Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Fri, 17 Sep 2021 18:50:43 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2021, Sutherland Innovation Labs - Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. The Rise of Super Apps Wed, 08 Sep 2021 08:46:56 +0100 The Rise of Super Apps

By 2021 the term ‘Super App’ had become commonplace in China, but what can we learn from this growing trend? In this short series we try to unpick if Super Apps are a fad, or if they are the future of app design.

Image Credit: Afif Kusuma

Image Credit: Afif Kusuma

You might think of Super Apps as the Russian doll of the homescreen app; one interface with layers of different services built into a single location on your homescreen.  The original and most successful example of a Super App originates from China in the form of ‘WeChat’ which was developed by Tencent at its Guangzhou Research center, and was launched to the Chinese market in 2011 and now boasts 1 billion active daily users.  What began as an instant messaging service similar to WhatsApp, quickly grew to become an all encompassing platform for virtually any product or service.  Amongst other things the user can schedule doctors appointments, purchase insurance, check crowd density and even pay traffic fines. A large part of WeChat’s success is the integrated digital wallet ‘WeChat Pay’ – a single sign in model providing instant access to the users banking details, saving time and hassle when reentries don’t have to be made for every payment.

You might think of Super Apps as the Russian doll of the homescreen app; one interface with layers of different services built into a single location on your homescreen.

Well known brands have already begun buying into Super Apps and household names have signed up to be part of the growing market, such as Tesla, TenCent Games and global ecommerce giant JD.  WeChat hasn’t quite been able to monopolize the market as other competitors have been vying for a spot in the growing industry and other notable names include Alibaba and Alipay – both similarly to WeChat were initially created for Chinese industries, but have begun to cross borders.  These apps have quickly become ingrained into users’ lives as they appreciate the ‘one-stop shop’ that a Super App can offer them when it is user friendly, functional and friction free.

The question is – can these super apps have the same level of success in the West that they have seen in Asia?  Only time will tell but it could be said that their popularity has been in part due to the unique situation in China where the population’s first contact with the internet is via mobile phones. They are effectively a user group with no previous desktop experience.  A mobile-first market, a largely unbanked population, and the important element of government backing allowed for the Super App concept to really take off.

A mobile-first market, a largely unbanked population, and the important element of government backing allowed for the Super App concept to really take off. 

Despite the unique situation within China, there are signs that Super Apps have begun to gain traction in other parts of the world such as India, South America and Southeast Asia (see Go-Jek and Grab). Key success factors in these areas include untapped markets where there is infinite room for emerging technologies, which have little preexisting tech infrastructure, and a cultural appetite for embracing new offerings.  These fast growing countries are becoming increasingly ‘connected’ which is allowing a boom in the tech sector and Super App companies are expanding aggressively to fill the gaps, and similarly to the Chinese markets, these populations are largely unbanked.

There’s many articles online that suggest that Super Apps are unlikely to enjoy the same level of success in the West as they have seen in Asia and other developing countries.  Factors such as anti-trust regulation, cultural differences and privacy concerns are amongst some of the reasons why people believe that these apps are destined to fail.  However, it seems too easy to shrug off Super Apps as a purely emerging market phenomenon; yes, the West might be moving at a slower pace, but we are starting to move towards a reintegration of services after decades of fragmentation. Banks, for example, are just one sector that need to be aware of the space that these apps are creating.  Uber (after starting up as an app that moved people from A to B), is beginning to look towards banking and the boom of digital first banks such as Monzo support the well established idea that we are moving away from the traditional brick and mortar style of banking.

It seems too easy to shrug off Super Apps as a purely emerging market phenomenon; yes, the West might be moving at a slower pace, but we are starting to move towards a reintegration of services after decades of fragmentation

It is hard to speculate what role Super Apps might play in our complex digital world, but it’s a trend we’ll be exploring more. Watch out for our next posts where we will explore the user experience of Super Apps, as well as issues around trust and privacy for the user.

Labs Library: The Ethnography Edition Mon, 06 Sep 2021 14:56:38 +0100 Labs Library: The Ethnography Edition

Today is Read a Book Day, and as a team that loves to read, our Labs book club decided to put together a list of book recommendations to celebrate!

