What can I bring from psychology to UX?

Unlike many user experience designers who have graphic design background, I received a psychology degree. However, I believe in user experience design (UXD), psychology is not any less important than graphic design. In fact, user experience is all about understanding users, from users’ behaviors to pain points. That is where psychology kicks in.

One of the most useful psychology skill I learned is how to empathize with others. I have the ability to take the perspectives of the users and understand their behaviours, emotions and motivations. I focus more on how users feel and think behind their actions. I always ask myself are users experiencing positive emotions while using the product and is there anything we can do to make users feel better? By being in the users’ shoes, I can design much better user experience.

In addition, people with psychology background often have outstanding research skills. For example, I conducted countless research during my undergraduate study that involved survey, experiments and interviews methods. As a result, I am equipped me with strong survey and interview skills that can be applied in user research. Those research skills are crucial in user research, in which I can better understanding users.

Last but not least, I am familiar with many cognitive, social and perceptual psychology principles that play an important role in UXD. There are many useful theories, including dual coding theory, Gestalt principles, cognitive dissonance theory and so on. One of my favourite principle is Hick’s law. Hick’s law suggests that it takes longer for a person to make a decision with increasing number and complexity of choices. As a result, it is ideal to keep choices to a minimum so that users won’t have to struggle when making a choice. I also found memory principles to be extremely helpful. Human memories are very complexed and subjective. Short term memory can only contain 5–7 elements and lasts very short time, while long term memory requires a lot of effort to store information. As a result, UX designers should try to avoid having users memorize anything because users are very likely to get lost. Instead, UX designers should use more metaphors so that users can use the schema they already have in their long term memory to navigate through the product. For example, the use of “cart” in the online shopping checking out process uses the schema in users’ long term memory to help them understand.