Meet the Wondermakers - Interview with Laura Pinkstone
25 January 2021
Laura Pinkstone joined us at Digital Wonderlab back in 2019 and is a core part of the Design Team bringing a wealth of UX experience.
She helps lead the way working with clients to ensure the digital solutions they need have the user front and centre. It's all about enhancing the experience that people have interacting with the brand. Making sure they find value and connection.
We caught up with Laura to find out more about why she has become so passionate about the role she does, and how she is managing to keep on top of things during lockdown.
Can you give us a bit of a bio – a quick summary of where you have worked, and what your role is at Digital Wonderlab?
I started my career working as a playground designer for a small company, where I got to use my skills in computer animation to really bring to life what the new playground was going to look like to present at community consultations to show how the playground would bring enrichment to kids in their downtime from school.
I started to get a real interest in digital design and got the opportunity to go for my first web design role which I jumped at, working with charity Help for Heroes. It gave me exposure to using a number of different software packages such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Umbraco which really strengthened my knowledge of what works (and what doesn’t!) in website design to really enhance the end user experience. I have stayed in this field of ever since, moving into UX design, experience and consultancy for a few different businesses getting some really insightful projects which have stretched and taught me so much.
At Digital Wonderlab I focus primarily upon the Discovery phase of projects – where we take time to get under the skin of the end user and defining them through simple yet informative profiles (aka user profiles!) the customer journeys they take off and online. This gives us a great foundation to work from to inform our wireframes prototype which we take into design and high-fidelity prototypes to then conduct user testing.
Why, when and how did you get interested in UX?
Being a web designer early in my career, I became really fascinated in the world of the end user, really determined to understand more about why they were doing what they were doing on a website, app, admin system and other applications. Using analysis can help you see what is happening, but not why it is!
I decided to take a week long course to learn the basic process, and all the great techniques already developing then to focus being user centric. And the rest is history! I was on my own journey to making websites a delightful experience for the user!
Tell us about your approach, how do you start a new project with clients?
It depends on the project and the client needs to a great extent, and it begins with understanding what they are trying to achieve – where they are on their digital path and the current problems they are encountering.
Getting research factored in is key, to really understand the target audience, the market place around them, and their needs including their intent, behaviours and frustrations. We want to understand how people will interact through technology with your brand – and ensuring good UX only really happens when we fulfil the needs of both users and the brand.
What are the key things you work together upon as a project progress? What simple tools do you use?
Putting together User Persona’s to represent the target audience is one of the early techniques we tend to do, and for this I often use the good old “white board” technique and “Post It” notes in workshop sessions, as well as research with end users as an input. From here I can begin to draft user journeys which give us a more detailed view around how people might navigate in their world as they work through their intentions towards a brand, and how they might connect.
With lockdown, I have been using a great tool called Miro, which takes this into the virtual space and means many people can be involved in different locations. It’s really effective and incredibly user friendly – which naturally I love!
Moving this into wireframes using a mix of Adobe XD and Azure begins to give us some initial structure to a website project, for example. And this is where we can begin work on early stage design concepts. And to be honest, I find the same tools invaluable here too!
What are your top tips for anyone thinking about a career move into UX?
It’s a great topic to read up around, and there are now literally loads of useful resources out there to turn to. A good place to start is the Nielsen Norman Group, who post insightful articles, reports, and provide some training options.
Taking a course or class can really help too, and possibly finding a mentor who operates in similar roles. You should never stop learning, and asking questions!
Never assume to know users, it is important to take time to run structured research sessions to help validate designs and actually get them interacting and using it for real. Always test with your target audience so you see and hear what they are thinking and doing.
What really motivates you to be focused each day?
Apart from making time to get some fresh air and a walk in the countryside, I really take pride in creating good experiences to delight the end user as well as the client – things are constantly evolving in the world of tech, and its crucial to continue to understand people and how they are thinking, what they want to see, and how they want to engage.
What’s your favourite bit of tech that you cannot live without?
My new Apple pen, helps me to scribble my thoughts and ideas!
What is your most recent client project that you are proud of - for how they put the user front and centre?
Gotta say, I enjoy all projects I work on as we are trying to create better experiences – and each project is totally different. The one thing each does have in common is it is aiming to remove those frustrations that users experience when using websites, apps or even their activity offline – given the world we live in we expect this to all be seamless.
Last year was a year that no one had ever experienced and a little unknown for everyone. I was fortunate enough to be working with some lovely charities being Cerebral Palsy Cymru (AKA Bobath Wales) and Charlie Waller to take them forward in their digital experience to reach more of their supporters and they people they were trying to support during these unusual times.
It has been a privilege to work on both of these projects, to understand their worlds and the amazing work they do. I look forward as we continue that journey with them into the new year and enhance the digital journey for their users