This edition has more of an ethnographic focus, as after all the work we do and love is focused on the study of humans and their behaviours. We hope you enjoy our top picks!

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

The Digitizing Family

By Geoffrey Hobbis

We found this book to be incredibly informative, published in 2020 this book is the first in a series that aims to address the lack of ethnographic research into the Oceanic societies and their use of technology – with this study looking specifically at mobile phones and how they have become embedded into the everyday life of rural Melanesians.  We particularly enjoyed how the moral ramifications of mobile phones usage was tackled head on, and how it is down to future anthropologists to address this.  The book does a great job of looking at the unique situation we are facing in a world where a fast-evolving technological culture is affecting the way we operate at a societal level.  We can’t wait for the next in the series!

Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous 

By Gabriella Coleman

When I asked the team for ethnographical recommendations this book came up more than once.  The author, Gabriella Coleman set out to look into an internet group known as ‘Anonymous’, a worldwide movement made up of a group of hackers, pranksters and activists.  Through her research Coleman managed to infiltrate the subculture of individuals who make up Anonymous, and what we found interesting is as the book goes on you are struck by how the characters emerge as complex, diverse, politically and culturally sophisticated people.  This book is great for those who are looking for a deeper understanding of today’s complex world of digital activism, and the various forms that it may take.

Tea and Solidarity 

by Mythri Jegathesan

This book was the 2020 winner of the coveted Diana Forsythe prize, an award presented for the best book or series published in the spirit of Diana Forsythe’s feminist anthropological research on work, science, or technology.  This book uses the critical lense of feminist ethnographic methods to look at the lives of women and families in Sri Lanka following the tea industry’s economic crisis and the twenty six year long civil war in the country.  Jegathesan does a fantastic job of using her writing to incoorprate both a historical, as well as a feminist account of the tea industry.  The result is a book that provides an all encompassing and eye opening account of the country and South East Asia as a whole, and seeks to move past the romanticization of the tea industry that is often portrayed by the media.

Automating Inequality 

by Virgina Eubanks 

This investigative style book takes a look at how the digitalization of the world has become a tool that exacerbates the gap between the rich and the poor.  Eubanks looks into the impacts that new age technological processes such as data mining, policy algorithms and predictive risk models have come to negatively affect those who are already poor in the United States – and as a result Eubanks makes the argument that these systems are working to undermine democracy as we know it.  For our team, reading this book made our researchers take a step back and think critically about their own work and how it may be affecting the world around them.

We hope you enjoyed reading our top picks, and be sure to check out our previous book reviews on our website. Please reach out to us if you have any industry related books that you have enjoyed reading recently – we would love to hear them!

Labs Lessons: Conducting Research in Hospitals Thu, 26 Aug 2021 13:58:14 +0100 Labs Lessons: Conducting Research in Hospitals

Welcome back to the next in the series of Labs Lessons, where we are continuing to share our experience and industry knowledge in a series of topics.  In this post, we will be running through our experience of conducting research with both patients and in-hospital patients, an area that we have had a lot of experience working in throughout the years.  Research with patients is something that the team often come back to as being their favourite and most rewarding projects to work on, so the team have really been looking forward to collaborating on this post!

Image Credit: Quang Tri-nguyen

Image Credit: Quang Tri-nguyen

Recruiting Participants 

  • When working with patients, there is an increased number of guidelines that have to be taken into consideration when storing data and the types of data that can be requested, so make yourself aware of these beforehand.  Country specific guidelines will likely come into play, for example GDPR regulations in the UK and HIPAA (​​Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in the US
  • We strongly suggest finding a recruiter who specializes in medical and healthcare research, as they will be able to guide you through the industry related specifications that need to be adhered to 
  • It may be helpful to think broadly in terms of recruitment, for example advertising in clinics (with permission), or building a network of allies (such as nurses) to help recruit
  • As with any research, ethical considerations need to be understood when undertaking medical research. Issues such as informed consent, respect for anonymity, confidentiality and respect for privacy need to be taken into consideration and documented throughout every stage of the process 
  • If the research involves children, then the parent or guardian will need to be involved throughout and will need to give consent on behalf of the participant.

