Monday, November 25, 2013

UX Psychologist

Erik Flowers posted an article earlier this year that I am just discovering now.  It is a topic that cannot go without comment. 

He remarks that companies are finally realizing that they need psychology expertise on their UX teams.  Anyone reading this is probably thinking “what else is there?”  The established group is design.  There are many experts in design, either as an art, as a science, or as a craft.  This field is orthogonal to psychology so it is easy to know one without knowing the other. 

His article is a good primer on how psychology is essential for UX design and I plan to use it as a handout for the design students who take my UX courses.  As Erik discusses extensively, UX is as much a human-human interaction as it is a human-technology interaction.  Knowing something about neuropsychology, behavioral psychology, and cognitive psychology (and I would add social psychology to his list) can be powerfully valuable to UX design.  His examples are fantastic so you can read about those directly on his article.

But today, I want to ask the organizational culture question that led to the article in the first place.  Why hasn’t psychology been part of UX since the beginning if it is that valuable? Where is the UX Psychologist (Erik’s term)?  Or the dual-qualified UX Designer/Psychologist?

I have to admit to being much better at the psychology component than the design component. I can recognize good design from bad design, but can I create good design myself . . . . not so much.  Is this the reason?  Is it because designers were there first and psychologists don’t fit in with their thought processes? I have seen both kinds of teams and they work very differently.  This could lead to difficulties onboarding onto a design team and washing out.  Not because of any lack of expertise or valuable things to add, but simple team process bottlenecks. 

I would be interested in hearing from people who have worked on a team that includes both areas of expertise or from a designer who has seen a psychology expert fail to onboard to their team. 


gschlact said...

Hey Marc- I read your article and pondered it a bit as someone who is definitely not a Psych person, but have done extensive software UI/UX specification, improvements, and critique over many years. YOu ask about the importance of a Psych being included on a UX project.

I would first answer your question with a question, as the User Experience most often is created by the designer with a particular goal in mind. Whose perspective are you trying to optimize in the UX? This might seem too obvious at first glance, but if you consider that often UX design is not just about the User believe it or not, but rather created by the designer to accomplish a particular end-result as desired by the creator (often business) by working or interacting with the user. So, the UX can have parallel or orthogonal requirements in its creation based on which way you tailor it. Also, it might be argured that if they are truly orthogonal, you can't have a successful UX to accomplish two things at once. I would say that as long as the end resulting benefit provided to the non-maximized UX user is great enough, than I would counter argue that the UX was successfulfor the UX driving designer who we would assume got the same or greater benefit. Just food for thought.

Daniel Engelberg said...

Everyone in UX is familiar with organizational challenges in the workplace between people with different specialties and mindsets. Those barriers are gradually coming down as teams and people become more interdisciplinary.

My own employer has people from traditional design fields working side-by-side with psychology-based specialists (as well as other disciplines), and we all get along well and thrive on learning from each other. In the process, we are creating a new language and culture of UX that is a true hybrid discipline. There are no cultural "camps" where I work.

In UX we are all growing as we learn how to work together, and how to think from each other's perspectives. So a more productive research avenue might be looking at methods to improve collaboration between specialties, rather than focusing on what separates them.

The Geeks said...

hi..Im college student, thanks for sharing :)