Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Mon, 17 May 2021 15:39:09 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2021, Sutherland Innovation Labs - Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Design That Inspires: Great Apps Wed, 12 May 2021 16:39:05 +0100 Design That Inspires: Great Apps

There are countless web pages on the internet that are beautifully designed and extremely user friendly, however how many times have you downloaded the app counterpart and it has fallen flat in comparison? In 2021 the average American spent 88% of their mobile screen time on apps and apps need to provide great user experience to stand out among 3 million apps that are already available to download on Google Play. But what makes a good app experience? I asked our team of talented designers to discuss some of their favourite apps from a range of industries. From great design to exceptional usability these apps are at the top of their game.

Image Credit: Windy App

Image Credit: Windy App


While maybe not an obvious app for the general public, the Windy weather app is a must for people who want live forecasts. For weather geeks, runners and cyclists, or just those who want to know a more detailed explanation of the weather for the day, this beautifully designed app is extremely user friendly and works well on both iPads and iPhones. Reviews boast that the app has the most user friendly interface of any of its like minded counterparts, and with a 4.9 star rating on the app store and 4 thousand reviews you can’t argue with the responses – with the added bonus of being that it is ad-free and completely free!


This came in as a firm favourite in the team. The interface of the app does a great job of condensing a large amount of information to fit the small mobile or tablet screen, whilst maintaining a strong brand presence which matches other media channels. The app allows for personalisation such as picking your favourite teams to receive curated content specifically around what you will want to see. The app acts as a go to for everything sport that you could need – offering podcasts, news, social media, articles and news all in one place.

Kitchen Stories

If you have spent as much time as us in the last year trawling through the internet for new recipe inspiration and different goods to bake then you will love the Kitchen Stories app. It is hard not to be instantly drawn in by the beautiful graphics of the home screen and the incredibly user friendly channels, which will inevitably lead you into a rabbit hole of scrolling for recipes for the next months worth of meals! The app boasts thousands of free recipes, instructional videos and access to a global community of cooks and will even generate a shopping list for you based on the recipes you save. The app was voted the winner of Apple’s Design Awards – proof is in the pudding for how many people already use and love this app! 


We have been using Trello at the Labs for many years as a way of working to organise, track and collaborate between team members working across locations and time zones. In recent times the popularity of the app has started to gain traction partly due to the fact that it is easy to navigate, and provides reliable offline access (great for UX Researchers)! As well as tracking the status of ongoing projects our team love Trello to-do lists which are super useful and allow everything to be in one consolidated app.

The apps we have chosen are just some that our team use and love (some of them on a daily basis!) – we would love to hear if there are any apps that you can’t live without – let us know via and join our mailing list if you would like to hear more from us!

Labs Lessons: Conducting Research with Older Audiences Thu, 29 Apr 2021 10:09:00 +0100 Labs Lessons: Conducting Research with Older Audiences

According to The World Economic Forum the ever ageing population is undergoing a major demographic and technological shift and recent studies have shown that these groups are increasingly embracing technology and telecare since Covid 19. However, for some, frustration and a lack of self confidence continues to hinder their ability to adapt to using new technology. 

Clearly there’s a need for brands – from healthcare and wellness, to gaming and entertainment – to understand the needs, frustrations and motivations of this audience in a way that’s both meaningful and inclusive. In this second instalment of ‘Labs Lessons’ we unpack some insights from conducting in person research with older audiences.

Image Credit: Joshua Hoehne

Image Credit: Joshua Hoehne

Think carefully about how you group older audiences 

  • Prior to conducting research with older audiences, consider whether the research is being conducted specifically around generational differences, i.e. age, health conditions and identity, or to find out how confident the participant is at using a specified technology.  Clarifying the purpose of the research will help with recruitment, ensure the research goals are met, and avoid grouping people into categories solely based on their age. 
  • Older audiences are often grouped into one 65+ age bracket. This arguably shouldn’t be the case – for most other age groups, there is a ten year period between categories. A 65 year old and a 95 year old are likely to have very different needs and expectations, for example.
  • Seek to understand whether screening for specific ages actually helps answer your client’s research questions, or whether age groups are being conflated with other traits, such as employment status, health needs, or attitudes towards technology.

