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Design. It’s an interesting area combining skills from graphic arts, user experience, and tech insights.

Harry joined our Contact Centre in November as one of the Super Stars, and recently started working with the Product team, creating new designs for our Android app. This is part of our Passport to Starling (you may have heard about it from this blog) – a smart new way of gaining skills across our business, pursuing different interests and learning more along the way.

The tiny details are the most important part of any design. They’re always worth deliberating over. So as I discussed the intricacies of a small notification icon I was designing with some of our senior app creators, I realised how fascinating it was to be part of this design process.

Like so many others graduating last summer, the task of finding somewhere to work was pretty intimidating. I wasn’t really sure how things would work out and, honestly, I had little in the way of a plan. I wanted to work somewhere new with a team designing something exciting and worthwhile.

When I found Starling, the decision to join was easy.

But the journey to design is kind of funny.

I started in the customer contact centre with Patrick, Albana, and the team. Talking to customers on our webchat (you’d never guess how many time we’re asked if we’re chatbots), explaining some of the features of the app, answering questions on what PSD2 means and when we are launching (very soon!) – but I also knew I was part of Passport to Starling.

Customer service team at Starling Bank

Then one wet Wednesday, I’m out of the call centre and designing the Android app.

Which in my case meant debating how a 13×13 pixel circle needs to look.

Having studied product design and manufacture at university, it’s fascinating to see the differences when developing a new app as opposed to physical products.

It’s so impressive to consider the pace and scale of technological change. Not to mention the impact it has on our everyday lives. Even more now that that change looks ready to happen for banking – something so intrinsic to our day-to-day living.

Most of us expect new apps and services to be carefully designed – visually and conceptually. We assume they’ll provide a far better customer experience than what exists on the current market.

Because that is what’s valuable to us. Apps that offer seamless service that save time, take away some small stress, or solve a problem we didn’t even realise we had until it’s gone.

Anything I designed during my degree was constrained by the reality of having to build the object. You had to constantly consider the physical production and assembly of the parts.

With an app, you can technically put anything anywhere. It’s not beholden to gravity, for example, and I’ve found this means having to be much more thoughtful about the reasons for what you design.

The design work I’ve been doing has been producing the user interface for our Android app.

Using inspiration from the screens and ideas we have for iOS, this entails making sure that the design we produce fits well on an Android phone but also feels like the Starling experience.

Far quicker than I expected I was given the opportunity to start helping out with some design for our Android app, and so my design experience has carried over to the work I’ve been doing here at Starling.

These processes feel similar and the way you must think through the user experience of a product remains very much at the forefront of what we discuss. It’s all about giving the customer something they want to use and benefit from using.

It’s been gratifying to see something I have contributed to being put in place in the app, especially in such an energetic team.

Customer service team at Starling Bank

One thing that also really stands out at Starling is the speed of development. The way the Android team produces ideas and designs so quickly for testing is something that I’ve never seen before. It’s particularly apparent on Fridays when we share demos of projects finished that week. Not only can you see how fast the teams work but it’s the discussions with engineers are fascinating.

Having the Passport to Starling has been an illuminating experience.

Being involved in the development and testing of the product, offers such a different view to what I experienced in the contact centre.

Where before my role was exclusively about supporting people who are using accounts in the wild, now I’m using the app as well as designing it. Seeing both sides is hugely valuable to me as a designer.

It’s not everyday you get to be the one sending the first faster payment from Nationwide to Starling – making history as the first challenger bank to join the scheme.

But equally, being part of the contact centre first means I get a better opportunity to understand what customers want and deserve.

So whilst I wanted to learn new things about how product design and development work in a tech startup, the experience outside of design has been invaluable.

Which is exactly the idea behind Passport to Starling. You are given the opportunity to work with other teams – to experience and understand those parts of the business – whilst also helping customers and understanding their point of view.

I’ve got a great opportunity to gain and develop new skills and get experience in a completely new kind of design. I really feel like I’ve learnt a lot already.

Taking on new projects as the requirements of the contact centre have changed, I’ve been able to work on designing an app that looks to be providing the step-change that banking needs.

Not bad for someone who had no idea where they would be 3 months ago.

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