An Answer to A (Stupid) Question For UX Researcher with Psychology Background

“Mas, lulusan psikologi? Kok bisa jadi UX?”

(Mas, aren’t you a psychology graduate? How come you can be a UX (researcher)?”

Yes, I get that question a lot from some of my LinkedIn colleagues and several coworkers, and to be honest, (sorry not sorry) that is a stupid question.

Why? Because UX is all about human interaction. The interaction to who or what does not really matter, because any of them puts “human” at its core.

My lecturer once said “if a job involved a human, they would always need a psychology.

I always relay those remarks and got me many “touché!” moments in return. Little do they know, I found that answer through a long thinking-and-doing process, which started in a rather peculiar place for a psychology graduate.

Drifting A Bit to Find My Way Back

Shortly after my graduation, my friend offered me a job as a UI/UX designer for a creative digital agency. Knowing that I could draw, she thought that I could design too (FYI they are two completely different things). Eager to earn my first paycheck, I didn’t think twice to accept the offer.

I learned so much from my rookie year, from researching to designing an interface. The funny thing is, the more I learned about UX, the bigger my desire to find the reason behind everything, such as: “Does that font makes reading easier?”, “Why that button should be square, not rounded?”, “Are everyone behave like that?”, and so on. Those human-interaction related questionings, tickled my intuition.

That calling then led me to apply as UX Researcher at Bukalapak. By the time I signed with them, it also marked the beginning of people asking that irritating question. Uh!

Finally Uncover My Own Track

Photo by Claus Grünstäudl on Unsplash

As I started my first gig as a researcher, I noticed this common problem:

too many times people build a product based on the eyes of the one who comes with the idea.

That raised my alert as a person who has spent years of studying human behaviours. I believe we need to build a product that’s really solves problems of everyone who will eventually use it.

This is where psychology should play a big part. Finally, I could answer that dull question with some action based on two things I mastered on:

’Cause We Learned About How Human Act (Consciously or Instinctively)

Surely, it’s the basic. We’ve learned how human perceive things, process it, decide what to do, and finally mould the behavior itself. I know it’s too broad, but what I found most practical and helpful in this field is always strongly linked to human perception and concept in social psychology.

One time,I was working on a different Bukalapak app and our users rarely open notification, even though there’s a lot of important information in it. Yes, we did put a yellow dot on top of the app’s notification, but still the open rate was lower than expected. So my team added a subtle animation on the dot. At first I thought that was just a nice aesthetical touch, but the more I think about it, the more I realised “Damn, that’s a well-applied psychology concept!” Unbeknownst to product designers, they have utilize the basic thing on how human see things, so-called peripheral vision, in their everyday works, and (pun intended) see how it works like a charm!

When it comes to social psychology, there’s a phenomenon called mere-exposure effect or familiarity principle. People prefer things merely because its familiarity. It’s like when we changed the copy on the registration page for referral program, from “If you (target user) register with this referral code, you will get a reward”, into “You’ve been invited by [user’s name] to join Bukalapak and you’ll get a reward if you join with this referral code” while also adding referrer’s profile picture. This was a successful feat, as reflected in an upward trend of the metrics targeted.

Those illustrations are the reason why possessing the knowledge about human behavior is really helpful on deciding the best flow and design.

Logic and Research Methods Are Our Main Weapon, and That’s The Fact

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

My psychology background gave me an early start and an extra help on this domain. From my second semester I already got quantitative research method. We must learn how to obtain descriptive datas and understand the fundamental of correlational research methods. On the third or fourth semester, I already got experimental research methods using ANOVA and regression. By the end of the fifth semester I already done qualitative research methods such as hold an interview, observation, focus group discussion, etc. All of those methods are my main weapons when I jumped in to UX.

I spent my uni life doing research tasks, either qualitative or quantitative behavioral research. If you want to do daily testing such as usability testing or concept testing, hold an interview and observation, or maybe having a behavioral experiment with regression involved, we got it all covered. Though there’s a slight difference from what I’ve been currently doing in UX, we’re still manage to close the gap fast. Thanks to our solid foundation of science.

The reason why those are our main weapons is because our everyday task is to do a research to our user. To get an answer from a question such as, “I want to know how our user using filter when they shop”, or “Do you think our users understand in using Point Of Sales (POS) feature?” it’s not that simple. We can’t asking them bluntly like “Hey, how do you use our filter?” or “Do you understand this feature?”. No, you won’t get the “real” and valid answer from that question if you asking like that. It should be systematic enough to get the real and natural response from them.

To get a real and natural answer, we must identify what answer that we seek. For example, we seek behavioral answer to a question like “how users use our filter”. It’s not a question that can be answered by asking them directly, because if we do that, the answer will depend on their memory and it can be different with their real behavior, so we do not seek attitudinal answer here. Next, identify what methods that can acquire behavioral answer. For this matter, we can use usability testing method to get that answer, because we can see their real behavior when they use our product.

Yet, sometimes being skilled on the methodology isn’t enough. As you can see from the example above, I would say the most crucial advantage in doing a research is having a good logical thinking in choosing the best method to find the answer, and of course, deduct the datas into a logical and valid answer.

That’s My Answer. What’s Your Feedback?

I believe that one’s background could be useful for anything he or she might want to do. That’s what I love being a part of Bukalapak Design team, where everyone has the same opportunity to enrich our beloved products’ user experience with his or her learned skills. Not only we have some Psi. graduates in the house, but also Literatures, Pure Physics, Architecture, and even a high school graduate!

Hell, did you notice that if you read this article’s subtitles in unison, you’ll find a hidden lyric? Because working as a researcher is just my daytime job. By night, I’ll take the mic and start spitting out words to the beat! Now, are you gonna shout out a “Mas kan rapper, kenapa jadi UX?” question, too?

By the way, if you really interested in joining us, you can hit me up at Let’s meet over a cup of tea (not a coffee drinker, sorry :p), or if you’re too anxious to meet a cool stranger like me, you can always go to our career page!

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Thanks Mbak Wulan, Antha, Tya, and all the editors for giving this article your magical touch!