In this article, Emma Jones, UX Researcher talks through her switch from gaining a master’s degree in forensic psychology, to finding her true passion in the world of user research.
A natural people watcher
I have always loved sitting in coffee shops just watching the world go by and observing people. I was fascinated by mannerisms, which always got a teenage me thinking about why people behave the way they do. This natural interest in human behaviour led me down the psychology path in college.
Since college I have spent five years studying psychology, from an undergraduate degree through to a master’s degree, with a focus on the forensic and criminological aspect of the human mind. This experience has given me the opportunity to experience several different job roles including those in education and the prison service.
Interestingly, before 2019, UX resonated very little with me. I had never heard of the term user experience, but I would soon discover that this was to become my new direction.
The need to adapt my vision
Ever since my first taste of psychology back in college I sought to continue my love for psychology through higher education, whilst narrowing my focus to understanding more about the criminal and anti-social side of behaviour.
When my master’s drew close to finishing, along with the realization I would need to start looking for a “career-defining role”, the scarcity of opportunities was overwhelming. This was magnified because my once dreamt about career, working with offenders, was dissipated once I had worked in the criminal justice system.
The work undertaken in the prison service is fantastic, but for me it emphasized my own vulnerability and my need for more security and safety in the workplace. I needed to reassess my ambitions.
My education enabled me to develop my skills in experimental methods, observation, note-taking and the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. So that is where I focused my job search and I came across a Qualitative Researcher position with Experience UX. This was to become my first taste of user experience.
The perfect role I had never heard of
Keen to understand more about this industry I got stuck into researching what UX involved, what experience was necessary, and what role psychology plays. I quickly realized that UX harnesses a lot of what I loved, including psychological methodology and theory. My eyes widened. This small industry, within the vast digital sector, that I previously had no knowledge of, looked a perfect fit. I started to question why I hadn’t heard of this before:
- Do I regularly use online services and websites? YES.
- Have I experienced poor and frustrating online services? YES.
- Have I wished that someone could improve these “obvious” frustrations? YES.
It became clear to me that, to resolve these issues that so many of us experience, companies and businesses needed to take the time to understand those who use their services. This seemed logical and yet I was surprised that, although much is written and promoted, user research and usability testing are not standard practices for many websites and digital service processes.
A new path
For me, seeing how I can combine psychological methodology into a user research role has ignited my passion to understand everyday negative digital experiences and to find out what people need and want to make online interactions pain free and inspiring.
Since working as a UX Researcher at Experience UX I have already had the pleasure of working closely with users of car leasing, higher education, circular economy, insurance, kitchen appliances, ferry travel, and healthy living. Quite a world away from my original life path, but one I feel is my true calling.