I have recently joined the UX team here at Sitback, and going back through the archives I came across an article that my colleague Nadine Kintscher wrote, ‘5 Reasons UX teams should include Psychologists’. Nadine’s 5 reasons included:
- What do you want to find out?
- People have poor memories
- What drives one person may demotivate another person
- It is easy to influence others. Would you agree?
- On randomisation
Being a psychologist myself, I would like to extend on her previous blog post and share another 5 reasons why UX teams should include psychologists.
1. We can design research studies
In UX consulting, we conduct both quantitative and qualitative research, from designing online surveys, to writing scripts for usability testings sessions, contextual enquiries, and focus group facilitations. Knowing how to design robust research studies is crucial for us to deliver user-centred solutions to our clients.
Throughout our studies, Psychologists are required to conduct research projects under the supervision of our lecturers. We master the skills of designing surveys, analysing research data and reporting on the findings. Acquiring these skills requires specific training, which is highly transferable into UX.
Understanding how to design and conduct research means our methods are rigorous, and we can effectively mitigate the risk of human biases influencing the research outcomes.
2. We think and analyse critically
As psychologists, we are critical thinkers. We seek to determine whether the ideas, arguments and findings represent the entire picture and are open to finding that they do not. We identify, analyse and solve problems logically rather than by intuition or instinct.
This skill is directly transferable to UX. For instance, during usability testing, it is easy to fall into the trap of taking participants opinion at face value. Sometimes participants express opinions that do not always represent their genuine thoughts. Therefore, being able to pick up the mindset of what is behind someone’s word and carefully question ideas and assumptions are vital practise for great UX practitioners.
The same theory also applies in gathering secondary sources e.g. documentation review. We do not simply take what is said in the documentations because they have been published. While we review these documents, we always validate our assumptions during stakeholder interviews.
Finally, our knowledge in statistics gives us analytic capabilities to interpret the data in a meaningful way. For instance, we know what “significant results” mean, and we are aware of the factors that may influence the statistical power. Furthermore, we are able to integrate the results into the strategies given by the clients, and advice how the key findings fit within the business strategies.
3. We are empathetic
Empathy is the core “soft skill” that every good UX consultant needs to possess. Empathising with the users leads to a genuine understanding of how to solve their problems and ultimately build better products.
People may argue empathy is a personal characteristic rather than a “trainable” skillset. However, I believe as psychologists the coaching and counselling subjects we undertake during our studies gives us a solid foundation in understanding users’ needs and helping us to probe users to communicate their thoughts comprehensively. For example, we build rapport with users and clients easily by paying attention to people’s non-verbal cues, practising active listening skills, and by avoiding leading questions.
These interpersonal skills that we acquire during our studies can easily be applied in usability testing, contextual enquiries, stakeholder interviews, and focus group facilitations.
4. Our professional accreditation adds credibility
UX professionals come from diverse backgrounds, but having the title ‘psychologist’ helps in cementing your expertise and building trust with your clients around your capabilities - especially in the early stages of your career.
I still remember talking to a client in a project kick-off meeting and feeling that they were not very confident in my experience levels to run the research for the project. My senior colleague also picked up on these non-verbal cues, and introduced me as a psychologist with expertise in conducting research. I could tell from their facial expression they felt relieved knowing I was a UX psychologist, instantaneously raising my credibility.
5. We go above and beyond
Becoming a registered psychologist requires a lot of effort; it needs commitment, hard work, and a drive to achieve. Most of us have completed at least six years of study (four years of a bachelor honours degree and two years of masters). It is competitive to get into a psychology masters program in Australia, and the program itself is challenging. We are required to complete a number of courses, 1000 hours of supervised placements and a research project over two years. Once you get your registration, you need to complete 30 hours of professional development every year to maintain your registration, ensuring you stay up-to-date with the industry.
It shows we are achievers, always striving for improvement. We value feedback from our clients, and evaluate the quality of our client work regularly. We also have a thorough learning plan to ensure the UX research methodologies and design skills we acquire are up-to-date. As UX professionals, these attributes are important drivers for us to do well in our career advancement.