Interview with Susan Weinschenk

Susan Weinschenk photo

Those who have ever been involved in UX must have heard about Susan Weinschenk, The Brain Lady. Personally Susan is one of my favourite authors, I have read all her published books, I also follow her blog, twitter and YouTube channel. She was so nice and answered my questions. If you do not know her, it is highly recommended to read the words below because you may profit from her thoughts.

Hungarian version of this interview is also available.

In your view how important is psychological, social psychological knowledge for those who are working in the UX field?

I think psychology is critical to work in the UX field, but of course I would say that because I have a Ph.D. in psychology, so I look at everything from a psychology point of view! If you are designing a product and people are going to use it, then I think you need to know a) about people in general, how they think, see, decide, what motivates them to take action, etc., and then b) about the psychology of the particular people who will be using your product and the particular context that interacts with their psychology.

You might be interested in a white paper I recently wrote on the Top 10 Skills and Knowledge Set Every User UX Professional Needs, download it.

Where do you pick up information about the latest neuropsychology and brain research?

I subscribe to various sources that feed me the latest research articles, and I also subscribe to blogs about neuroscience. There are some good blogs people can subscribe to (PsyBlog is a good one for example, as well as my blog), and then there are great books coming out all the time.

What do you think the UX field's biggest drawbacks or weaknesses are?

I don't know if I think there are drawbacks or weaknesses. I think we are learning and changing and growing all the time and that is good. I think it's important for people to keep learning in their skills. I am concerned sometimes by the idea that everyone needs to be able to do everything — the idea that to be a UX person you have to know and be good at UI design and visual design, and be able to code HTML, etc. It's too much. Just the list of Top 10 skills I gave is big enough and it doesn't even include visual design or coding! I think we should think about collaboration and teams, so that not everyone has to be able to do everything.

What do you think about the future of UX?

I've been in the field for decades and it's still going strong. It will be here forever — as long as we have people who are using technology then there is always a need for UX. It has a great future, and is always changing as the technology changes.

Do you have any advice for those new to the field of UX?

Get as much experience in different aspects as you can. Work on websites, mobile and tablet apps. Work on ecommerce and government, and financial, and manufacturing. Never stop learning and growing. Remember that this field has been around for decades. It's not new. The "old stuff" still applies. Don't get so caught up in design that you forget that you are designing for people.

You have a huge experience in online courses. What methods are effective? How can you catch your audience's attention and deliver an important message?

If you have great content then the medium just has to stay out of the way of the message. Keep things short. Mix video of the speaker with diagrams as necessary. Talk with passion and energy. Pay attention to the quality of your audio. It's as important or more important than the quality of the video.

What is the most stimulating and challenging project you have accomplished so far?

There are so many! It's hard to choose. I would say the most stimulating and challenging are 1) working on comprehensive training for a UX certificate program, and 2) mentoring UX people so they grow in their field.

Please tell us about a typical work day. What kind of habits have you developed consciously?

I don't know that my work day is very typical. Some days I am working with clients, some I am teaching, and some I'm writing, etc. I start my workday by deciding what I am going to work on/accomplish that day. Then I check email and attend to anything that needs immediate attention. I try to spend some time every day working on marketing strategy and checking in with the rest of my team. We are all distributed, so I am actually working alone most of the time and using phone and video conference to work with my team or with clients. I try to spend time every day working on the immediate project at hand (like consulting work for a client, or recording a new class for my online videos) and I try to spend time everyday checking out what others are doing in the field, checking out the latest research, and then I try to spend time everyday thinking about the big picture of my business.

Speaking about the future, what can we expect to see from you in the future? Are you working on a new book? Or something else?

I am working on more, new, online video training. I am thinking about a new book. In fact if people have ideas about a new book they should let me know!

I know you like to sing jazz. We would like to hear your voice, do you have an online video about your performance? :)

Yes I do! You can listen to one of my songs (in fact a song I wrote) called "Lost Forever" on my Reverbnation page.

When and where can we meet you personally in Europe in the near future?

I don't have any trips planned to Europe at the moment, but hope to before too long. If anyone has a venue they would like me to come speak at, let me know and we'll see if we can schedule a Europe tour.

And finally, do you have a message for the Hungarian UX community?

Keep doing the great work you are doing.
The world needs you!