Psychology in User Experience

Psychology in User Experience

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If you have any experience in the UX realm, you know that UXers come from all walks of life. Ask your friendly neighborhood UXer about their background, and you’re likely to hear anything from graphic design, to programming, to business development, to psychology (maybe more!).

Producing good UX work takes a combination of these skills, and no one discipline should take precedence over the others. That being said, it’s great practice to get to know the other specialties in the UX world and to learn from their experts. So today, we’ll be looking at what psychology brings to the UX table. For clarity, I’ll be referring to “psychologists” in this post, by which I mean UXers with a background in psychology.

Understanding the User

Perhaps the most obvious connection between psychology and UX is in the assessment of the users. Psychologists should be able to bring insight about the user beyond some of the standard demographics one might expect (i.e. age ranges, career domain, etc.). For instance, psychologists may consider such facets of the user as the user’s existing technological heuristics, the user’s expectations of how information should be presented, and the user’s motivations in visiting a site or utilizing a system. Let’s take a closer look at motivation.

Understanding User Motivation

A user doesn’t usually visit a website without an objective or purpose. Even if the user is checking a social media site, their purpose may be entertainment or distraction. Identifying the user’s motivation in visiting a site is something a psychologist can help assess. Is the user looking to purchase a specific product? Is the user exploring a site with the intent of wandering until they find something of interest to them? These are questions a psychologist is naturally interested in, and these questions can help inform the design of a site. How? With their understanding of human behavior, a psychologist can help generate, and answer, questions like these. After all, understanding how humans think and behave is critical in properly identifying how to assist said humans in their tasks. How does a psychologist help design a site to meet the needs of the user? One way is through the effective structuring of information of a site.

Information Architecture

Is your user exploring a site with no specific intention other than wandering and seeing what’s available? Make your site discoverable with interesting rabbit trails for the user to follow away from the home page and into subsections of the site! Is your user looking to buy a specific product? Design your site to subtly funnel the user towards the product by limiting options and giving the user less opportunity to get distracted and wander off! These are insights that a psychologist can provide, as they understand how much information is too much information, and when options can be a good or bad thing.