Planning the Sessions 

  • Set expectations for what you will and won’t need to capture or ask about during the session. For example:
    • In a study that involved physical therapy providers and patients, we needed to ask participants about their physical therapy protocols. Patients needed to be consulted and comfortable with sharing their physical therapy journeys (and diagnoses, if they were comfortable) as well as demonstrate sample exercises they were given by their providers. We also made sure to communicate that we would not capture any patient information in any of our photos or video recordings, nor did we capture identifiable photos or recordings of other people in the background
  • Think about engaging ways to run sessions, for example sketching out journey maps with participants to understand their physical therapy journey – from initial injury to treatment to where they are today
  • When working with patients, think about the amount of time that you are spending with them.  If you are conducting research within a ward, speak with those who were working on the ward in order to help set expectations of how long the sessions should be – think about spreading the research across two sessions if appropriate
  • Take into consideration the importance of context – for example if your aim is to test digital products, then explain this to the participants and understand that in a medical environment, the way that they interact with the product will be different than in a home setting – this is especially true when conducting medical research in what is likely to be an atypical setting
  • Be sure to think about and plan the tech set up beforehand. Whether the research will be run at a patient’s home or in a hospital ward setting, there may be limitations to how the tech set up will work.

Running the Sessions 

  • Read the body language of the patients and how they are feeling and the responses that they are giving you.  If they seem uncomfortable or fatigued, then move onto the next question or offer for them to take a break 
  • Medical research can cover a range of sensitive topics for the participant – be aware of body language. In the past, we have found it useful to have medical professionals present during the research, as they may be aware of the changes if the participants become fatigued or react negatively to the questions being asked 
  • If working with participants who are children, then take into consideration that the parent or guardian will likely be present throughout the session. You may want to think about how to ensure the child is responding to the questions, as opposed to the parents answering on their behalf
  • If the research is taking place in a hospital or ward, ask if there is a room to take patients into to ensure privacy.

Thanks for reading about our experience when working with patients and hospital recruitment participants. If you have any questions about the topics covered in the article, then reach out to  If you enjoyed the article, be sure to read our previous blog posts in the series, which include working with children and different languages and look out for the next in the series where we will be talking through our experience when undertaking research with employees.

Why Work for Sutherland Labs? Tue, 10 Aug 2021 11:41:26 +0100 Why Work for Sutherland Labs?

This year a number of our team celebrated 7 years with Sutherland. Among those, some can count a further 20 years of collaboration and growth together – a rare thing in a fast paced industry like UX.

The past year hasn’t been without its challenges, and as we look forward to welcoming new team members into the Labs fold we’ve been reflecting on what makes this team so special to us. In this post I share thoughts from the some of the founding team on what it means to work for Sutherland Labs. 

Brainstorming at the 2020 Labs Conference!

Brainstorming at the 2020 Labs Conference!


  • Owen Daly-Jones, SVP and Global Head, founder of Sutherland’s Design Team
  • Andrew Swartz, Director of Design Research
  • Mark Brady, Director of Design Research
  • Gemma Wisdom, Communications Director

What makes Sutherland Labs a great place to work?

Owen: For one – a stable and approachable team of leaders who have incredible experience. It’s a group that hold a genuine passion for teaching and sharing that knowledge – and an openness to learning themselves. My team often hear me compare the labs team to a cake we’ll never stop baking. We’re always adding new skills, evolving as our clients need us to so that we can meet their own challenges. Whether you’re starting out in your career or a seasoned practitioner in your field – there are always opportunities to learn. 

Mark: It feels like working with friends rather than colleagues. 

Andrew: What I love about Sutherland Labs is that it combines brains with heart. People know their research, but they also care for each other, and for the participants and clients.

What’s the most rewarding part of working at Sutherland Labs? 

Mark: The variety of projects. You really never know what’s coming through the door next, and also having huge fun working with our different global partners.

Andrew: Those glimmers that come sometimes, when you realise that when a project is asking a small question, sometimes it delivers a big answer to an unexpected and more important question. 

Gemma: Collaboration. I get to learn from many different perspectives and creative minds – it’s truly shaped my professional life for the better. When our team comes together (virtually or in person!), collaborating openly, listening and learning from each other, there’s nothing better.

Owen doodling another member of the Labs team!

Owen doodling another member of the Labs team!

In your time at Sutherland, what has been your most memorable moment?  

