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.