speakers who live in, or are about to move to, Espoo or nearby municipalities. The form was published on 7 different channels and reached 44 participants from 23 different countries.

Interviews with City of Espoo employees

For understanding what the main issues are for workers of their contact points when dealing with people who do not speak Finnish, Interviews were conducted with 3 employees of the City of Espoo, each one representing a different contact point of the municipality.

Interviews with foreign-Language speakers

We needed to familiarise with the main concerns that foreign-language speakers have or have had in relation to the access to and the use of online city services and how they currently navigate these issues. Fortunately, the participants from the online survey who made themselves available for further participation were involved in online and face-to-face interviews. Therefore, A total of 6 foreign-language speakers representing different situations and reasons for moving to Finland have been interviewed in individual 40-minute sessions.

" It was hard to know exactly in which order I have to do everything in order to register a permanent address and elect a municipality of residence. And therefore it was hard to obtain the bank login information to be able to use it as a mean of identification for lots of services in Finland. "
- worker, 29 from EU country

Affinity diagram

The results from the observation, online survey, and both the interviews with the foreign-language speakers and the City of Espoo employees, were schematically transcribed and visually layed-out in a shared board that all the team members had access to. This transcription included relevant citations and insights deriving from the discussions with participants.

The team members clustered the collected data both individually and collaboratively, building on top of each other’s progress and finally co-creating one affinity diagram that comprised the data collected from all the research methods and clustered it into major areas or topics of interest. The most relevant topics were then further elaborated with the formulation of insights in the form of contextualised affirmations.



Individual network and communities play a big role in creating awareness of the service for foreigners.


Being overwhelmed by the amount of steps to take and knowing why, how and when to take them.

Language barrier

Foreigners can't fully understand and this results in lack of information.

Round and round

The process of being a resident is the biggest hurdle for foreigners.

Conceptual Design

Concept ideation

Individual and consequent group brainstorming was performed and initial ideas were sketched out. After collecting all of them in the shared work space, the team analysed the key values and relevant characteristics of each seed idea, identifying three macro areas of potential intervention.

  • Tackling foreign-language speakers’ need of being guided through the complexity and intertwining of the (not only) online services that are part of their everyday;
  • Acknowledging the relevance of local communities of residents as key supporting actors for the foreign-language speakers, recognising their capabilities and potential to take an active role and make an impact.
  • Tackling the need for an unequivocal and understandable communication line that spaces across the different services and connects the stakeholders, representing the City of Espoo and ensuring the recognisability of Espoo as a service provider.

Value Proposition

Service blueprint

Our team selected the main concepts; OmaEspoo guide system including Digital guide and Buddy guide by negotiating with the manager of Espoo. Combining the most pertinent ideas that emerged from the team brainstorming, a service blueprint was developed. The blueprint analyses the actions that the users take when interacting with the OmaEspoo Guide system, and is divided between the Digital Guide on the upper side and the Buddy Guide on the lower side. It is developed so that there is also a distinction between frontstage and backstage activities, as well as a line regarding support processes

Key concept


Providing a clear system that is easy to use for non Finnish speakers


Creating awareness by offering all the relevant information about the services, the purpose of use and the purpose of the tasks related to using them


Fostering independence in foreign users by providing them with all the knowledge and know-how that they need

OmaEspoo Guide: Digital and Buddy Guide

OmaEspoo Guide is a platform offered by the City of Espoo to its current and future citizens to guide them through the use of city services. It consists of two parts: a digital guide and a buddy system.
In the end, the concept animation video was produced as a storyboard.