Mark: It’s hard to pick as there’s been a number. The view of the 2014 Tour de France cycling through London from the Gherkin’s 33rd floor (our medium sized first office before we launched our Covent Garden studios!). The set up and launch of the aforesaid Covent Garden office and studio back in 2014. And project wise, visiting Japan and learning about the details of Japanese culture as part of a video streaming project.

Gemma: Opening 2 amazing design studios first in London and then San Francisco has been a highlight – and all down to the work of some pretty amazing individuals in our team. They have a great vision for creative spaces that really work for teams like ours. Hosting a couple of well known reality shows in our London studios has also been entertaining! 

But probably my favourite memory occurred right before the pandemic hit – we hosted our teams from US and UK at our Labs Conference 2020. An amazing opportunity for all of us to share knowledge, make plans for the future and share a few beers – I’m hopeful we can do it again soon!

What advice would you give someone starting a career in UX? 

Mark: Go broad — work across industries, try different methods and approaches, work with different people. There’s a lot of different perspectives and ways of working in our field and it’s hugely valuable to learn to adapt and collaborate.  

Andrew: Master the basics of research, and then think about how to make sure the findings don’t sit unread and unloved. Connect with the people you’re working with, and learn to tell stories. And there’s more than one model of how to be a top-notch UX researcher – find a way to be great at UX while being yourself.

A huge thank you to my colleagues for sharing these thoughts. Interested in joining us? We’re currently hiring for a number of positions, apply below!

Labs Life: What’s It Like To Work Here? Tue, 22 Jun 2021 16:48:40 +0100 Labs Life: What’s It Like To Work Here?

If you’ve spotted some of our recent job postings you might be curious to find out what it’s like to be part of the team in Sutherland Labs. It’s fair to say that no two days are ever the same, so who better to ask than a few of our lovely team members from the UK and US. Read on to see what they have to say about working for Sutherland Labs.

Gemma enjoying a pre-Covid workshop in our San Francisco studios

Gemma enjoying a pre-Covid workshop in our San Francisco studios

Gemma Wilde, Director of San Francisco design studio

“We have a cross-functional team that serves multiple industries, so there’s always some fascinating problem or challenge to dig into – we collaborate a lot and help each other out. At lunch, our team tends to congregate at the bench in the kitchen and the conversation usually ends up on some random tangent – from the future of recruiting staff, to the driverless car economy, to the latest weird and wonderful West Coast fitness craze.”

Anton Artemenkov, Creative Director (London)

“Some days I can tell my son “Papa sketched a storyboard today” or “Papa talked to someone about an app” but most of the time what I do is a bit like a chef in the kitchen… I come up with the vision and figure out the flavour and ingredients we need, then pull together the team who ultimately do the actual cooking. I’m heavily reliant on the talents of other people in the ‘kitchen’ and so collaboration is the key.”

Andrew treating the London team to fresh bagels and cream cheese!

Andrew treating the London team to fresh bagels and cream cheese!

Andrew Swartz, Research Director (London)

“The great thing about this job is that there are no average days. Just when I am starting to get tired of being introverted, holed up in my office at home typing up results, it is time to go be an extrovert and conduct experience research in the lab again.”

Kellie Hodge, Principal Design Researcher (San Francisco)

“I’m a working parent, so my day starts early. Before the lockdown, getting the little one off to school and commuting into the city involved a lot of caffeine and sometimes a tiny bit of shouting. Now caffeine and shouting is still involved but the distance covered is a little shorter. 

Time at work varies greatly: it can be heads-down writing, collaborating with colleagues on research design; the showmanship of facilitation; or being out in the field. Even during the pandemic, all these things still happen, but remotely. I’m grateful for the variety and flexibility I find at Sutherland – it’s a great place to be a parent and do exciting work.”

Kelly Morley, Studio Manager (London)

“Mostly my job is about reinvention. You might have children testing a video game one day, then chocolate-making or medical testing the next, so you never quite know what to expect until the booking info comes through. I just love being able to say “Yes” to a request that might seem bizarre, then rolling up my sleeves to redesign a space. I think I thrive off the Labs’ unpredictability.”

Our thanks to our colleagues for these insights, which first appeared in our Labs Life series. Interested in joining us? We’re currently hiring for a number of positions, apply below!