Seek to understand whether screening for specific ages actually helps answer your client’s research questions, or whether age groups are being conflated with other traits.

Focus on getting recruitment right

  • Consider using specialised recruitment partners if you haven’t worked with certain age groups before. Depending on the focus of the research, it may be worth looking into working with agencies that have experience recruiting for older audiences or with a particular industry, if applicable (e.g. healthcare).
  • Depending on the age group that you will be working with, consider recruiting more ‘spares’ in case participants are feeling unwell or are unable to travel in on the required day.
  • Consider home visits for less mobile recruits. This may eliminate the need for them to travel and gives participants the chance to participate in a familiar environment.
  • If asking participants to sign consent forms and other documentation, be sure to find out if anyone has accessibility needs (e.g. large font, use of screen readers).
  • There can be ethical considerations that need to be taken into account when gaining consent from participants who may rely on professional carers or family members, or have diminished cognitive capabilities. Be sure to make yourself familiar with these.

As with any age group don’t assume that your participants are familiar with industry jargon and slang.

Running the sessions 

  • Mirror the language used by the participants. As with any age group don’t assume that your participants are familiar with industry jargon and slang. In the session, use the language that they are using to avoid the participant feeling as if you are correcting them. After all, we are testing a design or an idea, not the participant!
  • If the participant has to read from a screen or printed material, be sure to have versions that are suitable for different levels of eyesight and consider having hearing amplifiers to hand – these needs can be screened for at the recruitment stage.
  • When running remote sessions, a quick call beforehand is a must. If your screening process indicates that a participant is less comfortable with technology it can be helpful to find out if there’s a family member on hand to help out.
  • Again, depending on the scope of the research, you may find that participants prefer to have someone else present during the session, such as a friend or family member. Be aware that at times, this can result in the observer unintentionally responding on behalf of the participant, so prepare for this.

Following the sessions; 

  • If the participant does rely on help from a family member or carer, make sure to leave your contact details with them and with the participant in case they need to get in touch on their behalf after the sessions have ended.

We hope these insights are helpful when planning research with older audiences who, in our experience, are some of the most perceptive and friendly people to work with. If you would like more information on the topics covered in this post, then get in touch with Look out for the next ‘Labs Lessons’ where we will be sharing tips for conducting research with participants who speak in different languages.

Learning from Failure at UXinsight Festival ‘21 Wed, 21 Apr 2021 13:51:50 +0100 Learning from Failure at UXinsight Festival ‘21

Last week we joined UX professionals at the UXinsight Festival ‘21, sponsored by partners of the UXAlliance. This year’s theme – ‘Learning Through Failing’ – encouraged us to reflect that as researchers we are often willing to talk about our success stories, but how often do we look back at our failures and learn from them? Read on for our highlights – including the panel that Labs Director Mark Brady joined: ‘Global User Research: When Sh*t Hits The Fan!’

Image credit: UXAlliance

Image credit: UXAlliance

Day 1 kicked off with a talk from Remko van der Drift, Director at the Institute of Failure, who outlined what it means to be a Master of Failure and hinted at the themes that would be dominating the following days. Stephanie Pratt gave advice for companies bringing on their first UX hires and how to best build an inhouse UX practice – we loved her openness and honesty when she discussed her own past failure in building a UXR practice. Following lunch and an interactive Q&A session we joined ‘Man Eating Cereal & Other UX Stories – What Would You Do?’ where Gunjan Singh shared research experiences which could be viewed as ‘failures’, and highlighted the importance of storytelling in UX (even if it is to talk about failure!).

At the Labs we are well immersed in the world of AR & VR and loved Alexia Buclet’s Day 2 talk on ‘Designing An Immersive Menu For Augmented And Virtual Reality’.  Alexia talked through emerging AR and VR tech and potential areas for insights and growth in the field, as well as reminding us about the flip side of potential issues when bringing these technologies into the research sphere – such as making sure you ensure that the recruitment phase is well planned.  In the afternoon Mark joined a number of the UXAlliance partner companies in the panel: ‘Global User Research: When Sh*t Hits The Fan!’ Discussing how to plan to overcome issues when global research goes wrong, the panel shared insights on how to manage the complexity of global research, avoid assumptions, and make the best use of nuanced knowledge available via local partners.

