Speaker spotlight: UX psychology with Joe Leech


Why should web and digital product designers know about psychology?
As the classic saying goes, "a designer who doesn't understand psychology is going to be no more successful than an architect who doesn't understand physics." (OK, it's not a classic saying, I said it, but you get the point.)

How can you implement psychological theory in your projects and convince stakeholders?
No one buys UX or indeed psychology. People buy the results that applying an UX process and psychology theory bring. 

It's about understanding what measures of success your business values and matching the outcomes from applying psychology and UX to those. 

A good example is a question I got asked recently: "What is the optimum number of related items to show in an ecommerce store?" 

Let's break that question down. What are the business objectives? To sell the item the user is viewing or sell an alternative? Overall it's to sell more things. We can then look to reduce mental capacity when choosing. Here you can apply Hick's Law, which tells us the more options we offer the longer the user will take to choose one. We can then use price framing theory to show a product that is more expensive and one that is cheaper. We are then creating the frame in which the user views the price of the item. It's not expensive, it's not cheap. Both of these psychology principles should increase sales. 

What’s the number one mistake you see on user interfaces when you review them?
Asking visitors to a website what type of user they are and then offering content based on the user types. Users come to the website with a goal and when presented with having to self-select what user type they are, they can't often answer. Or worse, they select a different user type as they wonder if they are getting a different view or set of pricing. A good example is a mobile network I worked with recently. They asked users to say if they were a person or a business. The users thought, "if I select business, they are going to charge me more" so didn't. The network thought there was no demand for business mobile deals, when in fact there was. It was just that they were asking the wrong question. 


Why did you decide to go freelance, and how has your life changed since?
I wanted a bit more freedom and choice when it came to who I worked with. You can read the blog post I wrote when I announced it. I work less hours, and when I am working I do more proper work (rather than meetings and time sheets). My daughter was born recently and it's also meant I can spend much more time with her (she's in a sling on my chest gently snoring as I type this).

How do you find your clients?
The magic question! Partly by speaking and attending events like Pixel Pioneers. But mostly by offering lots of free advice. If anyone gets in touch, I will always look to help them as quickly and cheaply as I can, which often means working for free. I also share templates and working practises for free.

It comes back to you later when there is a project and budget to spend as you have built up the goodwill. It also means I never have to pitch for work! 

What are your top three favourite tools that you use in your day to day work?
My iPad mini and Logitech keyboard along with Bear Writer for working out and about.

The ever-trusty OmniFocus for keeping on top of everything and not worrying about work when I'm not working.

The wonderful FreeAgent to help make sure my business is running well. Who I have just started working with.

What can people expect to take away from your talk at Pixel Pioneers
A light-weight, simple way of planning and evaluating a user experience. Something that matches how our users live their lives in the real world. Bringing in psychology and UX theory, an approach anyone can use that's not too academic or costs the earth. 


Why has Bristol such a vibrant digital community? 
Bristol has long had a vibrant technology and engineering sector. Much of Concorde was designed here, Airbus, Rolls Royce and others being based in Bristol have long sponsored the University and education to focus on technology. Digital tech is the next step on from that and has always been championed in Bristol. Bristol even has it's own city wide programmable operating system

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?  
Have strong ideas, weakly held. Care about what you do, have passion and commitment but expect to be proved wrong and when you are done, let it get to you! 

What are you currently working on? 
I’m working on a series of changes to the Raspberry Pi website, and I’m editor for a series of UX books from SitePoint. I’m also working with handful of startups working on funerals, community volunteering, business finance and more. 

Joe will present a talk about UX, psychology, and the Power of 100 at the inaugural Pixel Pioneers conference in Bristol on 22 June.  Get your ticket for just £125 including VAT now! There is also a student discount (30% off), and a group discount if you come as a team of five or more (£15 off per ticket). Drop us a line for details. 

Oliver Lindberg

Oliver L

Oliver is an independent editor, content consultant and founder of Pixel Pioneers. Formerly the editor of net magazine, he has been involved with the web design and development industry for more than a decade and helps businesses across the world create content that connects with their customers. He is passionate about content, user experience, accessibility and designing for social good.

Oliver grew up in the northwest of Germany and moved to the UK in 2001. He now lives in Bath with his wife, daughter and three chickens.