Years ago when I was a psychology student I learned a thing or two about the human mind. It has helped a lot in my user experience (UX) work, since so far all the users I’ve designed for have been humans.
When designing applications or services, it is important to take into account things that are common to most humans. You know, how people remember, how they focus their attention, how they make decisions, how emotions and motivation play a role, and so on.
But I can only go so far with that.
Most of the time I’m designing systems whose users represent a very specific profession. This is a specific group of people with their own specific vocabulary, needs, goals, and contexts of use. What do I know about these in advance? Nothing!
The more specific the user group, the less I know about them in advance. Let’s take the user group I’m working with at the moment as an example: the supervisors of professional fishermen. I’m pretty sure they were not mentioned in my psychology books.
It is no just me, though. Often times none of the project members know about the specific needs of the specific user group. That’s where the knowledge I do have comes in. I know how to find out about the users and their needs. I know how to do user research. And when I’ve done user research, THEN I can tell you about this specific user group and its needs. And I can turn this information into designs that meet those user needs.
I know how to find out about the users and their needs.
The moral of the story? If you work with a user experience expert, don’t expect him/her to know all the answers about your users by default. But do expect him/her to go out there to find out. That’s how you make the most out of your UX expert. And that’s how good UX is made!