The final day included short talks from UX research experts on lessons learnt through failure. We particularly enjoyed Yael Gutman’s talk on ‘Strategies To Avoid The Biases That Influence Our Research (We All Have Them)’, reminding us that as UX researchers it is our role to ensure that we gather data objectively and understand the user at hand. Tips for overcoming these inbuilt biases include the active listening technique, as well as augmenting qualitative insight with quantitative data to allow less room for bias. Another highlight of the day was ‘When Moving Too Fast Really Does Break Things’ by Vidhika Bansal who spoke about how this is particularly true in the current industry climate. Among other things, she reminded us to be mindful of diversity samples in order to use our work to better the world, and reduce adverse effects on marginalized social groups.

As you can tell we loved this year’s festival! The theme of failure encouraged self reflection and space to think about our past experiences, and what we can learn from these to improve the design of future experiences. The interactive and networking sessions were great and allowed us to chat with researchers from around the world and think outside of our norm, which will enrich our own research going forward. Thanks to UXinsight and the sponsoring partners for putting on such a great festival!

Finally, get in touch with if you want to find out more about the UXAlliance and our network of global partners.

One Year on: Remote Research and Reimagined Spaces Thu, 25 Mar 2021 18:35:23 +0100 One Year on: Remote Research and Reimagined Spaces

For our UK and US teams, this month marks a year since the first lockdown and shelter in place orders were implemented. We, like many others, remember waving goodbye to our colleagues saying “see you in a couple of weeks”. We would never have predicted that one year on we’d still be mainly interacting over Zoom, Teams, Slack, Miro and seeing each other only via video. One year on we have rounded up the ways in which our daily working lives have been affected by the changes.

All Image Credit: Sutherland Labs

All Image Credit: Sutherland Labs

Switching to remote research

We have been running remote research for many years but when the transition to home working began this method of research suddenly demanded our full attention.  For many UX’ers the draw of in person research is because it provides a forum for active observations where researchers can bounce ideas off of one another, so we had to develop ways of working which allow for the same level of collaboration and productivity.  We love the results remote research can yield, but we’re also looking forward to balancing it out with in person research when the time is right.

Reimagining our studio spaces

Much has changed in the physical sense in the last year – the ‘2 meter rule’, social distancing, masks becoming a norm and plastic screens being erected where possible.  In London, we followed government guidelines and did reopen our space for a short period of time for in person research last summer. Among other precautions, we restricted the number of people in the building and shared areas and installed UV cleaners so mice and keyboards could be cleaned after every participant. We imagine that precautions like these will continue to be the norm for some time, with hybrid bookings being something that we will see more of in the future with some participants coming into the office and others joining remotely.

The way that we work at home 

 For most of us working at home has become the norm – and we’ve had to adapt our living spaces to accommodate meetings, research sessions and even joining virtual masterclasses with our partners.  With many of the team being based in London or San Francisco apartments we have had to modify to allow for working with family members, partners and housemates. Living spaces and bedrooms have become home offices and some of us found ourselves negotiating with children and our four legged friends to stop them from making noise while we were running research sessions. Purchases for the team have at times become frivolous with many of us spending money to fill the abundance of time that we have found ourselves with, unexpected hobbies have been fuelled by next day delivery DIY kits – not to mention the numerous furry friends that have joined the team in the last year!

The way that we exercise 

Gymnasiums, climbing gyms and sports facilities were one of the first establishments to close their doors when the first lockdown hit last year last March and many of us were left wondering how we were going to fill the exercise void that was left behind.  Like much of the rest of the country, we took to online workouts and pay as you go style phone apps, with one member of the team swearing never to go back to a gym after purchasing a Peloton bike.  We have happily transitioned to living without the often crowded spaces which constituted as city gyms, and that a run outside or a walk in a green space can be much more beneficial for both physical and mental health.

With the prospect of the relaxation of Covid restrictions around the corner we are looking forward to the reopening of our beloved studios. Although we have managed to stay connected over the last year we are looking forward to getting back to in person collaboration and covering our office walls with post it notes once again! 

