Why Psychologists make the best User Researchers

Having a Psychology background is a huge win in User Experience (UX).

The term, User Experience (UX) is one of the most popular terms nowadays. There are a lot of controversies around how it’s being misused and spammed all across the industries. No doubt, it has become one of the buzzwords of the decade. User Experience (UX) is all about understanding the behaviors (ex. pain points) that the users have. Then you can use that information to design a better experience for them so that they will come back to use your product again.

Here are 7 reasons why trained psychologists make the best user researchers.

#1. Psychological Theories are Useful Here

Qualified psychologists should have learned about perception, biases, emotions and many more interesting things from social, cognitive and even cultural psychology classes. This gives researchers a huge advantage in understanding how people behave and feel when they interact with the products or services.

Gestalt Principles

Take, for instance, Gestalt Principles. Gestalt Principles show that humans naturally perceive objects as organized. “Proximity” and “Symmetry” are a couple of examples of the Gestalt Principles.

The Law of Proximity suggests that humans consider items near one another to be part of the same group. It's important to leverage this knowledge in product design.

The Law of Proximity suggests that humans consider items near one another to be part of the same group. It's important to leverage this knowledge in product design.

#2. Ability to understand people’s emotions, behaviors and motivations

Generally speaking, psychology is the study of understanding people’s behaviors and emotions. And behind all of that, there are motivations why people are doing what they are doing. Studying and trying to create a better UX is very similar to that. In order for products, services and the businesses to maintain, improve and survive, it is crucial to understand the “why’s” and the “how might we” questions.

For example, think of a situation where you are designing a screen with a button that allows the users to proceed to the next step. You initially expect the users to press the button you came up within a heart beat. It is expected for the customers to follow the steps necessary for them to achieve what they want. However, you may realize that when the data was collected, only 50% of the people pressed on the button and proceeded to their next step.

The first thing that will come to your mind is, “why?”

“Why is it that half of the people bounce off from the screen?”

By keep on asking questions regarding to your recent failure, you and your team will start to uncover more.

“Is it because they didn’t recognize that the button exists?”, “Do I need to move the button to a different location?”

But to be honest, even before thinking where the button should be placed, what color it should be and thinking whether or not the button is necessary, the “How Might We” questions should be answered first.

“How might we increase the conversion rate?”

Answering these questions will get you the solution for your users.

#3. Understanding the power of research

When it comes down to design, many young designers underestimate the power of conducting research. They believe attractive design equals good UX. Yes, good-looking designs are sometimes directly related to bringing a better user experience. But designs are much more convincing and effective after thorough research has been conducted. I always think, “if you don’t understand the pain points of the people who are using the products, how do you know where to start fixing the problem?”

Let’s imagine you are working for a online clothing company. Initially, you thought creating a good-looking landing page will bring a better experience for the users which will then increase the sales. Maybe this was an idea after you took a look at other company’s website which was doing well. So, you decided to start designing the landing page with your guts that it will also bring a better user experience for your shoppers.

But what if your users are very different from the other company? What if your users are younger generations who just want to see the most popular items first instead of a huge picture covering the whole screen? What if you found out after a few weeks of implementing your design change that the users suddenly dropped? It’s a disaster.

Understanding the power and the influence of research is very important in shaping a product. Although I wouldn’t state that doing more thorough research always has a positive correlation to being successful (sometimes, a spark of idea could lead to success), it’s important in discovering the users’ needs. Moreover, it also brings confidence in presenting your design choices to an audience.

#4. Knowing how to communicate with others

In a very early stage of the UX process, you may work on retrieving information about the users in general — their problems, needs and motivations towards using your product. And also, when you are conducting some user testing of your product, you will need people to participate in your research. The findings from those sessions will  have a huge impact on how you design the product and therefore, it is super important to know how to communicate well with people. Psychologists know that building a rapport with people (participants) and then talking to them allows them to extract more rich and honest information.

#5. Empathizing with people

In UX, it's important to care about how the users interact with the products from the users’ standpoint. For example, trying to bridge the gap between users and the technology often contributes a lot in not only improving the quality of the products but also how the users feel about them. Ultimately, being able to immerse yourself into the users’ situations will sometimes assist you throughout the process.

#6. Collaborate with peers in teams

In the world of UX, almost everything is collaborative work. Even if you are a super star being able to do many things that 2 or 3 people can do, it’s better to get insights from other people. As human beings, we all have different ideas to solve problems and those differences exist among users as well.

Here, communication is also very important. Sometimes, if you are self-aware, you might discover some of the things that you NEED to learn to communicate better with engineers, researchers, managers and other teammates. Also, they might be able to answer some of the concerns you had about certain design constraints and implementation issues. 

#7. Iteration, iteration and more iterations

Creating a better user experience often results from loops and loops of iterative processes. And even at the end of the day, you might still have to iterate on the current solution that you feel is like the most ideal and perfect solution that no longer need to be improved. However, the hard truth is that there is no perfect solution for everyone and people constantly want changes to their existing products.

As a UX professional from all levels, we have to be open to demolishing a “perfect” solution and to start a new one if necessary. It’s the beauty of the field of UX. There are so many things to tackle and it just never ends. 

GB Lee