A Smarter Approach to Customer Support Tue, 28 Apr 2020 16:19:00 +0100 A Smarter Approach to Customer Support

Our client wanted their digital customer support to work better for customers.

They began by looking at the current experience in a holistic way, involving both their customers and their own support agents.

Customer Journey Maps and Personas identify pain points and reveal opportunities for innovation

Customer Journey Maps and Personas identify pain points and reveal opportunities for innovation

The Challenge

Our client, a major technology brand, needed to make improvements to the support experience for their digital work tools. While analytics had identified pain points in distinct areas of the experience they lacked a full picture of how customers were using their digital support channels, or the role that customer service agents played in that process.

To build an effective strategy for the future they needed to understand real customer behaviors around support.

The Approach

Over a series of engagements we helped our client gain a better knowledge of the end-to-end support experience of customers, as well as gather intelligence from their own customer support agents.

Workplace Shadowing with Agents and Home Visits with Customers

We spent time with both customers and agents in their own environments, observing each as they dealt with support issues in real time. Immersive research methods helped us to reveal both the issues users could vocalize, plus unspoken needs and desires. Furthermore we explored problem solving strategies and the language or terminology used by customers and agents to feed into the design of a future support experience.

Customer Journey Mapping and Personas

Our team translated research insights into Customer Journey Maps, providing a holistic view of support journeys for key customer types. These maps, alongside rich behavior based personas helped to identify further pain points and opportunity areas – such as the desire among users for greater self-serve.

Prototyping the Future Support Experience

To inform future design direction, our UX designers produced wireframes to be used as tools to illustrate, test and refine design recommendations as they might appear in future support journeys.

The Results

Our engagements have provided the client deep insight into what makes an ideal support experience from both customers and their own agents. This has been instrumental in shaping their future digital experience.

70+ design recommendations were implemented to improve the overall support experience, including navigation, page design, terminology, content.

40% reduction in support volume since improvements to navigation, self-serve channels and UI design.

Reimagining Graduate Hiring in Healthcare Thu, 21 Nov 2019 15:59:44 +0100 Reimagining Graduate Hiring in Healthcare

Our client wanted to rethink their entire approach to hiring graduates.

The global healthcare and pharmaceutical brand was investing in graduate programmes in EMEA, but a low proportion of these graduates converted into full time positions.

Graduate insights report

The Challenge

Leaders were questioning the effectiveness of graduate hiring in EMEA, and wanted to see a more strategic approach that would better serve the needs of the business. The hiring and retention of new capabilities is critical to the long term health of the organization and for building a talent pipeline for the future.

We devised an approach to help our client understand pain points in the current graduate experience, identify opportunities for innovation, and to build a strategic roadmap for the future.


Research activities

The Approach

Voice of the Customer Research

We knew that exploring graduate needs was important, but to improve internal confidence and create a shared vision for the future we wanted to view the challenge from many different perspectives. To gain a wide view we began with a ‘voice of the customer’ study, during which our teams carried out over 150 in depth interviews and focus groups with business leaders, HR and Talent leaders, graduates and hiring managers from 5 key sites across the organization.

Strategy Workshops

Next, we analyzed and unpacked these insights in collaborative workshops with the client, mapping out graduate journeys and creating behavior based personas. These artefacts were used as communication aids internally, and also helped to illustrate design recommendations to create a more user friendly user experience.

All activities fed into and culminated in a clear and executable strategy for graduate hiring, which was tailored to be delivered to different levels of the organisation.


“When you’re designing workplace systems to support graduates you need a deep understanding of their needs, behaviors and expectations.”

Anton Artemenkov – Creative Director, Sutherland Labs

The Results

Strategic Roadmap

We helped to develop a holistic, multi-year, EMEA-wide strategy for graduate hiring and development which received full leadership support.

Key insights were translated into workstreams spanning Planning, Attraction, Selection, Onboarding, and Development stages of the graduate journey.

The client has since launched a Planning Toolkit to help capture capability and business needs and ensure they are hiring strategically for the future. As well as, a  new ‘go to market’ approach on campus and a marketing campaign to enhance their Attraction strategy.

“The VOC Research has really helped us to accelerate this initiative and ensure we have the customer at the centre of our approach – thank you!”