If you are planning an event or are interested in knowing more about the meeting spaces in our London Labs space then get in touch with

International Women’s Day: Women in UX Mon, 08 Mar 2021 09:29:32 +0100 International Women’s Day: Women in UX

Compared to other tech industries, UX and Design scores reasonably well in terms of gender equality. Research conducted by Morgan McKinley found that in the field of UX the gender balance is “significantly better” than STEM and ICT. The UX Design Institute has also specified in the past that the typical student profile is an exact 50/50 split between males and females.

The beauty of UX is that it is not your gender or background that defines your career – the practice itself encourages as wide a range of perspectives and mindsets as possible, with disciplines ranging from graphic design, to psychology and even marketing. In the run up to International Women’s Day we spoke to female UX’ers to find out what brought them to the field in the first place, and what more can be done to support women in our industry.

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

What advice would you give to women who are thinking about starting a career in UX?

Honestly – just take the plunge and do it! I think if you love design and are interested in usability and exploring that as a career then it’s really a great one to go into – and probably less male dominated than other parts of tech if that is something you are looking for. There is so much to learn and some really cool design platforms to get your teeth into – whether you want to be simply UX or cover UI in that scope (I do both), there is such a great learning curve to grow experience in and skillset. – Mel Brady, Independent UX Researcher

What drew you to working in UX in the first place?

The sheer extent at which you can help people and influence the future is amazing, that’s what really sparked my interest in UX. I also love learning something new, and being in such a fast evolving industry means exactly that – continuously learning. It’s an amazing opportunity to listen to people and dive into communities and industries you otherwise probably wouldn’t be able to reach, to learn about their way of life, and help bring their stories to the forefront.

If you are a woman thinking of getting into the field, I’d say your role is extremely important and valued. It’s important to have gender diversity in UX – women bring important perspectives to products and services, so representation in the field makes for better design. What makes good UX is diversity in ideas and experiences. – Kimia Abbassian, Senior Design Researcher at Sutherland Labs 

Are there any female UX / designers that have inspired you?  If so why?

Not always prominent names as such – those that inspire me most are the people and clients that I work with on a daily basis, I love seeing the personal passions and interests that they bring to the table as a UX’er and how it shapes their work. – Azia Ali, Principal Design Researcher at Sutherland Labs 

I think women in the industry aren’t always as visible as they could be (or to me anyway!) and it would be great to show us off more so others can easily be inspired and see themselves in similar roles or learn about this industry. – Mel Brady, Independent UX Researcher

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

How can women support each other in the industry?

I think it’s really important to see women in senior roles live full lives by having families, time for volunteering, hobbies etc. to show others that it doesn’t have to be one or the other – that being a leader and a mother can go hand in hand. Companies need to play a role in supporting these women through maternity leave, child support, flexible working arrangements and opportunities for re-entry into the workforce.

For women who are in UX roles, making themselves visible and attainable to juniors through social media, university/company talks, conferences, panels, podcasts, even a simple hashtag helps a lot. Likewise, if you come across an inspiring woman, make an effort to bring awareness to her and her creations – it is everyone’s responsibility to shine a light on these individuals. I think that would really help give visibility and steer others towards these inspiring sources. – Kimia Abbassian, Senior Design Researcher at Sutherland Labs

Although the field of UX is fairly equal in gender parity, what more can be done to support women?

First of all, I think it’s paramount to have diversity and representation in leadership roles. Seeing other women in the field can often bring a sense of belonging. Mentorship from these women is key to women’s success in any industry and having women who have previously been in your position who can give advice, support your journey and who want to see you succeed can do extraordinary things for your confidence and resilience. Women who support each other to succeed will improve diversity in the field. – Kimia Abbassian, Senior Design Researcher at Sutherland Labs

Although the field of UX and design is slightly ahead of its tech counterparts in terms of gender parity, these conversations show that more still can be done, as well as the importance of raising these issues in order to keep the momentum going and to help drive other industries (as well as our own) in the right direction.  Please get in touch with if you want to know more about any of the topics that we have discussed in the article and sign up to our newsletter if you would like to hear more from us. 

Finally – thanks to everyone who contributed to the article! 

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