Vice President HR EMEA, Global Healthcare and Pharmaceutical brand 

]]> An Employee Led Digital Workplace Strategy Wed, 23 Oct 2019 14:43:23 +0100 An Employee Led Digital Workplace Strategy

Our client had ambitious plans to improve the daily working lives of employees.

The financial institution had a workforce and working practices were disparate and varied, spanning 7,000 employees in 25 countries. They wanted to build a strategy for digital channels and workplace tools that would increase productivity, build community and lead to more contented employees overall.

The Challenge

To develop a strategy to meet these aims and increase the likelihood of employee adoption, we needed to ground ourselves in the needs of their employees. Our goal was to understand employees day to day challenges and pain points, their preferred tools and workarounds, and to do this at scale to account for employees in multiple locations across the world.

Exploring employee needs

The Approach

To capture insights from a large number of employees we began with a survey, which helped us to refine the focus for subsequent rounds of immersive fieldwork. Over the next 2 months, our team travelled to six countries to interview and shadow a range of employees in their own work environments to understand their workflows, day-to-day working practices, tools, and obstacles. We also used remote interviews to reach employees in another six countries, and to ensure we covered a representative range of roles and responsibilities.

I used to think innovation was in motion here, but I just don’t see it happening as quickly as it should be. Or it’s change for no apparent reason.

Sample participant

Employees in the workplace

The Output

The insights from all rounds of research gave our client a rich picture of how employees really work, including the organisational culture, tools and processes, and current challenges. This fed into their overall digital workplace strategy, with more specific outputs including:

  • Behavior-based personas as a tool for creating empathy for employees amongst stakeholders making strategic decisions.
  • Digital channel strategy recommendations including collaboration tools and internal communications, broken down into quick wins and long term goals.
  • Employee experience best practices which were rolled out as use cases across the business.
Design thinking to improve candidate experience Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:21:26 +0100 Design thinking to improve candidate experience

Our parent organization, Sutherland, asked us to experiment with new ways of approaching existing recruitment challenges through a Design Thinking approach.

talent acquisition workshop


In an extremely competitive marketplace, how might we better attract the right talent? How can we improve retention by better understanding the end-to-end recruitment and employment journey of our employees? These are some of the questions Sutherland Labs have been tackling in our own organization – working alongside our Talent Acquisition teams.


We used immersive research to ‘walk in candidates shoes’ to understand a candidate journey throughout the recruitment process. We created behavioral personas, helping to segment, identify ‘star’ target audiences and better understand their idiosyncrasies. We also created journey maps that gave a visual representation which help to articulate pain points and crucial insight that often lead to ideas for improvements and solutions.

Talent acquisition journey maps


The insights helped our colleagues to reframe the story during the recruitment process, which in turn impacted their messaging, advertising and social media activity. The results have included a significant increase in social media followers and engagement, following a reworked advertising campaign. The project also contributed towards wider strategic goals of improving employee engagement, and aided a change of mindset within HR functions.

Rethinking in-hospital entertainment Tue, 14 Jun 2016 10:17:09 +0100 Rethinking in-hospital entertainment

Our client, global provider of hospital entertainment systems, asked us to analyze customer experience of their current system and inform the design of a cleverly user-centric new one.

TV remote and tablet


TV, radio, games, other interactive content: hospital bedside entertainment has the power to positively transform patient experience. But many patients in this study were not engaging with our client’s current system and opting instead to use their own devices. We were called on to conduct deep analysis of patient needs. Our findings then inspired the design of a revolutionary new system – to make hospital stays infinitely more entertaining.


From registering for the first time, to tuning in to the radio or finding a good film, we first identified key user tasks. We then conducted interviews with staff, patients and family members across different wards – Elderly, Stroke, Children, etc. – to find out how these tasks could be carried out most efficiently. Insights from discussions, interviews, focus groups and a visit to the client call centre were then translated into different personae and journey maps. The outcome? As many as 50 different propositions to guide development of the new system.


These propositions included: a friendlier, more accessible user interface; a promotional loop on the homepage to raise key feature awareness; a simplified VOC library structure to enable easy browsing; and extended account management features for families to enable them to make purchases on a patient’s behalf.

Hospital ward